TOURING England can be a wasteland for an Aussie car enthusiast. The roads are filled with grim, soulless hatchbacks, lacking in real estate and powered by diesel. As spring turns to summer, older ‘motors’ gradually filter onto the busy, moist roads. But MGs, Healeys and Anglias hardly a street machine make.
This article was first published in the September 2019 issue of Street Machine
On my recent travels in the Motherland with my kids, I did see a Calsonic-inspired R34 Skyline, a late-model LHD Dodge Charger R/T, and absolutely flipped my shit over a German-registered Opel Kadett C (aka Holden Gemini). But homesickness is a bitch. Until recently, we Aussies made some bloody good cars – do the Poms know this?
Well, apparently some do. I hooked up with a crew of crazy characters who can make the rare claim of driving an Australian car in darkest Pomgolia.
Matthew ‘Swaz’ Swales, 35, Leeds, UK
1974 Ford XB Falcon 500 coupe
250CI Six-cylinder, four-speed manual
With a shaven head, a majestic red beard and two armfuls of tatts, Swaz looks like an extra from Mad Max. As he opens the garage door on his unmistakeably English, coach-style home, he warns us in a broad Yorkshire accent: “It’s a bit of a juxtapose of shit going off, like!”
As a proud Yorkshireman, how did you get into Aussie cars?
Via Mad Max, absolutely. I saw it as a youngster, but it were Fury Road that really got me back in again. It were really infectious, and I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it now. Obviously, these cars weren’t common here, but then like, it’s a pretty popular film. People will know what the car is when it’s got the full kit on.
How did your car get to the UK?
I imported it directly from Cameron Manewell; he’s owned over 70 coupes and built the screen-used Interceptors for Fury Road.
The previous owner of Swaz’s coupe built it up as a speedway car, later installing the six-cylinder so he could change classes. When his plans to return it to the road stalled, the next owner started the process of bringing it to Mad Max 2 specs before selling it to Cameron Manewell
Have you done any mods to it?
It only come back in February, so I’ve not done much to it. Cameron had to cut the bodykit up to get it inside the car for shipping, as you can’t have anything loose. It’s got a smoky six-banger in it to help move it around, and although it’s a factory V8, it won’t ever be concours. I didn’t bother with the original Cleveland, as it were in parts and I can buy one here. I did pick up the blower and scoop for 400 quid though. The guy was going to fit them to a Valiant Charger, of all things!
Despite being a Ford salesman for most of his working life and owning two Ford hot rods, Swaz is no brand slave. His 1957 Chev gasser is an ex-Arizona drag car with a 350ci V8 capped by a 6/71 blower on a Weiand manifold and fed by twin 600cfm Edelbrock carbies. It’s good for around 600 horses
We only built the house two years ago and it took every penny we had. I never thought I’d get an Interceptor; I just took the opportunity while it was there. Everyone thought it was a bit crazy. Even if I don’t really touch it for the next five to 10 years, it’s still there; I have it. Aside from a 2009 Focus RS I bought brand new, it’s the newest car I’ve owned in years.
Harmen Sterrenburg, 25, Sliedrecht, The Netherlands
1971 Holden HG Kingswood ute
186CI Six-cylinder, three-speed manual
TRAVIS McKimmie’s HG ute attracted plenty of attention when it was hauled up by French authorities over a concealed but presumably ancient bag of weed (News Front, SM, May ’18). Less well known is that it was almost Dutchman Harmen Sterrenburg’s problem. Lunch with Travis and Harmen was full of colourful discussion – especially the colours red, yellow and green.
While Harmen’s car has certainly received a blow-over of vibrant red paint, the engine bay remains in original condition. New Zealand-assembled Holdens had colour-coded engine bays and metal heater boxes, according to Travis
Harmen, you’re on holidays here in Hartlepool and have brought your beautiful red HG ute to show Aussie expat Travis. Just how did you get into Australian cars?
I was always looking at older cars, although I’d never driven one. In the Netherlands, it is either a Volvo or a Porsche or an old Mercedes; nobody has a Holden. I found an HK sedan for €1450; it was cheap, but in terrible condition and dead inside. I had my head in the clouds and went a bit happy taking it apart, but couldn’t keep working on it due to time. My brother found two utes for sale; a yellow and a red one and said they looked like my car. I thought: “Wait a minute!” I called the next day and bought them both, as I knew Travis was after one as well. I chose the red one and he chose the yellow one.
Sitting by the English seaside in a New Zealand-assembled Australian car registered in the Netherlands. That makes the Commodore VT Series I-era Eurovox tape player under the dashboard the least weird thing here
How did your cars get to the Netherlands?
We have no idea. They were both New Zealand-assembled – body numbers 55 and 58 and both with NZ registration plates only a few digits apart. There’s a guy in my country who specialises in Corvette V8 engines and owns a green 2006 Holden SS ute. A farmer had these in his barn and offered them to that guy, who then sold them on. We suspect they’ve been on some kind of driving safari; mine contained a map of southern Europe and an English souvenir and we both found loose Indian rupee coins in them. Until I registered mine in the Netherlands, neither had been registered outside of New Zealand. Everything else is a mystery.
Harmen (right) and his expat Aussie mate Travis McKimmie can laugh about it now, but the latter’s yellow HG ute was held up by French authorities for over a year. “They told me that it would be crushed. It was all: ‘Nope, nope, nope; we’re keeping the car, you’re never getting it back,’” Travis recalls. “Suddenly I got an email in French: ‘Yeah, come and get your ute.’ Mate, I hired a truck that day!”
