Todd Swinscoe's obsession for everything automotive came from an unlikely source: wallpaper


A LOVE of cars generally evolves from fairly standard influences: Family, friends or rides you see on the streets or TV can all trigger the passion, but for Todd Swinscoe the obsession for everything automotive came from an unlikely source: wallpaper. “Yep, that’s right,” Todd laughs. “I was three or four, and my folks covered my bedroom walls in a print that featured cars like Stutz Bearcats and Model A Fords; I was surrounded by it day and night.” So began a journey that’s seen Todd own more than his fair share of neat rides in his 41 years. Here are a few he remembers fondly.

This article on Todd’s cars was originally published in the February 2017 issue of Street Machine

1. Todd’s nanna bought him a book on exotic cars for his sixth birthday. “I read that thing inside out and back to front,” he says. “I was soon buying hot car magazines, and the first had Barry Birt’s Hume Performance ‘Cat Killer’ Monaro pulling a massive burnout on the cover. As a teenager, Dave Bennett’s RAT ATTACK HQ Monaro, Howard Astill’s ROCK 3 and Ron Barclay’s HQ ute were all at the top of their game and it’s hard not to have them ingrained in your memory. I may never have built anything of that calibre, but nearly 30 years later I still draw on them – especially Ron’s ute – for inspiration.”

2. The north-west suburbs of Brisbane such as Ferny Grove, Samford and Arana Hills were hotbeds of tough car activity in the late 80s and 90s, and Todd was keen to get in on the action. As a 16-year-old in 1992, he’d saved up $4K to buy this tidy HZ Premier, running a 253 and four-speed, which he later updated with a 465, four-barrel and extractors. “Mum and Dad chipped in a few bucks to help me buy it, and Dad drove it around in the six months before I got my licence. It came with the Speedy Kalifornia rims and was just a good clean car that wasn’t even 15 years old, which seems strange now. I drove it just how any young bloke would and blew two gearboxes and three Salisbury diffs in no time,” he laughs. The Prem was eventually resprayed in the same factory white and sold on after a few years.

3. Todd found this 1963 Mini through friends to use as a cheap daily and instantly became a fan of the Alec Issigonis-designed ‘brick’. “It was the early Morris 850 with sliding windows, floor-button starter and ‘magic wand’ gear shift. I paid $800 for it in the late 90s and it was a dead-stock original car, sold new by Austral Motors in Brisbane. This Mini was such a cool car and so much fun to drive, especially around corners, and didn’t miss a beat for the many thousands of miles I added to the clock.”

4. I’m thinking Todd’s older brother, Rheyt, probably had the same wallpaper as a kid, as he too shares the car passion. In 1991 he bought this HK Brougham running a 308, Top Loader and banjo driveline. Not surprisingly, the banjo diff lasted only a short time before being replaced with a nine-inch. “Rheyt lunched the 308 through the traps at Willowbank, so he built a stout 350 for it. He sold the car a decade later, and more recently owned a Silver Mink factory 307 Brougham. Rheyt loves his big arses,” Todd laughs.

5. Todd would pore over the old paper Trading Post, and in 1997 he spotted a very basic advertisement for an XW GT replica for $9000. “There was no real description or ad detail to speak of, but I watched the price drop over the next couple of months and it got the better of me, so I went for a look. This thing was mint and an absolute bargain even back then; $7800 bought me an XW sedan rebuilt with NOS body panels and fitted with a 347-cube stroker Clevo-headed Boss Windsor, Top Loader and nine-inch. It hauled arse. I sold it in 2001 for the same money, which I thought was great, but it was just before the muscle car boom and we all know what it’d be worth now. It is without question the car I regret selling the most – not because of the dollar value, but because it was just the most beautifully built and finished car that ticked all the boxes for me.”

6. Todd’s cousin, Steve Swinscoe, has been a drag racing mainstay for many years and further inspired Todd’s love of cars. “Steve had a maroon factory 350-powered HQ Statesman streeter when I was 10, which I thought was just the ultimate. He raced a 180B coupe in Super Sedan wearing Superformance colours, before switching to a Dodge Charger funny car and later this Dodge Avenger, which ran a blown and injected big-block Chev for a 6.87@195mph best. Steve had a break for a few years, but now races a Dodge Dakota pick-up that has run 7.09@197mph and sports the same Plumber’s Toy name.”

7. The white XW was eventually replaced with a gold XR sedan, but in 2004 Todd’s boss mentioned friends that were selling a pale green XY Falcon with 12-slotters. “I had this vision of vomit green paint and rusty 12-slotters for some reason and just couldn’t get interested,” Todd says. “A year later he said it was still for sale so I figured I’d actually take a look. The lady pulled back the covers on this silver XY Fairmont wagon with hubcaps and a bone interior and it was love at first sight. I have no idea where the boss got ‘green with 12-slotters’ from! The 250 six ran beautifully and I happily shelled out $5500. I always do a front end rebuild on any car I buy, so that and a radiator had it sorted. I took it to the Banyo swap a while later, and a guy hassled me to sell it, so that was another one off to a new home.”

8. Todd’s love for Mopars began around 2005, after his good mate Geoff invited him to the annual Easter pilgrimage of Chryslers Cruizin’ Rockhampton. “Geoff was always raving about Chryslers, so it was time to see what all the fuss was about. I had a life-changing moment after hearing Warren Azzopardi’s blown 392 Hemi-powered Dodge Phoenix rumble into the motel, and I’ve been a Mopar guy ever since.” Todd owned a string of APs and VCs in the ensuing decade, including this gorgeous blue AP5 sedan dubbed Beryl, after the old chook in Sons & Daughters. “It was one of the last AP5s made and was originally a Townsville car,” Todd says. “It popped up on Facebook in 2015, so I rang the bloke straight away and brought it home. It came with its original books and a ute-load of spares, but yet again, I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse and sold it last year.”

9. Todd certainly goes though cars, but as he says: “I always remember that they made more of ’em. It wasn’t long before I found something to replace the blue AP5. Full credit for my Tiger Gold AP6 goes to its previous owner, Todd Muller, who built it a decade ago. I fell in love with it in 2008 and had been niggling him to buy it ever since.” That glorious day finally happened for Todd in late 2016, and the Slant 6/four-speed ute will remain pretty much as-is apart from a minor tidy-up and planned re-trim. “I love the colour and Simmons wheels,” Todd says. “It’s the perfect combination of a classic shape mixed with clean, subtle modifications, and I swear this one is a keeper.” I don’t doubt Todd for a second; it would seem that drooling over the style of Ron Barclay’s HQ all those years ago has definitely left its mark.