SOMETIMES the cars that are the most fun are the ones that cost the least to build.
This article was originally published in the August 2010 issue of Street Machine
It’s certainly true of the famous Burrito Dorado Brougham (SM, Dec ’84/Jan ’85), built by four blokes from Nalinga, Victoria, for the sixth Street Machine Nationals, in 1984.
“I’ve built 40-50 cars since the Brougham,” Tom James, who was a partner in the car with John Bell, Geoff Gollan and Geoff Barkley, says. “It was probably the roughest thing I’ve ever been involved with but it’s the one that people still talk about all these years later!”
Now this is how to trim a car — bathroom carpet from K-Mart, chain steering wheel (made from an old Maxrob unit) and a chandelier
“The Brougham was a pretty good car to start with. A mate bought it for $200 for the running gear and sold off some of the panels. One of the guys had some Monaro doors, so we thought: ‘Can we put those together?’ It turned out to be pretty easy.”
Where did the lowrider concept come from? “A mate and I went on a holiday to the US,” Tom says. “We saw plenty of lowriders over there. No-one was doing it over here, so we thought we’d give it a go.”
They lowered the car with 13in Skog rims, air shocks, 4in lowering blocks, cut front coils and some rear leaves removed. The interior features bathroom carpet, a chain tiller, chandelier and a mirrored bar in the boot. The finishing touch was Tom’s wild paint. “It was white with a gold roof but it looked too plain, so we dreamed up the graphics, using left-over paint.”
But what happened to this forebear of today’s Summernats cruisers? “We revamped the car in blue for Summernats ’88. It was a lot better finished than the first version but it didn’t get anywhere near as much attention. It was a heap of fun both times and of course we drove it to the Nats and back both times. After that we were all starting to get settled down with kids and that, so we sold it to a car yard in Albury. It went through a number of yards until a young girl found it in Car City in Nunawading and fell in love with it. She took it to the island of Nauru and as far as we know it’s still there.”
So was that real booze in the mirrored boot bar? “Nah, just cold tea!” Tom laughs. “We could have sold them 1000 times over”
Since the Brougham, Tom’s builds have included restoring an FX custom coupe (SM Hot Rod Annual 2004) and a factory-style HK Monaro convertible. “Our kids have inherited the bug,” he says. “One son has a speedway-style FJ ute and the other has a LS1-powered VL and races jet sprint boats. Our daughter was born the year we built the Brougham. She would love me to build her a replica, but you can’t buy them for $200 any more!”
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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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