READERS RESTO OF THE YEAR
Top of our popular vote for this series was this Torana hatch, done up as an SS with a 202 six and auto transmission. It was a close-run vote, but people seemed to appreciate the idea that you didn’t have to have a V8 in the snout to build a good car.
Craig Flavel, the owner, agrees. He originally planned to throw a bent eight in the nose, and had even gone out and bought a VK 4.9 as a donor car.
However a couple of factors changed his mind. First, he realised he already three other V8s, so a fourth seemed a little superfluous. Second, his daughter was showing an interest in the project and he felt a six would make for a better-balanced car she could get some fun out of. Craig takes up the story… I ended up owning this car by mistake. I was playing gold at Eurora and was regularly driving past an old HT Monaro out in a paddock. After two years I called in and asked about it, and the bloke didn’t want to part with it. But he had an old Torana sitting in a shed. So I left a deposit, and went and picked it up a couple of hours later – before he changed his mind!”
This is one of those cars that has spent a lot of its life sitting in sheds. The couple in Euroa who had it before me had it ‘resting’ for six years and I did pretty much the same with it until 2015 when I decided to have a go at it.
It cost just $1600 but that’s all they were worth back then and, as it turned out, it needed a lot of work. After digging it out from under the bicycles and other gear, I went over it to see what it needed.
The good news was the body was a good one.
Around the rear hatch is the biggest problem area, but they can also cop rust in the tail lights, floors and doors, sometimes the sills and the plenum.
Really, they can rust anywhere, but the hatch is the worst.
I’m a fitter and turner by trade and so am able to tackle a lot of the work. For the hatch, I made up some new sections and welded them in. I also had a bloke come in during the day and do a lot of the rubbing down, then I’d get on to the next task when I got home at night.
The most remarkable thing about this car is that it was entirely envisioned beforehand and built to that specific plan. Laslo even had the wheels designed and built to his own template, so for sheer imagination and execution, this one gets my vote.
There’s a time and a place for returning cars exactly to factory spec and I respect people who do that but I’m usually more impressed by resto jobs that express the personality of the builder, and Damien’s Valiant fulfils that brief perfectly.
I'm a sucker for Chargers but I also love the back story. Rust-repair panels cut out of an old freezer?
Why the hell not? More girlpower, please.
Because I was working to a limited budget, it was important to do as much of the body prep as possible myself, before sending it off for paint – one of the few things I’m not really equipped to do. That’s hugely time-consuming, but worth the effort.
We decided to give the interior a complete refit – at least when it came to roof lining, soft panels and seats.
This car started life as an SL, and so has the standard dash. It does the job, though we did manage to source an SS steering wheel to jazz up the interior a little.
When it came to mechanicals, the original engine and transmission were stuffed. In the end I bought a VK wagon with an EFI 202 and Trimatic as a donor car. The machining was done by Seymour Engines, while I tackled the assembly and finish. It was a bit frustrating to discover the EFI wouldn’t quite clear the bonnet, so I fitted a Weber carburettor from a 4.1 Falcon as an interim measure.
What I plan to do is make up a new manifold out of two existing ones so the EFI can go in. It’s also running the VK distributor and coil.
There’s nothing wrong with a 202 – it’s a beautiful car to drive, really nice. Light on the steering – there’s no power steering, or other accessories. The daughters can handle it very easy.
I spent more time on it doing the hidden bits, to make it nice. So I did a lot under the bonnet – instead of having it nice on the outside and open the bonnet and it’s horrible, same under the hatch, around the doors and so-on.
Last on my list are some new headlight trims and one or two other pieces. I’m just waiting for them to turn up.
My advice for anyone tackling a restoration: first, keep going on the job. This took 50 weeks to complete. Second, watch the money side of things, as it’s really easy to blow the budget. I initially aimed to spend $14,000, but it ended up more like $18,000. Even so, I’m pretty happy.
