HIDING behind an unassuming-looking garage door in south-east Sydney is a trio of street machines with a collective power figure in the region of 3500hp. It’s all a part of the ongoing evolution of Tony Murr’s lifelong love affair of the four-wheeled variety.
This article on Tony's shed was first published in the March 2019 issue of Street Machine
Born into a household with fuel running through its veins, it was practically a given that Tony would eventually begin building cars of his own. His father built engines for John Goss in the 1970s and even raced the big Falcon hardtops for a while, until he stepped away from the steering wheel to raise a family.
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The ’34 is probably Tony’s crowning achievement so far. It scored a Top Engineered award at Summernats the year he debuted it, and it doesn’t matter where you look, the car is riddled with detail to match the prodigious grunt
“My dad was a mechanic and had a natural ability to drive fast cars,” Tony says. “I grew up hearing all his stories about that time and saw his style of driving first-hand. My sister and I regularly saw the inspiration in him, which was infectious.
“I used to love coming home in the car with my dad late at night when it was quiet on the road, just so I could listen to his gear changes and fancy footwork,” he continues. “My appreciation for cars is all thanks to him. He taught me about every make, every model, their lines and who designed them, how to build motors, what combos worked – even the trade secrets that Brock, Moffat and Goss had up their sleeves.”
Based around a GM Performance LY6 block jammed with a Callies crank and Lunati rods, the mammoth combo in Tony’s VK was bolted together by Troy at Warspeed, and made 1150hp at the crank. It sounds like sex and turns the tyres without breaking a sweat
It sounds like automotive nirvana for a young kid, and Tony says he’d already performed his first brake swap at the age of 10. If he wasn’t trying to help his dad each night in the shed, he was watching him and learning all he could. “It was my favourite time with him,” he says. “By the time I owned my first car [see more, below], he slowly stepped away, watching me practise what he’d taught me.”
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As with his four-wheeled projects, Tony didn’t muck about with this 2015 Harley Night Rod. It went straight from the showroom floor to Powerhouse Cycles for engine work, then to Farst Cycles for fab work and finally to Callaghan Collision Centre for paint and body
These days Tony is the MD of a large commercial construction company, which has allowed him to indulge in his passion for high-performance classic cars. Although, being able to handle the tools helps keep the bottom line a little more realistic, too. “Years of making mistakes on more than 40 cars helps teach you everything you need to know,” he says. “Most of the obstacles I’ve faced building cars in the past have related to dishonest tradespeople. Poor workmanship, overcharging, damaging cars, building things incorrectly – you name it. Luckily I’m a hard worker and persistent, so in some areas I’ve been able to finish things myself and I’ve eventually found some honest, talented workshops to finish and sometimes redo work from other shops.”
Despite the nasty blown engine up front, the ’34 still offers all the mod cons. There is power steer, air con, push-button start, hands-free Bluetooth, central locking and power windows. In fact, despite running a 9sec ET, Tony says the car is a pleasure to drive on the street
Two finished projects call the Murr garage home at the moment – one being the Blue Meanie-inspired VK that Tony says is his “street-driven, power-skidding weapon”. Powered by a fire-breathing, 8/71-blown and injected, 1150hp Warspeed-built GM Performance LS, the combo is backed by an Al’s Race Glides T400 and nine-inch.
While the powerplant, massive VF GTS 400mm/six-piston brake conversion and 20-inch Momo-style rims are a little above and beyond the spec of a real Group A SS, Tony has gone to lengths to get the rest of the car right, including period-correct decals, genuine Scheel trim, dash, steering wheel and even an OE head unit!
Some may ask where the big wheel tubs and dished rims are, but Tony is quick to explain that despite the dished look being the current trend, it’s not what he prefers for early Commodores. It’s not like he’s afraid of dish though – just look at his other projects!
