Birthdays — always a good excuse to dust off the photo album and have a giggle with your family or mates over a beer or three. Well, it’s no different here at Street Machine, and as much as we like our tough streeters and aspirational show cars, we also like to feature the odd article about odd stuff.
First published in the August 2006 issue of Street Machine
So here’s a collection of 20 of the more bizarre cars we’ve featured over the first 25 years. Some of these vehicles are actually pretty clever, some are intentionally funny, most are weird and a few are so dumb you wonder what was going through the creators’ heads. Take a look and judge for yourself!
1. CHUNDER ROAD
Jeez, these US blokes have some imagination, huh? Christened American Dream, this 80s creation from Californian artist (hey, we’re not gonna call him a street machiner just yet) Larry Fuente was the entire stock of a two-dollar trinket shop Liquid-Nailed to a 1960 Caddy.
At the time, it was reckoned the jewellery — covering every panel of the car, including the built-up tail fins — was worth $50 grand. Was this where bling began?
2. AMERICAN EXCESS
Jay Ohrberg was a Yank car crafter who built the American Dream (another one), a Cadillac stretch-limo which became the longest car in the world. Features include a spa, swimming pool and 20-seat lounge room.
Powered by a pair of turbo V8s and steered from both ends, the super-stretch Caddy rolled along on no fewer than 16 wheels and weighed more than nine tonnes. Just the thing for cruising Summernats.
3. HIGH ROLLER
Street machining is often about engineering innovation and this 1970s Rolls displayed plenty, being converted to 4WD by Queensland’s Ken Johnson much to the initial disgust of Rolls Royce staffers in England.
Ken retained the Roller’s big GM-based engine and transmission, supplementing them with Nissan driveline components for four-paw beach-blasting on the Fraser Coast. Yep, it all worked, with Ken managing to get the respect of the Poms as well as local fishos.
What’s 12 metres tall, weighs 30 tonnes, has really bad breath and eats cars? The answer was Robosaurus, a US-built fairground attraction created for no better reason than it could be.
Three car-hating aeronautical engineers, usually responsible for making military stuff, put their heads together to build Robo, using around 30 hydraulic rams within a steel skeleton. Belching flames from its nostrils, Robo’s trick was to crush cars in its claws then bite the roofs off.
5. FLASH NASH
The USA’s Johnny Young brained ’em when he rolled out his Nashty 1951 Nash Delivery van at the 1990 Du Quoin Street Machine Nationals.
A what? Yep, that Nash anonymity was part of this rig’s appeal — it was built around a vehicle which had never before shown any potential as a street machine, allowing the Pro Street crafting of the car to yell louder than the sherbet graphic paint. Good idea? We haven’t seen too many since.
6. THE MINIMAL MINI
England’s Andy Saunders specialised in building ridiculous cars like Batmobile replicas, road-registered speedboats and Claustrophobia, the world’s lowest Mini.
After building Mini HaHa, a drastically shortened Mini, Andy somehow saw sense in reducing another Mini to the size of a pack of Arnott’s. With a roof less than one metre high, Andy had to drive it with his head through the roof.
7. BONNEVILLE BALLTEARER
This is what happens when you’re not Aaron Fitzpatrick and you try to find a use for an old Datsun. Gene Burkland from Montana, USA, took a crashed Datto 1200 — 120Y to you and me — and stretched it over a self-built chrome-moly chassis.
Then he fitted it with a 398-cube Chrysler Hemi V8 under a 6/71 blower. Flat chat, the little Datto was capable of 294mph. Do the sums and that’s 473km/h. And no front-mount.
Cross a Jap-import Toyota Supra Turbo bodyshell with the rear half of a Hilux pick-up. Splice the metal sections to each other and brace that to a fabricated comp-style tube-frame chassis.
Boost the silky Supra turbo six to 200kW and feed the power through a sophisticated independent suspension system. Sprinkle on some indigenous styling courtesy of a Commodore. That’s what Queenslanders John Haig and John Randel did. We called it Australia’s wildest street-driven ute.
9. BAT OUT OF HELL
Actor Michael Keaton revived the cartoon character Batman with a dark side in 1989. Much of the movie’s promotion was geared around three promo vehicles built for shopping centre displays worldwide.
“We ended up with something with brute force and forbidding power coupled with form, shape and sculpture,” said the designer, Anton Furst. Under the sinister dark hull of the promo Batmobile that toured Australia was a modified Chev Caprice chassis.
10. EARTH MOVER
Yeah, even our mining company and road-building mates need a dose of grunt every now and then. That’s why English earthmoving equipment manufacturer JCB built this.
