This is a special one.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen a lot of the world on this crazy Speedhunters adventure, and a lot of cars in the process of said travels. I always try to keep an open mind with regards to the different scenes and cars within, even when something isn’t to my own taste. I’ve always appreciated the American muscle cars of the ’60s and ’70s, but have always had to do so from afar.
I was never exposed to the big American V8 cars growing up; Ireland was and very much remains about low capacity European and German imports, although you might spot the odd Mustang or Camaro at a vintage show. I have no doubt it’s a case of the grass being greener, but I’ve always been envious of not being able to learn and experience these vehicles for myself. It’s not something that’s unique to me either. Everywhere I travel, regardless if it’s Sweden or Qatar, Germany or Australia, there’s always those who are trying to live the American dream in their own way.
“It’s nothing out of the ordinary, especially today. The Americans have been doing this type of build for years, so it’s only fair they get kudos for inspiring the whole world to build these cars.” These are the words of Chris Palazzo, the current owner of Kong, a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda. Chris, who lives just outside Sydney, has been involved in the birth of this iconic Australian build since the beginning. I first caught up with him at Fitted Friday, where he was displaying Kong along with a few other cars.
The car was inspired by Sick Fish, another ’70 Barracuda that was built by Troy Trapainer and Chip Foose for Joe Rogan. I can’t speak for the quality of Sick Fish, I’ve never seen it in person, but there’s something about Kong that I think any other car on earth will struggle to match.
I’ve been thinking about this car every day since I photographed it, and I still think the same thing now that I did when it first rolled out in front of my lens. This is comfortably and by far the most perfect car that I’ve ever shot. Bar none.Those Chains Are Made Of Chrome Steel
The original plan was for a simple one year build and to create a well executed road car for its then owner, Graeme Cowin, owner of Rocket Industries. Chris was responsible for the design of the car and took part in some of the build management.
When you look at the end result, it’s a struggle to even begin to imagine just how bad the original car was when they started. Originally red with a vinyl roof, the Plymouth was stripped and sandblasted before it was deemed that only the boot lid and the bonnet could be reused as the rest of the car had succumbed to rust. Everything happens for a reason though, and if that original car had been good I don’t think we’d be looking at Kong today.
The car was brought to brothers Daniel and Adam Cassar at Fast Lane Speed Shop who set about creating Kong from scratch. From their humble two-car garage, they recreated every panel – excluding the roof – in metal. They also fabricated a brand new chassis, floorpan, bonnet, dashboard and interior in metal too. Something Chris tells me with a smile, “There’s not a single piece of fibreglass on the car.”
At the time, you couldn’t buy a complete chassis or replacement ‘Cuda panels, so they had no choice but to fabricate everything.
All the seams and joins were smoothed for a completely smooth metal finish.
After giving up trying to repair the original doors, new doors were cut, folded and shaped to create new items.
The fabrication continued with a one-piece, handmade rear taillight panel and rear valance with a diffuser.
All the floorpan had to be fabricated too, with a custom tunnel and wheel tubs to allow the car to safely run low with the drivetrain and exhaust tucking inside the bodywork. The sills were extended to cover the chassis rails, and every internal panel had to be recreated too.
One of very few remaining original pieces are the headlight surrounds. Even the grill was recreated in billet polished bars to suit the newly fabricated nosecone.
The bonnet too is custom. Based on the design for the AAR bonnet – which was only available in fibreglass – it was again recreated in metal, but made slightly taller to accommodate the EFI intake.
Perfection continues under the bonnet. A 528ci Hemi fitted with Hogan Twin Plenum EFI and Ram Tubes is mated to a B&M 727 transmission, which has been customised by Al’s Race Glides.
The entire engine was stripped, polished and detailed before being reassembled and installed into the custom engine bay. Again, it’s all smooth metal work.
The custom logos, designed by Chris, were created on a CNC machine.
When I thought it couldn’t get any better, Chris pointed out that the car had been converted to right-hand drive, which in itself was obvious enough. What I didn’t account for was Chris designing the entire dashboard in cardboard before being made in metal.
The result, as you can probably see, is astounding.
