V8 car show in Kuta, Bali

I've been to Bali too. But you probably didn't see a cool line-up like this.


HEY, THAT’S me old car!” a proud Aussie voice cried out from a seat at the rear of a tent-roofed microbus.

This article on the Bali Car Show was originally published in the October 2013 issue of Street Machine

Our cars were parked at the side of the road and as he was facing backwards each one appeared over his shoulder and took him by surprise, but it was clearly the bronze HT Monaro he was talking about. Welcome to Bali. He wasn’t the only Aussie car fan we ran into.

The word that there were some cool rides getting around spread like wildfire along the lines of some Balinese bush telegraph, probably made of old Bintang tins and string. On Saturday afternoon a group of lads stopped us in traffic and asked if we were going to the car show; they’d heard there was one on but they didn’t know where it was.

The answer was that they were looking at it; no car show, just a group of friends out to enjoy a cruise. The idea of taking V8s onto the streets of Bali popped into the minds of Jakarta-based engine builder Galih Laksono and his wife Indi when they visited Summernats and discovered the simple pleasure of cutting laps all day in front of an appreciative audience.

They’re a couple of V8 tragics and couldn’t wait to share the fun with their mates back home. “Get up it!” — “Give it some!” — “Burnout!” The shouts from the pavement gave Kuta an EPIC feel. In their line of work, finding willing participants wasn’t hard and the transporters they’d booked were soon filled.

Trailering cars to a cruise? Yeah, well it’s 1200km from Jakarta to Bali, over roads that would cost you a set of tyres, a set of shocks and probably half your undercarriage. The transporters made good time, leaving Galih to unload eight cars by himself — until he put a call in to the local army base and rustled up some volunteers.

Come to think of it, next time he could just ask a few tourists if they’d like to help. “That’s a bloody Monaro!” Bars temporarily painted in Swans and Collingwood colours disgorged their occupants onto the street, beer in one hand, camera in the other as they struggled to get proof of what their unbelieving eyes were seeing.

If you’re among the millions of Aussies who’ve been to Bali, you’ll know that traffic on the narrow streets is always heavy, with three scooter jams woven around the two lanes of cars. Taking rare and valuable machinery out into that sounds like insanity but for Jakarta drivers the traffic wasn’t so bad and, despite appearances, it works.

Balinese drivers don’t get mad or get even. Instead, they create space and never lose their cool. Madness, but verygracious madness, which all the cars survived unscathed — as far as bingles go, at least. Three days of cruising included stops at prime beach spots and some excellent restaurants, and the pace was deliberately relaxed.

Everywhere we pulled up, we’d check out the cars, swap yarns and generally shoot the breeze. We call it hanging out; the Indonesians call it ‘nongkrong’. And at every stop, tourists asked where the cars came from, why they were here.

Aussies wanted to buy the Monaro, the Statesman or the Charger that, believe it or not, used to be a four-door. Yanks loved the BA Falcon-based Eleanor Mustang. Everyone was blown away when Okajima-san emptied the airbags and dumped his rat rod Impala on the deck.

There was a small but hardcore clan for the C10; others only had eyes for the super-clean Ford F1 pickup. I asked one couple from Perth why they spent so long going over it. “We’re looking for something similar,” came the reply.

“But that’s a fantastic example.” Amazingly, it was just a four-month build, with new everything — including the Chev 350. And how could a Z28 Camaro or convertible ’57 Chev Bel Air ever be short of a fan? All owner egos were pampered by the attention shown to their cars.

Indi, who owns the Monaro, soon learned that all she had to do was look out for a cluster of Bintang T-shirts, prod the loud pedal on the 502ci big-block and suddenly the car was mobbed. She admitted later that she’d been worried how people would react to her build of an Aussie icon: “We built it in a hurry and it’s not finished,” she insisted.

“But it’s not bad for Indonesia.” It’s not bad for anywhere, as endless Aussies were happy to tell her. In fact, one of the best features of the cruise was how upbeat it was on both sides — the drivers had a ball and the public got a huge kick out of it too when the roar of V8s drowned out the incessant mosquito buzz of scooters.

Street machiners on holiday did themselves proud, treating the cars with respect, and sharing their own stories with the owners. By the end of it all, there was one broken axle (’57 Chev, which has 60,000km on it since a rebuild in 1992 and has toured all over Indonesia, as far as Komodo Island) and two fuel problems, one for each of the pickups and both traced to dirty fuel tanks.

