An icon of the early 2000s show scene is being brought back to its former glory, as the ex-Jamie Kochaniewicz VS ute known as PSYCO undergoes an loving restoration.
The VS was dominant in the early 2000s, claiming a King of Auto Salon gong, and a Top 60 spot plus Top Murals and Top Car Display at Summernats 15, not to mention haunting our March 2002 cover. The ute went to auction last year after changing hands a few times, soon making its way to a Perth car collector.
The Vortech blower was refitted to the injected Holden V8 and retuned, before the car was sent back east for Darryl Harrington of Automotive Installation Services to handle the rest.
“I’ve been doing car stereos for probably 25 years, and I’m from Perth originally, so the owner and I had been in contact,” Darryl explains. “He runs a business that employs an auto sparky; he took one look and said, ‘This is way beyond me.’ But he knew that I also run a panel shop and could cover all the aspects of the rebuild.”
While the heavily airbrushed exterior is in decent shape (which was mostly redesigned by original artist Wayne Harrison for the 2011 Flesh Air calendar), there’s plenty to be done to bring the ute back up to show spec.
The tub fit-out had been removed and lost due to water damage, and a considerable amount of stereo wiring had been cut or removed from the cab due to seeping water. “I managed to find the stuff that was binned on eBay, and we got that in to get it working again, but the rest of the speakers we’ve bought are brand new, because nobody’s going to see them anyway,” Darryl says.
He says the rear amps were another lucky find. “The person I buy my stock off in Perth knew somebody with two restored ones,” Darryl says. “It will be [visually] pretty much identical to what it was, but the new stuff that’s hidden will be really beneficial for sound quality.” The original eyeball-emblazoned subwoofers were also missing, though Wayne Harrison has now airbrushed a new set to rest behind the seats.
The in-console screens and Nintendo 64 were mercifully left in place and have been revived by Darryl, and most of the custom interior panelwork will be used after some fibreglass repairs and airbrushing touch-ups.
Sound deadening is another new addition, which Darryl says was sorely needed after an overwhelmingly hot and noisy test drive. “It won’t quite be a daily, but it will be a lot more functional, as the owner’s over six feet tall,” he says. “With the subs that were in the cab, you wouldn’t even fit if you were five foot, so everything that’s been upgraded is from a practical point of view.”
According to Darryl, sourcing a set of period-correct rims has proven the biggest challenge so far. “The Momo Status seems to be the go-to wheel for a Commodore of that era — that or AMEs, whichever we can source. [SM scribe] Liam Quirk’s got some gold ones he said I could borrow, but I don’t think gold’s really going to work and I don’t think he’d want me to rechrome them,” Darryl laughs. An engine bay smoothing is also on the cards, as per Jamie’s original plans if he’d kept the ute.
Darryl’s now working to get PSYCO ready for the owner’s first Summernats, though there’s plenty of work to do before January.