WE DRIVE KING KONG CUDA!

CUBES OF HEMI MUS­CLE HIT­TING THE STREETS WITH 528

Street Machine - - Front Page - STORY CRAIG PARKER PHO­TOS CHRIS THOROGOOD

AF­TER see­ing the 1970 Ply­mouth Bar­racuda dubbed ‘Sick Fish’ that Rad Rides By Troy built for UFC com­men­ta­tor Joe Ro­gan, Graeme Cowin (i.e. Mr Rocket In­dus­tries), de­cided he wanted one just like it – only bet­ter! So a 340 donor car was pur­chased out of Ade­laide in 2005, and the story of King Kong Cuda be­gan.

The ini­tial one-year build blew out to five years – along with the bud­get. Over­seen by Rocket’s Chris Palazzo, the build started with Fast Lane Speed Shop, who re­made vir­tu­ally ev­ery panel by hand, as well as in­cor­po­rated a host of cus­tom touches in­clud­ing the metal dash, con­sole, full-metal nosecone and in­te­grated rear spoiler. From there Hills & Co fi­nessed the body and laid on its twotone grey/sil­ver liv­ery.

Ul­ti­mately the build was rushed in the fi­nal stages, so that it could make its

Street Ma­chine Summernats de­but in 2010. This meant it was never prop­erly de­bugged – un­til now.

Even so, King Kong Cuda is one the most epic street ma­chines ever built in this coun­try – pe­riod! It’s graced the cover of SM twice, took out a host of awards at Summernats 23, in­clud­ing Top Judged Elite and Peo­ple’s Choice, then cleaned up Street Ma­chine Of The Year for 2010.

Hav­ing won just about ev­ery­thing worth win­ning, Graeme sold King Kong Cuda to a mate of his in Queens­land, who later on-sold it to Greg and Julie Holmes from South Aus­tralia. Un­for­tu­nately the in­cred­i­ble Ply­mouth was dam­aged in tran­sit, ne­ces­si­tat­ing some fixes that turned into a full re­build.

Dur­ing the re­build process, cir­cum­stances changed with Greg and Julie and they were con­tem­plat­ing get­ting out of the ’Cuda. At this point Chris Palazzo of­fered to part­ner up with the pair to take a fi­nan­cial stake in the car. This way, Chris’s busi­ness Out­law Rod Shop, which has a track record for turn­ing out show-qual­ity streeters, could work handin-hand with Si­mon Bonello of Ground Level Panel & Paint, who ironed out the scrunched sheet metal and laid on the King’s new coat of cus­tom PPG char­coal grey. He could also en­sure the ’Cuda went back to­gether prop­erly, re­ceiv­ing the de­bug­ging it al­ways de­served.

“I had in­vested a lot of my­self in the ’Cuda,” Chris ex­plains. “The car has its own per­son­al­ity and I wanted to make sure that when Greg and Julie have it over in SA, it is trou­ble-free and they re­ally get to en­joy it.”

And now, they’re let­ting me take it for a drive. Why? Well for one, we never had the chance to get some killer driv­ing images of the car, some­thing photographer Chris Thorogood was burn­ing to do. Sec­ond, we wanted to see just how well this crazy wet dream of a car ac­tu­ally drives. Would it be ev­ery­thing we hoped? Or a bit­ter dis­ap­point­ment? Ei­ther way, we’re about to find out.

As a work of au­to­mo­tive art, King Kong Cuda’s got it all – 700 horses, belly-scrap­ing ride, mile-wide rub­ber, a gazil­lion gauges, trick this, crazy that, mon­ster the other. And be­ing such a mam­moth build, I’m pre­pared for a litany of unique char­ac­ter quirks.

“The but­tons for the elec­tric seat are here,” Chris in­structs. “Make sure you

WE WANTED TO SEE HOW WELL THIS CRAZY WET DREAM OF A CAR AC­TU­ALLY DRIVES. WOULD IT BE EV­ERY­THING WE HOPED? OR A BIT­TER DIS­AP­POINT­MENT? WE’RE ABOUT TO FIND OUT

press ‘M’ on the airbag con­trols to bring it up to ride height, and watch the power.”

