Street Machine - - Contents -

WHAT on earth is hap­pen­ing to the mod­i­fied car hobby? Not a day goes by where I don’t see a so­cial me­dia post ei­ther seed­ing for neg­a­tive ban­ter or bla­tantly shit­can­ning an old photo of a mod­i­fied street ma­chine or early Aussie cus­tom. These posts are filled with hollers of “what a waste”, “wrecked a clas­sic” and “should have left it stock”, com­ments that go com­pletely against the legacy that our hot rod­ding fore­fa­thers cre­ated by buck­ing the re­stored car es­tab­lish­ment.

Do peo­ple think those blurry pics were taken ear­lier to­day? Do the skin-tight shorts, cans of Tab cola and fully marked pack­ets of Win­nie reds in the back­ground not mark the time­frame clearly enough? How do you ‘wreck a clas­sic’ when the car was prob­a­bly only a few years old when the shot was taken and the model in ques­tion was a dime a dozen? And heaven for­bid it’s a re­cent pic of a car that has sur­vived the rav­ages of time to help plant our his­tor­i­cal foot­print! That doesn’t mean it was built last month. Even if it was, there’s a good chance it may have been saved from dis­ap­pear­ing for­ever.

Sure, ev­ery­one is en­ti­tled to an opin­ion, but that doesn’t jus­tify ex­er­cis­ing a lack of re­spect. I re­alise that 70s and 80s cus­toms can be an ac­quired taste, and not all car builds will be to ev­ery­body’s lik­ing and that’s fine, but at the end of the day it’s our mod­i­fied car his­tory, and to me den­i­grat­ing that is just plain sad.

This type of pub­lic lynch­ing used to fo­cus on 70s and 80s cus­toms, but now I’m see­ing it bleed into 60s-era Aussie cus­toms, drag cars and burnout cars too. An un­e­d­u­cated soul posted a pic of Val Neil’s iconic EH cus­tom sedan that was built in the 60s, claim­ing it was ugly and should have been left stock. Why? Be­cause there’s not enough stock-look­ing EHS left? It is a mile­stone cus­tom that de­serves re­spect. It has thank­fully sur­vived nearly five decades in its cur­rent guise and should be ap­pre­ci­ated as such, not hung out to dry to be bagged by an id­iot.

At the other end of the scale, a mod­ern­day full-comp To­rana hatch copped a re­cent flog­ging, with cries it had been “wrecked” and “ru­ined”, an­other car “wasted” be­cause it can’t be street-driven.

Let’s be clear: We aren’t re­stor­ers. We are hot-car peo­ple who chop, change, shoe­horn and gen­er­ally mix things up! This brew­ing ha­tred and neg­a­tiv­ity is dis­re­spect­ing our creed and decades of our ‘peo­ple’ – folks like you and me, who’ve welded, painted and wrenched on cars spin­ning straw into gold, along­side fam­ily, part­ners and best mates, all to cre­ate a ride they can be proud of and set them­selves apart from the pack.

I un­der­stand that donor cars are get­ting harder to find for projects and post-’41 cars aren’t be­ing punched out in fi­bre­glass to swell the avail­able num­bers the way pre-’41 cars now are to pro­vide hot rod fod­der. But most dead-stock clas­sics leave this earth through nat­u­ral at­tri­tion, parts sup­ply or be­ing used as pad­dock bash­ers; a few get a new lease on life thanks to young folks with an eye for cus­tomis­ing and a de­sire to stamp their in­di­vid­u­al­ity. Which is the worse fate?

I don’t hear any­one com­plain­ing about de­mo­li­tion der­bies, the old To­rana speed­way classes that gob­bled up count­less LCS and LJS, or HQ rac­ing – plenty of ‘clas­sics’ were ‘wrecked’ via those means. And you know why they were sac­ri­ficed? Be­cause 30 and even 20 years ago there was a seem­ingly end­less sup­ply of these cars and they weren’t worth shit. So why com­plain about cars built dur­ing the same era that weren’t kept stock-bod­ied? It makes no sense. The mod­ern-day equiv­a­lents of these cars are VT Com­modores and AU Fal­cons, so I guess the haters bet­ter start bundling them to­gether to pro­tect these fu­ture ‘clas­sics’. That sounds silly, right? And that’s how it would have sounded all those years ago too – it’s a cyclic thing.

I guess the street ma­chin­ing great di­vide is the main is­sue here. You can drop in a moun­tain mo­tor, re­work the floor­pan to tub a car and cut a gap­ing hole in your bon­net – non-gts of course – and that’s all Kool & The Gang, but flare the guards or change the grille and you’re an out­cast. Chop the roof on a real-steel hot rod or non-re­pro 50s car and you’re a leg­end, but do any sig­nif­i­cant iden­tity-al­ter­ing mods to a street ma­chine and it’s game over.

It’s a mind­set rem­i­nis­cent of hot rod­ding in the 70s. Cut­ting up 40-year-old cars be­came taboo back then as well, with chan­nelled, fend­er­less rods of the 50s and 60s be­ing met with dis­dain, so many 70s rods were built stock-bod­ied with all the factory jew­ellery over de­cent run­ning gear and wheels – ex­actly the trend we are see­ing with 40-year-old cars to­day. This stock trend didn’t last, but it’s an im­por­tant part of our rod­ding fam­ily tree, be­fore in­di­vid­u­al­ity along with a love for tra­di­tional styling be­came popular again.

Will that be the case for street ma­chines? I hope so, but the way the LS de­bate rages on – and they’re be­ing fit­ted to stock-bod­ied cars mind you – with cries of ‘you can’t fit a Ford/gm/chrysler/tuner donk into any­thing but a Ford/gm/chrysler/tuner’, sounds way more like a re­storer mind­set to me than that of the hot rod­ding grass­roots that spawned our sport. Rod­ders would jam what­ever donks they could find into what­ever they had if it meant go­ing quicker and be­ing dif­fer­ent to the bloke parked nearby.

In 20 or 30 years’ time the keyboard-war­rior sledg­ing will prob­a­bly be di­rected to­wards what is cur­rently hot to­day: big-di­am­e­ter rims mixed with dead-stock ex­te­ri­ors, the style loved by many of the ‘what a waste’ and ‘wrecked a clas­sic’ crowd. So pre­pare your­selves. His­tory has proven time and again that what is gen­uinely popular with the masses in a given era tends to be con­sid­ered aw­ful by the sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tion.

At the end of the day, what’s done is done. Some cars are still here and some are gone. We keep our cars liv­ing on, so let’s em­brace our mod­i­fied car her­itage and take the time to ap­pre­ci­ate the crafts­man­ship and pas­sion that peo­ple pour into their own rides, whether it’s to your taste or not. The hap­pi­est folks in the car scene seem to be the ones that re­spect the pas­sion rather than pay heed to the un­wanted or un­in­formed opin­ions of others.


LEG­ENDS, ALL: Ron Is­sazadeh’s Ea­gle One HQ Monaro (SM, Jan­feb ’82), Peter Abela’s Dr Death Lan­dau (Oct­nov ’86), Gary Satara’s OVAKIL (Dec ’86) and Val Neil’s im­mor­tal EH

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