Dave Cockell, 56
Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom
2012 FPV FG GT R-Spec
5.0 litre V8 supercharged, 6-speed manual
Not wanting to miss Dave Cockell arrive in his 2012 FPV GT R-Spec, my eyes constantly scan the driveway to historic Hardwick Hall as I simultaneously try to keep my kids in check. I needn’t have worried too much; on a clear day, Dave’s huge black-and-red sedan can be seen from Sydney Tower.
The big FPV was certified for ADR79/02 emissions in Australia, the equivalent to Euro IV, but the UK was on Euro V by 2012. Dave got in touch with Bernie Quinn at Prodrive, part of the engineering team who developed the car for Ford. Bernie said the FPV had passed Euro IV with ease and Euro V wasn’t much of a stretch. “All I did was put new cats on it, fresh plugs and new oil. Bloody romped it in!” Dave laughs.
Dave, you’re born and bred in England, so exactly how did you end up getting into Aussie Fords?
In short, I’ve always been a Ford fanatic. In about 2003, I discovered FPV on the internet and it became an obsession. I started following the V8 Supercars, Frosty Winterbottom in particular and I almost bought a BF GT-P in 2007, but the right car never materialised.
To get the FPV legal on the UK roads, Dave had to install a rear fog light and a MPH speedo. “A group in Reading called ‘Specialised Shipping’ re-did the UK clocks for me,” he explains. “I’ve got the original kilometre one back at home; they’re indistinguishable.”
How did your car get to the UK?
In 2015 I learned that Ford Australia were pulling out of the V8 Supercars. I’d never been to Australia, so I went about setting up the trip of a lifetime. I went to Bathurst, met some brilliant people and borrowed a 2009 GT-P from a guy named David White, who I met through Trudie Edwards at Ford Performance Racing. Me and him has become exceptional friends and when I realised I needed to buy my own car, he lined me up this one. I bought it in July 2016 and it were very well looked after by the Aussie owner, Ian Deayton. After purchase, I left it with David, then I came over for Bathurst again. It were one of the 56 Fords to do a tribute lap of Mount Panorama on race weekend, then drove it to Melbourne and stuck it on a boat.
Since 2001, Dave has periodically thrown his Cosworth Escort around the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, so it seemed only fitting that the R-Spec got a run. “I spun later in the day on my own diff oil; losing a little out the breather is a common issue at the track, I’m told,” Dave says. “I’ve taken it to Donington Park and have plans to hit the Nürburgring and do a top-speed run on the Autobahn.” Pic by Jochen Van Cauwenberge at Frozenspeed
It’s a big, lairy unit; how does it suit UK roads?
You know, I drove it for a fortnight over in Australia and it didn’t feel enormous, but I weren’t really sure of the true size of it before it came here. Here, it feels huge.
Andy Brown, 45
Windsor, United Kingdom
1973 CJ Chrysler by Chrysler 360ci V8, 3-speed auto
Andy wasn’t quite prepared to become a minor celebrity but upon buying his Chrysler by Chrysler, he’s discovered he can’t drive down the street without being photographed. Despite a work truck and a Citroen for his wife Nina, he gets out in the CxC as often as possible to cause a bit of a stir. “It does the school run, and unlike some classics, you will definitely see this one parked at Tesco!”
The export Chrysler by Chryslers were fully loaded with power steering, air conditioning, power windows and the big 360-cube V8. The reverse lights are unique to the UK cars, as for the South Australian-style British numberplate. “No idea who Foxey is; they were just in the boot when I got it!” Andy laughs.
Being a misplaced Kiwi, you must have grown up loving the Valiants?
Definitely! I had a few Valiants back in NZ; such as a VJ Charger which I picked up when I was 17. That was a dog! I also owned a Chrysler by Chrysler in burgundy, then a VG Valiant, then I moved to the UK. I was looking for a project car here when one of my mates back home mentioned they’d sold Valiants new in Britain. I’d been living here for 19 years and never knew that, so suddenly the search was on!
Chrysler’s products punched well above their weight in 1970s New Zealand, with the Charger winning the Benson & Hedges 500/1000 Pukekohe enduro every year from 1971 to 1979. It won plenty of hearts as well, including Andy’s. “Yet I now find myself in a strange position; a lot of Brits think it’s American, so I have to go in as a New Zealander and staunchly defend the Aussie car!”
So, this Chrysler by Chrysler was a UK-delivered unit?
Yeah, this one was sold new in the UK. According to Bill at Valiantinfobase, it was one of 12 built in this spec, so I presume that it might be one of only 12 sold in the UK in total. It wasn’t actually registered until 1975; the marketing must have been disastrous, and the fuel crisis probably didn’t help.
Have you done much to it?
It ran fine when I got it but had a couple of oil leaks and the old Carter carburettor was a bit funny. I thought I’d fix all that, then suddenly it turned into an engine-out rebuild. Everything’s been machined and it’s now running a fast street cam, tubular headers, a Weiand intake and an Edelbrock 600cfm four-barrel carburettor. It hasn’t been tested but should be good for around 300hp. I’ve had to put new metal in the doors too; always chasing rust. It’s all fabricated, of course. There aren’t any of these in the wrecking yards!