It might be a tiger economy but Indonesia has a love affair with an Aussie icon
This article on Holdens in Jakarta was originally published in the December 2011 issue of Street Machine
YOU know that warm feeling you get when you meet someone whose shared interest reassures you that you’re not mad? Just had one of those moments. Well, actually a five-day binge of it, and not in a place I’d have expected it to happen.
The name ‘Indonesia’ conjures many images. Crushingly oppressive tropical heat and a colourful political history are high on the list but street machining wasn’t even pencilled on as an afterthought. Now it’s right at the top.
The streets of the capital, Jakarta, thrum to the lives of 9.5 million people. The sights, sounds and smells are deliciously alien, yet amongst the hive-like rows of shopping centres and the buzzing swarms of scooters, there’s something that makes the city seem just a little more familiar.
Indonesians drive on the correct side of the road. That means their country is a ready-made market for right-hook cars and Holden has never been one to miss a trick when it comes to exporting its wares. In the 70s and 80s, the US-backed Suharto government invited foreign investment and created one of the region’s fastest-growing economies.
The Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s hit the country hard and shook Suharto from power but while the world now has eyes only for China and India, Indonesia has found its feet again and set its sights on breaking into the global economic top 10. And one thing we do know is that wherever you may wander, cars and money go hand in hand.
Ronald Schwarze (red SS, right) is 35 but fell in love with the Holden utes when he was in junior high. "Seven years ago I saw an ad for this ute and I took it home the next day," he said
The number of Bentleys getting around tells you that there is money. What we couldn’t predict was that there’d be diehard Holden fans in Jakarta who live, breathe and love the brand every bit as much as you do. More, perhaps, when you discover the crippling expense of running an old imported car there.
We got the first hint of it when we started the Street Machine Facebook page — Indonesians are probably the biggest group of non-Aussie fans and from their photos you can see they do exactly what we do. They add blowers and fat rubber, dump the suspension good and low and generally enjoy being loud, being seen and having fun. About the biggest difference is that ‘street legal’ is a far greyer term there and the right kind of grease in the appropriate palm will help officials see things your way.
The pink theme runs right through Puri Damika's HQ Prem, which still runs the 253 and packs a monster hifi along with the wicked stance
Yet I still wasn’t prepared for what I found. I emailed Galih Laksono, a Facebook SM fan, for help in organising my visit and the day I chose him I should have bought a lottery ticket. He and his wife, Indi, picked me up at the airport, then ferried me around the city for five packed days of motoring fun.
This engine-building dynamic duo know everyone in the local V8 scene (if it’s V8, it lives in South Jakarta), and if you met them at Powercruise in Sydney, you’ll have felt how passionate they are about Holden.
Sadly, Galih’s HQ was off the road for a major birthday including a 383 Chev, and Indi’s 502-powered HK Monaro is still in the build, but during the biggest holiday in the country - Eid, the end of Ramadan, when Indonesians head home to be with their families — they rounded up an impressive turnout.
Night or day, traffic here makes Sydney’s worst rush hour seem light. To get away from that, our gang met up in the immense parking area of a sports stadium. But you can’t escape the climate. If you’re reading this in Darwin during ‘the build-up’, you’ll know what it was like — by 10.30 in the morning we were keeping to the shade. But it was worth it. The cars ranged from rough to super-smooth, near-stock to race-ready, legal to ‘legal’. Exactly as you’d find on an Aussie cruise.
Rizky Nasution and his take on the Premier theme, a 1974 HQ dubbed Lady Luck
And just like us, these people are driving the cars their dads and grandfathers drove. They have something else in common with us — memories of growing up in the back seat, dreaming of the day they’d be in the driving seat.
