We gatecrashed the Grima family reunion but it looks more like a car show and there’s profound respect for each others’ cars
This article on the Grimas’s cars was originally published in the November 2011 issue of Street Machine
THERE’S something really special about following one of Australia’s greatest elite show cars through Sydney traffic on a sunny Sunday arvo. Laurie Grima and his esteemed ’55/’56 Chevy have been in countless magazine features over the years but today Laurie’s particularly excited because we’re here to talk to him about something far more important to him than his car; we’re here to meet his family.
Along for the cruise is his son Wayne, 2010 Snap-On Apprentice Of The Year and owner/builder of an absolutely superb ’56 Chevy which debuted in the Summernats Top 20 this year. Wayne’s Chev is on a trailer — only because it’s suffering from a broken axle, and it sure as hell didn’t get that sitting in the shed collecting dust.
There’s also a beautifully original unrestored EH sedan with 40-odd thousand miles on the clock being driven by Laurie’s car-crazed daughters, Sarah and Monique, but none of that prepares us for what we’re about to encounter as we arrive at Laurie’s nephew Rod’s western Sydney abode.
Sprawled out in Rod’s driveway are no fewer than 16 beautiful cars, all owned by immediate members of the Grima family, who are now madly running around, greeting each other in a flurry of smiles, handshakes and hugs.
We’ve gatecrashed the Grima family reunion but it looks more like a car show, and as we float around chatting to various Grimas about their respective rides, it’s immediately obvious that there’s a profound sense of respect between family members, not only for each other but also for each others’ cars. Laurie is quick to cite Frank’s beautiful tunnel-rammed FE Holden (a top-notch show car from the mid-90s) as a major source of inspiration for Pro Neat.
“Growing up as part of this family has been absolutely fantastic,” Laurie beams proudly. “None of us are jealous of one another; we all help each other and it just works, it really does.
“I’m the youngest of the brothers and we were all into cars. When my brother Mick had triple SUs on his old grey motor I would have been about five or six years old. Then he put the big 186 in it and I remember seeing him driving down the road with no bonnet. I thought: ‘Wow, that’s cool!’ That’s where it all comes from.
“Now the next generation is coming through and I’m very proud of what Wayne has achieved. He’s come a long way but I always knew that he would. I have to say that it’s in the blood.” EK Holdens also seem to be in the blood, with half a dozen at the clan gathering. Mick’s son Phillip, owner of one EK, explains: “We used to get dropped off at school in an EK. None of the other kids were into cars like my family, and even back then in 1983 I used to read Street Machine and think: ‘See, there are other people like me!’ I’ve got friends who used to say ‘you Grimas are different’ but it’s just how we are and it’s all we know. I remember as a kid about as old as my son Nick is now, seeing my uncles Laurie and Tony buffing their cars and tuning their SUs and thinking: ‘Oh man, that’s what I want!’”
Tony still owns his EK, and has done for a whopping 41 years. It’s had a raft of mechanical changes over that time and now runs a tough small-block Chev and a sweet set of billet rollers, but the paint colour and interior remain from its first build, way back when.
“Seeing the next generation coming through and being into cars is just awesome,” Tony says. “Laurie is 10 years younger than me, so him being mad keen on cars has kept the fire burning in me. But my son Nathan is as interested as I am, and it’s good to see these really young ones just as keen. They’re only little but you can tell; they look at the cars like we do.” Mick is the oldest of the brothers and he and his long-since-departed hot-rodded EK from back in the 60s are probably largely to blame for this whole spectacle.
As he sits back and surveys three generations of grinning Grimas and their glistening rides laid out before him, even Blind Freddy could see that he’s as proud as punch.
Sadly, one of the brothers, John, passed away a few years back but his sons, Darren and Robert, wouldn’t have missed today for quids and are proudly displaying John’s beautifully presented ’56 Customline and EH Holden.
“Since my father passed away, we’ve organised a memorial run every year, meeting up at Rouse Hill and driving to Wiseman’s Ferry. The whole family comes along with their cars and it’s a great way to remember Dad,” Darren says.
As the sun drops behind the hills, someone casually remarks that a cruise to Harry’s Café at Liverpool for a feed would be a beaut way to round out the evening, and as we hit the road, they’re filing out the gate to do just that. Life as a Grima sure must be grand!
THE GRIMA FAMILY
1. Nathan’s original Cameo Beige EK comes close to perfection. Bought for him when he was 15 by his oldies (Tony’s his dad) it’s restored and loaded with period accessories. Original grey motor and Hydramatic transmission mean she’s just a cruiser
2. None of the Grimas have owned their cars longer than Tony, who bought this EK aged 17, some 41 years ago! His first ride, it’s had aspirated and blown six-cylinder combos between the rails but now an injected 327ci Chev and Turbo 700 auto take pride of place
3. With Laurie Grima as their old man, Sarah and Monique were bound to be car-nuts and regularly squabble over who gets Sunday driving duties for this beautiful unrestored EH. They’ve had it for three years and there’s just 43,000 miles on the dial
4. Bought for him by his father, John, when Darren was just 14, the EH was too neat to bounce off gutters as a learner, so it sat in the shed for a few years before being rebuilt as an all-original car
5. The product of a build that got a bit carried away, Jenna’s Gem was purchased by her partner, Simon, as a daily driver but now runs a twin-Weber-fed 2.0l built by Simon and her cousin Rodney, five-speed ’box, 18in wheels, tan WRX seats. Rod applied the pink duco
6. Phillip’s owned his EK since he was 18, and rebuilt it between the ages of 21 and 23. It runs a 186 from Dad Mick’s original EK, and custom wheels from Morton and May. Damn neat, considering it was built almost 20 years back
7. Mick bought his first EK in ’66 and treated it to a tweaked 186. That’s stashed away for safe keeping; this one was purchased as-is at the All Holden Day a few years back and he keeps it on club rego for days like this
8. Bought in 1990 for $200, Frank treated the FE to a seven-year rebuild and earned a Top 10 finish at Summernats 11, then married into the Grima family. The FE featured in SM July ’98 minus the tunnel ram, and runs 12.3@110mph
9. Robert’s stunning Cusso belonged to his late dad, John. Bought in 1993 and rebuilt from the ground up, it’s been in the family ever since and is in stunning condition. Robert has it on club rego and continues to drive, show and enjoy it just as John did
10. When he feels like a more spirited drive, Nathan has this Gemini coupe. It was his daily driver but rust repairs led to a complete rebuild and now it runs a turbocharged, injected and intercooled 2.0l engine, mini-tubs and 17in billetsWhen he feels like a more spirited drive, Nathan has this Gemini coupe. It was his daily driver but rust repairs led to a complete rebuild and now it runs a turbocharged, injected and intercooled 2.0l engine, mini-tubs and 17in billets
11. Rod’s EK sedan was bought by his dad, Mick, in 1986 in all-original condition to replace, yes, another EK. Rod fitted a 350 Chev and top loader in ’91, then a 9in and mini-tubs in ’94. It’s seen some strip action and is good for an 11-second pass