HAILING from the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Vincent De Rossi is of the generation that grew up with the burgeoning street machine scene. From the breakaway custom years of the early 80s, through to the extreme detail and quality found 30 years on, Vincent has seen plenty of styles come and go and owned many cool cars along the way. Let’s take a peek at some of the cars that have shared his journey.
Frank Shipp’s HQ wagon, ‘Mister Midnite’, left a huge impression on Vincent. “A mate and I would ride our dragsters the seven kays from Fairfield to Reservoir just to catch a glimpse of it,” he says. “Frank used to hang out with the boys at Devitt Panels who all had tough cars, and on a Saturday morning there would be a string of hotties parked out on Edwardes Street.” For a 16-year-old in 1978, it was nirvana, and left a lasting impression on Vincent when it came time to build his HQ Monaro.
Before purists and keyboard warriors existed, it was totally acceptable to take what would now be a classic body style and personalise it with custom mods. Stephen Day’s HK Monaro is an ex-SM feature car and turned the scene on its ear with huge flares, injection and massive – albeit untubbed – rubber. “Stephen’s HK was also a cover car for Australian Street Rodding magazine alongside Steve Langham’s blown HK Monaro, ‘G-Force Junkie’,” Vincent remembers. “From that moment on, all I could think of was building a car like this.”
Vincent got his first car in 1980, an HK Monaro powered by a 327 Chevy and four-speed Saginaw – just like Stephen Day’s. “I never did fulfil my dream of cloning his car but it did get me involved in street racing,” he laughs. “Lost some but won plenty at Cherry Lane, Mole Factory, Dandenong and Raglan Street. I had a ball! It was factory Warwick Yellow but the first owner wanted black, so the dealership had the car painted to make the sale. Rust was taking hold so I sold it on for $2100 in ’81.”
Here’s Vincent’s HQ Monaro coupe. “That grille – you have to remember it was the 80s!” he laughs. “Guys were still modifying cars with the nose-down/arse-up stance, yellow diffs and 13-inch chromies. We were coming out of the panel van craze too, so murals, metallic paint and heaps of chrome and detailing were king. I was influenced by all of that – the tunnel ram and velocity stacks were pure ‘Vanrat’. My HQ coupe had a bit of everything.” It was sold while on display at the 1983 Victorian Street Machine Show, and was rumoured to have returned to Melbourne in the mid-90s.
Vincent's Burnt Orange 1974 L34 Torana was an ex-race car that never tasted frontline action. It was used as a spare car for a race team but when Holden wanted payment, the owner had no choice but to sell. First registered in 1977, the Torrie featured the factory-fitted Holley carb, roller rockers, two-piece headers and twin-coil ignition system. It went hard and handled like it was on rails. The car was sold on in 1987 to make way for Vincent’s HG.
This HG Monaro looked white, but actually had a hint of blue. “It ran a heavily modified LT1 350 with a huge solid cam, M22 ‘Rock Crusher’ Muncie, V-Gate shifter and nine-inch with 4.11s.” It served as his daily driver and street racer but wasn’t very user-friendly. “It sucked down the drink like an alcoholic!” Vincent laughs. “As a daily car it was hopeless, but as a racer it was right up there and heaps of fun.”
A good, clean, honest 1967 RS Camaro was Vincent’s most recent ride, bought in 2007. Nothing too radical; just the original 327 and two-speed ’Glide along with nice wheels and tidy paint. “I got sick and tired of people trying to steal it,” he says. “I caught the last wannabe thief in my garage red-handed. It was the last straw, so I sold the car soon after, in 2011. I’ve regretted it ever since, so am keen to either find my old HQ Monaro or fill the void with another Camaro or Chevelle.”