Everyone’s keen to come back for a bigger event next year. By then, there could be a lot more cars — we know there’s an XW GT in the build and maybe a Monaro to go with the Charger; Galih has his own HQ in the shop, and Iman is keen to partner Eleanor with a Fast & Furious Dodge. The only question is, will you be there too?

Galih and Indi Laksono own G-speed, an engine shop in Jakarta. When Indi heard a rumour about a Monaro in a barn in central Java, Galih said: “We’ll look at it next week.” She said: “No, we’re going tomorrow!” Good call — just hours after they towed it away, another hopeful turned up with cash. Though it was on blocks, the owner was reluctant to sell until Indi burst into tears at the prospect of being so close to her dream but unable to grasp it. Since seeing it revived, he told her: “I sold it to the right person.”

Azman Ozman’s Z28 is possibly the best-known car in Indonesia for one simple reason — he drives it at every opportunity. Once a trophy magnet, since Galih overhauled the motor it’s escaped the show halls and hit the open road. That being so, there was no question in his mind about which car he’d take to Bali. Also, the mk1 VW Golf GTi he’s just restored wouldn’t have cut it here.

Iman is a movie fan. He has his Eleanor rep, and there’s a Fast & Furious Dodge in the works. Eleanor is pretty much brand new; a Dynacorn body with a BA Falcon driveline. “I wanted something modern and practical for Jakarta weather and traffic,” he said. Nitrous bottle on the console is just for show — for now. There are also four fire extinguishers in the car; Iman’s in the safety business so it just wouldn’t be right if his ride wasn’t protected.

Just one of many cars in Hauwke’s Barn (SM, Nov ’11), this drop-top is the perfect hot weather cruiser. It was “65 per cent complete” when he bought it in 1990 and it gets driven a lot. Hauwke took off across Bali to go on a river rafting trip he’d booked for the Saturday but broke the driveshaft, relegating the Chev to an early bath. It’s had more than 60,000km added since its last rebuild, with long-distance tours all over Indonesia, so that’s probably just normal wear and tear.

Indi’s brother Agus owns the Stato, and it was the only Bali local V8 car on the trip. Originally a 202, it’s packing a Chev 350 and clearly announces its presence since he decided to ditch the mufflers as they were too effective. The old-school vinyl roof is a neat feature — it’s actually paint. Agus’s garage also includes an Impala and a Falcon. “I felt like a celebrity driving through Kuta, with everyone telling me to hit the gas!” he said.

You may remember photos of the transformation from four doors to two in Your Stuff. Well, here it is, finished bar side glass. Owner Henry Simanjuntak couldn’t make it to Bali due to work commitments but sent Mr Ade and Mr Uday, who did the manual labour on the conversion, as a reward. “Mr Ade is like Cooter in the Dukes of Hazzard,” Henry said. They’d already swapped the Hemi six for a Chrysler 360 V8, so it qualified for the journey.

Hidenori Okajima is a Japanese engineer who could only dream of owning an Impala. “Living in Tokyo, a car like this is not practical,” he said. But when his company sent him to Jakarta, he tracked one down as a priority. When he found it, it was dead; rusty outside, with a seized motor. The engine was overhauled, rebored and got a new cam and carb, Okajima-san added the airbag system himself and the exterior is staying as it is. “The look is old and natural, but inside it’s cool and crazy!”

If you really want something, you’ll find a way to get it. Yandinov Pratama was deadset keen to go on the cruise and has always wanted a C10. He found one in May, packing Mitsubishi diesel power and plenty of rust. He worked to midnight seven days a week to turn it into an airbagged, 350 V8-powered beast worthy of going on the cruise in just two months. The only problem was dirt from an ancient fuel tank clogging the filter and stopping play.

Didik Wijayanto’s F1 had been parked for 10 years before he bought it. Amazingly, the original flathead V8 ran after a ’plug and oil change but he went to a 350 Chev for convenience. It now runs coil springs, Currie 9in, Landcruiser power steering, discs all ’round, and 20×8 (f) and 20×10 (r) Showwheels rims. Inside there’s even a/c. “I want to say a special thank you to my wife for making this happen, to G-speed and the consortium who built the car and to all the tourists who appreciated it,” Didik said.