Summer’s day, top-down cruising – to a blend of V8 burble and a Beach Boys track. Livin’ the California dream in Oz. Oh, and it’s not yet another ’57, lovely as they are.
Congratulations on a beautiful result, Chris, and well done for not letting some seriously nasty surprises sink the project.
A very honourable mention for this. What a woman.
Jacqui’s lovely Charger shows that passion and a can-do attitude are way more important than deep pockets in producing a lovely result.
You’re a great role model, Jacqui, for men and women readers alike.
My top choice was the Datsun wagon 'cos he leveraged a readers resto into a trade and a business and that is just a great exemplar of how mucking around with old bits of crap is much more than just mucking around with old bits of crap
Jacqui using bits of her old fridge to restore some great hulk of a car she clearly loves as much as any bloke ever loved his old fridge of a car, so what's not to like?
You have to admire how this project came about, and owner Damien Di Martino admits he was in a bit of trouble. He'd rashly promised to build the car in time for his sister-in-law's wedding, which set a dangerously tight deadline.
The Valiant came a very close second in our popular vote. Damien takes up the story...
This car was a 30th birthday present to myself – it was the right time to get something interesting in the shed. It was black when I bought it and was a good runner, but after a couple of years I wanted to personalise it and decided to give it the full strip and rebuild treatment.
It was a pretty comprehensive job. We stripped it back to bare metal, pulled the motor, gearbox and diff out and rebuilt all that.
The motor is a 318 Fireball. A previous owner had a 440 in it at some stage, but we decided to stick with the 318 and warm it up a little. We ported and polished the heads, threw in some forged pistons, added a stage three cam and a double pumper four-barrel Holley up top. Ignition is by MSD. That set-up was matched to a set of extractors with twin two-and-a-quarter inch pipes and a set of Magnaflow mufflers.
I really wanted a strong cruiser, not a drag car, and had it set up for low-end grunt. It did pretty well: 685Nm at the rear tyres on the dyno, with a healthy 350 horses. It’s a reasonably light car, so that’s plenty.
Behind that it has a rebuilt Torqueflite 727 transmission with a 2800 stall torque converter, which seems to suit it well. The 355 diff was rebuilt along the way and the package pretty much meets my expectations, though it can be a bit of a handful in the wet. You’ve got to be extra light on that accelerator.
Mechanically the car has been kept as simple as possible, so there’s no air-conditioning or power steering. Plus, I’ve fitted an electric radiator fan, so there’s minimal drag on the engine.
The big debate was over the colour. For me the whole theme of this car was mostly old-school with just a hint of modern about it, such as the paint.
Once I saw a Poison Ivy green colour scheme on a modern Holden, I knew that’s what I wanted. My painter, Nick Cuzzupi, was dead against green – he’d
This was a really clever make-over that turned what might have been an ordinary car into something special with a real sense of fun. It just looks like something you want to jump in and play with.
This probably qualifies as a resto-mod rather than a pure resto, but I like the thinking and the execution.
Rather than stick with every factory nut and bolt, regardless of its flaws, Chris has included some subtle and functional upgrades, so the car looks the part and works better.
I love the pure look of those early cars and I quite fancy the more modern engine and trans which would make it lots more useable
These were an awesome little jigger with a bullet-proof engine that Cosworth recognised for its performance potential and eventually dominated international Formula Junior with it .
I love the look too – that reverse sloping rear window was a masterpiece in design packaging
been mixing up a purple, but there are a lot of purple two-door Valiants out there. "If it’s green, you can take it out of my workshop!" he said. But he gave the Poison Ivy a test under the boot lid and rang back to say "This is the colour – I take it back".
I have to admit the stripe at the rear took a while to grow on me. It’s a sticker, rather than paint, so we could remove it if it didn’t look right. We initially tried all black, but that didn’t work. I like the red highlight as it complements the red in the grille.
