Andrew Murray of Murray Brothers Garage wanted a hot rod to call his own, so he spent four years of his own time building the perfect one.
Murray Brothers Garage Custom Coupe
One of the most fascinating things about the automotive landscape is the ability to find some of the most dedicated people—and exciting builds—tucked away in some of the most remote places in the country, and even the world. Sure, people can have Ferraris ensconced in climate-controlled garages with Nest thermostats analyzing every aspect of humidity and barometric pressure in a hermetic orgy of parameters, but there’s something special about a garage with character. Sterile environments should give way to personality. Clinical perfection should give way to clutter with a sense of moxie.
Andrew Murray has built a fascinating mix of high-tech hot rod. He has broken traditional molds with the ability to match current fuel-injection technology with a 50-year-old Potvin blower setup, utilizing a DIY mentality that gave him the freedom to explore whatever options he could imagine.
His imagination blossomed from an early age and continued with his brothers on a quest to constantly test and push the limits of their creations—mostly motorcycles at first.
“We’d meet somewhere in the country, and we’d love to go out west and ride these bikes that we built as hard and as far as we could for 10 days,” Andrew recounts. This testing, an adventure of sorts, would push him and his own boundaries of what he could build, steering his future builds.
“[Building from scratch,] you’re not bound by trying to put this control arm with this package, or a set design,” Andrew explains. “You’re free to start from scratch and make it work out. It’s a little overwhelming to think about, but when you’re actually doing it, it’s a neat way to go, and I enjoy that.”
The co-owner of Murray Brothers’ Garage, located in Woodbury, Connecticut, Andrew has been building and pushing his own personal envelope when it comes to creating custom hot rods from scratch—hot rods that have tackled Bonneville and have won Hot Rod magazine’s “Hot Rod of the Year.” These aren’t some show-and-no-go beauties. These things are made to be driven. Hard.
Speaking of going, the propellant in this case is a 500 horsepower small-block Chevy V8 with a Potvin setup attached directly to the front of the motor, using a GMC 6-71 supercharger for boost. Unlike his hand-built Roadster that used a 650 four-barrel Holley (more on that in the future), the Coupe complicates the matter by adding fuel injection to an ancient technology. “The supercharger and the fuel injection required so much scratch work, building time, engineering and wiring that everything was just three times as complicated,” Andrew admits. Plus, the sheer size of this engine configuration (around six feet in length) requires a particularly focused setup—one that only a scratch-built setup could afford.
Part surgeon and part plastic surgeon, Andrew relocated certain parts, affixed others where they not only look perfectly normal but are functional as well, and developed an entire system in order to focus a car around this exceptionally cool motor setup. It’s a dichotomy between modern electronics and antique mechanical systems, which even look the part due to an Accel programmable fuel-injection system hidden to look like a Hilborn mechanical unit.
In an original Potvin setup from the ’50s/’60s, there would be a magneto in place providing the current to the spark plugs. However, since they’re not well suited for a street car, Andrew decided to relocate the alternator where you couldn’t see it, and he made the inclusion of an electric water pump and fuel pump—something the 1950s-equivalent car with this Potvin blower could only dream of.
“They [Potvin dragsters] had a magneto, a mechanical fuel pump, and they were made to drag,” Andrew explains. “I wanted it to be drivable every day, and it’s been really good and reliable.”
Thousands of street runs, hill climbs, oval tracks, road racing, Bonneville and miles later, the proof of the Coupe’s daily durability cannot be ignored. Taking a ride at full tilt is like stepping into one part rally car, one part dragster, and one part time machine. It’s a whining, visceral and unforgettable experience enhanced by the fact that we’re on back roads in Connecticut, not on some racetrack.
Though the engine of the Coupe is about as subtle as wearing a blue-suede suit to a black-tie affair, the exterior is classically influenced, appearing almost dapper in style.
Savoring the time—almost four years of modifying—to get the bodywork correct was a constant battle of tinkering, adapting and improvising: seeing the vision. Since the car was built around the front-driven supercharger, Andrew knew what he was getting into and what needed to be done to the bodywork.
Essentially a roll cage with skin attached to it, the Coupe is tubular aluminum bent and manipulated into shape using Andrew’s own hands and tools. “I’m not putting a cage inside the car, I’m putting the skins on top of the cage; you build the two together.” And whenever you want to get under the skin, so to speak, sets of screws are the only binder holding everything together.
And with the open roof, not only does the sound of the transmission, engine and drivetrain emanate beautiful mechanical noises, but you feel the wind, which only enhances every sensation. It’s barebones and makes you fall in love with the automobile all over again.
“I wanted to emulate a coach-built approach, as opposed to a racecar, with the Roadster—1930s coachwork and hot rods,” Andrew proudly admits.
The cockpit is a mix of vintage goodies, smart thinking and pure enthusiasm. Whether it’s the ingenious inclusion of 1960s Chrysler gauges, a Top Fuel dragster steering rack, or subtlety like the antique shell of a toaster oven housing the electronics, Andrew went to great lengths to feed the imagination and, in some cases, trick the mind. The Coupe thinks old but acts young.
While thought out from a design perspective, form follows function. A simple—though surprisingly, not as sphincter shattering as you’d think—set of aluminum Kirkey Vintage bucket seats holds you in via Impact Race Product belts and half an inch of foam. What’s extremely appealing is the lack of buttons, dials, knobs, lights, bells and whistles. What do you have? A simple yet bolt-action-precise Tremec five-speed manual controlling the gears and a few custom-made switches for the ignition sequence. The only digital indicators, an anomaly of sorts in this rather archaic cabin, is the Tel Tec II racing tachometer and the Daytona Sensors WEGO IV air-to-fuel ratio display.
Continuing with the vintage aesthetics, Andrew chose to include period-correct wheels, which, in this case, mean a set of 18x7-inch Halibrands in the rear and 16x6-inch in the front. The rear wheels have a storied history as they were used on a ’50s Fike Plumbing Special that turned the corners at Indianapolis. The fronts, to the naked eye, would be easily confused as 100% original; however, they’re magnesium ’60s sprint-car replicas.
Vintage new-old-stock Dunlop Classic Racing R1 tires offer enough grip to get power down, but when the motor’s fully spooled, these 4.5-inch slivers of rubber become overwhelmed—though, as Andrew explains, that was done on purpose.
“I engineered it to have those tires, because I knew it would be that way,” he explains. “So you can go pretty fast and feel like you’re on edge, but it’s a nice edge.”
Like his garage, which is hidden in the foothills of the Northeast, there are parts concealed within this build that serve a major purpose but don’t showcase themselves—such as, say, the engine—until you delve further into the build. For instance, there are the control arms meticulously bent from $5 pieces of pipe, or the flat pieces of metal hammered into a body panel. But even beneath those personally made parts are custom drive shafts, custom ground camshafts and General Motor calipers made to look like Halibrand spot calipers. It’s these kinds of nuances that make this car exceptionally special and unique. From afar it looks pulled directly out of a midcentury hot rod magazine, but its newer parts catalog can be bought and built by anyone with the determination to do so.
After the time spent with Andrew, you realize just how fascinating a guy he really is. No kids, no traditional marriage, eloping and saving money—just him and his wife doing what they love on their own timeline. It’s one thing to build a car in a garage with time, money and physical constraints holding you back as life passes, but when you can invest as much time and love into something as he has with this Coupe, the results are special.
Andrew leaves off saying that sure, it’s pretty intimidating to build your own chassis and your own design, but it can be done.
“You need to be realistic and get into a strict work ethic, but I enjoyed tying all the parts of car building together.”