Andy Deacon’s fantastic Pinto-engined 1954 Standard Eight may appeal to the likes of us, but it’s put its owner on Standard purists’ hit-list. Here’s why…
The split-second eyeballs focus on this Standard – before any thought is conjured up and processed by the Charlesworth grey matter – I can’t help but smile. In standard form (perhaps I should say OE form, otherwise this is going to get confusing) the Eight epitomised the porridgevagen of Fifties austerity Britain. It is a car which inspires few favourable thoughts and is therefore quickly filed away with powdered egg, woollen swimming trunks and rambling.
Not so with the Deacon Eight, which thanks to its look, stance and injection of OHC steroids – along with Andy’s approach – has made what has been regarded as gruesomely puritanical and undesirable, desirable. Indeed, I can see similar thoughts flashing through Gez’s face too, as they proceed to ring the long-held Hughes’ street and hot-rod bell.
When Andy contacted us about his basic-spec 1954 Eight, we had to come along for a shufty; not least because of it being something different but because we currently have a project 1954 Standard Eight here too (click here). Although that one is a ‘bootless’ Eight Deluxe – a car groaning under a hefty spec sheet which consists: wheel trims, a heater and two windscreen wipers. Blimey! Such gluttonous decadence, especially compared to this car originally which only came equipped with one wiper and a whole load of teeth-grinding misery.
Anyway enough of the Standard history lesson, let’s get on with the here and now.
“I bought it from a friend in April 2011,” says Andy. “It’s nicknamed the ‘Substandard Eight’ because it’s a play on words – it’s a bit of a dig at people who dislike what I’ve done to it.” Andy concludes that sentence with a broad grin.
Andy’s mate, the Eight’s former owner, had owned the car for around three years. It had been bought from an old chap on the Isle of Wight, after spending roughly 20 years snoozing in a barn. “I think that’s why it’s so solid,” reckons Andy.
“He got a lift to the port, caught the ferry and spent a week over on the Isle of Wight to get it into a condition for the MoT – then drove it all the way back to Gloucester. It needed a fair bit of work – including a Triumph Herald lump – and was in completely standard form at that point.”
Just as well really, because you can imagine the fun to be had driving across Southern England into the West Country with the Eight’s OE 803cc farting out an utterly underwhelming 26bhp at 4500rpm with 39lbf.ft at 2800rpm – reaching for a claimed 0-60mph sprint in 39.8sec, a top speed of 66mph and a quarter mile time of 25.2sec!
“He lowered it a little bit, but it stayed like that for a couple of years until I pulled his arm enough to sell it to me,” says Andy.
“The Herald engine had to go because it was leaking like a sieve and the gearbox was also on its last legs. So it came off the road in September, following a summer of using it. I was fed up with the short-comings and I’d gone halves on a unit with a mate. I just hacked away at it for four or five months, until it was the creation I wanted.”
Andy’s being a bit modest here, because his Ford installation is wonderfully neat. There is very little room to play with in the Eight’s short and narrow engine bay, yet the Pinto and Type-9 five-speeder look like they belong in there.
“The first thing was to find a suitable lump… The gearbox is from a Capri and the engine is actually from a Transit, so it’s got the high-torque cam – which doesn’t really help the wheelspin!” laughs Andy.
Modifications were made to the bulkhead, a new cross-member was fabricated – to achieve enough clearance for the Type-9 – the transmission tunnel was extensively modified and then he worked on engine mounts and all the other necessary bits ’n’ bobs to make sure the Pinto had the necessary clearance and was happy in its new home. A custom prop by Bailey Morris then sends drive back to the original rear axle running a 4.1:1 Herald diff, which is the most suitable ratio that fits. There is a Dolomite axle waiting in the wings – ready for the inevitable bang and narrowing – with a far more suitable ratio, but for some reason the Herald axle is still hanging on and coping with the Pinto.
Although said axle may not be long for this world because Andy is in the process of building a hotter meaner 2.1-litre Pinto packing twin Webbers and a big-valve head. “It’s a standard route to easy power – but not cheap!”
Suspension-wise the Standard-Triumph family tree comes in very handy, because the Eight’s front suspension design evolved into the set-up found on the Herald family models.
“It’s running Spitfire coilovers on the front and at the rear, it’s running Mini adjustable shocks – fabricated to fit the rear axle,” says Andy. Once again, he’s being a bit self-effacing here because the Eight originally ran lever-arms – so making those Mini adjustable fit was quite a job. The lower mounting points had to be lowered, whilst the wheelarches had to be turreted for the top-mounts,” says Andy.
