For most folks, being ‘dumped’ has negative connotations: fired by a boss; ditched by a lover… But for Ben Gatt and his outlandishly low ’39 Lincoln Zephyr, it’s the only way to be. Fads and trends may come and go but old school cool is always in fashion. Just take Ben Gatt’s DUMPED Lincoln Zephyr as a prime example.
“Basically, it’s been eight years since the car was built but people still ring and want me to take it to shows. Only last year we went to Mackay for an event,” he notes. “People always want to see it.” And why not, we ask? The Zephyr is a feast for the eyes, with its beautifully proportioned panels painted in House of Kolor Burgundy Kandy. “But I don’t let people look underneath it; we usually just drop the airbags and dump it on the ground. I don’t usually open the bonnet, boot, doors and stuff because I think it spoils the look of the car,” Ben reveals.
“We just wanted to do something that was different to anything else; that was the main thing. And that car is definitely different. What we wanted to do was build something that looks good”, said Ben, “The car was built with the intention of being able to just jump in it, start it and drive it every day. And I don’t mind taking it anywhere.” Ben isn’t kidding when he says he’s willing to travel anywhere and everywhere with the car; DUMPED has been to Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong, Adelaide and Perth; it’s even been driven to Melbourne. Not surprisingly, it attracts a serious amount of attention along the way. “People pull you over, stop you on the road. I’ve been pulled over by coppers and all they wanted to do was take photos of it! I’ve done weddings and formals in it. I’ve been everywhere with the car.”
At 63 years of age, Ben is a member of the old guard and has certainly paid his dues. Customising cars isn’t merely a hobby for this man, it’s a way of life. “My late wife Christine, she’s the one that actually started it all off. She passed away ten years ago; we were married for 32 years,” he recounts. “The lady I’m with now, she’s the same. Her old man was a drag racer too; he passed away six years ago. She’s involved with everything now. That’s the positive thing, I suppose, that I’ve been lucky with.”
At present, Ben builds cars, including the engines, from out of his workshop at home. He was inundated with work at the time FreeStyle Rides chatted with him. Initially, he was building cars after-hours, but he’s been doing it full-time for the past ten years. Back in the day, Ben ran his own business – Superflow Heads – with his brother Joe for over thirty years. Since then, Ben has forged a reputation as a top quality builder on the foundations of extensive race experience and success. “I’m mainly into drag racing, that’s my go. I’ve been racing for around 44 years. I race a two-door XA Falcon with a 351 Cleveland motor in it. It’s absolutely flying at the moment; it makes 2000hp. It’s the fastest small block Ford sedan in the country. Last time out it ran a 6.94,” he boasts. “Cars like the Lincoln I just do in my spare time.”
The Zephyr build was completed in a relatively speedy 18 months, though that’s only because Ben and the boys had to get it ready for Summernats that year. “I’ve been offered a lot of money for that car but there’s no way I want to sell it. The car’s worth a lot,” Ben states. “Dollar-wise, it’s been kept pretty good because of the fact that we do everything ourselves. I built the motor… It’s got a lot of things I’ve had to build myself because you can’t just go and buy them over the counter. All these people have to pay others to do that, you know?”
Ben was blown away by people’s reactions to DUMPED when it was first unveiled: “I can’t even describe it, it was unbelievable. People nearly fell over when they saw the car. It was nothing like they had ever seen in this country.” More than just an amazing automobile, the Lincoln has also proved to be the impetus for some of Ben’s most significant and influential bonds.
“We’ve made a lot of friends due to that car. I’ve known Bruce and Ray Morrison for years. And Owen Webb, well, I’ve built both of his cars over the last few years” he says. “If they want my cars there, I’ll take them. That’s the kind of relationship I have with Owen. He just says to me, ‘You take the car down and we’ll always have a spot for you’. If they want my cars, no problem, they’ve got them. All they’ve got to do it say it.”
Ben continues, “My relationship with Meguiar’s and House of Kolor has been fantastic … When the car was being built, it was like a promo car for both of them. I’ve been to just about every MotorEx — it is the best show. You just get to see the best cars built in this country. It’s the ultimate car show, really.” Is DUMPED the ultimate show car for Ben? “There’s nothing else you can do to that car. There’s nothing else that I really want to do. I want to leave it exactly as it is,” he says. “I’m very, very happy with the car.”
VEHICLE: 1939 Lincoln Zephyr
OWNER: Ben Gatt
ENGINE: 351 Cleveland motor; handmade aluminium fuel tank
TRANSMISSION: FMX automatic transmission; 9inch Ford rear-end
SUSPENSION: Jaguar front-end; Ford rear-end
BRAKES: Jaguar (front) and Ford (rear) disc brakes
WHEELS: 17-inch aluminium wheels
PAINT & BODY: House of Kolor Burgundy Kandy
INTERIOR: ’53 Customised centre dashboard and front seats; DVD player
VIDEO: DUMPED – 1939 LINCOLN ZEPHYR
Story: Elias Velis
Photography: Phil Cooper
Video: Steven Guzman