THERE was a guy visiting named John, who revealed in two short sentences his huge respect for Chris Wells and his team at BMV Engineering in Yandina, Queensland, where old sheet metal is transformed into gobsmacking rides of astonishing quality. “Chris does beautiful work,” John said. “I visit him to get inspired!”
BMV’s big tin shed, in a line of four similar sheds hidden away in an industrial estate, isn’t remarkable. Out at the driveway fence a small sign with the business’s name is easy to miss, but parked across from the front, you might find a rusty 1930s Chrysler, or the bones of a Model A or two.
Inside, parked high on the mezzanine floor – above the beam roller and guillotine, English roller and clean-as-a-whistle lathe – are two bodyshells waiting for work: a Plymouth Barracuda and red VG Valiant coupe. Beneath that is where Craig Walters and Darryl Wells (father of Chris and a coachbuilder by trade) work long hours at the welding and fabrication benches. Apprentice Jesse Wilkins must often think he is working in an automotive-art heaven, for towards the back, behind an Art Morrison-chassis Corvette high on a hoist, sits the incredibly clean, hand-fabricated rails and tubes of a red-painted F-truck chassis.
This one has taken a full year to create, complete with Wells-designed five-link rear, a full set of tube A-arms up front with airbag suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and huge 24x12 alloys with tyres you wouldn’t believe.
That job came in from another shop after 50 grand had been spent on it. The mill that goes with this amazing creation came in from the States as a 12:1 alcohol engine, its bores so rusty it had to be torn down and rebuilt.
Chris, following in his dad’s trade as a coach and motor body builder, kicked off BMV Engineering seven years ago, specialising in creating way-out street machines such as Jason Behan and Kellie Farraway’s VG Valiant (SM, Jul ’16), plus radically different hot rods that make you wonder how he keeps coming up with all his styling and engineering designs.
There’s a lime-green 1939 Willys coupe that once was a four-door sedan with a turtleback, until the crew took to it with a gas axe and totally transformed the body. Alongside is a 1930/31 Model A with a chopped body on a custom full I-beam chassis, fitted out with a five-link rear and a short transverse leaf spring, the engine a 331 Hemi.
These rods and would-be street machines just keep on arriving in through the doors.
“The waiting list is big,” Chris says, “and we go through heaps.” As rare specialists in fabricating custom chassis and radically modifying existing bodywork, they sublet the paintwork, electrical fit-outs and upholstering, so they are not as yet a one-stop-shop. Yet the versatility in what they already do is amazing.
They’ve just tubbed out a fat-wheeled HQ, and finished off an immaculate black 1932 Ford roadster rod with a bent eight topped by triple two-barrels and ram’s-horn exhaust.
Meanwhile, work on a 1946 International seven-seat mail van continues. This thing is certainly different. It’s a big square box of a body with an upright flat ’screen, but until you look under, there’s no way of knowing that this unlikely street machine is sitting on a chassis from a 1983 Chevy truck. With a front wheel off, you can see the traditional BMV-engineered tubular A-arm location for the front suspension, the independent uprights hanging onto a pair of decent-sized discs. The rear axle is located by fabricated links. Up front, neatly fitted into a high-rise engine bay, is 1000hp of 6/71-blown Chrysler Hemi. Told you it was different.
Inside the spacious and as-yet unfinished cab is a simple oblong, flat-steel dashboard carrying a few time-worn International truck instruments with the original ignition key lock.
Then as Chris spins it through almost 180 degrees, a revelation arrives as a full set of the best you can buy in the way of monitoring stuff swings into view. God knows how they did this, but it sure is a neat piece of work.
It’s creating work like this that drives this unique team of craftsmen. Work comes in from all over Queensland, and they often have to take over botched jobs from less skilled builders. “I’m at the stage now where I only want to build high-quality cars you can drive,” Chris says. The result is countless unique finished metal artworks that power out through those big tin doors towards a future as trophy winners in the fierce competition of our street machine scene. s