IT’S 1985; Dario is 17, and his first car is this silver TC Cortina. “It was a two-litre/four-speed, and I made it look hot using silver frost for the wheels and a white tyre-lettering pen,” Dario laughs. “I worked part-time as a delivery driver for [1980s Brisbane icon] Silvio’s Dial-a-Pizza, and had heaps of fun tearing around with my mates. We all drove cars like this back then; Cortinas and Toranas were everywhere.”
WITH the Cortina sorting daily duties, Dario bought a $100 HD sedan for a project car. He built a mild 179 using X2 twin Strombergs, and fitted widened stocko rims. “The complete, running X2 set-up including carbs, linkages, manifold and air cleaner cost me $50 – those were the days!” he laughs. “I got a day permit for it and drove it across town through open headers to the exhaust shop. I had a ball!” Sadly, the HD was never registered after being smashed for rust during a roadworthy inspection, and ended its days at the local wreckers.
DARIO’S father, Bepi, bought this HR wagon from Leach Motors in Brisbane in ’68, when it was only six months old. “It was a factory two-tone blue-and-white Special and was our family car for years,” Dario remembers. “At 15, I started doing it up in time to get my licence, fixing all the rust, lowering it and fitting white, widened standard rims. My dad was still using it as his work hack but people kept telling him how nice it was so he didn’t want to give it up! I managed to pry it away from him in ’87, painted it white and fitted one of the first sets of Dragway Indy mags. I slotted a Trimatic in behind the 186 and drove it to the first Summernats in Canberra back in ’87, before selling it in ’89.”
MUNDY, Dario’s best mate, owned this factory 307 Chev-powered HK wagon. “He paid $1000 for it in 1985 and we thrashed the eyeballs out of it around his hometown of Tenterfield, doing burnouts and paddock-bashing. He’s giving me the thumbs down in this pic as I’d just blown the diff doing a burnout. Problem was, he’d sold it to some local stoners who were due to pick it up later that day. They weren’t fazed,” Dario laughs.
MANY of us have felt seller’s remorse, and it was Dario’s turn when he sold this HX Statesman. Bought in 1989, the Royal Plum luxo-cruiser ran a stout 308 and Turbo 400 and was unusual for being a six-seater with column-shift. “I’m a purist when it comes to the body jewellery so all the factory bling stayed intact. I replaced it in ’91 with a VL Calais Turbo.”
THIS tidy white XY Fairmont is still in the possession of Dario’s mate, Vinnie Tigani. “He’s owned it for 25 years; it was featured in Performance Street Car magazine back in the 80s. He bought it as a really clean, low-mileage car and the factory black interior is still in showroom condition. The engine bay is a chrome-plated time-warp and runs a tough 302 Windsor and C4. It’s currently copping a makeover and will hit the streets again soon.”
THIS VG Valiant Hardtop was built by Dario’s mate Paul Jones in the 80s with a 4bbl Hemi-six. “It was super-low at the best of times, but every Summernats he’d arrive in Canberra, back the torsion bars right off and fill the boot with Besser blocks to try and lower it underground!” Dario laughs. “This was in the days before Valiants became an acceptable cool streeter.”
DARIO’S current ride is this gold HQ Premier powered by a stout 355-cube Holden. “I bought it as a 40th birthday present to myself eight years ago,” he says. “The stroker engine was built by Chris Lidari and fitted by Johnny Iliff. I love my Holden engines. I’m fitting Chev Rallye wheels next, to make it more old-school and better match the reverse-cowl. Next up will be an HR wagon, which I’ll build like my dad’s in blue-and-white Special livery.”