First impressions are lasting, especially when your senses are in overload trying to cope with the awesome mix of amethyst with bright yellow flames, the polished pump hanging out the hood, billet wheels and the fat-arse rear-end stuffed with 275 T/As. It doesn’t really matter what’s available in the grunt department as Luke’s ute is so in-your-face it’s just screaming for attention with sensibility thrown to the dogs.
First published in the November 2002 issue of Street Machine
And does he drive it? Absolutely! Well, at least when the old biddie across the street isn’t ringing the cops to complain about the noise.
Lurking behind the polished grille is a tough 308 that’s been built as much for cruising as for anything else. For Luke, not going ballistic with the engine was the key to keeping the car driveable, reliable and practical. And the bucks saved on mechanicals have been well spent on cosmetics, style and getting his pride and joy into the street machine groove.
“I originally had plans to do an EH ute and I searched for ages for a decent shell but couldn’t find one,” recalls Luke.
“It was a bit of a funny story of how I came across the ute. It was owned by a plumber living two doors down from me and I bought it off him for $500 after looking at every shitbox ute in the country.
“It was a six cylinder and I was gunna drop in a 5.0-litre V8 and give it a paint job, but it turned into a nightmare. Every panel was dinged, the six cylinder and auto was near buggered, the roof was just about to fall off with rust and she was well used and abused.
“I drove it around for about four months and took it to a mate’s place, Tony Supple, who owns Tony’s Bodyshop at Heatherbrae, and that’s when he started playing around with it. We stripped it to a shell (bare metal) and fitted two new doors, pulled the guards off, replaced the rusted-out bottoms and chased out the dents, put in a new bonnet, nose cone and new tailgate.”
Over the next few weeks the boys hooked in and paint-stripped inside and out and, being injured and off work, Luke then just stayed with it on and off for the next two years.
There was a rust hole on the driver’s side you could put your hand through. “The quarters were well and truly f#@ked,” says Tony. “We welded up the fuel-filler and tonneau holes, repaired all the dents, 2K-etched the body, applied about six litres of high fill, blocked that with 280, hit it with a guide coat, 320-blocked that, reprimed, blocked and painted the car. After cutting the top coat back, I flow-coated the shell in Rapide clear.”
Once painted Luke couldn’t believe how well the body had come out and how good his one-time dunger now looked; like the queen of the ball on Prom night! The original plan of V8 plus paint was quickly revised to V8 plus paint plus a dirty big blower. Sure enough a few months of searching turned up a complete 6/71 set-up from carbies to intake for $4500.
“In the meantime I had started building a 308 that would be a strong cruiser rather than a 10-sec engine,” recalls Luke.
The 308 was nothing exotic, just a standard rebuild with ACL flat-top slugs, a mild hydraulic cam from COME, King bearings, Mellings pushrods, high-volume fuel pump and a Newby blower manifold. Ignition was upgraded to an electronic with 8.8mm Top Gun leads. A set of Pacemakers run into a dual three-inch system to dump the burnt gasses, and a five-core radiator stops the kettle from boiling.
“I bought a TH400 off a mate. Actually, he gave it to me,” laughs Luke, “and I took it to Glen at G-Force Engines and Transmissions at Gateshead. Glen fitted it with a full manual-shift Dominator converter and then bought a nine-inch out of The Trading Post. The guy I bought that off was a real smacked arse, I tell you!
“I reckon I’ve dealt with every d*ckhead in Australia,” swears Luke. “The housing was bent so much that I couldn’t even bolt it in and when I rang the guy back he wouldn’t answer his phone. All the mounting points were wrong so I took it to an engineering joint who straightened it. This time it bolted straight in.”
For $800 bucks the diff didn’t come with much else in the way of good bits, so after a bit more hunting Luke bought a 3.9:1 centre off Tony Webster’s SA Imports in Carrington, Newcastle, and slammed it all together.
All that remained was the interior and wheels. Luke sent the car to BMC Trimming at Gateshead and had the carpet, door trims and headlining replaced. Another score out of The Trading Post were SAAS seats in good nick which bolted straight in.
“We pulled the dash out, painted it and fitted it with Auto Meter gauges,” says Luke. “If couldn’t be done on the cheap, it wouldn’t get done at all.”
With the ute painted, trimmed and rebuilt from the ground up it was looking pretty sharp but needed something to finish the car off, something that would stop the traffic and turn heads wherever it went. That was when a mate put him onto Tony Edser at Raceart in Maitland. Tony got busy with his crayons came up with the wild flame job that ties the whole car together as a wild street machine package – driveable, tasteful and unique.
What was the best part of building this great car?
“My mate, Andrew, passed away with Leukaemia two years ago and the best part was hanging out with him working on the car,” recalls Luke. “He was there all the time for me, from pulling it apart to blocking it back and dropping the engine in, he was always with me when I worked on that car and I miss him.”
Hardest part of the build-up?
“Dealing with all the cocks, the blokes with no brains trying to sell you sh*t and they want the world for it. It might be me…I’m just a hard bastard,” laughs Luke.
“Apart from that, the only other problem has been the lady across the road who gets the cops on the blower [the phone not the supercharger] every time I hit the key. Then, sure enough, the cops will drive past a few minutes later.”
1977 Holden HX ute
|Amethyst with yellow flames
|Newby blower manifold with 6/71 supercharger and two 600 Holleys
|TH400 with manual shift
|Dominator 3000 stall
|3.9:1 nine-inch mini spool
|165/15 Hankook on 15 x 6 Weld Flames
|275/50/15 T/As on 15 x 10 Weld Flames