The late John Taverna casts a long shadow over the history of Australian drag racing, having made an incredible contribution to the sport as a racer, official and chassis builder.
Taverna made his name in the sport with a series of cars named ‘The Grot’, the first two of which were an FJ Holden and then a HK Monaro, built and raced in partnership with Phil Facciolo.
Both were record-setters and the Monaro took out the 1977 Sportsnationals at Calder. Taverna then moved onto an LX hatch and opened John Taverna Chassis in 1982.
And the Monaro? It was found by ace paint and panel man Dean Prodger, who treated the car to an exacting restoration and has debuted it today at Meguiar’s MotorEx in Melbourne.
Dean bought the car in 2009 from eBay for just $1600! He operates as Deano’s Auto Restorations in Lismore, NSW and was very lucky not to lose the car in the recent floods.
“I was the only person who bid on it,” says Dean.
“I knew it was in pretty rough condition, so I figured if I got a roof cut out if it at the worst, then cool.
“I’m a Monaro guy and of course I knew John Taverna through Street Machine and Summernats, but I didn’t know anything about The Grot Monaro. The more I dug into it, the more I realised what an important piece of history it was. People probably thought I was crazy to try and restore it, but once I started, there was no going back [laughs].”
The car was missing the running gear, bonnet and front guards, so Dean got busy researching the car and tracking down parts.
“I spoke to John Taverna a few times before he passed away and he was able to fill me in on a lot of stuff, same more recently with Phil Facciolo.”
“I’ve tried to keep the car as close to what it was,” says Dean.
“They were pretty rough and ready back in the day with their engineering. I could have made it stronger underneath the get it up to spec, but that would have taken away from the essense of the car.”
And have no doubt that she is a bit of a hottie. The engine is a methanol-burning small block Chev with Enderle injection, making over 500hp in Dean’s guestimation. The engine is backed by a four-speed Muncie ‘box, complete with a Mr Gasket vertical gate shifter as per orginal.
Dean has also included the orginal ‘staging lever’ – an Impala floor shifter welded to the brake pedal as a primitive line locker!
Out back is a Ford 9in with finned drums and 15x10in Cragar Super Trick rims and 11.5in M/T slicks.
“I knew the car had a beam axle in it, but couldn’t figure out what it was. John Taverna was able to tell me it was a ’34 Chev and sure enough it bolted straight in,” says Dean.
One missing piece that Dean was able to track down via the power of Facebook was the rear quarter windows, complete with the orginal C/GAS class stickers.
“A guy called Nick Hawtin saw me post about the car and sent them to me for free! I owe him a beer, I think they really add to the ‘soul’ of the car.”
With the car having sat in a paddock for 30 years before Dean got his hands on it, the car needed a full resto from the ground up, down to upicking every panel.
“It was all worth it,” says Brad. “I got to meet John Taverna Jnr this morning and got him to sign the dash, that was very cool.”
We’ll have a full feature on the build soon!