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My 1946 4.2-litre Ford V8

"It's that whole retro thing," says Rob Walker in his rolled-up Levis, Converse sandshoes, checked shirt, Buddy Holly glasses and stylised '50s robot tattoo on his left arm. 

He's sitting in his huge shed surrounded by tools, old valve radios, hubcabs, number plates and robot statues crafted out of odds and sods. 

In the centre is his dad's old '46 Ford De Luxe Business Coupe and in the background the old valve radio is playing some rockabilly song from the '50s and Walker is in his element. 

His father, Terry, bought the former New Zealand police car in 2000 for $11,000, but a few years ago he lost interest, so Rob bought it off him. When his father died in November 2010, Rob and brother Peter decided to restore the car in their dad's honour. 

"We stripped it down and rebuilt the engine," he says. "It had an original flathead V8, but we got the same size 255 cubic inch motor out of a truck."

It now sports finned Edlebrock heads, twin 94 Holley carbies, extractors and bigger cams. "That cam is pretty big. Might be a tad too big," he says. 

"You really can tell it's got a big cam in it because you can feel it waiting to cut in and wanting to go at low speeds. It goes much better over 80km/h." 

The suspension is stock and the body needs another respray but a booster has been added to the drum brakes. "It pulls up pretty good, but it's got heavy steering and handles like a whale, but you drive it accordingly," he says. "I'm used to driving old cars but someone who hasn't driven an old car would find it difficult. 

"It's got three-speed synchro and sometimes you can change all the way through the gears without crunching." There's a red clear-plastic knob on the gearshift; Walker says a billiard ball would have been too kitsch. The only police parts are two remote spotlights on the bonnet which also features a robot mascot that Walker crafted: "I like robots," he says. 

Walker is a signwriter who rues the trade's turn to digital imagery rather than hand painting, but he keeps his artistry going by painting signs for his sideline business making retro taillights for old cars. He also restores valve radios - "there's not enough hours in the day" - and is converting a valve car radio to take his iPod so he can install it in the Ford.

The iPod will be his only concession to modern society, although the radio will probably belt out his favourite psychobilly music, which he says is a cross between punk and rockabilly.

At a glance

Year: 1946
Price: $11,000
Engine: 4.2-litre Ford V8
Body: 2-door coupe
Transmission: 3-speed synchro column shift
Did you know: School bully Biff Tannen drove a black 1946 Ford Super De Luxe convertible in the 1985 film Back to the Future.

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