Hotrodder Nadeem Khan channels British roots in his offbeat creations

Photography Credit: Mike Dunn for Growing Bolder

Nadeem Khan happily tools around Orlando in his 1960 Ford Thames van, a seldom-seen, bare-bones British relic. From its faded, blotchy paint–no cosmetic aging needed, thank you–to its stylized fish-print upholstery, this van evokes a playful vibe that has observers looking for the peace sign to match its “Dismantle the Nukes” sticker. 

It was a hippie van from San Francisco,” Nadeem says. “It had last been registered in 1992, but we got it running in a week. It’s ungainly and slow, doesn’t have air, and its balky three-on-the-tree shifter lacks a synchromesh first gear, but I love it. When I was a kid, we saw these everywhere, hauling everything.”

Nadeem was born in Pakistan and grew up in England before his family immigrated to America when he was 19. He says he’s always been a car guy, and the formative years he spent immersed in the car and music scenes in those cultures forever shaped his taste in autos, which he describes as oddball and weird. 

In 1966, his parents wedged themselves, three kids and a pile of gear into a Morris Minor and embarked on a 5000-mile, monthlong trek over dubious roads through a dozen countries–from England to Pakistan–with another adventurous family trailing behind in a Ford Cortina. 

Influenced by that epic ride, Nadeem developed a taste for everyday, working-folks’ British cars. But he didn’t stop there. He also owns three hulking Cadillacs, an El Camino, a Plymouth hardtop, a couple of wild customs, a sprinkling of hotrods and a Harley chopper. 

Strolling through his shop, he shares each car’s story, rattling off specs and history: One of his Caddys, he tells us, a barge with a trunk that could swallow a Consul, was custom-built by GM for designer Bill Mitchell. Nadeem has shown it at Amelia.

Photography Credit: Mike Dunn for Growing Bolder

I love everything,” he says. As long as it’s vintage, that is. You won’t find anything produced after 1963, and you won’t find a trailer queen in his 15-car fleet. 

Each is an honest driver, and Nadeem exercises them often. He’s a DIY guy and does most of the welding and wrenching, assisted by son Miles, who cheerfully inherited the car gene. 

Miles also enjoys online research. “Miles is the historian,” Nadeem says. “He’s on the hunt all the time, finding cars and parts.” 

Locating parts for these orphan cars is a challenge, and this duo has learned the quirks of dealing with overseas shipping and customs. They also enjoy rummaging through rusty heaps of junk at swap meets and events as well as patrolling eBay, Craigslist, online forums and message boards. 

This van’s refurbishing turned into a family project: Wife Anne Marie chose the interior color and daughter Sophia designed the stylized upholstery pattern, which was custom-printed in the U.K. With only 53 horsepower on tap, it’s a stately transporter. Once parked, it always draws a crowd, although few know what it is. Photography Credits: John Webber

Although he could afford to indulge in a show car or two, Nadeem is drawn to faded paint and worn upholstery. “I love cars that have lived a life,” he says. “They make me happier. I won’t buy one that I can’t drive.” 

Perhaps reflective of the hard times he experienced as a kid, he likes to keep his investments reasonable, often seeking out deals on obscure cars most collectors ignore. “People ask me all the time, ‘What’s it worth?’ I tell them these cars are not valuable. I buy them because they speak to me; they need attention.” 

They spoke to us, too. But if you’ve never seen a Zodiac or a Velox or a Consul Estate by Abbotts of Farnham, we understand. We hadn’t either. 

1955 Ford Zephyr Zodiac

Photography Credit: John Webber

Nadeem bought this sedan, a top-of-the-line model with a 2.3-liter, six-cylinder engine, in 2017 for $750. It had been sitting in a New Hampshire barn.

The car was sold originally by Fergus Motors, a New York City dealership known for dealing in British sports cars, including MGs and Morgans. 

While the body was solid, the engine was frozen and the cylinder head was damaged beyond repair. Nadeem and Miles found a head in the U.K., sleeved a bad cylinder, and installed new piston rings and seals. After 18 months of restoring, painting and tinkering, the Zodiac runs smoothly and quietly. 

Nadeem Khan bought the now period-correct, British-made accessory windscreen shade nearly 40 years ago, hauling it through numerous family moves. It perfectly fits his Zephyr Zodiac. Photography Credit: John Webber

Zephyrs were the first mass-produced British cars to feature a unibody design along with MacPherson front struts. Back in the day, these cars were considered stout and reliable, so rallyists loved them. While this car never saw competition, a Zephyr outlasted a Jaguar to win the 1953 Monte Carlo Rally, and two years later another won the East African Safari Rally. 

1960 Vauxhall Velox

Photography Credit: John Webber

This six-cylinder, 2.3-liter Velox, the largest car Vauxhall built, was never sold in the U.S., although Pontiac dealers (GM then owned Vauxhall) sold a smaller-displacement, six-cylinder Victor model here from 1957 to 1961. By 1960, Vauxhall styling had begun to embrace America’s love of lavish chrome and extravagant tailfin treatments.

A Canadian woman bought this Velox new from Montreal Buick, and it’s been treated with loving care all its life. When she could no longer drive, she gave it to the garage that serviced it. Then, after it passed through another long, careful ownership, Nadeem bought it with only 26,000 miles on the odometer. He’s since added 2000 to that number. 

