The old ‘work hard, play harder’ adage is one that Igor Sutich knows all too well. A savvy busi­ness­man by day, Igor’s had a pas­sion for cus­tom and clas­sic cars for as long as he can re­mem­ber. How­ever, when peo­ple ask him what he’s owned over the years, there’s a bit of a sur­prise in store. That’s not be­cause he’s not owned any­thing of in­ter­est — far from it — but be­cause, as the one-time owner of iconic Auck­land car yard Hol­ly­wood Cars, he’s had at least one of al­most ev­ery­thing. Hol­ly­wood Cars

was the go-to place for those with a pas­sion for cars out of the or­di­nary, and Igor clearly also got to sam­ple some of the good. Fast for­ward to around 2010, and, by now in the prop­erty in­dus­try, Igor was keen to put some­thing clas­sic back in his sta­ble. Now, let’s face it, with Igor hav­ing been be­hind the wheel of many Ital­ian and Ger­man supercars in the in­ter­ven­ing years, what­ever he got into was never go­ing to im­press him if it drove like an old car. The car had to be set up to give Igor the same driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as the supercars did, which meant a whole lot of cus­tomiza­tion would be re­quired. Plus, like any per­fec­tion­ist, Igor was never go­ing to set­tle for a car that didn’t look as good as it drove. Sadly, Igor’s first foray into get­ting what he wanted didn’t go so well, with a sup­posed metal-file fin­ish turn­ing out to be a less-than-ideal bog job. Not im­pressed but keen not to throw the whole car and to do it right, Igor was more de­ter­mined than ever to get the car that he wanted.

The ob­vi­ous team to help Igor on the right jour­ney were Mata­mata Panel­works, a busi­ness that has a long list of tro­phy win­ners and NZV8 cover cars to its name. It seems each and ev­ery build that rolls out of the doors there is bet­ter than the last — and that was ex­actly what Igor was after. He wasn’t about to set­tle for hav­ing the sec­ond-best car it’d built, so, in a meet­ing with busi­ness owner Mal­colm Sankey, the chal­lenge was set — make it the best. It wasn’t just a mat­ter of sign­ing a blank cheque and walk­ing away, though; Igor would work closely with the Panel­works team dur­ing the fouryear build, with both sides hav­ing their in­put into it. Ob­vi­ously, the ini­tial plan of re­plac­ing the car’s Shelby-style front bumper and flar­ing the guards grew some­what dur­ing the ini­tial de­sign phase. Hav­ing a Fer­rari F430 in the garage and lov­ing the lines of it, Igor in­structed the Panel­works de­sign team to in­cor­po­rate some of the as­pects of that car into the 1965 Mus­tang, which ar­rived as a blank

can­vas. Other than that, the team could let their imag­i­na­tions run wild to work out the rest of the look of the ve­hi­cle — bounc­ing each idea off Igor first, of course. Once the tick of ap­proval had been given, the team could set about craft­ing the ex­quis­ite cus­tom met­al­work that we’ve known to ex­pect from them, each and ev­ery part be­gin­ning as a flat piece of sheet steel and be­ing lov­ing crafted into a key com­po­nent of the ve­hi­cle’s iden­tity. Right from the get-go, RRS Sus­pen­sion was cho­sen for the car to en­sure that it han­dled as well as re­quired. A set of 19x9-inch and 19x12-inch Santa Cruz wheels wrapped in 235/35R19 and 305/30R19 tyres was also pur­chased, so that the body­work could be built around the wheel size and ride height. At 12 inches wide, there was no way that the rear wheels were go­ing to stay within the con­fines of the fac­tory body­work — well, not this time around, at least — and cus­tom flares that tuck tightly into the ra­dius of the tyres were started. Like­wise, at an im­pres­sive 19x9 inches, the front wheels were far too big to fit hap­pily be­neath the nar­row haunches of an early pony car.

With the flares defin­ing the over­all width of the body, the team could move on to the rest of the build, such as the com­plete cus­tom front bumper as­sem­bly. The lines of the cus­tom front-end sheet metal flow through to the sides of the car, thanks to cus­tom in­te­grated side skirts. See those vents in the flanks of the car? They’re Fer­rari in­spired, as re­quested. The same lines also de­fined where the re­place­ment rear-end sheet-metal work would end up. The ex­act de­sign was a com­bi­na­tion of ideas from the Panel­works team and Igor him­self. But good looks were only part of the pack­age; the en­gi­neer­ing on the car ex­tends far be­yond what the eye can see. To stiffen the whole ve­hi­cle, cus­tom braces were fabri­cated be­low the front fend­ers to tri­an­gu­late the shock mounts to the bulk­head. Cus­tom torque boxes were fit­ted un­der the floor, while the trans­mis­sion tun­nel was en­larged to suit the planned trans­mis­sion. While there’s no mis­tak­ing a Panel­works car, mainly due to the amount of cus­tom work that goes into it, each and ev­ery one is sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent from the last, de­spite be­ing built on the same for­mula. How­ever, the in­te­rior of Igor’s car is above and be­yond any other, thanks to both the met­al­work un­der­taken by the Panel­works team and the soft cov­er­ings — which were looked after by Trevor and his team at Auto In­te­rior Spe­cial­ist Ltd.

