Last weekend saw the annual Camperdown Cruise fire up once again bringing rockabilly fans from all over the country for the four day festival held at Camperdown in south west Victoria. This historic town opens its doors every year as rockabilly bands from around the world converge on the little town ready to bring a taste of the fifties back to its tree laden streets. Read More →
What do you do when you’ve spent the last thirty years building elite show cars and all you want now is a driver that you can enjoy with your wife or take to car shows? You know that if you build one yourself, it’s not going to turn out to be the driver you had planned on but will most likely end up back on the elite show circuit. The best plan is to buy one ready done and just make the alterations yourself which should see you not strip to the bare bones and build it back up…as long as you keep a tight leash on yourself!
Peter Olver found himself in this predicament, having spent the last few decades building a number of top award winning street rods which consisted of a ’32 Roadster ,’33
coupe, ’32 three window and ’34 Sedan. Having stepped away from the scene in the early 2000s and moving his attention to other priorities, Peter still had a hankering for something that would satisfy the classic V8 urge running through his veins. While on a trip to the States, he was down in Dallas, Texas and came across a neat 1955 Chevrolet 150 post for sale. “I liked the simplicity of it, the fact that it has very little trim on it gives it a clean look” says Pete. Largely ignored for many years by the American modified car scene, these two door budget rides came out in their day with sparse trim on the body and lend themselves well to being modified as a cool cruiser and are now just starting to attract attention. With a previous build on the shoebox Chevy completed in 2004 and with very little miles put on the clock since then, the car was relatively fresh. Having a good look over it, Pete was satisfied it had been done properly and he layed down the required green backs before shipping it back to our shores.
With a stroked and detailed 400 c.i. Chevy donk pushing out 500 HP located in the smoothed engine bay and backed up by a Turbo 700 box, this baby’s no slouch on the street and could do alright on the strip too. All that power is fed to the road thanks to a 1959 Corvette rear end . By running the Corvette’s single leaf spring setup, it allows those tough looking 17” American Racing wheels to slot perfectly under the rear quarters while 16” rims up front finish it off in the rolling stock department. Two inch drop spindles and three inch lowering blocks give it that timeless stance that suits this classic American iron so well.
The Tropical Turquoise Blue sedan arrived in Australia in February and after getting it home, Pete subsequently set about partially tearing it down to arrange the necessary adjustments to his own liking. Pete resides in country Victoria and with mainly two lane roads between himself and his destinations, driving on the left side of a vehicle has its challenges especially when it comes to overtaking maneuvers around large vehicles. Visibility becomes a serious problem and for this reason, he converted it to right hand drive using a power rack and pinion steering kit from Rod Collins. To help with the road performance, tubular A arms replace the old 1955 units allowing for a better castor on the front wheels giving the driver greater steering control. Stopping power is courtesy of a set of aftermarket discs up front while drums do their anchoring duty at the rear.
The paint job has been left relatively untouched as it is still in excellent condition from its last respray and Pete didn’t want to mess with the subtle mauve and blue pin striping which adorns both flanks of the car and the boot. With the bonnet and boot shaved of its jewelry, Pete enhanced that smooth look by bolting on a set of aftermarket “smoothy” bumpers, doing without the over riders and bolt caps. To complete the minimal theme, the taillights were swapped for a set of custom items while upfront, custom Headwing headlights give the operator better night vision also vital for driving on country roads. Those roos don’t appreciate classic rides like we do! To keep it as the driver it is intended to be, the underside of the tri-five Chev has been finished in a standard sub frame black making it easy to clean, no detailing required! While we’re under here, exhaust gasses exit via extractors modified to suit the right hand conversion through to a twin system with tailpipes tucked neatly under the bumper.
