Street Machine

MARK PARSONS

RIPLEY, QUEENSLAND

- STORY SIMON MAJOR

THIS month we wrap up our six-part series on the memorable and diverse car history of Mark Parsons. The nearly 50 cars we’ve delved into across five decades has only scratched the surface of the dozens of rides that shared Mark’s journey during that period. One thing is clear: Mark’s unwavering passion for a wide variety of rides has withstood the test of time amongst life and family commitment­s, and is unlikely to fade away anytime soon.

01: FOUND on Gumtree for $3000 as an unfinished project in Adelaide, this LJ Torana was freighted north by Mark and his son, Ricky. The four-cylinder donk had already been swapped out for a VN V6 Commodore engine and Turbo 700 trans, and it wasn’t long before the pair stripped it down to right a few wrongs. A six-cylinder Torana diff had been crudely adapted to the fourcylind­er trailing arms, so was swapped for a properly mounted, shortened VL Turbo Borgwarner assembly, residing under a re-tubbed rear end. “It sat a little higher than we wanted, but it looked the part with the period skinny slot mags on the front and fat US Racers on the rear with Hoosier rubber,” Mark says. “It had been plastered in go-fast stickers, which we removed, and we tweaked the otherwise stock donk with a bigger throttlebo­dy and MSD coils and leads. We never actually raced it, which is a shame as the power-to-weight was right up there, but Ricky found a mini-tubbed black HQ that he was keen on, so the LJ was sold to help fund that. So began Ricky’s journey with HQS!”

02: IN 2008, Mark found this 1955 Chevrolet two-door post in a shed in Greenbank, Queensland. It was imported as a totally original one-owner car apart from an already converted V8 and four-speed combo. He left the paint as is and went the gasser route, speccing it with a 327, Muncie four-speed and Oldsmobile diff. A Grant steering wheel, Schneider tacho and tramp rods helped to nail the look, rounded out by genuine 1960s 15x3.5in and 15x8.5in ET rims on rag front-runners and Hoosier rears. The only rust was in the floors, which was quickly sorted, while a set of fenderwell pipes running outside the rails and genuine 60s waterslide decals sealed the deal. “Ricky and I got busted by an unmarked cop car when street-tuning it through open headers, and it was confiscate­d for three days,” Mark says. “Thankfully that was before the threemonth confiscati­on rule came in for Queensland. In 2011 we moved back to NSW to Bonnells Bay, and the ’55 Chevy was sold and replaced with a blackwith-flames ’67 Camaro drag car. It was the dumbest thing I think I’ve ever done and I still miss that ’55.”

03: NOT that the aforementi­oned Camaro drag car was in any way a backwards step after the ’55. Raced as a carbied, 430-cube small-block car in the States and good for 8.60@155mph, the tubbed ’67 was imported as a turn-key race car; Mark then bought it out of Melbourne minus the engine. “It came with a Powerglide and Chevy 12-bolt diff – those USA guys love their brand allegiance – and the plan was to fit a blown big-block Chev and race it in the reboot of the Wild Bunch class,” Mark says. “Sadly, I never got around to it and it just sat in the garage while I was accumulati­ng parts. I sold it to buy my wife Sonja a VE Commodore as a daily driver and myself an HQ ute. The last I heard was that the Camaro’s Adelaide-based owner had resprayed it black and added factory stripes.”

04: MARK’S HQ ute was soon sold on, and he then spied this LH Torana for sale in Bendigo. “It came as a roller, but had previously run a tough 10-second 304 Holden engine backed by a Powerglide and nine-inch. I loved the 90s paintjob – there was green snot coming out of the alien airbrushed on the bonnet scoop! – and in its day it would have been a very cool thing,” Mark says. “A mate and I did a hell run to Victoria and back in an F350 towing a trailer, only stopping for fuel, then fitted a small-block Chev to the Torana soon after getting it home. I swapped out the wheels for Convo Pros and removed the scoop to have the air cleaner simply poking through the bonnet hole, but otherwise left it as is. By 2013, I could see the prices starting to creep up, so I sold it to a guy in Dubbo who fitted a carbied LS and uses it in burnout comps. I could have sold that car 20 times over; the phone never stopped ringing.”

