EL DORADO — Inspiration can strike without warning. Just ask Steve Naill. He remembers the exact moment when he became obsessed with the English-built Ford Anglia.
"What started my lust for Anglias was, we were at a big Winternationals race in Phoenix and there was this little black Anglia gasser called the `Lil’ Hoss,’ ” Naill said. “It was run by a local guy named Johnny Loper and he was putting all the big boys on the trailer.
"I told my brother right there, `Someday I’ll have one of those.’ "
It took several decades, but eventually, Naill was able to make that bold assertion come true.
"I had always thought a lot of these things," he said. "I was out in San Diego visiting a buddy and he was going through one of those trade magazines and he said, `Naill, here’s your Anglia.’ I looked at it and it was in El Cajon and he said that was only 10 minutes away, so we went to look at it.
"It was an all-steel car and it already had the engine in it, somebody had built a funny car-type frame for it, but it didn’t have an interior. It was actually pretty rough, but I thought, `I’ve gotta have it.’
"My mom was with me and she wanted to know how I was going to get it home.”
Renting a trailer was cost-prohibitive at the time, so he bought a small implement trailer used for hauling Bobcat construction equipment. It was barely big enough to fit the 90-inch wheelbase of the Anglia, but it got the job done and Naill was able to sell the trailer once he got home and recoup the cost.
That was about 10 years ago and he wasted no time getting to work putting the little sedan back on the street. He rebuilt the huge 454 cubic inch big block Chevy engine, an LS6 Chevelle item, and installed a Chance-built Turbo 400 racing transmission.
To get an estimated 500 horsepower to the ground, a narrowed Ford 9-inch limited slip differential equipped with 3.55 gears was used. The front suspension came from an Opal GT outfitted with disc brakes. The car came equipped with a one-piece gasser-style tilt front end made by welding the front fenders, hood and grille together with braces.
Then one day last year, as Naill was easing the Anglia into his garage, disaster struck. The throttle hung open and before he could stop it, the car crashed into a small 6-wheel ATV and pushed it through the back wall of the garage.
"The front end was all bashed in," he said, and the distinctive vertical grille was ruined.
He was sick. "I love it. It’s my baby. It was like I had wounded one of my kids," Naill said.
He took the Anglia to Lonny Moore’s Collision Repair to see if it could be saved. He lucked out and found an original grille for the car at a specialty shop in Indiana and, in the process of rebuilding the car, made the hard decision to change its color scheme from white to black, in tribute to the original "Lil’ Hoss."
The car was painted 2012 GM Black Carbon Metallic and returned to him looking better than ever. Naill enlisted Nadine Ward to pinstripe the car in subtle charcoal silver with red accents and had her add the name "Lil’ Hoss II" to the deck lid.
Scott Downey installed a new fabric top on the car. Inside, a set of S-10 pickup seats were reupholstered and fitted by the Glass and Upholstery Center of El Dorado, matching the all-black theme, which includes an overhead console and a new headliner.
The big block Chevy had required a "dog house" be built to accommodate the engine set-back and the engine-turned aluminum instrument panel is mounted to the back of that and filled with vintage Stewart Warner racing gauges. Steering is assigned to a Corvette tilt/telescoping column topped by a small-diameter racing wheel; a B&M Quicksilver shifter rounds out the interior appointments.
Naill chose old-school Cragar 15-inch five-spoke mag wheels for the Anglia.
"I think they fit this car. They’re period-perfect. It’s really a boulevard cruiser," he said.
So what is the net result of a 500 horsepower big block in a 2,250-pound vehicle riding on a super-short wheelbase?
"This thing leaves really hard," Naill reports.
In fact, when he switched to a stickier set of Mickey Thompson 15-1/2 inch wide tires in back, it became clear one more piece of equipment was needed.
"I put the wheelie bars on it. I kind of like to have the front end on the ground," Naill grinned.
Johnny Loper would be proud.