Just about all the chrome was with the car when I bought it. Big pieces like the front and rear bumpers were sent off to be redone. With the smaller strips of brightwork, I’d spend an hour or two at the body shop whenever I could, gradually buffing each piece and then wrapping it in plastic until we were ready to fit it. It took a lot of hours, but was worth the effort.
When it came to the cabin, that was a fairly straightforward job. A previous owner had changed the front seats for a pair out of an XY Ford. We got them repadded and recovered, matched as closely as possible with the rears.
Probably the biggest hassle was refitting the windows. Looking at it, you’d think it would take a couple of hours at most. Nope. Think more like two days by the time you get them working and set up perfectly!
The whole project took just 14 months from start to finish, but we were working to a tight deadline. My sister-in-law had asked for the car to be at her wedding and I’d just decided to restore it – she was pretty worried. It really helps to have some good mates who can come along and assist in putting it together. With some jobs you need more than one set of hands.
In any case, I’m happy with the way it turned out, and it made it to the wedding on time!
I ‘restored’ (more like bodged-up!) my first car, a Valiant-badged 1974 Mitsubishi Lancer, in my parents’ backyard while at high school so I applaud anyone who has the guts to take on a rebuild or a resto with few skills and a tight budget. Of these all-awesome restos, Jacqui Dicken’s Valiant pushes the buttons. Women are underrepresented in the car scene so what Jacqui has achieved with her Charger, acquiring the skills along the way and then doing the work in the back shed – at the mercy of Victorian weather – is awesome.
A stout thumbs-up to Ross Bogaart for his 1960 Fiat. Rightio, so it’s not restored to stock specs, but what he has done with this car – screaming Suzuki powerplant and upgraded brakes – is enchanting!
This resto was no doubt an inspirational story to me. How good is this? She restored her Charger to the best of her abilities with her grandparents! No hurdle seemed too high and she achieved her dream.
That car, is a beautifully done car, tastefully modified without ruining the original's characteristics. A great cruiser which benefits from the Pacer bling and no doubt will be the envy of any Mopar fan.
OF ALL THE R
MOST PEOPLE ARE HAPPY (and relieved!) to complete a single resto in a year, so imagine our response when Chris Larkham confessed to having a second project, in addition to his lovely C1 Corvette – featured elsewhere on these pages.
All restos have their challenges, but this Bel Air proved to be a hard case, even by our standards. The further the hapless owner dug into the project, the greater the disaster that confronted him.
It seems previous efforts to restore this car had done more harm than good, with self-tapping screws (never a good sign!) and all sorts of other horrors raising their ugly heads.
Larkham eventually won through and you have to say the result is stunning.
BRIAN PIERCE SHOULD BE an inspiration to all of us. He begins his story by saying: "In my 70-something years I have had 100 cars: Australian, British, European, Asian and American."
Then he goes on to tell a bit of a story against himself, about how he probably got in a lot deeper than he expected with the Cougar.
Things turned ugly on day one: "Driving it back to Geoff’s place, where we were going to work on it, was an experience.
Within minutes I regretted ever laying eyes on it! First impressions weren’t good."
Oh dear. Though the car had been given a baremetal strip and respray, it had been done poorly and bubbles were coming through, so it had to be done again. The story goes on, but suffice it to say the end result is pretty spectacular.
RESTORERS USUALLY HAVE a mechanical background of some sort, such as fitting and turning. It means they're ideally suited to tackle the numerous challenges involved in getting that old beast back on the road.
Laslo Antal is a little different: "I had a vision in my head for the way the car needed to look," he explained.
"I have certain tastes for how I like things done.
I’m also good at art, photography and Photoshop, so I usually mock up some photos of what I’m aiming for. Because of the width it ended up looking even better than I predicted."
This ability to visualise the finished product so vividly clearly paid dividends. The Pantera may be a 45-yearold car, but it presents as fresh and gob-smackingly beautiful.
