The Street Machine Files: Von Ryan’s express

Listening to Dave Ryan tell the story about his GTO’s past, one immediately conjures up images of a Dukes of Hazzard clone car.


Listening to Dave Ryan tell the story about his GTO’s past, one immediately conjures up images of a Dukes of Hazzard clone car. You see, this prime-looking ground-pounder once did duty as a high-speed mechanic’s breakdown car for an interstate trucking company.

You can just imagine it, can’t you, a grotty mechanic throws his weighty toolbox into the passenger seat, fires up the 400 and lays rubber for a 100ft past the chainlink fence that surrounds all trucking company premises.

The Goat was chosen, one would assume, because it had all the right decals. This ’68 coupe is a gen-u-ine GTO-HO. And in this case ‘HO’ doesn’t stand for ‘Handling Option’; it stands for ‘High Output’. And that’s exactly what this mutha can do. Maybe ‘HO’ should be ‘Hang On!’ After the Goat had done its tour of duty tear-arsing around the country aiding dead Macks and Kennys, it was pensioned off to the suburbs, where Dave Ryan came into its life.

He’d just rid himself of numerous ’56 Chevs and some other pieces of Yank iron and the urge for another project reared its head.

By day, Dave puts in big effort to running his Rare Spares Holden parts business, so it must be a welcome change to scrape his knuckles on something a little different.

When he saw the car, it was sagging on its suspension, with damaged panels and stuffed paint. However, Dave could see the potential and since GTO-HOs are thin on the ground, he popped the necessary folding and punted it home like a good ol’ boy running ’shine.

The car was basically sound and he drove it for a few months before deciding to totally rebuild it. The entire car was dismantled and everything that could be was unbolted.

He had an idea of what the car should look like and he stuck to that plan. While Miles Johnson was laying down the stunning paint, Dave took the engine to his mate Harry Cardle’s place.

Harry and a few mates share a workshop that specialises in Pontiacs so it made sense to get his help with the engine build.

It now runs a pile of performance parts, such as a Competition Cams shaft, an original SD-455 manifold with an 800cfm spreadbore Holley, modified dizzy and ported and polished heads.

Numerous other SD-455 parts were supplied by HO Racing in California and it got a complete engine balance and headers by the Martin brothers.

There’s a Die-Crest Engineering steel flywheel, Borg & Beck clutch and a super T-10 with a Hurst shifter. The factory 10-bolt rear runs 3.55 gears.

Other goodies include Lexan windows by Bond Plastics, bonnet, bootlid and rear bumper bar by Chase Fibreglass and a half ’cage by Rick and Tony Martin. Phil Worsley trimmed the interior, which uses race-style Huntmaster front seats and no rear.

Front suspension is basically stock with 90/10 shocks and 14×8 Rebels wearing T/A rubber, while the rear end has boxed control arms, Teflon bushes and air shocks, though 50/50s are used for drag racing. Rebels at this end are 15×10, also wrapped in T/As.

In the interest of weight-saving, all sound deadener was stripped from the car — yes, it’s noisy but it’s not a day-to-day hack — and twin batteries were mounted in marine boxes in the boot. The rebuild consumed many months but Dave and wife Carol can now clock up some miles in the GTO, and brother does it turn some heads!