With mod­ern cars as in­spi­ra­tion, the car was kit­ted out with a full scratch-built cus­tom dash­board to house the suite of elec­tronic good­ies that would be in­stalled, such as air con­di­tion­ing, a re­vers­ing mon­i­tor, and, of course, high-end au­dio. Nappa leather was cho­sen — not just to wrap the seats but also for the in­tri­cate door trims, which seam­lessly blend into the rear pan­els and cus­tom par­cel shelf. Not a sin­gle sur­face in­side the cabin re­mains as it was when the car rolled off the pro­duc­tion line back in ’65; in fact, there’s not much in the cabin that was even thought of back then. The Dakota Dig­i­tal Gauges, the Dy­na­mat in­su­la­tion, and the pure lux­ury it all ex­udes are clearly on that list. With a car that has had this much cus­tom work and has been built to keep a su­per­car fan happy, get­ting the right en­gine com­bi­na­tion wasn’t an easy task. While the de­sire was there for power, it needed to be matched with driv­abil­ity, not to men­tion re­li­a­bil­ity. No one in­volved in the build was keen on me­chan­i­cal dra­mas, so the choice of a Roush crate en­gine was a wise one. Known as one of the best Ford-based en­gine builders around the globe, Roush Per­for­mance of­fers a range of op­tions aimed at builds such as this. Dis­cus­sion be­tween Roush, Panel­works, and Igor re­sulted in the pur­chase of a Roush 427 IR en­gine. The beauty of this is not just the two-year war­ranty it came with, but the stack-in­jected EFI sys­tem, along with the full billet front-drive set-up. It ticked Igor’s boxes: it looked good, and, with 560hp and 540lb·ft of torque, it sure had enough per­for­mance. The IR se­ries of mo­tors is built specif­i­cally to be backed with a man­ual gear­box, which, of course, was al­ways the plan for ‘VENOM’. The box of choice — a Tre­mec TKO 600 five-speed — was matched with a McLeod triple-plate clutch. Be­hind the box is a cus­tom drive­shaft and a Ford nine-inch diff fit­ted with a per­fect 3.5:1 cruis­ing ra­tio. As with the front end, RRS sus­pen­sion was cho­sen for the rear in the form of a three-link and ad­justable plat­form coilovers. With this set-up and an RRS steer­ing-rack con­ver­sion get­ting rid of the steer­ing box and the va­garies that go with it, the car han­dles

ex­actly as Igor hoped it would. Prior to his get­ting be­hind the wheel, the fin­ish­ing touches needed to be added, and they were made ex­actly as the car was be­ing set up on dis­play at the CRC Speed­show in July. While the beau­ti­ful Blur­ple paint, ap­plied at Panel­works in-house paint shop, had, by this stage, long since dried, fit­ting up a car such as this takes a whole lot of as­sem­bly work. In­cluded in that as­sem­bly was the fit­ting of the new flush front and rear screens, cus­tom tail lights, LED head­lights, and, of course, the count­less cus­tom body pan­els. While it was a rush to get the car to the show, the ef­fort was well re­warded by the judges and the crowd alike. It was four years from the time the con­cept de­vel­oped in Igor’s head un­til the com­pleted car rolled out the door, three of those in pro­duc­tion. The re­sult is more than a car, though; it’s a work of art that Igor is priv­i­leged enough to drive, and he couldn’t be hap­pier with how it goes. Igor states, “Big thanks must go to the team at Mata­mata Panel­works. They sure know what they’re do­ing; whether it’s en­gine, sus­pen­sion, panel, paint, or parts, they are a one-stop shop and ex­perts in all, so I couldn’t have wished for bet­ter hands to do my build. It’s taken six long-but-en­joy­able years to get the car fin­ished and into its first car show. It was a very proud mo­ment when I heard my name read out as first in Cus­tom class at the CRC Speed­show re­cently. It makes all the mo­ments of mad­ness dis­ap­pear, and you can re­flect on the years of en­joy­ment ahead. So, the big les­son — and there have been a few: don’t leave it un­til you’re too old to en­joy it. Life is for liv­ing, so do it now!” Mal­colm sums up not just this build but oth­ers when he says, “Peo­ple ar­rive as cus­tomers, but they de­part as great mates”, and that was the sit­u­a­tion here, too. While sto­ries of fall­outs be­tween owner and builder are all too com­mon in the mod­i­fied car world, that wasn’t the case here. The way this re­sult is best summed up is ‘flaw­less’.

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