It's a great story on how to plan and pay attention to detail to get the right result.
IT'S RARE FOR a car of this age to have such a complete history, unless it's some hugely valuable or exotic.
Charming and endearing as the Anglia is, it doesn't quite rate in that category.
Nevertheless, owner Alan Yule was able to tell us this example had been in the same family for three generations and the original owner, Mr RF Ashman Esq, bought it new for 649 pounds, 14 shillings and sixpence in England in 1960 and ordered the Deluxe model.
Clearly the Anglia had been used, as it had its fair share of lumps and bruises that even the most careful owner finds difficult to avoid.
Alan did a complete strip and rebuild, pretty much to stock specs, and the result is a stunner. The amazing thing? He knocked it over in just five months!
OKAY, WE'LL ADMIT IT, we have a weak spot for this car. There's nothing new about doing up a tidy old Japanese wagon, but doing it with this sense of fun is a winner.
Owner Adam Burke clearly got a little obsessed with a cult series of models from Hot Wheels and modelled his real thing along the same lines. It looks brilliant.
And the most impressive part? This car was the trigger for him to learn how to do interior trim and he's now an auto trimmer by trade. Clever stuff.
THIS IS ONE OF those situations where persistence pays off. Karl Miegel knew of this Charger's existence for years, but it took ages for him to actually get the keys.
As Karl tells it: "It took me seven years to buy due to my moving around for work and losing contact with the owner.
"It managed to remain hidden in the shed over the muscle car boom for five years until I happened to drive past its hiding place and I saw it again – and this time I didn’t let it escape," said Karl.
The owner remembered Karl’s earlier attempt to buy the car; "He was one of those older guys that you have to catch early in the morning to do a deal, because by lunchtime he’d be incoherent, rude and abusive." Karl spent a mate’s $2000, intended for spares, as a deposit and collected the car a week later.
Though it was a complete low-miler, the years hadn't been kind to it, and getting back to proper running order took a lot of effort.
TOOLMAKER CHRIS LARKHAM clearly has a lot of the skills to tackle a big resto job, but this one stretched even his patience.
At first sight the car was a partially-done project that left him a lot of options, including a choice of engine and transmission – neither of which came with the car.
As is often the case with these projects, there were some mysteries and gremlins creeping in along the way, These included a mystery fuel-starvation problem that was solved in a most unexpected way.
What we like about this project is the owner has successfully mixed old and new to get a good driveable result.
Chris is one of those people who believes that whatever the factory did originally should be used as a guide, rather than be taken too literally.
When you see the results, it's pretty difficult to argue with him.
ROSS IS CLEARLY a man who's up for a challenge.
Now we'll be the first to admit a Fiat 600 was not on top of our list of potential project cars, but there's no denying the end result is cute and probably quick.
However it was a less sunny situation when he picked it up. The thing was essentially a shell with a collection of boxes containing a somewhat dishevelled assortment of bits. Not a promising start.
There were dramas with panel-beaters that caused years of delay and, then he had a battle when he went to register it because the rego folk had never heard of one!
But you know what the stroke of genius is in this project? The little Turbo Suzuki motor out back – more poke and far better reliability. Smart.
IT WAS DURING a stint working as a driving instructor in the United Arab Emirates that Dino Kalivas fell in love. With a car.
Okay, not just any car, but as Porsche 911 GT3. As he explains, "Each drive is special, the precision of the steering, its feel and feedback, the manual gearbox , raw, deliberate, yet precise and the magic sound of the race-bred Mezger engine. The GT3 has two personalities in one: keep it below 4000 rpm and it’s respectable, refined and life is relaxed; Wind the needle round the dial and it unleashes a raw energy that coincides with that wonderful howl of the exhaust which makes your driving world take on a new dimension."
So when his tour of the UAE was over, he had a dilemma. Sell the car or bring it back and convert it to right-hand drive. It was no small task, but made a great story.