Magazine making and car building have their similarities. They both take time, work best if you employ professionals, and benefit hugely from copious planning. Mixing the two, however, is a recipe for high blood pressure, hair loss and serious sleep deprivation. Nevertheless, every editor from Paradise to Broadley has attempted it, with varying degrees of success. Despite the difficulties, the SM staff have turned out some crackers over the years. In this yarn, we’ll spill the beans on just about all of ’em and give you a little insight into what goes into making it happen.
THE Yella Terra Monaro was, strictly speaking, a Summernats raffle car, but we featured the build extensively in the mag. It was won by 18-year-old Steve Wilson in the Jan/Feb ’87 issue. Despite his tender years, Steve was already a veteran hot-car guy and treated the HK to further upgrades. It still gets around Sydney, its iconic graphics intact.
THE first and most famous of Street Machine’s big-buck giveaway cars was HQFORU. Project-managed by Kevin Bartlett, it blows our minds to think how quickly such a comprehensive build was completed, especially while working within the unforgiving strictures of magazine deadlines. The ’Q was won by Brisbane lad Dale Cooper and announced in the March ’86 mag before it eventually found its way into the care of Rod and Judith Menso in FNQ.
THE CASTROL COUPE
PHIL Scott followed up HQFORU with the most logical next choice: an XB Falcon coupe. Again, Kevin Bartlett served as the build manager, but this time with corporate support from Castrol. The Coupe’s wild graphics were perfectly on-trend for the times. Darryl Grehan was announced as the winner in the Oct/Nov ’86 issue, and while the XB has kept a lower profile than HQFORU, we’re reliably informed that it’s alive and well in Outback Queensland.
OUR ‘Wild Child’ WB Holden wasn’t a giveaway car – it was actually our shop truck. Bought during the reign of editor Ewen Page, the ute first popped up in the mag as a rusty shitter. We covered the rust repair, stopped for a while, then had Granville TAFE students paint it. Then came another pause before Owen Webb got involved to apply the graphics, as seen in the September 1996 issue, while Dragway provided a set of custom rims. By the time Mark Oastler became editor, a mild 304 had been built up, at which point Glenn Torrens was tasked with getting the long-standing project finally running.
“I can’t remember if it took me six weeks or a year to get that bitch running right, but crikey, was it a task,” GT says. “I was on a steep learning curve, dealing with a mess of hacked-up EFI wiring and an engine that could never run properly with the standard tune in the brain-box. It drove like a pig.
“Luckily for me, I’d met ‘Fast Eddy’ Vieusseux while doing a Crow Cams tech story, who knew a bit about EFI. With his encouragement – and his Holden workshop manuals – I sorted through the chopped-up loom wire by wire. The do-it-or-die knowledge of EFI I gained then has helped me immensely with many cars since.”
Once it was running, Wild Child became editor Geoff Seddon’s company car for a time, before being pensioned off to make way for VUFORU.
PHASE III GTHO
FOR his next giveaway car trick, Phil Scott – now as editor-in-chief and with Angus McKenzie in the editor’s chair – stayed with the Ford theme but pivoted back to a stocker. But what a stocker: an immaculately restored XY GTHO Phase III! At the time, the car was valued at $50K and was won by Tasmanian Andrew Kremerskothen, as covered in the Apr/May ’90 edition. The car is alive, well and now residing in rural Victoria.
THE SONY SCORCHER
PROBABLY the most ambitious project car in Street Machine history was dreamed up by the team of journo Glenn Torrens, editor Mark Oastler and Expression Session guru Jeff Haggarty. ‘The Sony Scorcher’ was the two-door EA Falcon muscle car that Ford never built: a 1990s hardtop with a high-performance, street-legal V8 under its snout.
“A good-condition EA GL manual with the 3.9 single-point motor was bought for $5500,” recalls GT. “As Paul Bennett sliced into the car’s B-pillars for the two-door conversion, I thought, ‘There’s no going back now!’ And so began the busiest 18 months of my life.
