Street Machine. Two words that, for a slowly diminishing band of brothers, mean a lifestyle, a form of rebellion, a chance to self-expression via changes to sheetmetal, shoehorning into a tight engine bay a donk that shouldn’t fit but does, or layers of luscious custom “kandy” pearl paint.
Although largely a forgotten scene in the eyes of the public, street machine aficionados will be happy to tell you the cars and the lifestyle are alive and well, and that there are names as revered in the field as McCartney is in music or Hawking in science.
One particular magazine, born of the era, and still living in an age of electronic media, was originally called Street Machine and Van Wheels. That second part provides an echo of the past, with panel vans from Holden, Ford, Chrysler, and a smattering of others, part of street machining history.
One such entry was the 1977 HZ Holden panel van of Greg Mercer. Starting with a clean sheet, Mercer and his dedicated team reworked every aspect of the humble HZ. Gull wing style doors, flares, a TV in the interior watched whilst one relaxes on shagpile carpet and an enlarged rear window in the tailgate, plus a huge mural on the rear flanks, mark this one as having history in both the panel van era and as a street machine.
Rodney Neal cast his eyes over the coke-bottle flanks of an 1973 XA Falcon “tudor” in bright yellow, liked what he saw, but thought to himself it’s lacking in.....big rear rubber, a lowered road scraping stance, and a “Clevo” fitted with one of the biggest “huffers” available at the time, breathing through a scoop big enough to catch whales. Rodney dreamt, and his dream came true in the form of the eyeball searing “Lethal Weapon”.
Kevin Monk etched his name into street machine history with a car so good, its American based body has many thinking it was modified in the States. Nope. His 1970 Dodge Challenger is a work of art and all homegrown down under. Slammed to a floor meets tarmac stance, coated in a red paint so deep one could drown in it, Monk’s epic work was powered by an engine Thor was scared of. Packed with all of the proper go-fast good bits, the alloy 426ci monster churned out a massive 1000 ponies in its time.
Sometimes a street machine can look for all the world like a car that’s had some big tyres melted on to the rims and not much else. Craige Wood had a Falcon XW/XY ute that looked a little like this, with the addition of a pair of oil refinery draining carbies bolted to the top of a meaty 429ci engine. A resprayed body hides hundreds of hours of painstaking work underneath, chromed bumpers were filed and straightened to look like new, and huge Cragar 15x12 alloys at the back add up to a noticeable yet subtle looking piece of street machine history.
Our final pick is one that Australia had never seen the likes of before, and has not seen since. Allan Cooper had a philosophy that mirrored the two “O”s in his name. Cooper took a Holden HQ ute, painted it black and called it Blo Bak. He added an extra pair of tail lights for a 2x2 look, filled in the tailgate’s gaps and added a spoiler to crown the tail lights, added fins from the ute’s roof down to the spoiler and that was almost enough. No sir. Clad in silver paint and slotting in a 253ci up front, Blo bak 2 was born. Out back, slap bang in the middle of the ute’s tray, is a heavily reworked and blown 350ci Chev carried over from the first version. Power goes to the ground via a TH425 transaxle “tranny” and the rubber wraps Moon wheels.
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(Pictures courtesy of Which Car and Street Machine)