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Phil Thomas's Austin Westminster - the creation of an early British Kustom
I bought the Austin Westminster back in 1977 thinking it would look like a Merc if we chopped the roof, but I had a lot to learn about cars first!
I started working on it when I met up with Rich Denley a fellow Bristol Renegades member, whose job was a welder and metal fabricator. He agreed to do some work for me, so we started by by tunnelling in the headlights by three inches and then frenching in an electric aerial.
This got the ball rolling so then I de-chromed, de-seamed and removed the bumpers and with the help of my brother Melv sprayed the body grey primer. At this point I got my mates dad to braze up the rear doors making it a two door (he couldn't understand why I would want to do this..)
Next thing to go was the original engine and box and with help from my friends Nick and George we fitted in its place a Austin Healey 3 litre with overdrive gearbox. Rich Denley was then called upon to fabricate a new custom exhaust. I still wanted a roof chopped, but no one was prepared to take the job on. The only person who was remotely interested was Pat Cuss (of Fibreglass Applications). After a long chat he agreed to do the job, but would not get involved in the windscreen etc, and due to his work load it would be ages before he could start. So that was that for a while. But all good things come to those who wait, as not long afterwards I had a phone call from Rich Denley inviting me over to his garage to look at his Austin Cambridge that he had just chopped - it looked great! - but not how I wanted mine.
After a while we started talking about about chopping my car and in mid 1981 work started on planning, marking out and bracing the Westminster. We cut the roof off early one Saturday morning (yes I was bricking it !) it went back quite good as we kept the main part of the roof in one section. Removing 3 inches from the front and 6 inches from the rear we allowed the complete rear screen to be layed down with Rich just having to panel around the frame to make it fit.
The door pillars were moved forward by 1 1/2 inches which looked good but gave me a headache trying to make the windows glass go up and down, but was eventually achieved by refitting the quarter lights. Next we removed all the door handles, frenched in the number plate and made up a rolled rear pan.
After leading around the roof chop and getting the bodywork straight Melv gave it a coat of matt black paint to make it look mean! Later on he sprayed it blue and silver and whilst at Thruxton in 1982 Roger Hamilton was good enough to pin stripe the boot as a freebie.
I ended up selling it to pay for parts for my '32 I was in the process of building, but I had a lot of fun in it during my ownership. It was sprayed red and silver by the new owner. He replaced the Austin badge and the flying A back on the bonnet and later sold it on. Here the story goes that it was stolen ? and has never been seen since, but if you know different please let me know. I can be contacted through this website. I hope you like the story and the photos, Phil Thomas.
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