Building Time Machines with Jordan Bennett

For most people, a car is something that gets you from A to B. A tool to help take you places. For Jordan Bennett though, A or B has never been the point. His destination is the journey. Walk into Jordan’s vintage workshop and you soon realise that to him cars are not tools at all. They’re time capsules full of stories, ready to make you new ones if only you’ll let them.

The story for why Jordan thinks this way began as a little kid in small-town Canada.

“Langley, where I grew up, is basically renowned for three things – horses, Harleys and hotrods,” says Jordan, sitting on an old chesterfield couch on the mezzanine floor of his quirky workshop. “Every year they have this thing called the Langley Goodtimes Cruise In, which is basically like closing the town from Commonage Road to the other side at the cop shop in Dunsborough and saying only vintage cars can be parked in every single street. It would take two full days to go through the whole show with about 30,000 people there. It was really cool. Everyone looked forward to it. That’s what made cars so big there. My brother and I grew up in that. Dad was really into it.”

Jordan’s Dad was so into it that he taught his sons how to weld and also made sure they were always exposed to art outside of cars. This influence led to the pair building their own, custom-detailed billy carts as kids. Jordan’s eyes absolutely light up when asked about it.

“My brother and I made the craziest billy cart. We replicated it off kind of an early British speedway car. It had a real long front end because my brother and I were so tall we needed somewhere to put our legs. It was bright red and had these purple flames. My brother was so good at drawing flames. It had 69 as the number because he was a teenager at the time and thought he was so smart doing that. We loved that thing. That led onto ‘let’s buy little Honda 50 dirtbikes’. My dad and my brother and I would drive around the block on those things. They’re illegal to ride on the road but, because you’re right beside your dad, you feel invincible. If the cops pull you over you have nothing to worry about. It was always so fun.”

That ‘billy cart apprenticeship’ then gave Jordan the bug to start building out proper cars in his mid teens. He began by working on busted up 4WDs so he could use them to bash up old logging tracks and go snowboarding. This was all self taught too, sifting through tutorials and forum threads online to see how it was done, or asking his dad and fellow car nuts how they did things.

Then, one year, Jordan turned what could have been a disaster into a life-changing experience.

“I was in a really bad car accident, going on a surf trip,” Jordan explains. “The car was completely written off. It was mum’s car because anything I had was never reliable. The insurance paid out and I convinced mum and dad that instead of getting something reliable I should go and buy this old 1953 GMC pickup. It was just this old cab that didn’t work and was sitting in an overgrown blackberry bush. It took a lot of convincing, but dad was like ‘okay, if you want to take on this challenge, we’ll support it’. It took me a whole day to just rip it out of the bush. I was covered in blood from the thorns. Basically, I built it from there and drove it around for ages. It was the funnest thing ever and put me on the map as far as building cars.”

Jordan actually rebuilt that car a few times. He went through phases, putting in modern components and revving things up, then pulling back to be more of a purist. That pickup also took him on an adventure to Vancouver, where he moved to see what city life was all about.

“I packed my whole life into that hotrod,” laughs Jordan. “There was a couch in the tray with all my dresser and bed frame and top mattress, plus all my surfboards and snowboards and anything else I could fill on top of that. I had all these occy straps. My dad was like ‘you’re taking the piss, you’re going to get pulled over for sure.’ I was like, ‘nah, it’ll be fine’. I drove down the highway and everyone was waving and laughing at me and taking photos. I ended up overheating my car and it sprayed coolant over everything I had. So I got there and everything was sticky and a massive mess.”

Fast forward a couple of months and Jordan needed a job. One day, he saw a guy with an old Mustang pull into a garage, so followed him. Inside there were a whole bunch of other cars. Jordan’s dream. Problem was, they weren’t hiring. That didn’t stop Jordan though.

“I was pretty persistent and kept going there a couple of days a week and they ended up going ‘well, you’re already here, you may as well start doing some jobs’. That led into pretty much running the business for a while. It was pretty cool. Moving away from Langley wasn’t the best move in terms of working on old cars, because there’s already a lot of opportunities there, but at the same time I was young and was sick of small towns and wanted to meet chicks and just have fun I suppose. It ended up working out really well.”

