This article on Mario's cars was originally published in the April 2018 issue of Street Machine magazine
SOME sheds are packed to the rafters with automotive-related paraphernalia: model cars, number plates, Summernats entrant stickers, old hubcaps, Street Machine back issues – you know the deal. Then there are garages that can blow mortal minds even with the walls bare, devoid of a single automotive reference. The shed of 44-year-old Western Sydney local is one such haven.
The western suburbs of Sydney are a mecca for modified muscle; our NSW photographers probably spend more time rumbling through the Wild West than any other part of Sydney, with scores of sheds in the region housing untold automotive riches.
Mario has lived out here for around 20 years, and his unassuming-looking shed contains enough of Holden’s finest to make our features editor Andrew Broadley weep. Tucked away, safe from the daily traffic of his electrician business, Mario’s Holden collection looks like the start of some glorious General Motors Aussie muscle museum, and it’s been growing for some 15 years.
In the family since Mario was just 18, this VH has been with him through thick and thin. Thanks to its most recent 12-year rebuild, the sedan (which was originally a six-cylinder SL) is an absolute stunner
“My first decent car was the VH that I still have now,” Mario says. “I was only 18 at the time and the car was a bit of a wreck. I paid $1000 for it with a six-cylinder in SL trim.”
Mario and his brothers were all Holden-mad, having grown up with a dad that always bought Holdens. “No one in the family has ever owned a Ford,” he says.
However, Mario is quick to point out that his urge to tinker came from elsewhere. “My parents didn’t really understand it,” he says. “They didn’t stop us, but weren’t an influence in that regard. They couldn’t justify spending money on cars like that. At the time it was the craze to buy a cheap car and do it up. One of my brothers had an HQ One Tonner, and another one had an HT Kingswood and HT ute. We did most of the work on the cars ourselves; there wasn’t much choice.”
Related: The Apap family's Torana collection
The VH’s straight-six was pretty quickly binned in favour of a 253ci V8, which in turn made way for the 308 that propelled the car to mid-12sec ETs at the old Eastern Creek strip. The HDT flavour that the car wears today was also an early aesthetic change. However, it wasn’t until its most recent 12-year rebuild – completed by Lowe Fabrications – that the VH became the show-stopper it is now.
This VL Walkinshaw came to Mario around a decade ago with 120,000km on the clock, a fresh exterior respray and damaged lower kit. Despite the car’s relatively high mileage, Mario says the interior was immaculate, and after some TLC, the ‘Batmobile’ cuts an imposing figure amongst the less ‘plastic’ models
Interestingly, Mario has only ever owned the cars that you see pictured here; he hasn’t been one to buy and sell on his way to automotive nirvana. “This is it – what I’ve got now,” he says. “I’ve never sold anything. After the VH, I got the GTR a few years after I got married. A few years later I bought the FX ute to rebuild, but that just got pushed to the side because the VH was still getting done.
“Once the Commodore finally got finished, I had to wait until I had the desire to start working on the FX again. I’ve had it about 12 years.”
Mario says the FX is almost finished, with final assembly taking place at the time of our conversation. It’s a ground-up factory resto being carried out by Burkie’s Automotive in Mulgrave, NSW. Mario says Burkie is “a Ford guy through and through, but he jumped at the opportunity of doing the FX, which actually shocked me at the time with how much he knew about the car.”
Despite what Mario says is a serious lack of documentation or official records, as far as he knows the FX will be a numbers-matching vehicle, complete with its 138ci grey motor, three-on-the-tree and red vinyl trim complete with rubber floor coverings. He’s looking forward to getting it home with the rest of his impressive collection – although he’s not yet sure how he’s going to fit it in!
With 95,000 miles on the clock and benefitting from a thorough resto some years ago, Mario's 327ci HK Monaro GTS is in incredible condition. Although he says he had to replace some foam in the original front seats and rebuild the brakes – a product of the car having sat still for too long
Perhaps the pièce de résistance in Mario’s collection is his latest acquisition: the sublime 327ci HK Monaro GTS in Warwick Yellow. “I overheard two people I knew talking about buying a Monaro at a car run,” Mario explains. “I mentioned to them that if they didn’t buy the car, I’d take a look at it. They then told me about the car I ended up buying, which was situated down in Melbourne.
Out of all his cars, the Monaro is the one Mario’s currently putting the most miles on
“The guys called me about it on a Wednesday and by that weekend I’d flown to Melbourne and bought it! It took two weeks to get the car back home from the time we agreed on the sale to when it reached my place. So there were plenty of sleepless nights!
Who wouldn’t want a genuine GTR XU-1 in the shed? This was Mario’s first serious car purchase and came to him pretty much as-is about 12 years ago. Powered by a 202ci six with triples on the side, it’s about as iconic as Toranas get – although Mario says he still wants an A9X to help complete the collection
“It was originally used by Shannons Insurance in their commercials and had a ground-up restoration. All the original panels had been retained. It even still has the original interior in it, except for some re-foaming that I had to have done to the front seats.”
Far from bemoaning all the time that Mario undoubtedly spends out in the shed, his wife Lorraine is actually all for it. “She encourages me to do the work on the cars,” he says. “Out of my three kids, Luke is the one who is into the cars. I think he gives me more of a reason to get out in them than anything.”