Victorian Hot Rod & Cool Rides Show 2020

Celebrating its 55th birthday in style, the 2020 Victorian Hot Rod & Cool Rides Show had something for everyone

Photographers: Nathan Jacobs

THERE are precious few car events that have run for a more than a couple of decades, but the Victorian Hot Rod Association’s premier yearly show surely trumps them all, having now reached its 55th birthday! In late January, the 2020 Victorian Hot Rod & Cool Rides Show packed out Melbourne’s historic Royal Exhibition Building with rods, customs and muscle cars for a weekend of rorty exhausts, detailed undercarriages and extremely shiny paint.

“We had a different layout this year,” says Alan Brooks of the Victorian Hot Rod Association. “We tried to have more space so people could walk around the cars easier, and we had a lot of new cars showing with us for the first time, which was great. We also had many club displays, like the Eagles Rod & Custom Club of Melbourne, who were celebrating their 60th anniversary.”

As usual, the front and back areas outside the Exhibition Building were packed with classics, rods and bikes, along with different live bands playing daily. The general public are always enthralled at the sight of so many crazy cars that they usually don’t see on the road. Then, of course, there are the sounds – it’s not every day that Rathdowne Street rumbles to the tune of several T-buckets with open pipes having a shouting match!

Here are some of our highlights from the weekend.

With its bright two-tone paint, leather-wrapped radiator cover and rally-style 20in billets, Eddie Bondin’s slammed ’59 El Camino immediately drew people in as they entered the show. Almost the entire car was built by Eddie in his shed at home, including the bootlid, airbag system, most of the custom interior and the panel and paint. Up front is a 400 Chev with some mild mods, backed by a TH400 trans.

Tragically, Sharon Bonnici never got to enjoy the ’32 Ford roadster she and her husband Jason were building, passing away from cancer at the end of 2018. “It was a dream of Sharon’s to have her hot rod displayed at the Vic Hot Rod Show,” Jason said. Most of the driveline and suspension has been replaced, with Jason machining many parts from scratch at his business Tool-Tech Performance Engineering. The 600hp big-block under the bonnet means the BA GT brakes are put to work bloody quick.

The gong for Best Rat Rod went to James Chisholm and his nutty Model A. The black beast looks cartoonishly cool, with 7in chopped out of the pillars and the body channelled another 4in over the chassis rails. There’s an 8BA flathead for power, backed by a C4 and a Ford 8.5in diff, and it rolls on original Model A 19in wire wheels. Details abound, from the original timberwork in the body to the super-desirable E&J headlights.

Joe Amato’s beautiful 1951 Chevy was originally crafted by Jeff Whiteley and his fellow Los Cochinos Car Club members in Houston. Joe imported it in 2016 and set about modifying the steering column to be collapsible, reworking the chassis notch, fitting Camaro front disc brakes and two-speed wipers and adding inertia-reel seatbelts. The extensive bodywork mods include a 3.5in chop, 4in rear guard stretch and Caddy grille.

Steve Woodward’s as-yet unfinished ’34 highboy was displayed on the Deluxe Rod Shop stand. Steve is confident that it’ll be hitting the tarmac by the end of the year, with a driveline that was intended for a more race-orientated build. The louvred bonnet will make way for regular one with a big hole cut in it for the blown 468ci Chev big-block to peek out of, while a race-prepped Powerglide and a Strange 9in will put the 600-odd horses to the ground.

Mario Abela’s full-fender ’32 Ford looks resplendent in its Lamborghini orange paint and Convo Pros, and was built from nothing but an original Ford chassis and a fibreglass body in less than two months! Everything was done by Mario and his two sons in the home shed. There’s a blown 383-cube Chev up the front, with a Turbo 350 and 9in rounding out the driveline.

This mean little ’32 Ford three-window coupe belongs to Frank Marciano and was one of very few hot rods at the show sporting Ford power in a Ford! The body is a Deuce Customs fibreglass job bolted to a Lewis Chassis Works chassis, and the Dandy Engines 347-cube Clevor up the front has a CHI top end and a cool 524hp on tap. The all-Ford driveline is rounded out by a Top Loader and built 9in with 3.5:1 gears and Moser axles.

The mill in Terry Pyle’s evil white ’34 is a 427ci LS built by Geelong’s Tim Holmyard, backed by a built Powerglide and 9in. “Shane Marshall strengthened the chassis, built the rollcage and set up the car so it won’t do wheelstands,” Terry said. Unfortunately he hasn’t had a chance to punt the car down the strip yet, but Terry’s confident it’ll break into the single digits – and that’s without the laughing gas that’s plumbed into the tunnel ram.

Peter Gough fabricates components for rods and customs at his business, Toprodz. He picked up this Model A as a rusty but mostly complete car from a bloke in Wonthaggi, but there’s no sign of the original running gear now. Beneath the patina is a VT LS1 and 4L60E sending drive to the ground through a narrowed Jag IRS. Practically every part of the suspension and chassis has been custom made, while the cab will boast a custom dash, black leather and heated seats.

This was the third time Jordan Grech has displayed his home-built ’27 pick-up at the Vic Hot Rod Show. Up front is a Holden 202 with triple Webers bolted to a 12-port head that sends power through a Trimatic and a Jag IRS. The chassis is a genuine 1927 Ford item that received some serious strengthening in preparation for a supercharged 350 Chev transplant, though Jordan’s fallen in love with the six so much that he plans to add a blower to that instead.

Mick Grech’s crazy ’29 roadster was completely constructed at home in the family shed and has now been on the road for more than a decade. The body is a fibreglass Deuce Customs item that’s been extensively modified to fit the massive 15×15 rear wheels and 31in-tall Mickey Ts. Underneath is a 1929 chassis fitted with a four-link and independent front suspension from a Mitsubishi L300, while the driveline comprises a 500hp blown LT1 Chev, T56 and 9in with fully floating hubs.

The engine in Joe Pezzimenti’s gorgeous HG is a 393-cube small-block Chev, with Patriot heads, Lunati solid cam and a Holley XP Ultra 950 bolted to an Edelbrock Super Victor intake, for an output just south of 600hp. Gears are handled by a Turbo 350, and a Strange 9in turns the tyres. The rear suspension consists of Motorfab single-leaf springs and CalTracs, which should help Joe reach his goal of running 10s.

Tony Hubbard’s twisted TOYCHEV is based around a modified Ford Model A chassis wrapped in a 1962 FJ40 Land Cruiser body, and is dedicated to his wife Gayl, who passed away in 2019. Running gear is mostly Commodore and Holden parts up the pointing end, while a Jag IRS keeps the bum off the ground. Powering the mad rod is a lightly worked Vortec 350 and TH700 combo. The rather drastic height reduction was achieved with a 4in roof chop and 4in channel.

Steve Alldrick’s 1966 XR ute is a super-fine, metal-dash example, and took four years to build. It’s packing a Pavtek-built 347 Windsor, C4 with a 4500rpm converter and an XT GT diff with 3.7:1 gears. Look out for a feature in Street Machine soon!