Once upon a time there was a motorbike-crazy young Queenslander. Young and fit and full of life and bravado, nearly every weekend he and his mates went blatting along bush tracks on big, powerful, fun dirt bikes. Until one weekend the young Queenslander found himself in bed, in pain, in hospital; the result of a head-on with another bike. Fairytale over.
First published in the April 2000 issue of Street Machine
That was when Alan Lucas’s life changed somewhat. Alan – ‘Bundy’ to his mates – was in a fair bit of strife. His left leg and hip were smashed to bits. “I was in hospital for weeks and when I came out I had one of those frame things on my leg. No more motorbikes. And no more work for quite a while. While I was in hospital, mum bought me a Monaro to get me away from dirt bikes. She reckoned after the crash that I needed a new hobby. She told me to ‘Do something with it!’
Uh, okay, mum – what? Like this?
When mum handed him the keys, the Monaro was an untidy orange 253ci V8 GTS. Pretty soon it was a clean, healthy, pink streeter sporting a 350ci Chev. Alan was happy with the car in this guise until he was invited to Melbourne. Muscle Car & Mega Bike Show. That’s when Alan’s life changed again.
“I met this bloke called John Taverna at the show. And it’s all been downhill from there!” says Al with a laugh. Within days of the Melbourne show the Monaro was ensconced at John Taverna Chassis for a half-chassis/tub job. That soon turned into a full-chassis job with no hope of the car ever seeing regular street duty again and before he knew it, Alan was headlong into what ended up as a five-year project.
Al’s philosophy and reasons for building his car this way is quite simple. “I’ve always liked the Pro Street look. I reckon having a Pro Street car is just tough,” says Alan. “These days rego laws, bad roads, cops – it’s just no use having a tough streeter sitting in the shed because your carby sticks through the bonnet. You might as well go full-house and be done with it! I might only get behind the wheel of this thing at Summernats and shows, but Jeez, I look forward to driving it!”
As the build progressed, Al decided to order a set of wheels. “I rang Taverna and told him I wanted wheels for it and could he pick up a set on one of his buying trips to the USA. He said, ‘Stuff that, why don’t you come with me?’
“By this time we were pretty good mates so I thought, ‘Yeah, why not?’ So I rang up Boyds in America and made a special order, as the wheels I wanted weren’t a stock size. They asked what forwarding address to send them to. I said, ‘I’ll be picking them up in person.’ They said, ‘What?!’
“I actually worked for John while we were over there, pulling out diffs and stuff in the mornings and then going shopping for a few hours in the afternoon. Bloody great 31/2 weeks. I ended up getting plenty of bits. I came back with a blower, steering wheel, cam, rockers, blower hat – stacks of shit!”
Most of the stuff found its way into that methanol-slurping blown big-block Chev installed nice and low in the engine bay. Built by Cragar performance in Brisbane, the engine started life as a 454, but is now around 520ci thanks mostly to a stroker crank. As you would expect, it’s stacked full of quality gear. Has to be, really – you don’t build a 1200hp engine with crap.
“It hasn’t seen a dyno but I reckon 1200hp would be a good guess. Then there’s the gas.”
Pride of place is the BDS 8/71 blower mounted under the Enderle hat. The heads have received plenty of work and are studded to the block. The pistons are Speed Pros hanging off Manley steel rods and compression is 8:1. The exhausts are JetHot-coated terminating in two sensational-looking teardrop outlets under the front guards. They not only look good: mini-mufflers take the snarl out of the exhaust. This one barks but it doesn’t bite, if you know what we mean.
The gearbox is a modified TH400 three-speed auto built by Neil at Precise Automatics in Beenleigh, Queensland. It runs a 5000rpm Alfast stall converter, is full manualised and feeds to a four-inch chrome-moly tailshaft. Behind that is the four-link-located, coil-over King-suspended, Murray Anderson-fabbed sheetmetal nine-inch diff running 5.8:1 gears. And those special-order Boyd Hatchet wheels are 15x15s rolling inside Mickey Thompson Sportsman Pros. Brake are Strange Engineering at both ends sourced from Rampage Rod components and the diminutive front wheels are 15x4s with Michelins.
That body! We were lucky enough to be there when Al and his mates rolled the Monaro out of the trailer at Summernats scrutineering after its long haul from Queensland. Even covered in 1500km worth of dust, the car glowed. Arrow-straight panels and subtle tweaks everywhere enhances the lines of what is arguably Holden’s best-looking series.
“The single-headlight front looks the best,” Al reckons. “Prems just don’t cut it. Plenty of people run four-light and WB fronts but it really doesn’t suit the curvy shape of the Monaro.”