It was at this job Jordan met a crazy Aussie bloke working there called Lorenz. The two hit it off so Jordan helped introduce Lorenz to all of his mates in Vancouver, showing him good-old-fashioned Canadian hospitality. Lorenz would regale Jordan about the epic surf in West Oz and how people who thought Australia was all about Byron Bay and Bondi were kidding themselves. He said that if Jordan ever wanted a cool trip, he’d be happy to repay the hospitality and show him his home as well. Never one to pass up an opportunity, Jordan planned a 3-month surfing holiday, starting on Lorenz’s couch at a property near Moses Rock. That 3-month ‘trip’ has now extended to almost six years and counting.

“As soon as we landed, I went, I’m never leaving this place,” Jordan smiles. “I remember just driving through even the roundabouts and going, whoa, this is so similar to Langley. I was sending photos to mum and dad saying how crazy is this! It was really cool. I left Vancouver going, I’ll have three months away, but when I got here I felt right at home again.”

Jordan started working around town, getting odd jobs to make ends meet, including pouring beers at Eagle Bay Brewing Co. That networking of hospitality led to other opportunities and soon Jordan was drawn back to his main gig – building custom nostalgia machines. He started by sharing a workshop but recently grew out of that to find the place he’s outfitted now. The aim is to help nurture a positive car culture like the one he grew up with in Langley, but with it’s own Aussie twist.

“This town is so perfect for having an old car or old motorbike with the beautiful winding roads through wineries, or down the coast,” Jordan says. “You don’t have to worry about long distances. These kinds of cars give you a chance to slow down and let you appreciate it all a bit more. Have six people in a car and listen to something cool on the radio. I was maybe born in the wrong era, I think. Everything is so fast-paced these days, screens in your face, if you can slow that down and get an old car where you basically can’t take both hands off the wheel to look at your phone to text your mate, maybe that will keep you looking out the window and appreciating what you have here.”

So, it’s not just about the cars themselves. It’s about what they represent. What they facilitate. It’s more about the culture of appreciating lasting things. About connecting with friends around shared experiences and creating new stories to tell. That social aspect is something Jordan really gets into.

“I want this workshop to be a place you can come down and have a beer to talk cars. Or even if they’re not into cars and just appreciate something old and want to walk through and look at stuff. It’s neat because there’s no rule of age. You could be young and be best mates with a guy who’s 80 years old. If it wasn’t for cars you wouldn’t want to go out and talk with this random dude. It’s really cool that it brings such a broad variety of people of all sorts of sizes and ages together. My plan is to develop a bit of a hub down here for that, provide some rentals even for events. Get people to realise it’s fun to have these things. It’s not scary. They’re simple. Embrace that enjoyment between A to B.”

Of course, a lot of work goes into that enjoyment. Every car is different and suits a different character. They’re stripped right back to bare metal and reborn from the ground up. The process of rebuilding everything comes with major challenges. It takes time. It takes patience. You also need to get to know the owner of the car first.

“You sit down, have a chat, feel them out, see what they’re like,” explains Jordan. “Basically, you want to understand what they’re into so that rather than building a guy a kind of staple car, you know they love a certain team or certain beer and can put little touches in there that will relate and really grab their attention. When you’re building a car you’re opening a can of worms every single time. It’s super hard to quote. You don’t know what you’re starting with until you really get into it. You don’t know how bad rust can be. You have to plan but be flexible, think ‘this is what we need, this is how we’re going to do it’. Stuff can take time to order, so you have to plan and go, ‘right, I’ll need this in a month, so I’ll order it now so I’m ready when I get to that point and the customer isn’t getting delayed’. It’s a lot of buying, selling, swapping, calling around to old guys who have hoards of stuff that they’re not quite ready to sell yet. But you go through each stage as they come through the process until you have a full running, driving car. It’s all worth it when the customer comes in and you see how stoked they are to be able to take it and go and create their own memories with it.”

And really, that’s the draw of it. The memories, past and present. With a vintage car you get to start with a nostalgic feeling, where everything used to be good and the world was right. From that point, the now seems a lot more promising too. There’s no rush to get somewhere. No A or B you need to be at immediately. Instead, you switch on the radio and realise life should be more like a song. It’s not about getting to the end. It’s about enjoying the music while it lasts. And if that music has a classic baseline and blues rock riff to it, all the better. Maybe Jordan was born in the wrong era, but this era is one that needs more people like him. People who remind us that the little details in life are often the point. That and the joy of having a few beers with people who share the same passions as you. We say cheers to that.

Written by Tim Hawken

Shot by Ryan Murphy