TRANSFORMERS

GARAGE GURUS SHED MASTERS

US AUTOS RECKONS THE RHD CONVERSION BUSINESS IS GOING HIGH-TECH

ALLAN AND BRIAN Reed of US Autos in Sydney look pretty damned happy, standing by the Dodge Viper ACR Voodoo. It’s a 2010 model boasting a hairraising 600-plus horses that they’ve just completed for a customer. No small job, this is their 11th Viper and this particular car, a generation 4 example has become a bit of a favourite.

“We’re the only ones doing gen 3 and 4 in Australia,” says Allan. “And have compliance on them.

“They are complex and difficult to do. The whole body is carbon fibre, while (depending on which version it is) the firewall and subframe is either carbonfibre or magnesium, the dash frame is magnesium.

It’s extremely tight and compact under the dash and in the engine bay. The two or three companies that have tried to do them, we’ve ended up finishing them off for them. In one case we had to buy a whole new firewall and subframe to fix it!”

The business is best known for the range of Dodge products it has tackled over the years, though it’s now branching out a little, with new Ford F150s joining the list. It has also has a couple of 2016 Camaros due when this mag hits the streets.

Allan admits they fell into the business almost by mistake. Some time in the 1980s, he took the dream holiday while working as a policeman, heading to the USA to buy a few cars. That exercise ended up with him underneath the things, learning the fine art of conversion.

“We’ve been doing this for 28 years,” he says. “We’re the second-oldest conversion shop in the country. A lot of our business is by referral

or repeat custom – one customer is on his ninth!

“It has become more complex over time. Going back 20 years it was so simple it wasn’t funny.

“The thing about older shops that have been around a long time and have the experience is they know how to approach things and know how to prototype.

There’s probably only about five or six shops in the country who can prototype a new vehicle from scratch themselves and the rest have to buy that technology, or not do it.

“We’ve gone to the trouble of buying our own 3D scanning system, 3D printing system and our own plastic injection moulding machines. These days you have to. Getting the design right is the hard thing. Like to design that dash (pointing at the Viper), you could probably do that for six months and not get it right. You really need a 3D scanner.”

US Autos retails a few vehicles itself, but the lion’s share of the business is in conversions for people importing their own cars.

One thing Allan warns of is making sure you’re absolutely on top of the rules before committing to buy overseas. They change over time and there are some potentially expensive traps.

“Call us before you buy,” he suggests. While the company limits the number of models it will convert, it’s happy to discuss the options. Meanwhile the website (usautos.com. au) offers some really good insights into what’s involved.

CONTACT: 02 9838 7095 WEB: usautos.com.au