The front and rear bumpers have been narrowed and tweaked to pull them closer to the body. Actually, these bumpers were supposed to have been moulds for a set of fibreglass jobbies but the boys ran out of time before Summernats. The nose has been welded to the front guards and the glass bonnet has radiused corners front and rear and has been set into the panel at the windscreen base. Did you notice the nose-cone centre ridge has been smoothed? We didn’t, even after staring at the car for two days during our photo shoot. That highlights the subtleties of many of the body mods.
Originally, this car was a GTS. That means flutes in the front guards. And that, to Al, meant a styling clash with the teardrop exhausts. “I wanted everything smooth. The door handles and locks are gone and the quarter-panel lights are gone too.”
Tubs. Ah yes. Enormous. The rear wheel arches have been stretched to get the proportions right and there’s radiusing on the guards and boot lid and door corners. The man responsible for most of this tweaking, including the suicide doors and exhausts, is Shane. “That’s big Shane,” says Al. “Little Shane did the bumpers, the false floor and lots of other stuff.”
The oh-so-smooth paint is by B&M Smash Repairs in Beenleigh. Al didn’t know B&M from a cake of soap when he called in and asked for a quote. “I’ve been ripped off by painters in the past,” he reckons. “But these guys worked two hard weeks, night and day, to get it ready for Summernats.” All worthwhile – the Monaro scored Top Standard Paint and Shane’s body mods contributed to the 3rd Bodywork gong.
The inside is dominated by that dash: is this one of the best dashes you’ve seen? The smooth, organic teardrop shape seen on the exhausts is the theme for the interior. And it works. If there was ever one part of the stock HQ that didn’t ever work stylistically, it was the bulky, high-set dash. As you can see, Al’s car doesn’t have that any more. Instead it carries an Auto Meter-equipped dash that can only be described as beautiful. Once again, the work of Shane.
“Why not,” grins Al.
Peering through his fingers, Al admits to $3000 in the interior. That’s just materials. That’s why he wanted to hide his face when we asked. Graham, of Auto Trim Mobile, did the job of stitching everything. “White leather – never again!” says Al.
There’s specially made aero-spec harnesses and billet-style window and door handles. The wiring (including the overhead switch console) was the task of Gary Semmens.
“I wanted to prove a couple of points with this car,” Al told us over Bundy’n’Cokes after our first day’s photography. “I wanted to build and American-style Pro Streeter in an Aussie body. I also wanted to prove that a nobody like me could build a car like this.
“For Chrissakes, I’m a butcher!”
“I love letting little kids sit in it. Often you can see a bit of fear in people’s faces as they muster the courage to ask you if they can put their kids in the driver’s seat and take a photo. They’re almost amazed when I say, ‘Yeah, no worries!’. But I get a big buzz out of that. I’m nothing like Peter Brock but there’s a great scene in the Peter Brock Legend video that sums it all up for me – Brocky talks about how he remembers being told to ‘get your grubby little hands off my car’ by some old wanker when he was looking at a racecar at a hill climb back when he was a young bloke, and how that forever changed his outlook. It’s just a car and it’s there to be enjoyed.”
Along the way
Like most feature cars, there’s more than one box of brains behind the build. John Taverna was responsible for most of the chassis work, and Al has nothing but praise for most of the others who had a hand in building the car, too.
“At Summernats, one of the judges said ‘Gee, you must know a good painter’. Yes, but I didn’t know him before I asked him to do this car – I just walked in off the street. If it wasn’t for the painters, we wouldn’t have made it to Summernats. They did all this in two weeks. Before that I just wanted to burn the f**ken thing!”
But, as usual, there were dramas.
“I got sick of being led up the garden path and dealing with dickheads. Like a bloke who got an engine plate all wrong on another car a while back. I gave him an engine, chassis rails – everything he needed to get it exactly right. He got it wrong – it didn’t fit. Later, when he heard I was getting this car’s chassis done in Melbourne, he rang me up and said, ‘I do that sort of work here, you know’. After the bad experience with something as simple as a flat-shaped plate, do you think I’d go back there?”
Al’s got plenty of time for his mates, and clearly they’ve got plenty of time for him, which was especially evident in the weeks leading up to Summernats 2000. Rodney Rude was always hanging around hanging shit and Big Steve was never far away with his tilt-tray. No face-down-in-the-gutter-drunk New Year’s Eve parties for Gary Locksley or Nathan deLangen – it was spent in Al’s shed helping to screw the Monaro together for its Summernats debut. In fact, the engine was first started at 5am on 1 January 2000. Happy New Year!
|PARTS ‘N PANELS
|Alan ‘Bundy’ Lucas
|HQ Holden Monaro GTS
|Special ‘sour grape’ mix
|Chev big block 520ci
|TH400 three-speed auto
|Nine inch, alloy housing
|15×4 & 15×15 Boyd Hatchets