The gauge cluster was again designed by Chris and CNC’d by local company Dragway. The Auto Meter C2 gauges had their bezels removed and were fitted with curved glass. I think any one of us would be proud to have just one of these details or custom fabrication pieces on our cars, but Kong is composed entirely of them. I’ll stick a quid in the cliché jar, but I think I’m justified in describing this as a proper work of art.Let Him Roar
The car was sold after it was finished, but after a few years it eventually ended up in Chris’ hands again at his own Outlaw Rod Shop where he spent a year fully rebuilding the car to make sure it was perfect. It was repainted at this time too, going slightly darker with a two-tone finish. Half way through this rebuild, Chris was given the opportunity by new its new owner, Greg Holmes, to buy into a half-share of the car and this wasn’t an opportunity he was willing to let slip by.
Underneath, the car is every bit as impressive as you would hope for.
Every component is either polished or colour-coded to the rest of the car; it really is something else. It’s probably made all the more impressive by the fact that it does get driven on the road, although the air ride system makes that a lot easier of a task.
I could comfortably shoot this car every day for the next 12 months and still feel like I haven’t done it justice. A glance under the front fenders revealed polished hard lines, neatly arranged but completely out of sight unless you look for them.
The fuel filler hides behind the bespoke license plate frame, which neatly folds down when required.
This is the paint and bodywork finish on the inside of the custom rear boot lid.
Inside the boot lid, the air install is completely hidden, with even the filler neck for the gas tank being trimmed in matching leather to suit its surroundings, before it feeds into a smoothed and colour-coded fuel tank underneath.
The polished Billet Specialities Stiletto wheels measure in at 20×10-inch at the rear and 18×7-inch at the front. Thanks to a combination of the custom bodywork and air suspension setup, the car can be driven at its lowest without fouling the body work and with a full range of steering lock. Behind the wheels are Baer 6-piston calipers with 14-inch discs.
I believe this simply to be a car that transcends any particular scene or automotive subculture. Nobody says that you have to like everything we post here; far from it. We often challenge you with the unconventional to properly convey just how vast car culture is. What I will say though is that a car like this is a rare breed, and you quite simply just have to respect it.
But it’s so much more than just a car. I’m going to borrow Chris’ words here, because he sums it up better than I ever could. “It’s a metal sculpture that represents the quality, passion and dedication of all the craftsmen involved. It reflects a quest for perfection.”
I only speak for myself, but if you gave me the choice of having the entirety of the Museé du Louvre to myself for the day, or being able to appreciate Kong undisturbed for the same amount of time, it’s not even a choice I’d have to think about. I’d have a lawn chair set up inside Chris’ garage before he’d even know it.
My word. Incredible.
This is automotive art. Absolutely amazing build....I think Dave T had it nailed with that GIF below haha!
Pretty cool, even though I'm not a muscle guy. I don't get the rhd conversion though.
I had high hopes after the teaser, then I saw the wheels. I'd be an imbecile if I ignored the ridiculous time and skill put into the build. Props to that, but seriously the wheels. So basic for such a sophisticated vehicle and piece of art. I prefer the Tantrum Charger. http://www.speedhunters.com/2015/12/muscle-car-meets-hypercar-tantrum-charger/
Emptypie +1. With all the amazing wheels available out there, and all the time and money poured into this car, why those wheels... His choice and all that, but they don't quite do the rest of the car justice, in my most humble of opinions...
How does one buy into a half-share of a car? Can you explain what that means?
ggcniks Emptypie With the utmost of respect, when you build something as good as that, you can put any wheels you want on it.
Wheels are a very personal choice and these are obviously in keeping with the idea of what the car should be from the very beginning. It's a 10 year old car now...
Wheels and front bumper.. meh
Got to laugh at the people complaining about the wheels. Just proves that you can put something amazing together and some people will still try to find something wrong with it.
