410-cube Valiant VF Regal 770 coupe

Stelio Birbas began his VF Valiant coupe build as a teenager. Twenty-five years and many missed deadlines later, the car is finally complete - and worth the wait


Stelio Birbas’s sharp-as-a-tack VF Valiant coupe has been a build of faith and sheer determination. With the project spanning 25 years, even some of the Adelaidean’s nearest and dearest had given up hope of ever seeing the car completed.

First published in the June 2023 issue of Street Machine

The tumultuous love affair began in 1997, when 16-year-old Stelio laid down $2800 for the VF Regal 770. “I always loved Chryslers – especially coupes – and at the time not many Vals were getting around,” he explains of the then-stock, vinyl-roofed two-door.

For three months, Stelio racked up cruising kilometres, but when rego ran out, he reckoned it was a great time to give the car a quick freshen-up. Soon the entire coupe was ripped apart on the family’s front driveway. “The idea was a quick respray, freshen the 245ci, lower it and add a new set of wheels, then have the VF ready by my Year 12 graduation at the end of the year. Well, who was I kidding?” Stelio laughs. After the pull-down, the keen teenager managed to get a coat of primer whacked on before the graduation date came and went. It was a sign of things to come.

Enthusiastically, Stelio next set his sights on completion by his 21st birthday, albeit with a few extra mods. First, he paid to have some bodywork done. Next, the VF headed to Frank Zagari (who later owned Zagari Engineering) with plans for a mini-tub and nine-inch fitment. “This was the fourth car Frank had ever done, out of his dad’s back shed in Newton,” Stelio explains.

Seven months later, the VF rolled out with a bunch of enhancements, from full tubs to a full-floating, four-linked rear end, coil-overs, a centralised tunnel, lowered and buttoned-back V8 engine mounts, and rack-and-pinion steering. “A little different to what it was booked in for,” Stelio laughs.

Brighton Crash then offered to bang out a full rotisserie job with a four-month turnaround – perfect, Stelio thought, as his 21st was now 12 months away.

This abruptly developed into a time and budgeting blow-out of massive proportions. Stelio trusted that the previous bodywork he’d paid for was a solid foundation, yet an initial sand-back displayed surface rust and buckets of body filler. “My heart dropped – the money I’d spent prior was down the drain.”

With the 21st-birthday deadline now an impossibility, Brighton Crash set about rectifying the ailments, with fresh modifications added as well. “It’s all been metal-finished to perfection, even the underneath,” Stelio says. “It’s what I should have done from the start. Smooth, sleek and straight was the aim. Less is more.”

With the body tight, those crisp lines begged for an appropriate hue, and the unforgiving Jet Black looks absolutely stunning on the impeccable coupe.

Suitably stoked with the outcome, Stelio forged ahead, focusing next on the powerplant. “I went from the 265ci to wanting a 318, then 360, then the stroked 360,” he says. “I had to stop somewhere or it’d never hit the road!” Stelio finally decided that 410 cubes should do the trick. “It has the full box of chocolates, making 655hp with 575ft-lb of torque,” he says of the donk, which was screwed together by childhood mate Dino Cecere.

As time ticked by, another milestone was looming: Stelio’s impending nuptials, which he felt offered the perfect occasion for the coupe’s debut. Could this be third time lucky? “It was all going to plan; with 12 months to go, the engine was in, as was all the running gear,” Stelio says. “Only the wiring, trim and final assembly was left to go, which seemed achievable.”

Sadly, Stelio was to miss another deadline; this time, the trimmer let him down, with the interior far from complete.

“My wedding was followed by a house purchase and then starting a family – life got harder, busier and my priorities changed,” he says. “I have lost count of how many people told me to sell my car, saying, ‘You will never finish it now.’” Sensible offers were made to relieve Stelio of the VF, yet he remained steadfast in seeing his project through – eventually.

Come 2017, Stelio opened Pizza Meccanica, a pizza restaurant housed in a former mechanics’ workshop, which sparked in him a renewed enthusiasm to finally see the VF finished.

The planned 2000s-era interior design – and the previous trimmer – were ditched, with Aaron O’Hara instead entrusted to pump out a fresh and contemporary cabin. “Adding the Buttermilk trim made the biggest transformation – I knew the end was near,” Stelio smiles.

“On 1 November 2022 – 25 years since I bought the car – it was finally finished. I sat in the shed staring at it for hours. And when I hopped in it for the first time, I was smiling like a kid in a lolly shop with unlimited dollars to spend.”

Two weeks later, the newly minted coupe debuted at Adelaide Auto Expo. “The icing on the cake came when I won two trophies: Best Interior – Street Machine and Best Street Machine – Street Category,” Stelio grins. “What more could I say other than, although it took 25 years, it’s finally done, and it was worth the f***in’ wait!”


Paint:Glasurit Jet Black
Brand:Chrysler 410ci
Carb:APD Billet Enforcer 950cfm
Manifold:Indy single-plane
Heads:Indy 360-1
Camshaft:Comp Cams custom solid-roller
Conrods:Eagle H-beam
Pistons:Ross Racing forged
Crank:Mopar Performance steel 4in stroke
Oil pump:Melling high-volume
Fuel system:BG 400 pump, PULP
Cooling:Ron Davies four-core radiator, twin thermo fans
Exhaust:Custom 13/4in to 15/8in headers, 2.5in stainless exhaust, Hooker mufflers
Ignition:MSD Pro Billet distributor, MSD leads, MSD Digital-7
Trans:904, full-manual valvebody, reverse-pattern
Converter:Altorque 4000rpm
Diff:Ford 9in, Mark Williams centre, 4.56:1 gears, Detroit Locker, Romac full-floater, 31-spline axles
Front:V8 torsion bar, Moroso 90/10 shocks, 2in drop spindles
Rear:Adjustable custom four-link, adjustable QA1 coil-over shocks
Steering:Commodore rack-and-pinion

My wife Pina; my daughter Maia; Steve Radnothy for electrical and final assembly; Dino Cecere at Cecere Performance Engines; Danny at Brighton Crash; Aaron O’Hara Trimming; the late Frank Zagari; Nick’s Custom Fabrications; Pete Gaglioti; Brenton Marusic; Danny Galliver; George Pittakis; Anthony Spadavecchia; Enver Milkic; Theo’s Prestige Paint & Panel for the pre-show panel adjustment; everyone else who helped and believed that I’d finish it!