So, I am one of the new guys on the block here at Speedhunters, a bit of a late bloomer if you will.
I was lucky enough to be one of the very few that goes from wearing the ‘I Am The Speedhunter’ moniker all the way to an official, Speedhunter. It was a proud moment for me to be recognised by the team, and to be given a chance to share what my hometown in Western Australia has to offer. For those of you who aren’t too clued up on where Perth is, it’s around 3,200km (2,000 miles) by air from Sydney. We are the other side of the continent, but that doesn’t stop us from having some of the best cars in the land.
I might be new here, but I am by no means new to the world of modified cars. At 40 years of age, I have made cars the most significant part of my life, and I am proud of that. I have been photographing cars for the best part of 12 years now, and I have shot for a heap of national titles. At one point, I ran my own national magazine too. Being as busy as I was, I didn’t have the time to commit to Speedhunters fully, but now I get the chance to share some cool stuff on an international platform, and that’s a great thing.
I can thank Dino for getting me a start on here. We met in Japan two years ago while I was on holidays and attending the Mooneyes Hot Rod Custom Show in Yokohama, and he kindly took myself and my brother Clayton and a close mate, Andrew Goodwin, around for a grand tour of workshops that wrapped up around 3:00am. He did well to handle three loud-mouth Aussies who were eager to see all that was on offer. After keeping in touch since then, he asked me to submit some content, and well, here I am.Where It All Began For Me
Stepping way back in time to my early years, I first discovered cars by accident in old magazines stored in the cupboards at my primary school. I was instantly captivated by the hot rods and old school cars between the pages. Being a keen artist it wasn’t long before all I was drawing were two Aussie favourites – old Holdens and Fords, and pretty much anything else with a motor hanging out of the bonnet.
At the time, Clayton was on the verge of getting his licence, and he was destined to get into something hot. It turned out to be a neat XC Ford Falcon, which then made way for a show-stopping Datsun 1600 (510), which was as neat as a pin. This is where my love for Japanese cars blossomed.
By my teenage years in the ’90s, Clayton was heavily into rotary Mazdas and drag racing his infamous 11-second peripheral-ported RX-3 coupe at Ravenswood Raceway. It was no surprise that my first car was a rotary-powered Mazda 808 that he built and paid for. I was well and truly hooked on rotors back then, and I just wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps.
By the time I was 21 I had already owned five or so Mazdas that Clayton had put me into. He upped the stakes on my first really serious car – a burnt orange RX-3 sedan we put together. It was a step up from the other cars I had owned, but it was still well and truly a daily driver. The bridge-ported 13B copped a hiding on the street and much to both of our amazement, the car won Top Judged at the Cabin Autosalon one year. After about three years attending shows, I had accumulated around 20 trophies with the car. It was all due to my brother’s hard work, and funnily it was all built in a single-car garage. It may not look special now, but back in the late ’90s and early ’00s this was a pretty special car and built on a tiny budget.
I then discovered Mazda 1500s and 1800s through Clayton, who by this time was running his own shop – Mr. RX3 – building cars. The body shape was new to me, and nobody seemed to like them, so I loved them. I always wanted to be different, so I snapped one up cheap and then another and then another. I soon had a fleet. It wasn’t long before Clayton was building me a killer version that was slammed on 18-inch ROH wheels, bathed in perfect white paint, and gorgeously trimmed. The car looked a million bucks, and once again it cleaned up at the car shows. One year it even got in the Top 10 at Motorvation, Western Australia’s largest car show. For a four cylinder to do that against the V8s back then, well, it was a big deal.What Floats My Boat?
As you get older your tastes undoubtedly change, but I don’t think I have strayed too far from my initial interests – I still love old school stuff, anything pre-1980 as a basic guide. But a few ’80s classics from Japan and Europe also get my nod these days. I think I have become more discerning over time, that’s all. I like quality, and I prefer well thought out builds rather than stuff that is just following a current trend.
I could talk the ear off anyone who would listen to my list of dream cars, and right now I’m into ‘60s-styled show rods and kustoms – stuff like ’49 to ’54 Chevys, Buick Rivieras, Model As, Packards, Plymouths, tail draggers, gassers. Basically anything wild and from back in that era. Think of candy paint, roof chops, wide whites on 15-inch wheels and tuck and roll interiors. Those cars have style and a real presence on the road; they are the sort of machines that car guys build, not just buy. You don’t forget cars like that, either.
If I had to choose another style of car that I rate, it would be pro touring stuff. Guys like the Ring Brothers and the team at the Roadster Shop are amazing, as is Troy Trepanier. I don’t think you will ever shake the Japanese bug out of me though. I still love my rotors, would just about kill for a 240ZX, and a Hakosuka Skyline in silver would be a dream come true.
While in Japan I was floored by the quality of the cars that Star Road puts out. They are as good as anything else in the world. The attention to detail that Inoue-san has is second-to-none, and it was a real honour to be in his shop and to go for a ride with him too in the ‘blue car’. He is, easily, the best Japanese car builder.
Over the years, Speedhunters has always been my go-to place to get my fix of awesome Japanese stuff. I like anything that is cool, and that reflects the owner’s personality. I respect all types of builds, and I can appreciate why people do what they do. If it wasn’t for Speedhunters, I wouldn’t have been up to date with what is happening around the globe.What Do I Drive These Days?
I have a few toys, but I think it’s best to start with my favourite and one of my original cars – my 1970 Mazda 1800 sedan, affectionately known as ‘Goldfinger’.
