*The following content comes from our friends at Street Machine in the March 2019 issue.
Southern Rod & Custom has been turning out show stopping rides for over 30 years.
CAR building is a tough mistress. It has a long and bloody history of chewing up and spitting out many promising and talented builders. That’s what makes Shepparton’s Shane Rowe and his business Southern Rod & Custom so remarkable. Having celebrated 30 years of operation in 2018, Shane and SRC have done more than just survived; they’ve pretty much been the benchmark since opening the doors back in 1988.
18 Street Machine feature cars and six cover cars!
There have also been several world-class builds and restorations that have graced the covers and pages of other magazines.
Furthermore, Les Lawry’s 1930 Ford Victoria (SM, Mar ’03) and Chris Retzos’s 57 Chev (SM, Oct ’09) are two of the winningest show cars ever built in this country.
SRC incorporates a 595m2 showroom, which always has a ton of interesting machinery on display. It sits right next to the fabrication/final assembly shop, with the body shop and paint booth located in the adjacent shed
From the boss…
How did your life of custom cars and metal sculpting kick off?
School was never my thing. I left at 15 and started knocking on panel beaters’ doors, as knew I wanted to work on cars. Eventually I went to work for Garry Collins Car Repairers in Deniliquin. Garry was into vintage cars – we brought many A-Model Fords back to original. After about five years, I started working from home before Wendy and I opened SRC in 1988.
Modified or restored – what’s your preference?
Definitely modified. But we could never have survived just doing that. SRC has done a lot of general paint-and-panel work and countless full concours builds. I don’t think anyone can survive just specialising in one type of work. I believe our diversity, whether that be rust, paint, assembly, sheet metal and even traditional fabrication work for outside businesses, is what’s kept us going for 30 years. Heck, I even built loads of chopper frames at the height of the craze. Long ago I learnt a tough lesson: It doesn’t matter how good you are; you can be the absolute best at what you do – but when that bit of work dries up, what do you do?
SR&C and Wendy…
What’s kept you going through the rough patches, then and now?
Well for starters, if wasn’t for my wife Wendy, there wouldn’t be a now. She’s not only kept the business together for 30 years, she’s also kept me together. And it’s all paid off for us, as the business has exploded this past year. There’s plenty of talent in Shepparton and SRC currently has the best crew it’s had in 30 years. They’re all very talented and they all work well together – even with me! The amount of work the six of us get through used to take 10 people. We’ve got 22 projects on the go, 12 of which are full-on builds.
SRC has customers lined up at the door – what’s your secret?
With any customer, we sit down and have a really good talk about the type of car they want to build. Want a show car? Then let’s go. But what I see a lot of are cars that get started and never finished. More often than not, it’s because they started out as a driver and turned into something radically different – the budget blows out and all the funds get chewed up before it’s finished. Once we’ve come up with a solid plan, I send them away to really think about if that’s the type of car they want to build. Builds will always change along the way, but big changes in direction always cost a lot.
the future of car building?
3D printing. The technology is so good now; they’re even printing titanium aerospace parts.
“What we’ll see on cars over the next few years is going to be incredible – we’re looking into buying a professional machine. The types of things you can make are limitless and the finish is so good – it’s production quality. Dash knobs, interior pieces, you can print any material you want – I’m even designing my own wheels. The key is the CAD design stuff – I’ve got a good handle on that side of things.”
What sort of CAD stuff do we do?
Pretty much everything now. We’ve got a five-axis CNC and our plasma-cutter almost never stops. My main focus is growing Chassisworks Australia into a separate business. I do all the design work and suspension systems in CAD. This wasn’t always the case. I never wanted to go that way, as I reckoned I could do simple brackets and things faster by hand. But once you get good at CAD, you can make 10 in the same time, all exactly the same!
SRC HONOUR ROLL
- Mark McIntyre – 1957 FJ van – SM, Apr/May 1998 cover
- Les Lawry – 1930 Ford Vicky – SM, Mar 2003
- Rick & Glenn Madgwick – 1957 FJ – SM, Jun 2004
- Neville Brodie – 1967 Mustang – SM, Dec 2006 cover
- John Kreskas – 1967 Firebird – SM, Nov 2007
- Stavro Dascarolis – 1959 Buick Electra – SM Hot Rod 2009
- Paul Davey – 1950 Ford single-spinner – SM, Jul 2009
- Chris Retzos – 1957 Chev Bel Air – SM, Oct 2009 cover
- Tony Aquilina – 1937 Ford slamback – SM Hot Rod 2011
- Stuart Appleby – BMW ute – SM, Nov 2011
- Anthony Trefilo – XP ute – SM, Mar 2012 cover
- Tim Horewood – 1967 Firebird convertible – SM, Jul 2012
- Chris Retzos – 1969 Dodge Coronet – SM, Feb 2013
- Chris Retzos – 1960 Chev Impala – SM, May 2013
- Dean Weldon – 1966 XP coupe – SM, Jul 2015 cover
- Chris Thomas – 1932 Ford coupe – SM, Oct 2015 cover (inset) and SM Hot Rod #16
- Shaun Braybrook – Holden HK Monaro – SM, Jul 2018 cover
- Anthony Atkin – 1974 Plymouth ‘Cuda – SM, Jun 2018