Powered by an 8/71-blown big-block Chev shovelling near-as-dammit 1000hp, this rig was intended to be a drag racer with full safety gear but ended up as a burnout machine at Grand Prix meetings instead. The knobbies weren’t speed-rated or something.
11. MISSION: POSSIBLE!
If you want something done, do it yourself. That’s what Newcastle’s John Collins thought as he was planning and designing his interpretation of the ultimate dual-purpose street/track machine.
Beginning with a John Wright Special Le Mans race car tub, John fabricated a chassis around a hot Leyland alloy V8 built with EFI bits from MoTeC and Ford. Deftly steering a course through the NSW legal requirements, John did everything required for street registration.
12. AERIAL MANOEUVRES
Tony Fredericks’s lifted LandCruiser was one of the first of a new breed of left-of-field vehicles, driven down a different path from the usual drag or circuit racing-inspired builds.
His 1972 rorty shorty LandCruiser was jacked almost as far as physics would allow before Tony finished the body — and very visible chassis — to a high standard that forced judges and punters alike to take a second look. Oh, and did you notice the tyres? Under the bonnet was a Val 360 cuber.
13. HORNY AS HELL
Yep, more tasteless crapola from the good ol’ Yooessavvay. This is what happened when David Best and a bunch of too-late hippies let themselves loose on an old Oldsmobile.
Junk, old shoes, beads, lengths of pipe, clocks for hubcaps, billiard balls. It’s all here, with the crowning glory being the real stuffed rhino head flanked by the car’s dual headlights. And we published it.
14. GULP STREAM
Well-known Australian rodding identities Norm and Rhonda Longfield restored one of only four remaining (of six) streamliner-style drag cars built during the 50s and 60s in the US by Robert ‘Jocko’ Johnson.
With its shape tested in the NASA wind tunnel at the height of the Space Race, the X-treme Liner (as the Longfields called theirs) changed the way drag racers thought about aerodynamics on the strip. This one was powered by a blown Hemi with around 2000hp.
15. PARK YOUR PELVIS, ELVIS!
Jay Ohrberg. There’s that name again — he’s the fella responsible for the world’s longest limo (#2, top of page) and whose company, Star Cars, created specials and one-off vehicles for Hollywood movies.
A few years after the mega-limo, he churned out this: a 40-foot long pink guitar dedicated to Elvis Presley. And why not?
16. TAKIN’ A DUMP
Baby Cup — named after the colour of a kid’s drinking mug — was the first of the now legendary cruisers built purely and simply for four days of Summernats sunshine. Now Street Machine staffer, then recent SMOTY winner, Craig Parker and a few mates chopped and channelled a welded-up HQ sedan body over a ute chassis.
By the deft use of dropped spindles and lowering blocks, the Q’s sills found themselves some seven inches closer to the tarmac. It drove like this without the use of hydraulics or airbags!
17. TEST DRIVE: THE BLACK HAWK
“The Black Hawk is the Army’s safest combat helicopter. Sideways at 300km/h deep in a valley and just 15 metres above the deck, that’s nice to know,” wrote SM features ed John Cadogan after his treetop terror test-ride in the Australian Army’s Black Hawk helicopter.
With a pair of 1700hp gas turbine engines, the Black Hawk demonstrated that it could perform the equivalent of three-dimensional burnouts.
18. GO GO GADGET
Most Aussies didn’t know what a gee-oh, gee-gee-oh was until one popped up in a telephone commercial a decade ago, sadly damaged by “broken frepps!”
Locals up around Townsville had the Goggomobil brand embedded in their brains even deeper when Peter Grant created this burnout machine powered by a Ford V8 where a tiny 360cc engine once resided. The bent eight was a 460 no less — nuts!
19. TOP GUN
“Mega motor, mega car” was how we described California-based Wally Larson’s Ground Fighter. Sure, the body looked like it was straight out of the future — or a cartoon — but the real interest for street machiners was the Lexus/Toyota DOHC V8, complete with six-bolt mains and a forged crank.
Larson reckoned the engine was good for 2000hp under its blower, with little more than toughened rods and a set of forged pistons. Possibly a little optimistic with the benefit of hindsight!
20. JUMBO MUMBO
The original Bandag Bullet was built by Qld trucking specialists Frank and Charlie Gaffiero to drag race. They didn’t muck around with things, managing to stuff two Detroit Diesel V8s together to effectively create an 18-litre V16.
A set of turbos heaving into the blowers in each of the engines’ valleys, plus nitrous, resulted in 2000hp. The Bandag Bullet has been through a few iterations since but it continues to draw big crowds to its Armageddon-like smoke display at events across the country.