You would think after owning a car for more than 10 years, the novelty would wear off? Well for me, it hasn’t. The car is far from perfect. It rattles and shakes, it smells of fuel, it idles a little too loud (not in the good way), and it has the imperfections you would expect from a car manufactured in the ‘60s. But it’s those failures and the quirkiness that makes the car a part of me. I know it back to front, and out of all of the cars I have owned, I think this one has meant the most to me.
For a long time, the car was my daily driver; it went everywhere with me, and it was always a head-turner. I got busy though and needed a bigger car to fit all my photography gear, so I started driving a wagon for the daily grind. Soon, I didn’t really have time to use the Mazda much. A few years later my 1962 Cadillac came from the States and the poor old Mazda didn’t see the light of day. The Caddy was the flavour of the month, and ‘Goldfinger’ was relegated to second fiddle.
The battery on the Mazda went flat, other electrical issues developed before that, and a heap of old stuff was stored in front of it. It was going nowhere fast, and stupidly, I had given up on it.
It was earlier this year that I felt a little flat; things hadn’t really gone well for me in 2018, and I was lost. As the roller door slid up one morning, I stood there looking at the Mazda, covered in dust, still full of magazines and the junk that I had left in there. I opened the door up and just sat in it. I missed the darn thing, I really did. It was an important piece of me. It had been far too long since it had been driven and I felt like the ‘resurrection’ could be just the thing to get me out of my funk.
With a little bit of work from my brother and a few trips here and there, we had the car up and running. I took it for a lap around the block before washing her, and I felt like I was home. I felt relieved, rejuvenated and optimistic again. It is amazing what cars can do to a person’s psyche.
It wasn’t long before she was out and about with me again. A handful of random CDs on the front seat and I was happy to go out for the day. I love my music, and the little Mazda packs a big audio system – Image Dynamics compression drivers in a fibreglass dash (that fire upwards towards the windscreen), 6.5-inch DD mid-bass drivers in the doors, and four RE 10-inch subwoofers in the boot. It all runs off tube amplifiers and does a great job at cancelling out the sounds of the loose tappets in the standard 1800 motor. Having music with me on my journeys is important to me – it aids with the escape.
The interior is still pretty good considering it’s basically the way in left Japan. One of the coolest parts is the box-weave bucket seats; I removed them, so they look lower in the car. The dark burgundy carpet is factory too. The wheel is off a 1500 SS and seems a little racier. One thing that won’t ever be removed from the interior is the photo of my nephew from his preschool days. He loves the Mazda just as much as I do, and it gives him a kick knowing he is always in the car with me.
The real reason the car looks as cool as it does it because of Clayton. I may have developed the cool ideas back in 2008, but he was the guy who stepped up and made it happen. He is a local panel beater and painter and an all-round champion. He has worked on all of my cars, and I would be lost without him. He is the one that makes me look good.
Before painting the car, we had to take care of some rust on the lower rocker panels. We kept the welder going and removed the panel gaps while we were at it, and that move caused a ripple effect to say the least. The gaps on the top of the guards that meet the windscreen were then welded up; we continued the theme down to the nosecone and the lower apron too. At that point, there was no turning back – we shaved and smoothed everything. We removed the door handles, the locks, the mirrors, and the fuel cap, all of the badges, the indicators, the side trims and the side vents. I even had Clayton remove the pressings on the front lip and weld up the exhaust cutout on the back.
A car that really resonated with me was Bill Osiakowski’s wild ’60s-inspired show rod – it was dipped in gold and wore large whites. I wanted the same look for my car. I ended up selecting Sunshine Yellow over a Pure Gold Base from the PPG Vibrance range as my choice of hue. Being a little more creative, I decided to do the roof white, so it tied in with the 14-inch BFGoodrich tyres I had waiting. Clayton did an awesome job at painting the car, and it was my idea to get the local pin-striper, Von Kustard, to stripe the car and put my brother’s old Mr. RX3 name on the boot lid as a dedication piece to his efforts.
Adding more of a ’60s mild custom vibe are the lake pipes, the headlight covers, all of the bullets, the Maltese cross-themed pieces, and the blue dots for the tail lights. When it came to wheeling the car, my choices were very limited, but I knew what was going to work. To match the cross pieces, I grabbed a set of Mazda RX-5 rims, painted them satin black, polished the lips and added the larger bullets – that’s how you do cheap custom wheels.
After all these years, the car still attracts attention. People stop and ask what it is or they recall having one in their family. Others take photos and just admire it. You don’t get that reaction when you drive a modern car; you blend into the background, they have no soul. I lost part of my soul when I stopped driving the car. I lost the buzz that a car like this can give you. I lost that feeling of pride after telling everyone that my brother built the car for me. It won’t happen again though, the Mazda is back for good, and now the Cadillac is covered in dust.
Now onto the ‘Green Machine’, or dust machine as it is now. It was a few years ago that this glorious 1962 Cadillac Coupe Deville came into my possession. It wouldn’t have happened though if it wasn’t for my lifelong friend Malcolm Pages. Being into cars himself, he has been collecting them for years and offered to bring this ride in from the USA for me. I couldn’t refuse, and I will forever be in debt for his generosity.
Dan Sobieski, an ex-employee of Boyd Coddington, built the car as his own over in Cali. He was responsible for the factory green re-spray with that wild flaked roof and the incredible leather re-trim. The big girl is bagged and slammed over the custom wire wheels shod with wider than usual, thin whites.
When I admire that car I recall a quote from Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” I can’t think of a better description for the Caddy.
Old cars will always be a part of me – I have such an emotional attachment to them and my photography. I have lived and breathed this stuff from the first time I picked up that tattered magazine at eight years old, and hopefully, I will still be dreaming of them when I am 98 years old.