05: WHEN Mark turned up at home with a 1982 IROC Camaro, the reception was far from warm: “Sonja hated it; the kids hated it; they told me to get rid of it because it was ‘ugly’, but I loved it!” Mark says. “I bought it really cheap and soon sold the original 305-cube small-block and non-electric Turbo 700 transmissi­on, which covered the purchase price, so it owed me nothing. On Aussie ebay, I found a shortened nine-inch and ladder-bar set-up to suit an ’82 IROC – how’s that for a fluke – which bolted straight up, so I sold the original diff and fitted a set of Weld Pro Stars. I was going to replace the emissions-strangled 305 with a tough small-block, but I sold it for $6500 as a roller, which was a good profit. The weird thing about that car was that it was factory righthand drive, so I would love to have known what its story was.”

06: AROUND 2014, Mark was still a self-confessed sucker for a cheap unfinished project. He found this HT Premier that the seller had lost interest in after having it resprayed in Cyan, so Mark scooped it up with plans to build a tough streeter with big-block power. He fitted the original nine-inch out of his son Ricky’s HQ and added some fresh wheels to complete its look. “I ended up selling it for $15,000 as a roller to a bloke in Burpengary, north of Brisbane. The only catch was I had to deliver it. As you can imagine, there was no way I was coming back to NSW with an empty trailer, so I lined up a new purchase to grab on the way home.”

07: THAT new purchase turned out to be a turn-key 1968 Camaro drag car running a 500hp small-block Chev and Powerglide driveline. “My youngest daughter, Alycia, was keen to race, so I figured this would be the perfect starting point for her,” Mark says. “The original builder in the US had raced it to raise money for cancer research after losing his wife, hence the pink paint, but it had found its way to Coffs Harbour. Alycia kind of lost interest so I sold the engine and ’box to a local bloke and the roller to a guy in New Zealand. It was full steel, that thing, including the lift-off front. Alycia later bought a 10-second Ford Capri, so she still had the racing bug to get out of her system!”

08: MARK has owned around 30 HQS over the years, including a number of utes, and found this gem in Tamworth back in 2015. “It had no hubcaps, an ugly bull-bar, and the chrome – like the door handles and tail-light surrounds – had been painted over, but I had a vision of how neat it could be. I lowered it and tidied up the interior, buffed the paint and added hubcaps and new mirrors along with having a tarp made. I stripped the painted chrome and it was the perfect swap-meet and parts hauler, humming along with a 202 sixcylinde­r and four-speed. A year on and I could see prices rising again, so I sold it to a buyer in Sydney for $10,000, which netted me a tidy $4000 profit. It was a really reliable old jigger.”

09: THIS Skyview Blue XA Falcon is one of Mark’s current projects, which he bought out of Toowoomba three years ago for $4000. “I will never sell it – I’m serious!” he laughs. “I’m building it as a replica GT in a style to make it look like a full-on, beaten-up survivor that’s been dragged out of a shed after 30 years. If any parts that are original factory XA GT turn up for sale, I buy them, including the driving lights and brackets, the dash, seats, door trims, fuel cap – you name it. There is not one piece of reproducti­on GT stuff on the car. The bonnet is the only deviation from this, as I had the scoop reliefs pressed in so I could keep the matching worn paint, but the scoops themselves are genuine GT.” Blackouts have been added to the worn factory paint, while the six-cylinder and column auto are being replaced with a 600hp stroker Clevo, built by well-known racer Tony O’connor of Toca Performanc­e. A Top Loader manual transmissi­on and disc-brake nine-inch will make it fun to drive, especially as Mark plans to race it at hillclimb events and street sprints. “It’ll sit on its guts with stiff suspension, and I’ve even hunted down genuine 1973 12-slots and 1970s flat-lip ROH Pro Sprint wheels for street and race duties. I like it shitty-looking, too, so it’s bound to be a heap of fun.”

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