“I reckon we were thinking along the right lines with the Aussie muscle car theme. At the exact same time, Holden was secretly building the two-door VT Coupe that stunned us all at the 1998 Sydney Motor Show, and Ford Australia launched its Tickford T-Series V8 sedans. Even Scorcher’s colour – a fizzy orange inspired by my preference for Fanta rather than Coke with a Big Mac – was on point, with bright, breezy colours (such as Holden’s Tiger Mica and Ford’s Toxic) filling showrooms in the early noughties. To me, that was the most exciting and most dynamic time in the Australian car industry‘s history.”
The Scorcher survives, although the driveline has been significantly changed since it was given away. It was recently treated to a banging respray by Drago Ostric.
AFTER building two highly modified giveaway cars, Phil Scott followed up the Castrol Coupe with something almost stock – but very special. Giving away an A9X Torana would have been a big deal even back in 1986, but this was a GMP&A build destined for the race track, with just 13.7km on the clock! The hatch was won by Queenslander Trevor Milburn, but the car ended up in Perth for many years, where Andrew Beale grabbed it with just 14.4 clicks on the odo. We checked out the A9X in Andrew’s shed in the January 2018 issue, but the car was sold at auction later that year.
ONE HO TO GO
FORD had pensioned the V8, so the SM team looked to build the modern GTHO that Broadmeadows wouldn’t. Starting with a brand-new XF Falcon, Bob McWilliam and the HO Phase Autos crew added a bodykit similar to the Wayne Draper-penned kit fitted to Ford’s Millennium ute concept car.
While a ‘real’ factory V8 XF would’ve been Windsor-powered, Kevin Bartlett built a hot 351 Cleveland, complete with McGee EFI and backed by a T5 cog-swapper.
The beast was won by Adelaide lad Mark Foskett in the December ’88 mag. We checked out the car a few years back in a private collection of fast Fords, looking just as good as KB had left it.
THE PERFORMANCE WAREHOUSE CORVETTE
OUR first Yankee giveaway car was a 1987 targa-top Corvette. KB started with a one-owner, low-mile stocker and gave it the full late-80s/early-90s treatment. Spray Chief came to the party with the sensational pearl black duco with aqua and hot pink striping. The boys stuck with the factory alloys, but polished them up and wrapped them in fat BF Goodrich T/A rubber. The driveline was kept to stock small-block specs. The ’Vette was won by Central Coast-based brothers Clint and Alan Wilkinson in the June ’91 mag. The car still gets around to shows, including All GM Day Sydney and the Corvette Nationals.
OUR hottie ’Vette was followed by a bog-stock HT GTS 350 Bathurst Monaro, with the giveaway launching in the Oct/Nov ’91 issue. The Munro was apparently in excellent nick when purchased by SM, featuring new Verdoro Green duco and a near-immaculate interior. Apart from a seat repair, new exhaust, fresh bumpers and a general fettle, the crew left the old girl well enough alone. Craig, Karen and li’l Brock Fenwick were announced as the winners in the Jul/Aug ’92 issue.
THE next giveaway was an XY built by Ron and Jeff Maio that we’d featured in the Apr/May ’93 issue. No build-up stuff this time; we just bought a feature car! Dubbed TRIKXY, it boasted a build cost of just $15K despite a list of mods that included a beautifully smoothed engine bay, custom interior, healthy 351 Clevo and those wild graphics.
Andrew George was the winner, announced in the Jul/Aug ’94 mag. He’d given up entering competitions but was stoked to discover his SM subscription had bagged him an automatic entry! TRIKXY has since been reborn as a GT clone and these days runs mid-11s in the hands of current owner, Frank Uda.
GIVING away highly modified examples of 70s Aussie coupes was pretty cool. So was our choice of blue-chip muscle with the A9X, Phase III and Bathurst Munro. But commissioning one of the hottest car builders in the land to craft a cutting-edge, full-chassis pro tourer before pro touring even existed? That’s a whole different kettle of seafood.
Editor Tim Britten and builder Howard Astill negotiated a deal: Howard’s team was given nine months to build a car before debuting it at Summernats 5 in 1992. Howard would then get to show it for a year before it would be given away to an SM reader.
The chosen vehicle was a 1963 Compact Fairlane, which Howard named ROCK 4, and the final configuration included a custom-fabricated chassis incorporating a double A-arm front end and four-bar rear. The engine was an HO-spec, injected 5.0-litre from an EB Falcon with its matching four-speed auto.
