Words & Photos: Mike Ryan
There can’t be many – if any – car shows in this country that have enjoyed the longevity of the Victorian Hot Rod Show. This year’s show was the 55th conducted by the Victorian Hot Rod Association (VHRA) and the event just keeps on keeping on.
Sure, it’s had its challenges over the years, but rodders are both hardy and loyal, continuing to support this event (and others) year after year.
But this isn’t just a show by and for rodders.
Unlike rod runs and other events on the ASRF calendar, the Vic Hot Rod Show is designed as much for the general public as it is for the rusted-on rodding community. As such, it allows those with no specific interest in rods to see and experience these vehicles up close.
New aficionados have undoubtedly been created from this exposure, which can only be a good thing for the health of hot-rodding and the custom car hobby in the long term.
While a constant for the past 54 years of the Victorian Hot Rod Show has been the location – Melbourne’s historic Royal Exhibition Building – the VHRA hasn’t been afraid to make some changes over the years.
Reflecting the evolution of the custom car community, changes in recent years have included the ‘Cool Rides’ element that was added in 2017 to open up the event to stock classics and more modern street machines as well as customs that defy categorisation.
Another welcome change was the addition of a second outdoor display space at the western end courtyard of the Royal Exhibition Building in 2018. The eastern end courtyard display has always been popular, with a rotating display of cars each day, but the west end outdoor display space, with its bar, live music and seating to kick back and chill out for a while in the shade has been a big hit, especially in Australia Day weekend weather that’s usually stinking hot!
This year’s innovation was a rejig of the main indoor floor space, adding more room around the main display cars, which helped ease pedestrian traffic and was undoubtedly appreciated by those trying to photograph the cars.
Have no fear, though: all the elements showgoers know and love remain, like the trade stands, cub displays and, of course, the new car debuts. There was plenty of the latter this year, which made for some healthy competition in the trophy categories and the quest for the Top 5 and Coolest Ride awards.
This year’s 55th Vic Hot Rod Show, held on the Australia Day long weekend (25-27 January), presented plenty of new metal, as well as some familiar rides and facelifts of past builds. Here’s a taste of what was on show…
Hot and Cool – 1972 Buick Riviera
Chev was front and centre when you entered the Royal Exhibition Building, but the next car down the line was Dan Appleby’s stunning ’72 Buick Riviera in all its boat-tail beauty.
Dubbed the ‘Riverboat Gambler’, this project started as a mild custom, but when it was handed over to Lucky’s Speed Shop and the talented mind of Ryan Ford, the build went to a new level.
A bare metal strip and panel work was followed by rich PPG Bordeaux Pontevecchio paint.
Apart from obvious exterior alterations like the grille, there’s a bunch of more subtle exterior custom touches, like the modified bumpers and scallops in Mircro Rootbeer metalflake.
Under the bonnet, the metalflake finish continues on the air cleaner, rocker covers and even the block. The donk itself is a 455ci Buick that’s not all that far removed from factory in terms of spec. Nas Automotive built the engine with a Schneider Racing cam and SRP pistons on stock Buick rods and crankshaft, while the induction is handled by an Edelbrock 750cfm carby and B-4B manifold.
Ray’s Trimming did the interior, with inspiration coming from ‘60s European GTs and oddities inside including a custom column shifter for the TH400 auto and front seats based on pews out of a Honda!
What escaped attention at first glance is that this big Riv’ is in RHD.
A trophy winner on debut at Motorex last year (including the first Mario Colalillo Memorial Award), Riverboat Gambler continued its winning ways at Summernats 33 and this show. Next stop on the Riverboat cruise will be the NSW Hot Rod and Custom Auto Expo in May.
Hot and Cool – 1962 Toyota LandCruiser
Dubbed ‘ToyChev’, this was arguably the most unique vehicle on display this year.
Created by Tony Hubbard and dedicated to his wife Gayl, who passed in 2019, this rod combines a modified Model A chassis with a heavily chopped and channelled body from an FJ40 LandCruiser.
Working from front to back, ToyChev features front suspension from a ’35 Ford truck, Commodore disc brakes and Brembo calipers on Holden hubs.
