This article on John's Chevy Tahoe was originally published in issue no.7 of Street Machine's LSX Tuner magazine, 2018
BY HIS own admission, John Massara doesn’t really know a lot about cars, but that sure as hell hasn’t stopped him from owning a bunch of cool rides from the moment he was old enough to reach the pedals. His first car was an HJ Premier with a 253, then there was a Mustang, and an LJ GTR Torana fitted with a 327 and an exhaust that ran toward the front of the car and under the guards. There were many others over the years, but those three were the ones he kept the longest – but not as long as his Tahoe.
John brought the car into the country in 2000 when it was only a few years old. He had it converted to right-hand drive by Joe at MCI, lowered it, and bolted on the Boyd Coddington Sting Ray 17-inch wheels, which must’ve seemed massive at the time.
John drove the Tahoe regularly, even using it to deliver fruit when he first started his business, but one of the main reasons he wanted the six-seater, two-door SUV was so that he could fit his four kids in and go cruising.
These things usually sit pretty high from stock, but they look much better lowered and with wheels that fill up the wells perfectly. With a slightly narrowed 9in, those big 275s under the rear sit just right
About seven years ago, the car copped a bit of a birthday with a fresh coat of paint courtesy of Paul La Sala at Sunbury Collision Centre, although he couldn’t help himself and had to tweak the metallic blue for a bit of extra sparkle. Everything was still in perfect condition, so the chrome on the bumpers and grille is all original.
The Tahoe was painted about seven years ago and still looks a million bucks. John’s not quite sure how much the truck was lowered, but it must be at least six inches
The Tahoe came from the factory equipped with a TPI 350 rated at 250hp, but John wanted a lot more grunt.
“I rebuilt the 350 but it was still no good and the engine bay was just a mess – wires, pipes everywhere,” he says. “So I spoke to a mate of mine and he goes: ‘Mate, just put a 6.0-litre in.’ So I threw a 6.0-litre in it and wasn’t happy with it; it wasn’t strong enough.”
Plenty of room for a few boxes of fruit, and that’s exactly what John used the Tahoe for when he first set up his business
At that point John went to VCM Performance and asked Mario Pancione to throw a supercharger on it.
It wasn’t that there was a problem with the motor in its aspirated form. After all, it was screwed together by Stef Buccella at Westernlink Automotive, owner and driver of the seven-second LC Torana ALLGDUP. The bones of the build came from a wrecked Caprice, but it’s been completely rebuilt with an Eagle stroker kit that takes it out to 408ci – or 6.7 litres in new money. Stef also gave the square-port heads a bit of a tickle-up, which no doubt came in handy once the blower got bolted on top.
It looks like it'll drop straight in, but it was a fair bit of work getting all of the brackets right for the ancillaries
To their credit, the boys at VCM got the job done, but it wasn’t straightforward, even though VCM do their own Magnuson Heartbeat blower kits.
“It was definitely a job and a half,” explains Mario. “We used one of our VE/VF kits but it was a full custom fit from the low-temperature radiator to the cable throttlebody, which fouled on the a/c pulleys. The blower itself is pretty straightforward, it bolts on, but it’s all the ancillaries, all the hoses, all the wiring, the pump, we had clearance issues with belts and pulleys, you name it. It was a case of piece-by-piece.”
The Tahoe was imported in 2000 when just a few years old, so it had to be converted to RHD. It’s such a tidy job, it looks as though it left the factory this way
It’s clearly come together pretty well because it makes over 400kW at the rear wheels, which is more than enough to get the heavy SUV scooting along, although John doesn’t have any plans to race it. For now, he’s quite happy to just cruise around, although Stef has other ideas.
“Stef tuned it a couple of weeks ago and boosted it up to the 400," John says. “VCM likes to keep it safe; Stef likes to keep it wild. I’ve never raced it but Stef wants to take it one day. I said: ‘If you want to drive it it’s up to you, but if anything happens you take it to your workshop and you fix it!’”
<palign="center">The B&M Quicksilver might give some a clue that something’s going on. John lunched four Turbo 700 ’boxes before switching to a Turbo 400. He might have lost some cruising mileage but at least it hasn’t blown up!
So how did John manage to build so many cool cars without much mechanical knowledge? With the help of friends and family, of course.
“My brother Joe has been there from day one,” he says. “Whatever time I call him, day or night, he’s worked on my cars ever since I was 17. I was in my 20s and he rebuilt my ’66 Mustang from scratch. He’s 10 years older than me, but he loved those days. He’d be in the garage working while I was going to the market at one or two o’clock in the morning.”
John has had a bunch of cars over the years but the wildest would have to be his LJ GTR Torana fitted with a 327 Chev and a crazy front-exit exhaust system!
Friends, family, having a good time and making memories. That’s why we do this crazy thing we do.
1997 CHEVROLET TAHOE
Paint Custom metallic blue
Type: LS2 408ci
Blower: Magnuson Heartbeat 2300
Heads: Ported L98 square-port
Radiator: Custom with twin fans
Exhaust: Custom 3in
’Box: Turbo 400
Converter: TCH high-stall
Diff: 9in, 3.7:1 gears
Front end: Lowered stock
Steering: Stock power steering
Brakes: SSBC disc brakes (f & r)
Rims: Boyd Coddington Sting Ray 17x8 (f & r)
Rubber: Goodyear 235/60/17 (f), Roadstone 275/55/17 (r)
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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