The Fairlane won Best Street Machine Overall at Summernats and a stack of tinware after that, and then it was won by SM reader and Ford freak Patrick Smithers. In the ensuing years, ROCK 4 changed hands a number of times. Howard even bought it back at one stage, putting plenty of miles on the clock, including a Broken Hill-to-Canberra trek for Summernats 17. The car was later given a twin-turbocharged makeover by Peter Fitzpatrick for owner Gary Reid, who has since moved the car on again.
A NEW six-speed, LS1-powered VU ute was a pretty good starting point for a project in 2003! At first we were content to slam the ute on the deck, jam in a hot cam and a decent exhaust. But temptation got the better of us and it was decided to have a crack at building a fair-dinkum, new-age street machine. SM work experience kid Robert Wilcox thought up the name and Craig Parker project-managed the whole thing.
And this was no bolt-on project. Fitting the then-huge 22-inch rims called for mini-tubs, lengthened wheelarches and serious mods to the IRS bum, all of which was handled by Waddington Street Rods. Hi-Tech Hot Rods fabbed the billet grille, Hoppers Stoppers took care of the brakes and Precise Trim turned the interior into a sea of bright red. The wild paint scheme was designed by Ryan Carter and applied by Mat Egan of Extreme Designs and Earle Webber from House of Kolor. It was an audacious build, completed just in time for Summernats 17 in 2004.
“It was insane what we accomplished on that car, given the miniscule budget and ultra-short build time,” says Craig Parker. “I spent months in workshops in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide working on it, all while still looking after my normal Street Machine work.
“VUFORU lives on and has received a few updates. It even managed to take out Top Ute at the Deniliquin Ute Muster!”
DODGE DART SWINGER
ALTHOUGH we have given away a few very trick cars in recent years – most notably a hot Mustang, a mean black HQ and an orange LX hatch – their builds were mostly managed by the folks at Unique Cars magazine, so we won’t go into detail on ’em here.
Our 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger, bought bright blinking green from Adelaide, was a different story. Scotty Taylor managed the build, which included a brutal 408ci Chrysler small-block built by Powerhouse Engines, Paul Rogers Torqueflite, disc-brake upgrade and widened steelies. Mick McCrudden at Glenlyon Motors bolted it all together and the most powerful (and no doubt quickest) SM project car was born.
The Dart was won by Kane Jones-Murphy from the NSW South Coast, who had sold his own hotties in order to do the family thing.
ODDS & SODS
OTHER assorted project car builds that didn’t attract quite the same amount of ink (or fame) over the years have included the Geoff Paradise-commissioned ‘Banana Truck’ Mitsubishi L200, ‘Black Bob’ Mazda 323 café racer and his own ’57 Chev. John Wright’s ‘Bland Olive’ Charger is fondly remembered by Mopar fans from the early days, while Lindsay Hannington’s Chev-powered Jag project came to an explosive end. Steve Nally’s six-pot UC4ME project was another goodie from the mid 90s.
These days, we do the bulk of our car building under the Carnage banner – check the list here.
THE COMFORT CRUISER
ANOTHER Craig Parker build, the ‘Comfort Cruiser’ was a ’67 Ford Galaxie convertible, sponsored by Southern Comfort. Rather than a full rebuild, Craig describes the project as a “manic makeover”. Highlights included the HOK Candy Apple Red respray, stark white custom trim by Rides By Kam, Carson-style roof by Cliff Carter and 18- and 20-inch Intro rims. The pièce de résistance was the custom billet grille created by all-round genius Paul Librio. The resulting car was spectacular, though not without some blood, sweat and tears, as CP recalls.
“While on display at shows, there was the constant battle of fingerprints and marks in the white interior,” he says. “It copped a 100mm-long scratch along one guard at one show, and a dent in the top at another. Being a convertible, people were forever jumping in uninvited, futzing with the stereo, and using it as a convenient dumping place for their rubbish.
“But I tell you what, I’ve owned and rode shotgun in a lot of standout cars in my time, and none of them turned as many heads. The deep, throaty burble of the 428 big-block, the Galaxie’s imposing size, combined with the stark white interior and insanely bright red paint – that old girl turned every head in sight. Cruising in it was just too cool for school.”