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Dedicated to the memory of Brian Mullan

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Bird of Prey

Bird of Prey

I have had this article for quite some time now, and when I recently took a look at it I realised that it is a great story. While I didn’t know Brian Mullan, the creator of this fantastic car, I felt that I got to know him a little after reading the article. Sadly Brian passed away in 2007 aged 67, but has left a great legacy behind him, and while we may think the car is the star we must also remember his son Paul, who is looking after the car and showing it at many events. Ed

Brian Mullan lived in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, where his love for cars and all things mechanical grew. He restored many classics over the years, but his pride and joy was the 1937 Ford Model Y Special ‘Falcon’ you see on these pages.

He started out with an idea and a Ford Falcon with a fibreglass roof that was very dilapidated, and Paul tells us that the design stemmed from his memories of a Riley MPH Brian and his brother once owned. Being a mechanical engineer, Brian didn’t have to think twice when he decided to lengthen and widen the chassis using parts from another he had. As the finished product was to be an open-top the strengthening was an important part, but nothing was a challenge to Brian.

Anyone who has ever restored a Ford Model Y or similar will know that once the chassis is complete, the engine is next up for attention. Again this was completely rebuilt from top to bottom, and completed with a polished set of 1 1⁄4” SU carburettors. There was to be nothing put onto this car that wasn’t fully checked and rebuilt, so the gearbox, driveshaft, rear axle, suspension and brakes all came in for complete overhauls.

The body was completely hand-built by Brian, and Paul explains that “the framework for the body was made from steel, but all the panels, including the floor panels, are aluminium, which he hand-shaped and made himself. Even the air vents on the side panels were cut and shaped by hand, not pressed out like most are today. The doors were ‘suicide doors’, opening from the front, and both sides of the bonnet are hinged from the centre of the car”.

He continues that

“the bulkhead too is heavy aluminium sheeting bent to form the necessary shape, and the floor is designed to flow any rainwater that enters the car out of the centre, where the driveshaft housing exits the interior. The car was intended to be usable in all weather, so mudguards were formed by splitting and narrowing steel trailer guards, before a steel formed rod was Mig-welded down the centre of each to form a rib for cosmetic and strengthening purposes. The front guards are mounted to the wheel hubs, and thus turn with the wheels. The compartment behind the seating area houses the fuel tank, and allows for dry storage of any tools or luggage.”

Paul tells us that his dad had added a few of his own special features to make life a little easier, including a removable steering wheel to ease entry and exit for the driver. He also had a column change fitted to give a bit more room for the passenger, and a hand throttle helped rest a bad hip on long journeys. Brian would put most of us to shame, as he completed the build in the two years from 2000 to 2002, finishing it just two days before the Ford Y & C Register’s round-Ireland trip in ‘02. Paul tells us that the car completed over 1,100 miles in ten days and never missed a beat, such was the intensity of his dad’s preparation.

“His last run out in the ‘Falcon’ was in August 2007” Paul remembers, “three weeks before his passing, when I drove him in the car to the Powerscourt Picnic & Run in Dublin. It took us four hours to drive down in the pouring rain, but I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to have that special time with him. We had a great time that weekend, and he was so pleased to meet up with his friends from the Register, John Fitzgerald and Sam Roberts.

I was invited back to Powerscourt in 2008, where I was delighted to be presented with John Fitzgerald’s father’s perpetual trophy in memory of my dad. It was an emotion time for me.” Paul vows that the car will never leave the family in his day, and hopefully for a long time after that. “I intend to show it as much as possible” he explains, “to give my dad the recognition he rightfully deserves for having the skill and ability to build this unique wee treasure, which can put a smile on peoples’ faces even when he’s gone.”

You can read more about Brian Mullan and his collection at a website set up in his memory, the Brian Mullan Memorial Club, at www.brianmullanmemorialclub.co.uk

Text & Photos by Paul Mullan and Tom Heavey.

The first issue of Irish Vintage Scene Magazine hit the shelves in May 2006. Founded by Tom Heavey, his mission statement was simple, and has remained the same to this day, over nine years on:

“To provide the vintage and classic vehicle enthusiast in Ireland with one place to source all they need for their hobby.”

Tom, a keen enthusiast himself, felt that there was a need to connect enthusiasts from all over the country, as he found that there were far more events and clubs in existence in Ireland than he could find out about with any ease.

So, after a lot of thought he decided to launch a magazine that would cater for all types of collectable vehicles, including motorcycles and commercials; this was to be a first, as no other magazine in the world had this format.

All rights reserved. Article is copyright of Irish Vintage Scene and must not be used in whole or part, without prior permission in writing from the publishers.

‘Bird of Prey’ was originally published in Irish Vintage Scene Issue 60 May 2011, pages 78 and 79. Reprinted with permission.

Visit the website to purchase Irish Vintage Scene Issue 60 or to get a magazine subscription.

See the original Bird of Prey article here.

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