Reflecting its good care, the Velox survived decades of Montreal’s icy winters with a few well-earned patches of surface rust and nicks and dings. Nadeem and Miles enjoy the patina and vow to leave it as original as possible. Photography Credit: John Webber

“It’s completely original except for the vent windows and door top rubber,” he says. “They were so bad I couldn’t live with them. At idle it’s virtually silent, and it’s one of the smoothest old cars I’ve ever driven.” 

Miles says that it’s his favorite and reports that it’s quiet, reasonably peppy and easily keeps up with traffic. 

1956 Ford Consul Estate by E D Abbott Ltd.

Photography Credit: John Webber

If the rear third of this quirky little hauler looks like it was grafted on, that’s because it was. British coachbuilder Abbott hand-built these Estates (that’s station wagon in American) on bodies provided by Ford or an owner. This LHD example is indeed rare, one of only six known survivors.

It was discovered in rough shape in a junkyard in British Columbia and restored by a previous owner. “I had been watching it a little on Autotrader,” Nadeem says, “and the price kept dropping until it became irresistible. The fact that it remained unsold for so long indicates their lack of desirability.” 

If the blue Ford Consul’s back looks grafted on, it’s because it is. E D Abbott Ltd. turned sedans into estates. Photography Credit: John Webber

Of course, that lack-of-interest aspect made it a prime candidate for this collector, so he bought it. Performance might be described as stately; it’s powered by a 1500cc four-cylinder engine. This was perhaps a special-order car, and the fold-down rear seat was an extra-cost option. 

Khan-Built Brit Bucket

Photography Credit: John Webber

What’s a T-bucket doing on these pages? Well, if this rod’s DNA were tested, it would come up about half British. Nadeem powered this home-built, right-hand-drive bucket with a Daimler V8 powertrain. 

As Nadeem explains, he nearly used the square tubing that makes up his creation’s frame for an altogether different project: “I bought the tubing to build supports for a carport, and then my wife, Anne Marie, citing my dubious home improvement skills, firmly stated that I couldn’t possibly build it. She was right, of course, but I was miffed.” 

Smarting from that confidence-crusher, Nadeem salvaged his pride with a blinding flash: “Okay then, I’ll use that steel to build a hotrod!” 

Thus inspired, he jumped online, copied a T-bucket plan and started laying out the tubing on the driveway–in the exact spot he had planned to construct his ill-fated carport. 

Then he and Miles commenced measuring, cutting and welding, and they had a frame built within a week. True to his frugal nature, Nadeem preferred to use parts from his voluminous stash, so he started digging.

For years he’d owned a fiberglass tub of unknown origin as well as a Daimler V8 (yes, it’s an aluminum-head hemi) and British-built BorgWarner 35 automatic transmission. Both had lived previous lives in a 1963 saloon.

The rear end came from a ’66 Chevelle. His decision to make this rod right-hand drive–those British roots, you know–using a Chevy Vega box he found on eBay created a steering challenge he has yet to solve. “It has a huge turning radius for a short-wheelbase car,” he says. “Maybe a bona fide engineer can figure it out.” Considering the attention his creation draws, he believes this quirk is a small price to pay. 

The Buick 45 finned front brake drums, long a favorite with hotrodders, were donated by a friend who was suffering from cancer. “It took some work to adapt them to the Ford brakes,” Nadeem says, “but they look and work great, and I think of my mate every time I drive this wee rocket.” 

He and Miles handcrafted or adapted many components, including the modified Edsel grille and the rear nerf bar. While it’s not the most stable ride in his collection, Nadeem reports, it drives well enough, even on the interstate. “It’s not totally terrifying,” he says with typical British understatement. 

And since the creation weighs less than 1500 pounds, the 140-horsepower V8 provides plenty of punch. We can testify that when it bellows though open headers, the Daimler speaks with authority. Heads turn. Jaws drop. This in-your-face creation is about as far from a humble Ford Consul as it gets.

[A rare Ford Consul Capri shows off Its American side]

Power for this traditional-looking T-bucket comes from an unlikely source: Behind the Edsel grille sits a Daimler V8. Nadeem and his son, Miles, built the frame from metal originally purchased to construct a carport. Photography Credit: John Webber

While Nadeem’s decision to build a Brit bucket sprang from a nixed carport, the seed had been planted decades ago in England when he rode in Shotgun, a notable, hand-built T-bucket featured in the 1977 Blackpool Custom Car Show. 

“Our next-door neighbor bought it,” Nadeem remembers. “He pulled up to our house, honked the ‘La Cucaracha’ horn, and invited me to hop in. I was hooked, and I’ve never forgotten that ride. It only took me 43 years to replicate the experience, down to the air horn. Shotgun still lives in the U.K., in much the same condition as it was then. I still haven’t given up trying to buy it.” 

Anne Marie, no doubt relieved that a carport is not wobbling on Nadeem’s steel, named his rod Leaping Lizard after its chameleon-green metalflake paint job. Her husband countered with Carpor-T. Either one works.

During his world travels and online searches for cars and parts, Nadeem has made friends all over the world, and he keeps in touch with car folks he grew up with in the U.K. and Pakistan. He believes that the love of cars–in his case, all cars–is much the same in all cultures: “Cars are everywhere,” he says. “We use them differently, but they touch everyone. They bring people together. There is room for everyone.”

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sir_mike New Reader
11/3/21 8:38 p.m.

Great article.Love the Consul Estate and Zephyr Zodiac.

1/24/22 11:08 a.m.

Thanks John for this article, it's an honor for my son and I. 


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