Nik Rigby’s MELTEM reborn as BLOEM at MotorEx

Matt Watts’s latest burnout build is none other than the late Nik Rigby’s MELTEM Corolla, rebuilt in Nik’s honour

Photographers: Shaun Tanner, SM Archives, Noah Thorley

Geelong-based legend Matt Watts has built plenty of tough cars during his time, including his BLO 202 Torana, BLO UP Corolla, a sweet HQ ute and very tough LX hatch. Even so, his new BLOEM Corolla debuted at MotorEx 2024 this weekend may be the most special of the lot. 

Nik Rigby was a good mate of Matt’s who passed away in 2019, and was best known in the burnout scene for his MELTEM KE55 Corolla. 

“He was a really good mate of mine, he was there at my first Summernats, and we spent a lot of time together at events in the early days,” says Matt.

Matt had actually tried to buy the Corolla off Nik before his passing, but missed out. “I’d been offered the opportunity to buy it a few more times after that, but they didn’t line up,” he says. “Then in February this year I was contacted again about buying it, so this time I took my chance.”

The little Corolla wasn’t in the best shape when he got it, but the emotional attachment made it worth saving. “It was a roller and it was pretty rough, and the original plan was just to do a basic driveline and make it work,” he says. “We ended up re-doing a lot of the car, but I’m glad we did.”

The goal for the build was to give the Corolla Matt’s own personal touch, while still paying tribute to how Nik had it in its prime. “It was two-tone when he had it, so we’ve kept that but with my gold on top for my own touch,” says Matt. “I’ve also kept the Simmons even though I hate Simmons, as that’s what he had on it originally.”

Another key motivator for the build was for Matt to get himself in a better, safer car. “My BLO UP Corolla was pretty basic, and I wanted something safer with better brakes, a cage and so on,” he says. “This new Corolla has all that – cage, tubs, good brakes with a tubular front, so it’s a much better and safer car.”

The driveline is nicked from Matt’s old BLO UP Corolla, running the same 5.7-litre stroker iron block. “It’s been refined, and I’ve switched to mechanical injection, so we had to re-do the whole full system on this car to suit,” he says. “It’s still a 6/71 blower, and although we haven’t dyno’d it, it’d be good for 900-950hp.”

MotorEx 2024 was a grand debut for the Corolla, Matt keeping a lid on the project until it was ready for its first public showing during the burnout demos at the Melbourne Showgrounds. “I’m normally shocking, I get excited and show people stuff straight away!” he laughs. “But for this one I really wanted to make it special, so I held off so we could do a proper debut here at MotorEx.”

You can catch the Corolla in action again on Sunday here at MotorEx, and then Matt plans to hit the pad properly in anger at Brashernats in Sydney on June 9. “That’s something I’m really looking forward to, taking the car back to Nik’s old stomping ground so his family can see it back out there and pay tribute to him properly,” he says.