Dean McGee’s ’59 Pop 100E came into his possession as a one-owner car. Fast-forward a decade, and he’s pulled in a raft of global influences to create something that’s a long way from factory-standard.
We live in a technicolour world. It’s what keeps the classic Ford scene so exciting, the relentless mixing and matching of ever-more vibrant shades from across the palette of countless modifying mindsets and offshoots. There’s no binary decision-making with old Fords, no set of scene-friendly tick boxes to fulfil. Taking inspiration from a diverse range of sources is what keeps it all ticking — we’re not looking at 50 shades of grey here. And Dean McGee’s ’59 Pop is a case in point: this is like no 100E you’ve seen before, thanks to his clarity of vision and broad world view.
While the turning tide of international politics may be leading certain quarters of the globe to be suspicious of other cultures, this ’59 Popular keenly demonstrates the merits of diving into the rich cultural stew; a classic British body, an engine from Japan, wheels from the USA, brakes from Germany, it’s the very definition of the term ‘melting pot’, reframed for 2017 and then refracted through a distinctly retro filter. If you want any evidence of modern global togetherness, look no further. It’s right here, wreathed in tyre smoke.
The Pop’s very essence lies on a bedrock of cheekiness. “I bought the car in 2006 from an old guy who’d owned it from new,” Dean explains. “It only had 27,000 miles on the clock… The car’s undergone a few changes over the last decade or so,” he says, dabbling entertainingly with the concept of understatement. “And I wouldn’t like to think how much it’s all cost.”
Ah, trivialities. The salient point here is that Dean’s turned a cherished low-mileage stocker into arguably the best 100E on the scene today. Seriously, the attention to detail in this car is so far beyond phenomenal that it’s hard to know where to start.
Although start somewhere we must, so let’s begin with the engine. Which, as you’ve probably spotted, is quite big, and has a whacking great turbo hanging off the side. What it is, in fact, is an RB26 — a set of digits dear to the hearts of Japanese enthusiasts, as this is the brawny straight-six you’d find in a Nissan Skyline. It would, of course, be mad enough to shove such an engine into such a tiny car, but this is no ordinary RB26 — Dean’s reworked the 2.6-litre GT-R motor into a fiery spec; it now displaces closer to 2700cc and sucks through a monstrous Holset hybrid turbo. You’ll have spotted the colossal front-mount intercooler where the grille used to be, and there’s all manner of hardcore trickery going inside the engine. It’s governed by a standalone ECU, has the fuelling system of the gods, and in its current form it’s putting out 723 bhp. Which is, er, rather a lot.
“The engine set-up alone cost £11,000,” Dean winces. “And as if that power wasn’t enough, there’s a 90 bhp shot of nitrous too!”
The genius of the aesthetic is that, to the untrained eye, this could almost pass for a stock-body 100E. Well, if you look at it from a hundred yards away on a foggy day. But inspect it up close and you’ll find that the entire front end, along with the doors and muscular rear quarters, are all artfully crafted from carbon-fibre. This fully seam-welded, tube-framed and strengthened three-box weighs just 810 kg all-in. Just drink those numbers in for a moment: 723 bhp. 810 kg. These are figures that have McLarens and Koenigseggs hiding behind trees until the scary Ford’s gone.
“There’s been no expense spared at all,” says Dean, deservedly proud, and it really shows. “The Pop’s now back on the road after a full strip down on a rollover jig. I originally built it as a pro-street car for drag racing, although now it’s actually used daily as a road car, it’s perfect for driving to work and back.”
It certainly seems to make a lot of sense. Strong, flawless shell, modern Japanese mechanicals, nice bright colour so people can see you coming, it’s probably one of the safest cars out there. Oh, and it’s got plenty of oomph too — safety experts like to talk about your TED, ‘Time Exposed to Danger’, when overtaking lorries and suchlike; Dean’s is more SuperTED than anything. He flashes by before you’ve even realised anything’s happening.
We were talking about multiculturalism to begin with, weren’t we? OK, take a peep under the arches and see how the theme continues. Those wheels, rocking the archetypal pro-street shiny girth, are a set of American Racing billet rims in aggressively staggered fitment; 7×17 on the front and a cartoonish 11.5×15 at the rear, slathered in Hoosier drag radials. And peeping through the slats of that bullish symbol of apple pie and soaring eagles is something baldly efficient and logical — a pair of six-pot callipers from Porsche, hauling up all of that absurd thrust in short order. We return to the land of the rising sun at the tail end, with Skyline brakes bringing up the back.
One of the most fun details, among all of this high-end wishlisting, is the deliberately shabby interior. Those original seats are a badge of honour, an olive branch to the original owner, and they tie all of this newfangled tomfoolery into the cautious old-timeyness of the car’s story. What Dean’s done here isn’t sacrilege, it’s an adventure. If the car could speak, it’d tell you that this kind of treatment was beyond its wildest dreams.
And by gum, is it lively. “It’s got two-stage launch control and anti-lag,” Dean grins. “All the live engine data’s on screen — there’s a laptop for monitoring it under the passenger seat.” It’s a seriously fast car, too — 0-60 mph happens in about 3 seconds, and the gearing runs out at around 165 mph.
“I’m planning to fit a straight-cut sequential ’box in the near future, along with a full roll cage — and then there’ll be a stroker kit, and I’ll be aiming for 800 bhp.”
The guy really is unstoppable, and you can be sure he’ll keep using it as a road car. This global build serves up a clear lesson to all the niche scenes out there: when you have imagination there need be no limitations. Why waste your life in black-and-white?
Words Daniel Bevis
Photos Chris Frosin
See more photos and read the full spec in the original feature on Dean’s Pop 100E in the May 2017 issue
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