Giocattolo Group B – flashback

Paul Halstead jammed a tiny Alfa full of Holden V8 and created a legend

Photographers: Street Machine Archives

PAUL Halstead — the bloke behind the HAL GTO — is no greenhorn when it comes to building world-class muscle cars. In fact, he went out and created his own supercar in the late 80s, dubbed the Giocattolo Group B. The fancy name means ‘toy’ in Italian, and while the car was based on an Alfa Sprint body, it was a lot more exciting than any Alfa we’ve ever seen, thanks to a VL Group A V8 mounted amidships! He got the thing ADR-approved and sold 15 of the suckers before the project went under.

This article was first published in the November 2009 issue of Street Machine

Paul admits that he did his dough creating the Giocattolo but despite that, he looks back on the project with pride.

“I loved it. There were terrible mistakes made and I should have pulled the pin much earlier. It’s complex to talk about because I had a deal with Alfa Romeo which fell through and that’s when I changed from the Alfa V6 to the Holden V8. I was so committed to building the thing that I just kept going, and when my supply of Alfas got cut off, I had to ship them in from New Zealand, three per container, and sell off all the parts I wasn’t using.

I lost a lot of bucks in the process but that’s okay; it’s one of those things that can happen when you’ve got a passion and you go after it.”

Halstead (far right) with the crew at his factory on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, circa 1987. Paul’s business partner, and the car’s designer, Barry Lock is the tall bloke in the centre

The engineering behind the Giocattolo was impressive. The front suspension was left basically stock, with revised mounting points to improve the geometry, but things got really interesting towards the rear of the car where ex-McLaren F1 engineer Barry Lock designed a massive cast aluminium crossmember and independent rear suspension system.

The rear suspension system used long lower wishbones located on an aluminium cradle attached to the ZF trans housing, with the upper wishbones attached to brackets on the original steel panelling

The floor behind the front seats was cut away to make room for the V8 and five-speed ZF transaxle, then strengthened with steel plate sub-frames. A bulkhead was fitted where the rear seats used to be, sealing off the engine from the lucky occupants of the cabin. Other goodies included Brembo brakes all ’round, 15×8 and 15×10 Simmons rims, VDO gauges and a tool kit complete with a bottle of Bundaberg rum in case things really went pear-shaped! The engine was essentially VL Group A-spec, though with one throttlebody on each side, forged pistons, trick lifters, bigger injectors and a retune.

The engine, transaxle and suspension laid out as a complete unit. The engine accessory drives were reconfigured for packaging reasons

The body mods all used moulded Kevlar panels, with new guards front and rear, plus new bumpers and bonnet. Weighing in at just 1085kg — 385kg lighter than the VL Walkinshaw — the Giocattolo offered ballistic performance.

“I don’t really regret it because I never compromised the car, and the car is a beaut thing,” Paul says today. “We never had trouble selling them at $92,000, even back then. Stock standard with full emissions gear they did the standing quarter in 13.2. They were great little things and they handled awesome. But that wasn’t my doing — it was down to Barry Lock, who did a lot of the design work.”

The Giocattolo’s most famous accessory was the small bottle of Bundaberg Rum — and shot glasses — included with the tool kit

The lack of regret doesn’t mean he can’t see the errors; it’s just that he has a more philosophical point of view.

“You get hooked up in these things and you just think: ‘Well, let’s keep going.’ Was it a financially smart choice? No, it sent me broke. But life’s not a practice run and you’ve got to do what you’re doing properly. I learnt a lot out of it which I will apply to my next project.”

And yep, Paul still has a Giocattolo of his own in the shed.

The dash was fitted out with VDO gauges, including a 10,000rpm tacho and 300km/h speedo

“I bought it about six or seven years ago and it’s being built up at the moment. It’s even wilder than the Monaro — it’s running a 500hp 383ci Holden at the moment but I’m having a 427ci Holden-based COME alloy V8 fitted, and it should be finished after Christmas. It’s a cross between a sports car and a hot rod. With the exception of the brakes and the engine, we’ve done nothing to it that we couldn’t have done in 1989; visually it’s the same. I want to make it the best Giocattolo I can.”

UPDATE: Paul’s latest project is the Giocattolo HYPEROD, powered by two LS engines mated together! Check it out here.