He then hands me the keys and walks around to the pas­sen­ger side.

“Is that it?” I en­quire. “What about back­ing it out of the garage?”

“Nah, you’ll be right,” Chris as­sures me. “I keep telling ev­ery­one, it drives like a nor­mal car.” Hmmm, su­u­ure. Chris is pretty adamant about this point: “It was never built to win shows; it was al­ways meant to be a killer street car. It’s gone back to­gether prop­erly this time, and I’m keen to demon­strate that it’s re­li­able and gen­uinely street-driven.”

As the healthy Hemi erupts into life, there’s no es­cap­ing the deep, gut­tural, heart-thump­ing throb of that many horses stam­ped­ing out of twin three-inch pipes. How­ever, it’s far from ridicu­lous – def­i­nitely a mu­sic-to-the-ears thing.

Con­cerned that even at idle, the sheer torque of the thump­ing great Hemi could prob­a­bly flip the ’Cuda on its roof, I push the brake pedal with con­sid­er­able force as I pull the Ban­dit shifter into ‘R’. To my sur­prise, the ’Cuda doesn’t buck or snarl. I don’t have to ‘catch’ the throt­tle; it sim­ply set­tles at a cou­ple of hun­dred rpm and is clearly happy to get on with things.

For the first few kilo­me­tres, pi­lot­ing such a valu­able and fear­some beast is over­whelm­ingly in­tim­i­dat­ing. But I have to ad­mit, the way King Kong Cuda drives is drama-free, with rather civilised road man­ners. It doesn’t dart, or wan­der all over the shop. It goes where you want it to go, the steer­ing feels nice and all the con­trols are in­tu­itively placed. The throt­tle is pleas­antly pro­gres­sive, tractable enough for ma­noeu­vring in tight con­fines and lin­ear enough to sneak up on the power rather than have it come on like a light switch. The Baer brak­ing sys­tem doesn’t throw you through the wind­screen, in­stead pulling up fast ’n’ straight.

For a streeter with fully fabricated sus­pen­sion and re-engineered, er, ev­ery­thing, there is nary a squeak, rat­tle, knock or shimmy; it feels very, very solid. And while it sits on its guts when aired out, it was built to drive at just 100mm off the deck, which is still gnarly-low. That said,

THERE’S NOTH­ING SUB­TLE ABOUT KING KONG CUDA. IT’S LOUD, IT’S BRAWNY AND IT’S DOWN­RIGHT SEXY – EV­ERY­BODY STARES

the airbag set-up – while com­pe­tent – isn’t for me. I’d love to see what it drives like on a set of di­alled-in coil-overs. But hey, I re­ally am nit-pick­ing.

There’s noth­ing sub­tle about King Kong Cuda. It’s loud, it’s brawny and it’s down­right sexy – ev­ery­body stares. Chris is far more ag­gres­sive on the throt­tle than I’m dar­ing to be, and it re­ally plants you back in the seat when you get up it. At one set of lights, an overly ju­di­cious jab of the throt­tle re­sults in a firm step to the left. So while the car never feels like it wants to rip your head off, you’re in no doubt it’s not to be tri­fled with.

It’s all over way too soon. My nerves barely had time to set­tle to al­low me to re­ally en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence. And while I have to ad­mit, I couldn’t bring my­self to do a Jeremy Clark­son and flog the ab­so­lute liv­ing day­lights out of King Kong Cuda, lay­ing blacks wher­ever I went – though Chris demon­strated the car can do that with ease – I did log 35-odd min­utes of seat time, enough to leave me grin­ning like a Cheshire cat for the next cou­ple of days.

All that’s left to do is to head down to the pub to brag to the lads. No doubt they’ll tire of the story af­ter I tell them at least 100 times. But fugg, I drove King Kong Cuda!

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