Paddy McGrath oh I don't disagree with you at all Paddy, but you've also hit the nail on the head — it's a 10 year old car, but it still manages looks like a brand-new build, with the sole exception of its wheels. It is a truly amazing car, and I don't intend to detract from that — or the time, money, effort, and skill involved — at all.
seriously people, picking out wheels just for something to hate is stupid.
show your personal build that matches this, or shut up.
love this post, love this car. i wholeheartedly understand your awe Paddy
Sweet mutha of God, that is jaw droppingly bollock busting beautiful.... and then you read the bit about the body being hand made....?!?! EPIC.. oh, and I genuinely like the wheels too
Amazing car and great photo's that DO it justice. I don't have a problem with the wheels at all, they suit it IMO. Better than Simmons FR's, which every other person uses in Australia.
ggcniks One thing about older builds like this that are iconic are certain things like their wheels(and other factors) that while they can be changed quite easily and brought up to date, sometimes it's better not to. There are a number of very iconic cars that have been sold recently that up until the new owners have remained the same. The new owner (understandably)wants to put their mark on it and changes the wheels and/or something else about the car and it loses all it's character and all that it was and most of the time is made worse. In my opinion some things should just be left as they are, boring as that may be and dated they may seem, but so be it.
With a name like King Kong I guess I would expect something a little more raw and a little less immaculate show car... I don't know, I don't get the connection, it's just too polished. King Kong fresh out of law school, clean shaven, sporting a three piece suit?
it looked like a sculpture wow. if you listen Joe Rogan's podcast, i think he mention in one of the automotive related episode the Sick Fish turned out to be a garage queen because it spend a lot a time broken in the shop then on the road, so he love the look but hate the reliability.
Beautiful craftsmanship obviously and impeccable build quality but it leaves me cold, and I love me some ‘Cuda having owned a 1970 and a 1974. It has lost everything that made a ‘Cuda great, except the shape. You can thank Elwood Engel for that shape, and you should.
With all the “work, passion and dedication” why use run-of-the-mill-off-the-shelf parts like that shifter and those hokey wheels? If you’re going to put that much time and effect into it a better and more logical choice would be to CNC some original wheels for it. Speaking of wheels,”the car can be driven at its lowest without fouling the body work” because the front track is much, much narrower than it should be (and what it was stock) to allow that to happen. It looks weak and makes the car look weak-kneed.
Visually those elements look terrible from the front or any angle but the side, as your images show. Look at an image of a Trans Am AAR ‘Cuda, the front wheel and tire to body visual cues look awesome, even with 15 inch wheels. Those side mirrors too look completely out of place, incongruous, they don’t fit the car at all. Again they look weak and the ‘Cuda was the acme of Muscle Cars. Nothing on the original looked weak visually.
The car looks very dated like it’s straight out of the 1990s, all that bright work is so passé. It would be so much more visually appealing with other surface finishes’ and a different paint color.
There is no diffuser back there, as can be clearly seen from the underneath shot and the rear shot. There just black paint. A diffuser is more than black paint, there needs to be more than black paint and vapor to be a diffuser.
I'm in awe. Though I'm more of a Dodge Challenger guy, this is a true masterpiece! The RHD conversion is neatly done, it looks like it came right from the factory like that. Front seats look a little out of place, but to each of his own.
On a side note, I wonder if the "King Kong" name is a reference to its weight? It sure looks like it is heavy, given it's all metal and no fibreglass...
An American muscle, built the American way. A refreshing sight.
“It’s a metal sculpture that represents the quality, passion and dedication of all the craftsmen involved. It reflects a quest for perfection.”
There may be different preferences and tastes, but the execution of what's done is pretty much just flawless.
Beautiful and Amazing.
( In a couple decades, a few 90s halo cars are sure to get a similar treatment )
NicholasMaher I completely agree. The craftsmanship here cannot be denied but the aesthetics is lacking in a few key areas. To each their own though.
Wow, this is crazy beautiful. Im in love. I guess the guys hating must be american's. LOL
NicholasMaher possibly because whilst it may not appear so, the car is probably built to a budget and those small things may have taken it over the top.
I'll admit, when I first saw the preview for this, I was a bit confused. "Why is he freaking out about a pro-touring car? There's about a million of them in the States." I see now how completely wrong I was. the level of craftsmanship is truly unmatched. I'm extremely impressed. I can't recall the last time I've seen this level of finish on any car.
