Part 2: ERIK JOHNSON

WAGGA WAGGA, NSW

STORY SIMON MAJOR

WITH 50 years in the car scene tucked under his belt, Erik Johnson has seen trends come and go and then come back again! Last issue we took you for a spin through Erik’s early years of hot car building; this time ’round we pick up the trail in the 70s and ride on through to enjoy a few examples of his current fleet.

01: IN 1975 Erik forked out $3000 for this 1969 XW GT, an early build running a 351 Windsor and Top Loader combo. “I worked with a guy who had a mate at the local motor registry,” Erik says. “When the HOT prefix series of standard number plates came to Wagga, he put aside HOT350 for my mate and HOT351 for me; there was no such thing as personalised plates back in those days so it was the best $6 we ever spent! Those plates went on a few cars, including our gold XD Fairmont Ghia, which was stolen from the Parramatta Speedway in 1992; it only ran a stock 302 so I hope those crooks were gravely disappointed! We had the plates reissued and they now live on my son Casey’s XR Falcon. As for the XW GT, I sold it for $3500 and felt on top of the world for making an easy $500; if only I still had it now.”

02: BY 1985, family and work commitments had left Erik with little in the way of spare time, so he bought this chopped ’35 Ford sedan off well-known SA rodder John Bryant. Erik added the Center Line Indy Champ wheels to boost the visuals, which along with a stout 350 Chev made for a great-looking and reliable family hot rod. But old habits die hard: “I couldn’t help myself; I raced it at the 1988 ASRF Street Rod Drags held at Calder and won the national title for the 14-15.99sec class. It ran consistent 14.50s and I pretty much bluffed my way through all of the rounds,” Erik laughs. “The damage was done and I wanted to go faster.”

03: SOON after the win at Calder in the ’35, Erik had the go-fast bug again and started shopping around for something tougher. “I purchased this 1932 Ford roadster with a high-performance 427 big-block Chev for power, backed by a Muncie four-speed and nine-inch. It was built by members of the Drag-Ens club but was a fresh car on the scene when I bought it. I swapped out the wire wheels for early Ford steelies and ran an 11.90@121mph best. It was registered and did plenty of street miles, and the only change for the track was some cheater slicks. I sold it in 1997 after having plenty of fun.”

04: ERIK Johnson Transport was running a fleet of six trucks by 1993, with this Ford Louisville the pride of the fleet. “I was pretty much office-bound by this stage – as happens when businesses grow – managing the work and drivers, but often yearned to get back out on the road. The 1989 F150 was my personal work truck, which I bought in 1990 with 16,000 kays on the clock. It was an ex-police bull-wagon running an injected 302 on straight gas. It was a great all-rounder and I kept it for 16 years!”

05: ERIK sold the trucking business in the mid-90s, and Just Cuts opened a store in his local shopping complex, which seemed to tick all the boxes for a career change for the Johnsons. “We went to our first owners meeting in Sydney in ’97 and the franchise owner said: ‘Erik, we have a 1964 Fairlane bash car and are not sure what to do with it.’ I got excited immediately, and in the past 20 years have upgraded and added extra cars to the fleet for bash events, rebuilding everything and speccing them all up with proper rollcages and the like. We have an XW sedan, an XY wagon and an XW ute, and I prepare them each year to participate in many of the bash events. This is serious fun, and I’m just very fortunate that it’s something Just Cuts has enabled us to do. Grant Denyer has been the face of Just Cuts for some time, and that’s him at the front guard of the sedan on the far left.”

06: ERIK loves his ’56 Cussos and Mainlines – and still owns the beautifully original Mainline that appeared in last issue’s Snap Shots – but wanted something he could mess around with. “I didn’t want a good one, as the plan was to build a patina-style shop truck painted in my parents’ Marulan Motors livery,” he explains. “I found this one in 2009 running a fresh Clevo and C4 combo but with fairly questionable bodywork, so it was perfect. My son Casey aged the paintwork and did all of the signwriting to get the visuals sorted. The plan was to take it to Busselton in 2010 for the Hot Rod Nationals, but my wife Terri said there’d be ‘no Nullarbor Plain without air con’, so in it went! It also has power steering, a heater and four-wheel discs, so it’s a beaut cruiser. It’s a regular driver too, and also tows around our Model A five-window coupe.”

07: ERIK really wanted an original old American hot rod; not a car made to look like one, so he bought this Model A coupe back in 2012. “It was built as a hot rod back in the late 50s/early 60s,” he says. “I have traced its history back to ’99, so I’m still researching its earlier years.” The ’30 cuts a wicked profile and runs a 1953 Merc donk that has been rebuilt and worked, and it cuts plenty of laps at events like the Drag-Ens Hot Rod Club’s Rattletrap at Crowdy Head. “It’s nothing flash, but is original and lots of fun,” Erik says.

08: THIS 1968 Ford Mustang coupe, owned by Erik’s wife Terri, has covered a mere 69,000 miles since it rolled off the production line, and has been in the couple’s possession since 2003. Owned for many years by a lady in Redondo Beach, California, the car had already been converted to right-hook when bought the Johnsons, who are its fourth owners. The matching-numbers 302 Windsor and factory AM radio are still in place, while the original build sheet is tucked away safely.

09: THIS cool-looking 2000 Ford F150 pick-up is a Harley-Davidson limited-edition model that Erik purchased in 2006. The special model was a popular collaboration between two giants of the US automotive industry and was continued for a number of years. “It was a really nice truck and I kept it until 2016,” Erik says. “My current runaround is a 2008 F250 with a 6.4-litre Power Stroke twin-turbo diesel engine. Towing with that thing is a dream for the nostalgia drags and the like, but I just can’t seem to kick the whole concept of hauling cars around and owning a diesel truck!”