Valley Gas


Yodie & I dropped by here a few weeks ago now but I’ve only just got around to checking the photos & putting this together, so had to make a quick phone call to the shop to refresh my fading memory!
Valley Gas is tucked away in a warren of industrial units on the site of the old Stirling Cables factory in Hambridge Road, Newbury, Berkshire. The business has been up & running for three or four years now, gaining a growing reputation for quality workmanship & is fronted by the very amiable Daren Baker-Stuart & the equally helpful Jimmy Hibberd. Both have been involved in the custom car & race scenes in this country for several decades now. Jimmy’s a well known name around the British drag racing tracks,

campaigning his lovely deep blue ’33 Willys coupe with it’s 526 big block Ford motor, while I remember trundling out to the outskirts of town to visit Daren’s previous custom shop in my Moggy Minor pick-up in the early 90s. Nice guys. They were quite happy to let Yodie & I wander around their workshops for an hour or so, pulling dust covers from car after lovely gleaming car for us so we could drool over them & photograph them for you. The piccies here really don’t do them justice. When we visited there were at least half a dozen customers’ cars on the go in the main workshop with half a dozen more waiting next door. All of them were potential show winners. As well as a fully equipped fabrication & engine building shop, Jimmy & Daren can arrange one-off sheet aluminium work, including beautifully curvy ally bike tanks to order, paint & chrome.They also have a shop area,

importing speed parts from the States twice a week. Whatever you want, they can either make it or locate it for you.
Sitting outside the shop when we arrived was Jimmy’s own bike, a gorgeous metalflake silver & pinstriped Dyna Lowrider Harley. That alone was worthy of a feature. I loved the big pointy Cadillac taillight above the number plate. Across the yard though was an unassuming looking white Cortina. Closer inspection revealed a 2 litre Ford double overhead cam motor & 5 speed box nestling under

the bonnet. Daren’s teenage son is the lucky owner of that one. Next to that was Jimmy’s big, boxy but oh-so-cool Ford Fairlane saloon awaiting the Valley Gas treatment. Beyond that a beat up old pick-up. Also not quite as it seemed. It’d been a prop in the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. In order to save space on the film set one side of the body had been completely shaved off so it could be parked up against a wall. The rusty shell turned out to be a fibreglass replica. With the missing panels replaced & a diesel motor shoehorned in, this beastie has recently returned from a trip to Portugal.
Inside, centre stage in the main workshop was a stunningly pretty fire engine red rolling chassis, a perfectly finished 350 Chevy motor nestling between imported repro Ford rails, awaiting a fibreglass ‘32 5 window model B Ford coupe body.
Up on the ramps was a fabulously deep metallic blue Mercedes saloon, the underside as clean & detailed as the flawless body. Lowered & fitted with adjustable air bag suspension, the original 4 cylinder 2 litre engine had been replaced with a 6 cylinder 2.8 running stainless Valley Gas headers. The only give away to this car’s non standard status was it’s Maltese cross door mirror. A lovely machine. Very subtle & classy & probably the one I’d most like to have driven home. So many others to choose from though.
In the far corner was a classic “gasser” style Fordsdon van, it’s original workhorse motor replaced with a 302 Ford. This car had been rescued from an undignified end with a JCB digger parked on top of it in a scrap yard. The bottom half of the body was completely crushed, though you’d never know to look at it now. All new panels & doors have been produced in house to give it a new -& considerably faster, lease of life. On the next bench was the tubular space frame for a 350 small block Chevy drag racer -a design which has inspired my brother Steve to start work soon on a successor to his own race car. A V-Max engine & huge “Taylormade” rear rim sat in a jig next to that awaiting the building of a one-off hardtail frame. Rounding off the motors in the main workshop was a very flash bright red Mitsubishi GTO twin turbo V6. All sorts of work has gone into this but the “Lambo” upwardly hinging
doors created by Valley Gas are it’s most striking feature. Very cool.
Next door stood a stunning all aluminium bodied roadster. A beautiful machine, it’s classic lines hiding a very modern Honda V6 engine with an Alpha Romeo rear transaxle. Triangular exhausts exit neatly through holes cut in the rear skirt. In complete contrast, but just as cool, beside it stood a lovely red oxide primered ’32 3 window Ford, a member of the “LowFlyers” club, running a 350 Chevy motor.
Nestled beside that was a tidy little Triumph GT6. Even that wasn’t as it seemed, with the original engine replaced by a 2 litre Toyota double overhead cam & 5 speed box. Up for sale for a very reasonable 2 grand if you fancy it! And over in the shadows was another Cortina, a blue 2 door this time, powered by a 355 Chevy engine of course.
The last dust sheet to come off really took my breath away. Sat menacingly in the gloom of the furthest corner of the second building was the huge outline of “Roaring Rat”, Kenny Brooks’ phenomenal 392 big block Chevy powered ’57 Chevy. It’s metallic red paint & gold leaf lettering are still as fresh as when I first saw this car in the pages of Custom Car magazine when I was still at school. It’s one of those iconic machines. Unmistakeable, once seen, never forgotten. Kenny’s fully restored it & regularly runs it at Nostalgia drag race meets,
storing it at Valley Gas’ shop between outings. The highlight of our trip for me. I’d love the chance just to sit behind the wheel of this car.
Well that was our visit over. We hadn’t bought a thing, hadn’t arranged any work to be done, just turned up unannounced & got in everybody’s way for an hour, but Jimmy & Daren couldn’t have been more helpful or informative. As I said, nice guys & real craftsmen too.

Valley Gas Speed Shop is at Unit 8V, Sterling Industrial Estate, Newbury, Berks.


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