Paul Murray’s Iron Man HR Holden van

We can rebuild him, better than he was before.” Okay, Brisbane’s Paul Murray might not have said those exact words, but I’m sure he was thinking something similar. See, his candy red HR Holden, Iron Man, was once a show-stopping 90s playboy, built by Mark Ivey and known as Badass (SM, Sep ’93). ‘A-ha!’ I […]

Photographers: Mitch Hemming

We can rebuild him, better than he was before.” Okay, Brisbane’s Paul Murray might not have said those exact words, but I’m sure he was thinking something similar. See, his candy red HR Holden, Iron Man, was once a show-stopping 90s playboy, built by Mark Ivey and known as Badass (SM, Sep ’93). ‘A-ha!’ I can hear some of you say. Yes, the core of this van may be familiar; candy red HRs with flip fronts and Jag rears don’t exactly grow on trees, after all.

First published in Van Wheels issue no.11, June 2015

Back when we featured the van in SM it was living the good life, cleaning up at shows around Mark’s hometown of Adelaide. It was a rose flourishing amid an otherwise barren van scene, and a worthy recipient of Top Van at Summernats 4 and 1st Place at the Van Nats in ’91.

Its history gets a little sketchy after Mark sold it on, but the van eventually found its way to Fernvale, west of Brisbane.

Paul became aware of the HR after his mate, Kermie, bought it back in ’05. But, just like Tony Stark, shrapnel was threatening the van’s heart and it needed major surgery.

“It was pretty hammered,” Paul says. “There had been a heap of past owners and it was even sold through a few wreckers too; I’m amazed it even survived. Kermie got disenchanted after a repairer left it in a paddock for 12 months. It made the rust blow out further and it had been reversed into as well, so needed major panel repairs.”

Paul stepped in at the right time, picking up the van in 2010 and getting stuck straight into the build. “I started stripping it down and of course it was the usual story – everything was rooted. The more I took off, the worse it got.”

Iron Man was once a show-stopping 90s playboy, built by Mark Ivey and known as Badass

Thankfully the original Graham Cowley ’glass tilt front (remember his red HR ute?) was in good nick, making the body prep far easier.

The rust and panel repairs were handled by young Matty from Polmech Motor Body Repairs, whose boss, Martin, laid on multiple coats of gorgeous candy red.

The factory brightware was refurbished, while the original Badass custom grille was replaced with a stock HR item, albeit chromed and detailed.

Like any good panel van, it needed a name, and the Iron Man moniker was an easy choice. “My son Jess saw the colour and the name just rolled off his tongue, which instantly sealed its fate. It’s funny, I never knew of the van back in its Badass days but the whole ‘reborn’ concept seemed appropriate.”

Peter Davidson was called on to weave his airbrush magic, drawing inspiration from fight scenes from the Iron Man films to help the murals come to life.

The original small-block was knackered, so Paul had Greg and Simon from Southside Dyno build a fresh 350 Chev that mixes driveability with ample go. The factory cast block runs a Scat crank and Scat I-beam rods topped with Mahle pistons. Bumpstick duties are handled by a mild-grind Lunati cam and lifter set, while Yella Terra roller rockers take care of the action topside, mounted to Dart Pro alloy heads. A 650 Holley Street Avenger carb and Edelbrock Air Gap manifold complete the intake package.

This little power-pack is detailed with a generous dose of paint and chrome to satisfy the bling factor, while a set of HPC-coated custom pipes make excellent use of the freeballing room provided by the flip front.

A Turbo 700 trans had already replaced the Badass Muncie cogger, so was simply rebuilt and fronted with a 2500 converter. Rounding out the driveline is a Jaguar XJS diff assembly, which is also chromed and detailed to the max in true 80s fashion.

The brakes are discs at all corners, using HQ assemblies up front, with Jag versions a foregone conclusion for the rear.

A set of Dragway five-spokes were a carryover from the original build, measuring 14×7 and 14×8, but they now feature gold-painted centres that contrast nicely with the chrome rims while enhancing the iconic red and gold Iron Man colour scheme.

The original interior offered some decidedly race-inspired van porn: traditional crushed velvet trimmings with race buckets, a half rollcage and harnesses. Paul chose to tone down the hardcore elements, leaving only the buckets intact, with the passenger compartment scoring a full retrim in black and red vinyl from Precision Trimming.

A complete GTS HZ dash assembly had been narrowed by Mark Ivey to suit the tighter HR confines, and Paul’s addition of a GTS sports wheel atop a shortened column really looks at home there.

The rear was decked out in Iron Man-correct red and gold velour by Shane at Image Trimming and is a perfect example of measured restraint – not often accomplished with a custom van.

Paul burnt the midnight oil to unveil the HR at the 2013 Caboolture Van Nats, where he picked up 13th Top Van, improving on that result with a 9th placing in the show class this year. He’s scooped plenty of awards locally too and clocked up a heap of street miles for good measure. Iron Man is no trailer queen – Easter’s Bathurst trip aside – and nothing brightens up a vista of mundane traffic quite like a flash of candy red, gold and chrome.

“We trailered it to Bathurst to try and cut down on some of the cleaning, but the torrential rain put paid to that anyway,” Paul laughs. “We hit a ’roo on the way though so it was probably best it had some protection. Trailering is not something that will happen again in a hurry though as I just enjoy driving it too much.”

Dare I go out on a limb and suggest the van is now ‘finished’?

“Pretty much, yes,” Paul says. “There’s always more chroming to do and areas to refine, and I want to add to the current murals to cover more of the exterior. So I guess that’s really a ‘no’!”


Colour:Candy Red
Make:Chevrolet 350
Block:Factory cast
Carb:650 Street Avenger
Heads:Dart Pro ally
Exhaust:Custom extractors, twin 2.5in system
Gearbox:Turbo 700, 2500rpm converter
Diff:Jag XJS
Front:Holden wishbone
Rear:Jag IRS
Shocks:Monroe (f), Jag coil-overs (r)
Brakes:Holden discs (f), Jag discs (r)
Rims:Dragway; 14×7 (f), 14×8 (r)
Tyres:Nankang 215/60 (f), Yokohama 245/60 (r)
BLINGFibreglass tilt front, HD wagon rear bumper, extensive chrome and paint detailing, red tailgate bubble window, Peter Davidson murals

Mark Yates; Brett Hanna; Brett, Moss St Wrecking; Martin & Matty, Polmech Motor Body Repairs; Greg & Simon, Southside Dyno; Tony, Pacific Plating; Paul, Thermal Edge; Shane, Image Trimming; Graham, Prestige Trimming; Paul, P&D Performance & Imports; Peter Davidson, airbrush work and signage.