3000hp 1967 Impala project wins the Laurie Starling Engineering Excellence award

Rob Guljas’s in-progress Impala packs 572ci of Dandy big-block, with metal to match

Photographers: Shaun Tanner

Honouring the late car builder and Summernats judge, the Laurie Starling Engineering Excellence Award is one of the most prestigious trophies handed out over the Meguiar’s MotorEx weekend.

With past winners including Paul Tinning’s incredible Viper-powered XP and Michael Ellard’s Severed Ruby mini-truck, it’s an elite club. This year, Rob Guljas has been added to the list, with his epic in-the-build ’67 Impala coupe!

“I’m blown away by it,” Rob said after the presentation. “I’ve been doing up cars all my life and I’ve had a panel shop for 25 years, but I’ve never done anything at this level.” Rob heads Automotive Creations & Restoration in Geelong, working alongside his son, Jeremy. “He’s become really good at fabrication work and we both had the same vision, so we decided to tackle it by ourselves,” he said.

Tucked amongst all that gorgeous bare metal is a 572ci big-block with twin 88mm Precision Pro Mod turbos, screwed together by mate Frank Marchese at Dandy Engines with a goal of 3000hp. “I went to Frank and said, ‘build me a 1000hp engine,’ and of course he can’t help himself,” Rob laughed. “You can’t see it, but it’s got an M&M two-speed Turbo 400 good for 3000hp and a Race Products diff from Queensland with 40-spline axles, so it’s pretty unbreakable!”

The engine bay itself is another focal point so far; Rob said he poured about two weeks of work into each side of the sheetmetal with more work left to go. Other metal mods will include flush-mounted windscreens to do away with the chrome surrounds, tucked bars, and a quarter-window delete with single pieces of glass in their place.

The wheels are a stonking combo of 22x8s and 22x14s. “They don’t look as big sitting under the car; it just swallows them up,” Rob said.

Rob’s making extensive use of 3D scanning, CAD and 3D-printing to replace most of the bolt-on trims with chunks of billet, from the entire front grille to the taillight surrounds. “It’s changing the game and we were thinking, ‘We need to get into this,’” he said.

Rob’s last big-power personal project was his blown HSV GTO (and he recently handled paint and panel on a gorgeous ‘Nats unveil XW), but long before that he owned a purple Impala that cracked the Summernats Top 60 in the early 2000s. “I had to sell it to grow my business, but I didn’t want to,” he said. “I always said I’d get another one and build it better, and I’ve always wanted to build an elite car, so here we are!”

Thrilled with the good reception, Rob will endeavour to have the Impala in a finished state for MotorEx 2025. “I’m gonna be working on it full-time from now, and my workers will look after the shop,” he said. “It’s given us motivation! It’d been sitting in the corner covered in dust for a while; Owen came into my shop and said ‘I love that thing, get it to the show.’ Winning this trophy has helped with that, too.”

Rob gives a big shoutout to Dandy Engines for helping at every step, with an extra thanks to Jeremy Guljas and the rest of the talented team at Automotive Creations Custom & Restoration.