One of the most insane build i've read anywhere....period.
Now that is a work of art. incredible design in all the details and workmanship
Wow, this is truly amazing!
NicholasMaher What is wrong with a bit of chrome and a b&m shifter. Not every thing has to be blacked out and it was built 10 years ago anyway also its his car so whats to say you are right about how it should look
CLEAN AS F***!
Fantastic, even if it does follow my least-favorite modern muscle car trend: teh big honking out-of-place wheels. I've just always felt these cars looked better with a more meaty tire.
My hat's off to the builders, simply outstanding work!
hawi Nobody buys these cars to be a daily. None have any reliability, as there is just so much custom/high-horsepower parts.
Emptypie I'd take the Tantrum over Kong anyday. Talk about a fantastic set of wheels on an immaculate body! Yes, I do respect that so much hand-worked metal is in King, but....as it's been said forever, wheels can make or break a car.
Looking at these pictures and reading the story gave me a funny feeling in my stomach region. I had high expectations when you were hyping the car up a week ago, now I understand why and I was not disappointed. Massive respect to everyone involved in this project and well done
I am blown away by this build. It is the standard by which all "show" builds should be held. And beyond that, it is even more amazing because it is exactly what every car person I know thinks a car should be, it is driven. I would love to meet the men who built it and would love to sit down with it. Is it my style? Not completely but the unbelievable levels craftsmanship put into are beyond compare. I have seen a few AMBR contender cars and this is at least on par, but I would say that they went above and beyond the levels of even those cars. Functional sculpture.
JackScharr Same. When I saw the preview my reaction was it's cool but nothing extraordinary but I can honestly say no car has ever impressed me more than this one
This car is not my style at all, but you can not not appreciate the amount of effort that has gone into it. The craftsmanship is just incredible.
D1RGE "De gustibus non disputandum est," though.
Bogan donk rules!
Amazing, not only does this car ooze craftsmanship and perfection it also inspires to the nth degree!! Most builds like this (well, not that there are many like this) are born from immense budgets and airplane hanger size workshops! This is crafted through passion, skill and ingenuity by 2 blokes in a small(ish) garage. Astounding....
Hard to say, but.. I still think Aaron Becks Cuda is my favorite cuda. Same amount of insane workmanship, but in a diffrent direction.
INSANE WORK, WE NEED A VIDEO!!
Simply incredible. Absolutely stunning.
Mad respect to this builder, and his impeccable taste.
joshb2448 I would imagine that it's just what it sounds like. Pay half of the cost of the car. Each owner pays half of the consumables (tires, brakes, etc) and each owner gets it for half the time.
Beautiful work, extremely talented, though I hate it when something this amazing will be a trailer queen. I can never see this been a daily driver, specially with all the polished chrome under the hood and suspension.
D1RGE 18's and 20's are relatively tame and fit the car's size IMO, while still allowing a bit of meat on the rubbery side of things. 22's and 24's are where it gets ridiculous.
@griffrench It's sad when a fad such a blacking out stuff or brushed stuff is expected of every car these days. Chrome/polish has been around forever, it'll never date, yet those fads will!
If anybody does not like this car, well they just don't like it, they don't get it, what can you say? It must be expensive to build a car like this in America, imagine what some of that stuff costs overseas. The build quality is top drawer no matter what you like
rally2727 D1RGE Damn you, I suck at latin and had to look this up.
Agreed, we need a video of this baby on the road.
Yeah it's real nice, I thought i was gonna get a new desktop picture here, but i'm keeping the Tantrum Charger for now.
Respect the build, that's some Pagani level of craftsmanship, but the wheels are killing me.
The gauge cluster is my favorite part. I wish there where more pics of it.
roeby i admire your restraint, i routinely download a bunch of pictures and add them to my ever growing stock pile of beautiful cars and just have them cycle every few minutes...
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the car was very good
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DieterManero I think your right about the trailer. But if you read the accompanying story they do drive it regularly. I think the truth is somewhere in between...
@Ren please learn to spell
Just wow...top top notch car.