While the outside maintains a minimal look in the bright work department, inside it’s a different story with all chrome and alloy trim retained. Complimenting the classic trim is a set of aftermarket billet dash inserts and an Ididit steering column with old school column shift. A full set of Dolphin gauges look the part while helping Pete keep an eye on all vital information regarding mechanicals and electricals. A cool optional extra found on this ride are the wind down rear windows giving the rear passengers that “air through the hair” feeling when cruising. The interior had been upholstered in tweed with turquoise piping but Pete prefers the feel of leather and had the seats, roof and door trims redone by Phil of Daylsford Upholstery in tan leather with matching carpet. To keep a consistent look throughout, the boot received the same makeover including spare tire and battery box. The original A/C and heater controls keep the ’55 theme alive while operating the aftermarket aircon which is vital on those hot summer days. Peter from Creswick Auto Electrical was given the job of rewiring the whole car and has done a great job of hiding the bundles of coloured spaghetti.
Pete plans on keeping this one in his company along with his VC Brock Commodore and CVZ8 Monaro although, with a twinkle in his eye, he says there maybe plans brewing for a ’32 rod……just as a driver though!! Yeah, right Pete!!
With 40 degree Celsius weather forecast for the first day of the 11th Kustom Nationals, fans of this event could be excused for deciding to keep their rides tucked away while chilling out in the comfort of an air conditioned room somewhere, preferably with a drink in hand, but anyone who attended Friday nights opening event held along the picturesque foreshore of San Remo will testify that this did not happen! We arrived late afternoon and were amazed to see the huge number of cars and bikes parked up ready to take in all that the Nats could offer. Read More →
What is it about Rockabilly festivals that draws the crowds? Is it the vibrant colours of the 50s and 60s and the sound of rock and roll music mixed with the rumble of old school V8 exhaust systems reverberating throughout the show? Is it the ability to take you back to a time of apparent innocence before you were born or, if you were lucky enough to experience this time, is it the memories this atmosphere unlocks from the nether regions of your mind and come flooding back to you? What ever it is, the rockabilly era is still alive and well, strongly supported by those who refuse to live by today’s social rules and choose to do it their way. These rebels of today’s current social standings have fashioned a community dedicated to the preservation of this past time in all its artistic glory.
To fittingly showcase such a festival, one has to find a suitable backdrop in order for it to take on a life of its own and only in the preservation of country towns can such a backdrop be sourced. Camperdown, found along the Princes highway in South West Victoria, two and half hours out of Melbourne settled amongst lush green plains and extinct volcanoes is such a place. Having managed to fend off the encroaching arm of modern architecture and maintain a perfect time capsule of a bygone era, it lends itself perfectly to this style of celebration. With its historic buildings, wide tree laden streets and clock tower as the centerpiece, Camperdown maintains that indispensable layback atmosphere required for a weekend of cultural festivity seeing the locals embrace travelers from all across the country as they descend on the quiet little town.
The festival runs over a full weekend allowing punters to wholly absorb the street atmosphere, with its wide array of automotive art on display, from old school constructed hot rods to classic custom led sleds covered in period style paint jobs and pin striping while being complimented by a cacophony of other modified vehicles in all styles and marques. Trade stands a plenty run the length of the wide grassy center island which separates the main road from the side road giving old and new rockers an opportunity to update the rides or wardrobes.
As darkness descends on the country town, it comes alive with the sounds of rock and roll thanks to an assortment of rockabilly style bands skillfully keeping the cultural theme alive and kicking. They come from all corners of the country with some bands and singers coming from as far as Sweden and Spain! With names like The String Busters and Danny & the Cosmic Tremors, the rock and rollers were guaranteed to be kicking their heels up until well after the midnight hour! The weekend finishes up Sunday arvo with the obligatory thank yous and trophy presentation seeing one lucky entry get the privilege of having his or her car grace the next official advertising displays for the following year’s party.
A big congratulations needs to go out to Arthur and his team who proficiently organize and execute this event every year seeing it go off without a hitch…well, none that we see anyway. So, if you’re up for a taste of the rock and roll past, feel like submerging yourself into the fifties atmosphere, then pack up the teardrop caravan, hitch it to the back of your classic ride and mosey on down to Camperdown next year for a rockin’ good time!
Keep on cruzin’