Sure, his ’34 Ford coupe runs 15x14 rear Billet Specialties rims, but this car is so much more than that. Judged Top Engineered when it debuted at Summernats 30, the three-window is flawless from any angle, including underneath. “Over 1500 hours were spent on the car to make sure all the gaps and the undercarriage were looking perfect,” Tony says. “Jason from Callaghan Collision Centre got the chassis looking as good as the body before we sat it on.
Tony is clearly a perfectionist. This custom-fabbed 200L tank for his Charger project has been through a couple of iterations already and he says he isn’t done yet. Despite the capacity, you can’t see it from behind the car like you would a Torana drop tank
“I personally put this car together and pulled it apart six times and still couldn’t finish it all on my own. A huge thanks has to go to Wayne Grima who jumped in and helped me finish it off beautifully.”
The ’34 would have to be Tony’s biggest build to date. Not only does it boast a 1015hp, low-nine-second combo up front (comprising a 407ci stroker SBC topped with an 8/71 and twin 950cfm Holleys that his dad Joe specced), but it also drives nice on the street and features air con, Bluetooth stereo, power windows, central locking and comfy trim.
As you can see, Tony isn’t mucking about with his Charger build. He reckons the finished car will be better than the ’34 Ford!
“I had nine different shops try to tell me that I couldn’t run a/c with the combo I wanted. The tenth one made it happen,” Tony says. “The day we did the photoshoot, I still managed to drive a 1000hp car one-handed with the windows up, air con on – and it fired up first go with the push-button start.”
One-handed, you ask? Well, just before Christmas and on the first day of some long-service leave, Tony took a massive tumble and ended up with numerous broken bones as well as some tendon and nerve damage. On the day of our shoot, he was in a lot of pain and he was putting on a brave face. He doesn’t like to harp on the subject, but physio a few times a week is no joke.
Tony’s largely bare-metal 1968 Charger was already a very tidy cruiser before he made the decision to strip it and start again – and things were moving along pretty quickly before his fall.
The plans for the car are immense, including a 1000rwhp, 8/71-blown and injected 472ci Hemi, bulletproof T400, flawless bodywork, huge brakes and custom trim, all finished to an elite level. Only now Tony needs a lot more help thanks to his injuries.
“It’s going to be finished even better than the hot rod is,” he says. “I learned everything I need to know with the rod. After the accident, my wife urged me to continue the project and now Jason at Callaghan Collision Centre is really taking charge and making it happen. We’ve become great friends over the years. He does whatever it takes to get things done.”
Indeed, friendships and family are at the core of Tony’s passion for cars. His three daughters and his partner of 25 years all enjoy the fruits of his labour – his eldest daughter is now starting to drive and Tony says he plans to start work on a Mustang project with her soon.
“I plan to have the Charger ready for Summernats or MotorEx in 2020,” he says. “I also want to get the ’34 through tech and learn to drive it. Then maybe we can turn on the nitrous and see if it will run in the eights.”
Despite encountering the odd setback or dodgy workshop over the years, Tony is clearly not stopping any time soon. We can’t wait to see how the Charger turns out!
Tony reckons he’s had about 40 cars so far. “I got my first one when I was 17: an XD Falcon kitted out to look like Dick Johnson’s TRU-BLU race car, complete with flared guards, spoiler and drop tank.”
Over the ensuing decades, Tony has played proud parent to dozens of custom and classic cars of all stripes. No brand is over-represented, although there have been a few Fords in the garage, including one of the latest to leave the family – a 1973 XA GT hardtop.
Tony built the car as a tribute to his dad’s history with the model when he built engines for John Goss and also raced himself in the 1970s. Tony surprised his dad on his 70th birthday with the completed coupe, which made an impressive 825hp from a monster 532ci stroker mill.
“Building cars has taught me that I need to do more of the work myself and also to co-ordinate the builds so things happen in the right order,” Tony says. “That way it minimises having to do things more than once,” he says.
“Being a builder has helped me have an understanding of how things go together. While not a mechanical engineer like my dad, I’ve got enough knowledge to get by.”