Burgers, bands and brews as Ben Erdahl throws open the doors of Lucky’s Speed Shop in Sydney for a Yuletide shindig


LUCKY’S Speed Shop in the Sydney suburb of Botany is famous for unleashing killer creations into the Australian rod and custom scene, but it’s also known for throwing a damned fine Christmas do, too. The 2015 Lucky’s Christmas Party was no exception, and saw feasting, cars, music and a 1951 Ford shoebox get a much-needed haircut.

Luckys Speed Shop 2 NwLucky’s Christmas Party is an open-invitation event that sees a stack of amazing metal roll in. Pinstriper extraordinaire Ryan Ford was there early painting one-of-a-kind kickarse trophies for the standout cars. The trophies are named after each of the three hounds that call the workshop home: Lucky, Peanut and Buster.

Luckys Speed Shop 4A NwLucky’s Speed Shop owner, designer, fabricator and dog whisperer Ben Erdahl takes the same meticulous approach to building Christmas parties as he does to building cars. Seventy bags of ice – check; 150 litres of locally brewed beer and cider – check; two highly trained barbecue technicians flown in to chef-up some hamburger goodness – check.

Luckys Speed Shop 19 NwThe party is open to not just the rod and custom community but the larger neighbourhood, too – it’s the least Ben can do after making a total racket all year round. Everybody is welcome to turn up with their car – or overprotective dog.

Luckys Speed Shop 6 NwOh, you hang pictures on your walls? That’s cute. The innards of Lucky’s Speed Shop has everything from Rolls-Royces and Cadillacs to Model As and BMXs, along with the bones of future projects swinging from the girders. Below them are a Gene Winfield-painted 1951 Chevy, its primer-coated sister from ’54, and a ’72 Buick Riviera.

Luckys Speed Shop 5 NwThis 1932 Ford five-window is soon to be Ben’s new shop car. The real steel body is produced under licence from Ford by United Pacific. According to Ben the rod is going to have adaptive suspension that uses lasers to constantly keep the vehicle level. Yup, frickin’ laser beams.

Luckys Speed Shop 7A NwGlenn Hogan built this Hemi-powered ’32 three-window from the ground up. What’s remarkable is that he did it all in the carport under his block of flats, which is so tiny there was barely enough room to squeeze between the car and the walls.

Luckys Speed Shop 8A NwMatthew Gynes’s 1963 Chevy Impala won the Lucky’s Pick trophy. When it was imported from California it was already ’bagged and looking much like it does now, though Matthew has cleaned up the interior and added fender skirts. It’s driven too – this year saw it set sail to Chopped and return home without a hitch.

Luckys Speed Shop 10 NwThis 1933 Ford roadster belongs to Gary Stillino, but his son Alex turned up to Lucky’s Christmas Party in it and took home a trophy. A clean-as, traditionally styled rod, it’s an original body and running a 408 stroker Cleveland making about 600hp through a C4 and nine-inch.

Luckys Speed Shop 11 NwLes O’Donnell’s 1977 shovelhead also won a trophy. Les bought the Harley in boxes from a mate who brought it in from Texas. It’s had two inches knocked out of the rear frame to lower the seat; there’s an old school 1¾-inch SU carby; Andrews AB-grind cam; Jims pushrods, valves and valve springs; and a stock four-speed gearbox. Les has no idea how much power it makes, but does know it’s fast. He’s had it for 21 years and his favourite thing about the bike is that it’s “industrial”.

Luckys Speed Shop 14A NwBen Erdahl stands armed and ready to begin the top chop of this 1951 Ford tudor. Full disclosure – the shoebox belongs to yours truly!

Luckys Speed Shop 15 NwThe roof comes off, and the ’51 joins the convertible club for about half an hour before it goes back on again, three inches lower. By the way, that rust-coloured dust isn’t corrosion – the ’51 was once painted high-vis orange and was rubbed back before being painted satin black.

Luckys Speed Shop 16 NwPeanut’s Pick went to my shoebox with no roof. As we took a break for lunch and the ’51 stood out there roofless, there was a bit of a ‘what the heck have I done?’ moment. But Ben’s done a stack of these and he’s damned good at it; John D’Agostino refers to Ben as the Australian chop king. I kept telling myself this all day.

Luckys Speed Shop 17 NwIt was tools down for a while as Deadwood 76 picked up theirs and played their greasy county punk as more cars rolled in. When he’s not playing lead guitar, Geoff Pope is one of the Lucky’s Speed Shop crew.

Luckys Speed Shop 20 NwAn intense moment as the rear of the roof is lowered to find that sweet spot where it sits perfectly. It’s something that can only be done by eye, and the Outkasts moved in to take a closer look. Then nods and smiles all round – done. Now the real work starts.