ASRF LEGEND – TONY KUCHEL
14th October 2022
By Gavin Kelso
Tony’s interest in building hot rods began at a very early age. He was just 15 years old when he started to build a ‘T’ Wine Wagon in his father’s shed in Nuriootpa SA. His inspiration and guide was a Revel scale model kit.
In 1969 he was the youngest member of the SA Rod and Custom Club in Adelaide at just 16 years of age. After a bad experience with the local police in 1970, he and Bob Moule were instrumental in forming the TAC in SA to protect hot rodder’s rights and to form a basic set of rules to follow on builds. Tony was a voluntary rep for the TAC for over 35 years.
Bob and Tony painted many hot rods as a team at Custom City before Tony returned to the Barossa Valley. One of his most memorable custom paint projects was the SA Rod & Custom Club truck which still garners comments on Facebook to this day.
At the young age of 22, Tony along with his younger sister Dynice, traversed the Nullabor in a 1932 Ford sedan, painted black with no air conditioning and a Jag rear-end. Still mostly dirt and dodging boulders and ruts along the way in searing heat, they were told by friends that they would certainly perish! He left with $100 in his pocket and was off to the Perth Hot Rod Show where they had offered him $500 for tow money. The sedan certainly needed some work on it when they arrived; the road took a toll on the old Ford. Repairs on the rear end had to be carried out en route. After Perth rodders helped him to carry out repairs on their arrival, the ‘32 ended up taking out Top Display and Top Sedan at the show, and Tony returned with $200 in his pocket!
In the 1970s Tony was a founding member of the Barossa Valley-based club called Street Rods Unlimited. The name was later changed to Valley Hot Rodders Inc for legal purposes. Tony was Club President for many years, after serving as Secretary of Street Rods Unlimited for some years prior to the name change. He was always keen to offer advice and help to fellow club members and up-and-coming young hot rodders in the Barossa region. His enthusiasm has helped many to make their dreams come true.
After resigning from Valley Hot Rodders, he and three other mates formed the Prowlers, a club that was for having fun, going on runs and just getting together with their families.
Tony was instrumental in organising club hot rod events, including Vinfest, Granite Island, and Cruise On which is still being held today. He was also very involved in the Adelaide Hot Rod Shows.
Tony has built many hot rods over the years and then moved on to customising early model trucks, which recently became an arm of his family’s transport business. Tony’s Builds include:-
- ‘T’ Wine Wagon,
- ‘T’ Truck with Custom paint (later sold to Con Mantzaris)
- 1932 Ford 4 door sedan – Black (also sold to Con Mantzaris)
- 1955 Chev Stepside Pickup Truck – Red
- ‘A’ Model Ford Tub later converted to a pickup – Blue
- 1937 Ford Coupe – Red (now owned by Pat Gillespie)
- 1935 Ford Pickup – Black with flames (later converted to a Vicky and sold interstate)
- 1953 Ford truck Custom – White with scallops
- 1956 International COE Truck – red/white
- 1954 Ford COE White with flames – motorhome
- ‘A’ Model Coupe – Yellow
Tony was nominated for the ASRF Legends Award in August of 2021. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after receiving this in September, but was very pleased to have accepted the award prior to his passing. He has also since been posthumously awarded an Honorary Life Membership award of the SA Rod & Custom Club – he would have been so humbled to have received this.
Tony was an inspiration to many people and encouraged so many as well. He was always thinking outside of the square and was very innovative – whether it was building hot rods, or in the transport industry in which he was heavily involved. Tony was a true enthusiast and promoter of the hot rodding scene in South Australia
He is greatly missed and was a very special person in the life of his friends and family.
BY ANNE KUCHEL