A Procomp radiator keeps the engine cool, which as you’ve probably guessed, is a 350 Chev, fitted with a Comp cam, Edelbrock manifold and 650cfm Holley. Procomp ignition and extractors have also been fitted, while the V8 is backed by a T700R transmission with a shift kit and servo fitted. The actual shifting is done with a stick from a VC Commodore, while the steering is courtesy of Momo, hooked up to a Commodore steering column and HZ Holden steering box.
The gauges are stock FJ40 ‘Cruiser, but the seats are out of a 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer, trimmed by Joe Ball’s Canvas Products.
That ‘Cruiser body has had a 4-inch chop and equivalent channel, but there’s still room for a Procomp fuel cell at the rear, which sits aft of a Jaguar diff and rear suspension, as well as the outlets for the 2-inch exhaust system.
And if this custom didn’t stand out already, bright orange paint and oversized chrome mags sealed the deal!
Hot and Cool – 1973 Holden LJ Torana GTR XU-1
A standout amongst the ‘cool rides’ this year was this ’73 LJ Torana. What first caught the eye with this genuine GTR XU-1 was its Juniper Green metallic paint; a period-correct Holden colour, but one rarely seen on a Torana.
The next thing that stood out was the flawless finish of that paint and the overall perfect appearance of the restoration. Virtually everything was done to period-correct 1973 spec, from the 202 ‘P’ six and 4-speed manual trans, to the Globe alloys and interior trim.
Originally delivered to Brisbane, the car spent most of its life in Queensland and had been repainted a different colour up there, but the decision to return it back to its original hue for the resto, rather than churn out another red/blue/yellow GTR, was the right one. The owner was getting compliments and great feedback all weekend on the paint, as well as the overall quality of the build.
A bunch of Victorian businesses contributed to the year-long project, including Sunshine Motor Trimming, A1 Auto Re-Creations, Werribee Brake and Clutch, Suffolk’s Autos and Fastlane Speedshop (who did the body and paint), to name a few. Alan Cini did all the assembly work for his wife, Christine (who owns the car), with the rebuild completed just before its debut at the show.
Hot and Cool – 1930 Model A rat rod
As far as extreme chops go, they don’t get much extreme than James and Kendal Chisholm’s 1930 Model A coupe. With 7 inches chopped out of the body and a 4-inch channel job, that open-top roof is a necessity!
The bobbed ’32 grille shell throws a few people off the trail of this rod’s Model A origins, as does the Ford flathead V8 behind it, but the body is Model A, as are the 19-inch wire-spoke wheels with period-look Firestone tyres.
The flathead features old-school triple carb induction, Offy lookalike heads and short pipes, but a modern alternator and distributor offer practical cruising, as does the transmission, which is believed to be a C4 auto, running to an 8.5-inch diff.
Cool touches on this rat rod included a chromed chain-link four-spoke steering wheel, column-mount tacho and tall shifter in what’s admittedly a minimalist interior, but there is comfort – of sorts – on white-pleated vinyl seats. The coolest feature, though, is the pair of genuine Edmunds & Jones headlights.
James is a member of the Road Lords Car Club for pre-1965 hot rods, customs and lowriders.
Hot and Cool – 1941 Willys Coupe
A pre-war Willys rod is nothing new, but what set this example apart from the rest was its stunning interior.
Trimmed by Shannon Walters, red leather was used throughout, from the seats to the door cards, headliner, rear cabin trim and even the boot lining. With matching blood red carpets and against the Mercedes Silver of the exterior, it was a treatment that worked to striking effect.
Proving it more than just looked good, the interior had comfort features, too, including electric windows, air con and heater
Under the Outlaw body, this rod was running a Chev 502 Big Block crate engine, balanced and blueprinted to produce a matching 502 horses, expelling the gasses through a Jet Hot 3-inch exhaust and driving the fat 17x13 rear rubber through a T700R with a 2800 stall convertor and Fab 9-inch diff with 3.7 gears and a Strange centre.
Hauling up that power are Wilwood discs on all four wheels.
Rolling stock comprised Budnick Gassers, with other features including an Outlaw Heidt’s front end, four-bar rear and full air suspension, remote boot release, door poppers and AutoMeter gauges.