Dewa Arthur drives this sweet '72 HQ Prem. It has his grandfather's car but between then and now it was home to a monkey! "I gathered the parts and built the car slowly," he said. He also has a '73 Kingswood wagon and '73 LJ Torana
The difference you can’t see is that everything on them costs at least three times as much as you’d pay in Oz. Ever dreamed about one of those engines in the Eagle ads on the back of Street Machine? They do here too — because they’d pay LSX 454 money for a basic 350 small-block Chev. And there aren’t too many wreckers they can visit to find HQ parts.
In Aussie terms, these members of the Holden Indonesia club had left their families on Christmas Eve to satisfy the curiosity of a foreign mag, yet they all seemed happy to have the excuse to spend time with their cars and their friends. They made rude jokes, shared photos on their mobiles and when it was time to start their engines, they were all smiles and lead feet. Before they went, they shook my hand and had photos with me, before sprinting home, honking goodbyes at each other and turning heads as they went.
In a city where contrasts and colour are the norm, it’s pleasing to see that a gaggle of old Aussie cars still has the power to surprise.
If Galih and Indi Laksono (below) ever get bored of building engines they could run Indonesia's tourist industry - they put together a fantastic five-day itinerary that included cars, sightseeting and all corners of Indonesia's wonderfully varied cuisine.
In his youth, Galih turned Dad's old HQ Prem into an unbeatable street racing legend. With the mighty 253 up front, he took on all corners. It culminated with police closing roads in the city for an 'illegal' drag race against the son of General Suharto that Galih was advised to lose. He didn't. It cost him many glances over the shoulder but you can't put a price on the kudos.
Indi is a girl from the other side of the tracks - the good side. The shy daughter of a family of doctors, she was headed the same way untili a friend introduced her to the bad boy with the fast car. It changed her life and she's happiest now threading a V8 valvetrain together.
Galih is also putting the finishing touches to a hovercraft he was commissioned to help design and build for the military. It's V8-powered, naturally.
I didn't expect to find 15 classic Holdens in all of Jakarta, so meeting Henry 'Badrik' Sabara (above right) was a shock. "I wanted to collect muscle cars and thought I should start with something familiar.
Why so many? Holdens are getting rare due to them being victims in events like monster truck shows. Someone had to rescue them."
His favourite is a 186S HT Munro as there are only about six HK-HG Munros in the country. Second favourite is the HT Brougham, all matching numbers and possibly the last one in Indonesia.
Yellow Mama Statesman (above) is named after an electric chair in Alabama because its 500ci Cadillac big-block is just as scary!
Depending on your motoring tastes, you may be familiar with a couple of other magazines — Classic & Sports Car and Motor Trend. To satisfy the same palate, Azman Ozman (below) publishes local versions of both mags.
He also runs a couple of workshops — one is in the backyard of the magazine office — rebuilding cars that may go on to feature in his magazines. How’s that for inspiration? If that’s not enough, he gets around in a totally factory Z28 that has won its own weight in trophies and was reborn in just 20 days.
Well, when he’s not tracking down insane Renault 5 Turbos, dragging old Mercedes out of rivers or tickling up his Lotus.
HAUWKE’S AUTO GALLERY
The knockout punch on this surprise motoring tour was delivered by a cigar-smoking, beer-drinking man who has a motor museum in his backyard.
You might know him if you worked in a Nissan dealership on Parramatta Road in the 70s. Hartawan ‘Hauwke’ Setjodiningrat studied engineering in Sydney and learned his love of cars from the Aussies.
His love of beer he attributes to the Germans he later worked with at BMW. Seems backwards but that’s what he said. Back home, he was soon making interior parts for Daihatsu.
Now he owns a factory making interiors for the likes of Honda and Toyota. He shops locally, loves to keep important cars in the country (such as the unique ex-presidential convertible Chrysler Imperial above), targets fixer-uppers rather than rollers, and even skins his own knuckles working on them.
He also loves military-spec Mercedes G-Wagens and has 14 of them, from 1979 to about two months ago. What’s here is just the finished stuff; in a warehouse he has 60 more cars awaiting his attention, including an XY Falcon. See? There is a Ford in Jakarta.