“The dampers are adjustable all-’round and it could do with being a bit stiffer at the front-end, so I need to get some more springs custom-made. It’s also still running the original steering box and the plan is to get another subframe and fit a steering rack, because then I can do the modifications off-line and keep it on the road.”
Completing the stub-axle spec is a set of front Spitfire disc brakes with drums following behind, 2in banded steels, running whitewall trims and VW Beetle-style hubcaps.
However, as neatly as Andy has incorporated the mods into this car, they will always be outshone by this Eight’s look – from the hooks on the grille to the period parking light, to those Buick-style ‘fender’ vents and, of course, that paint. Much of it is original and hasn’t been distressed, although some rubbing down has been undertaken near the sign-writing to make it fit in.
“The sign-writing and bonnet artwork was done by Kustom Sammy Cave at Re-Born To Be Wild in Cheltenham (Gloucestershire). She basically did the sign-writing on the doors by hand as it would have been done in the Fifties – to add to the look,’ says Andy.
Inside is as outside. Largely original – save for a sympathetic touch of dashboard modernising fabricated from steel and trimmed in acoustic carpeting – thus preserving the interior’s fantastic patina which Andy describes as “smelling like the Fifties”.
The Eight’s look reveals the route he has taken through the old car movement, namely coming via the direction of the VW scene. People moving on from VWs, reckons Andy, is a growing trend: “I think people are getting fed up with seeing the same sort of thing and the prices have got to that tipping point, where it’s almost too much to make it worth buying a project. I know they’re worth money in the end but… Standards are great cars for what they are – they’re a lot cheaper…”
And yet Andy customising and modifying this long-dead British marque hasn’t been welcomed by all. Yep, enter the purist with their nasal whining, poor dress sense and breath so dodgy it would down a flock of gulls. The fundamentalists haven’t exactly welcomed this car because only the very early basic Eights from 1954/’55 were sans boot-lid, plus sliding windows and smaller rear window – and they would doubtless rather see it rotting in a field than, gulp, be modified.
“I do get a lot of people asking me about the Substandard Hot Rod Co though – and I have to tell them that it’s fictitious! It’s just done as a stab back at the people who don’t like it,” smiles Andy.
Thankfully such mealy-mouthed shunning hasn’t put Mr Deacon off messing around with old cars – indeed all it has done is inspire him along with some mates, to form their own small local club, Kerbside Kings.
“We’ve set it up in the local Gloucester/ Forest of Dean area. It’s a group of mates who were continually meeting up to discuss cars, so we thought we might put on a few shows to raise some money for local charities and what-not. There’s a very big mix of stuff. Lots of Fifties and Sixties stuff to later Beetles and a Datsun Sunny… There’s a good mix and people don’t know what to make of us when we go somewhere!” smiles Andy.
Proof, if any further were needed, that Andy and the Kerbside Kings are doing something right. So if this sounds like it would be right up your street and you’re in the Gloucestershire area, why not pop along to the Re-Born To Be Wild Open Day this Sunday.
We’re sure that all will be welcome – well, apart from sour-faced purists.
Substandard Eight Technical Specification
1954 Standard Eight (boot-less, sliding window ‘basic’ model), custom hook grille, Buick-style ‘fender’ vents in front wings, period aftermarket parking light, modified front bulkhead, transmission tunnel and front crossmember. Original weathered paint with sign-writing and bonnet art by Kustom Sammy Cave at Re-Born To Be Wild (Cheltenham, Gloucestershire).
1993 Ford Pinto (ex-Transit), custom exhaust manifold and side-exit exhaust.
Front-engined, rear-wheel drive. Ford Type-9 five-speed gearbox, custom Bailey Morris propshaft, OE rear axle with 4.1:1 Triumph Herald differential.
Front: independent, double wishbones, adjustable Triumph Spitfire GAZ coilovers.
Rear: cart-sprung live axle, adjustable Mini GAZ telescopic dampers.
Front: Triumph Spitfire discs and callipers; rear: OE drums.
Wheels & Tyres
OE Standard Eight steels banded by 2in (13 x 6J) with Beetle hubcaps, 175/60R13 tyres and 13in Atlas whitewall inserts.
Largely OE with custom-modified dashboard, trimmed in acoustic carpet.