What started as a small-time gathering amongst friends has grown into one of Melbourne’s biggest and best car events

Photographers: Shaun Tanner

YOU ever needed proof that the Aussie show car scene is thriving, you need only look at the hugely successful events put on by Elvis Barbieri and the team at Showcars Melbourne. In 2011 Elvis realised that there was a gap in the market for a well-organised, family-friendly show that he and his friends could go to. So he started one.

“I originally started the show because I had a lot of friends that wanted to show off their cars in a safe and controlled environment,” he explained. “The event was such a success that it has become an annual show, and it has just grown beyond belief.”

 The annual Showcars Melbourne Showdown was first held in Altona North, but has now moved to the Moonee Valley Racing Club, as the old venue was simply no longer big enough.

Now in its sixth year, the 2017 event saw over 500 cars roll into the racecourse. The indoor section was filled to the brim with some of Australia’s winningest show cars, while the outdoor area showed everything from Aussie muscle and concours-condition classics to bespoke hot rods and custom motorcycles.

 There was no shortage of familiar faces, with Rhys Christou’s menacing XR Falcon (SM, Apr ’16) drawing a constant crowd in the inner pavilion, and other legendary builds such as the Boyd Coddington-built Vern Luce ’33 Ford coupe and Lou Ackovski’sTOXIC Q HQ Holden (SM, Oct ’14) on display.

More than 60 awards were given to some of the most spectacular cars and bikes, a raffle was held to raise money for the Good Friday Appeal, and to top it all off the Cadillac Drifters played rock ’n’ roll classics throughout the day.

 “It gets better and better every year,” event MC Gian Blundo said. “The reason why it has grown like this is because of Elvis’s passion. He’s in the industry and he knows everyone. He really does live for the cars.”

Elvis and his team are already looking forward to the next Showdown event in 2018, and are planning for an even bigger turnout. In the meantime, Showcars Melbourne is hosting a Father’s Day event later this year, which will be held on the picturesque St Kilda foreshore. One thing’s for sure, we’ll be there!

 Mario Zahra loved the look of the VK Brock cars, but thought it was sacrilege to modify one the way he wanted to. So he converted a VK Vacationer into a replica Brocky and went to town! Mods include a stout and beautifully-detailed Holden V8, topped by a VL Group A injection manifold. Big brakes have been added, along with a custom rollcage and big rims complete the race-bred theme.

 “There’s a lot of custom tweaks made to the body, like the length of the grille. Most people don’t notice it, but I think it makes a difference,” Mario explained. The VK took out one of the three Top Overall awards, as well as Top Holden.

 Peter Grant bought his LJ GTR XU-1 in 1977 and asked Wayne Machin to turbocharge it in 1981 after being blown away on the street by a rotary! The car itself copped a stunning resto in 2002.

 The engine mods include a T4 Garrett turbo, Yella Terra head, four-barrel Holley and water/methanol injection. She is pretty stout too, making a claimed 320rwhp. Behind the red motor is an M21 with a Hurst shifter, while the stock diff has been upgraded with one-tonner axles.

 Nez Demaj and his multi-award-winning 1967 Shelby Mustang. Nez was lucky enough to get Carroll Shelby’s autograph on the air cleaner before the great man passed in 2010.

 Lou Ackovski’s home-built TOXIC Q is looking as slick as ever, despite being regularly street-driven. The chopped HQ took out one of the three Top Street Machine gongs.

 More than 400 cars sat proudly in the outdoor area. Even the parking area for the punters featured some very nice machinery.

 A row of replica movie cars included a Mad Max interceptor, the Fast & Furious Supra, a CHiPs Dodge Monaco cop car and of course the General Lee from The Dukes Of Hazzard.

 Lawrence Ebejer and his stunning 1956 Ford Thunderbird, which won the Top Classic gong.

 Frank Kaloc just finished building his LS1-poweredLJ Torana, capable of over 375hp at the wheels thanks to a big cam and aftermarket valve springs. It’s finished in matte black for the time being, but the smoothed engine bay and concealed wiring suggest there is more to come.

 “The reason I’m yet to do any final touches is that it takes a lot to get cars like this engineered,” Frank said. “I’m not the type of guy to rush a build so I can finish it as soon as possible; I’d rather take my time, get it engineered properly, so I can use it how I want. Then I’ll strip it back and paint it.”

 Rhys Cristou’s 427ci XR Falcon (SM, April 2016) won the Top Ford gong

 This Eleanor-style Mustang is owned by Paul Giordano and packs a 408ci Windsor, TKO five-speed trans with a nine-inch rear end, four-link rear and coil-overs all ’round.

 Since we featured Adam and Kylie Perry’s back-to-front 1961 FB Holden, Tailspin (SM, Jan ’17), it has been hitting the show circuit hard. While the car was essentially an invited guest at Showcars Melbourne (and so not eligible for judging), it did place in the Top Three Overall.

 Featured on the cover of Hot Rod in 1981, the Boyd Coddington-built Vern Luce coupe is one of the most influential hot rods in history, heralding the ‘billet is best’ era. The car has been stationed in Australia for well over a decade, in the custody of Gary and Wendy Brown.

 Show promotor Elvis is a dab hand with the spray gun! This ’57 Chev owned by Adrian Panzarino was one of his jobs, resplendent in Dusk Pearl over Ivory PPG Waterbase.

Photographers: Shaun Tanner