Gaythorne, Brisbane is home to one car collector who has dedicated his life to his passion.
Part of the fun when it comes to buying and building cars is the thrill of the hunt for that elusive model or part. Peter Le Pla is a master of that particular art and has owned an extensive array of cars in his 46 years. His friendly nature and willingness to go the extra mile when hunting for classics has bagged him a number of gems, ranging from one-owner stockers through to desirable Yankee iron and Aussie muscle cars.
Peter's dad John has always been a car guy, and this is him with a two-year-old Peter and Peter’s late mum, Jenny. “The green S-Series Valiant was Dad’s, while the white one was his mate’s car,” Peter says. “I love this photo. Growing up in a car family meant following the same passion was virtually a given. We were always too broke to get into trouble dabbling with anything else!”
Peter worked as a garbo in the early 90s and used to spot plenty of cars while doing his rounds. “I found this XK wagon in Ashgrove, Brisbane, and bought it off an old guy for $600. It was a dead stocker running the six-cylinder with automatic trans; I just lowered it and then drove it everywhere. It had an original 54,000 miles on the clock and was actually the first ever Falcon wagon sold in Queensland, straight off the Ford display at the 1960 Brisbane Exhibition.”
In 1995 Peter was punting around a very neat HQ GTS four-door, when the desire to own a Chev became too much. “I was at a Chevy Super Sunday and spotted this 350-powered ’61 Impala for sale. I grabbed the seller’s details and said I’d give him a call as I really needed to sell my Monaro first. His ears pricked up, I told him what I had and we did a straight swap later that afternoon,” Peter recalls. “That’s my brother Allan on the left, cousin Adam in the middle and me sporting the mullet!” The other pic shows Peter and his mate Garry cutting loose at the old Lawnton Powernats; an iconic Brisbane car show of the era. The ’61 was eventually traded for a ’60 convertible project, which is now owned by Aussie band Sheppard.
Peter loves his ’61s, and this turquoise Impala was bought back in 2002. A 350/350 combo made for a reliable cruiser, while the 17-inch Torq Thrust rims were big-inch items back then. The ’61 was a regular sight on Brisbane roads for the next three years, before being sold to help fund the ’60 convertible build.
Peter's dad bought this XT GT in 1979. “It was our family car for the next decade, doing all the daily chores and towing our caravan interstate,” he says. “It was put up on blocks in the early 90s until I bought it off him in 2006, and have used it as my regular driver ever since. It is still in original, unrestored condition and purrs along nicely with the factory 302 Windsor, Top Loader and 8.75in diff. The paint is sad and there are a few dings here and there, but that’s exactly how I like it.”
This tidy XC panel van was a local’s daily driver for many years before being left to languish in a side street. “My brother spotted it in 2006 and I bought it for $1500,” Peter says. “I had it resprayed in the factory colour by my mate Mick Sweetman, and detailed it inside and out.” The 302 Cleveland, single-rail and nine-inch diff made for a reliable cruiser, while the Globelines and bubble windows gave it an 80s flavour. Peter got itchy feet after 18 months, though, and swapped it for yet another 1960 Chev!
Peter and wife Shelby ensure their two-year-old son Klayd cruises at car events in style with his junior ’34 tudor. “I just wanted to build him something cool,” Peter says. “I sketched an idea on a piece of cardboard, bought a sheet of steel and started hammering away.” A scratch-built grille, Cragar golf buggy wheels, Little Mick flame job and leopard-print interior make for a cool ride, while the blown donk has operational pulleys via an electric motor.
This HJ GTS sedan is the latest project to roll out of Peter’s shed, running a 308, four-speed and 10-bolt diff. Fresh DeVille blue paint, GTS wheels and redwalls are a great combination that boosts the factory muscle image nicely. “Back in 2012 I went to buy an EH Holden and came home with this,” Peter says. “It was meant to be just a quick tidy-up, but we all know that story; next minute it’s stripped and scoring a three-year rebuild.”