Tribute: Jim Broadley of Diablo Motors

Our chat from 2006 with Jim Broadley of Diablo Motors

Photographers: Peter Bateman

Jim Broadley was a pioneer of Australia’s speed equipment industry and a familiar face to generations of visitors to Street Machine Summernats. He passed away in April this year.

The Broadleys involvement with speed goes back to the heady days of the Maroubra Speedway in the 1920s, as we learned in this fascinating interview we ran back in our March 2006 mag:

Jim Broadley usually has a phone glued to his ear, so the chance of nailing him down for a couple of hours for a chat and some snaps of his awesome collection was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.

Jim’s also got a couple of stories that he doesn’t mind telling, which is no surprise considering he has run one of Australia’s oldest speed shops, servicing a lot of the legends of boat racing, speedway and drag racing for more than half a century.

You’ve probably seen him sitting under an umbrella at Summernats – or any one of a dozen car shows during the year – surrounded by multi-carb manifolds, blowers and Hilborn injector scoops. That treasure-trove of polished alloy and chrome is nothing compared to what’s in his shop.

Originally your dad started the business?

He was a mechanic, a T-model Ford mechanic.

Was he into the speed equipment? They were always hopping that stuff up.

Oh, Christ yeah! He was with the top-liners, all the guys who raced at Maroubra Speedway. Maroubra had the biggest speedway, did you know that?

No, I’ve only heard about Sydney Showgrounds and Liverpool.

Nah, Maroubra is where all the good and hard racers used to be at. Garlick, that’s his name, Phil Garlick. My dad used to be in his crew. They used to play with T-models, put OHV conversions on ’em.

When was that? In the 30s-40s?

In the 20s!

So they were really hot rodders back then. The description wasn’t invented, but that’s what they were doing.

Yeah, that’s right. They got anything that moved going! They were good, those blokes. You see what Ken Warby [former world water-speed record holder] wrote on this photo? “We had to use our heads, not our wallets.” These days, blokes just go in and buy a blower set-up, put it on and they’re away. We had to make our own.

So you must have been pretty involved with the boats if Ken Warby gave you signed photos?

I spent a lot of time with the boats. We got our first lot of Corvette motors in 1957. We’d get 10 or 12 at a time. [Jim pulls out a photo of one of his own boats getting very out of shape.]

I suppose you made that corner?

Yeah. It was a pretty shitty deal.

Any seatbelts in those days?

Nah, just hung on!

So how long has Diablo Motors been going?

It’s 2006 now – it would be 53 years.

And the shop has always been here in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba?

Yeah. There’s a photo here of the original service station. I did my apprenticeship with my father. It was a tough five years [laughs]. “You don’t do it that f#cking way. Piss off!”

No workplace relations then?

Nah! [laughs] but we did spend a lot of time at tech college back then. Three nights a week and one day a fortnight.

And the rest was on the job, getting your arse kicked when you stuffed up?

Dad taught me the simple things. Of a night time, when I’d finished my work, he’d make me clean my tools and put them in the right spots on the shadow boards. If anything was missing we wouldn’t go home until we found it.

You didn’t leave your tools on the cars, you’d sweep the floor when you got to work and when you’d finished. Tools were number one. We couldn’t afford to lose them. I was on 30 bob a week; lose one tool and there’s your 30 bob. All these young blokes have got too much money.

I notice you’ve got a fair few patterns laying around for Windsor and small-block Chev rocker covers and intakes.

Back then all the stuff wasn’t available, so we had to make it. And we’re still making it. I’m digressing a bit here, but see this? It’s a piston for a two-cylinder marine motor, a beautifully made thing, but you can’t get pistons for it so I’m making some.

I see you’ve got a bit of a collection of motors but the only one you don’t have is an Offenhauser. Why’s that?

I suppose I could’ve had one. I’m good mates with Parnelli Jones [legendary Seppo racer] and when he comes out – he doesn’t come very often – but when he does, he always visits me. He’s got a roomful of Offys.

So what body parts would you have to give him to get an Offy?

Well, he wanted to buy my [Mario] Andretti engine I’ve got there.

And you wouldn’t sell it to him?

Years ago I tried to buy one of his Offys but he wouldn’t sell. He would put a frame on them and hang beer jugs from them.

That’s sacrilege!

I know it is!

And how the hell did you get Mario Andretti’s old motor?

Well I was lucky, I had an ‘in’ with Ford’s grandson. I used to get a lot of motors through him, but that all fell through.

I hear you also brought some Ford SOHC motors into the country?

I think the total number was five. Some ended up in boats and a couple in hot rods. Never really kept track of where they went.

You’ve also played around with the Hemi powerplant a little?

Well, put it this way. I don’t know what year it was, probably in the 60s, I used to put Chrysler Hemis into boats. Just with the twin four-barrel carburettors and 6×2 Ram-Log type of thing. They were a bit of a slug.


Yeah, the only way to get a Hemi going is to put a blower on it. Then you’ve got their attention, I tell you what!

You were friends with Dean Moon too?

I actually shouted him two or three trips down here. I’ve got a lot of his home movies. He used to stay with me and would always arrive with his 8mm stuff.

Did you ever show the movies to the public?

We put a night on for him. I think we put it together in 10 days. We just rang around and 500 people showed up. That would have been in the early 70s.

So where does the Diablo Motors name come from?

[Jim reaches for yet another photo] I used to have a boat that I’d christened Diablo.

Did you run one of those ’Vette motors?

No, a Dodge six-cylinder flathead. We couldn’t get motors. These blokes today should be doing 1000mph with the stuff they can get hold of, but they’re not.

How fast would Diablo go?

I think 68mph was the fastest it ever went.

You’ve got a pretty good collection of stuff.

Yeah, you wouldn’t see a lot of this stuff, even in the US. Not under one roof.