THE Australian vanning community was devastated this week, when Robert Burns passed away at the age of 41 after a battle with cancer. Rob was the president of Majestic Vanners Australia and was also well known in the model car community.
SM scribe Simon Major was close friends with Robert: “I will always admire Rob’s passion and knowledge in all facets of vanning and street machining,” he said. “His sense of humour was infectious and the love and passion for his family, friends and the Majestic Vanners was unparalleled. He brought together many people from all walks of life and reinspired a generation of old-school vanners who probably still can’t fathom the impact they had on kids like Rob and me back in the 70s and 80s.
“This in turn has reconnected many old friends, reformed at least two defunct van clubs as social clubs and seen a few guys purchase their old vans back or build new ones.”
Let’s celebrate Rob’s life by taking a stroll through his impressive back catalogue of rides:
“I was 17 and bought this TE Gemini as a first car,” Rob told us in the September 2014 issue. “It was my pride and joy. It was a full teenage-spec Gemma. I blew the motor up – no surprises really – and fitted a stage two Betta Bilt donk, so it went okay.” Check out ‘Oakley Sux’ gracing the windscreen – Rob’s protest at the Oakley sunglasses sticker rage of the early 90s.
Fuzz Heinrich’s 429 Ford-powered HZ Sandman, The Wizard, was near-solely responsible for shaping Rob’s love of modified cars. “I took this photo as an 11-year-old in 1985 at the Imperials show in Wagga. Everything about it was so in-your-face – the paint, chrome and engine through the bonnet. I loved Smokey and the Bandit too, so the Trans Am front just capped it off. It was a mash-up of everything I loved about cars. Nothing’s changed!”
Rob’s WB panel van was bought in 1993 after being traded at the local Holden dealer. A factory 253, four-speed, 3.55 LSD, GTS dash, and metallic paint all make it as close as you could get to a Sandman in the WB range, while the XB GT side-scoops were an unusual dealer fitment.
This Mandarin LX was a genuine 253 SL/R running a NOS-assisted 308, T350 and 4.56-geared nine-inch. “It was a too-low, super-cranky pain in the arse, but so much fun to drive,” Rob told us. “I took it to Rockhampton for a car show and the local police copped 15 complaints in 20 minutes about my driving. I sold it in ’96 because it brought out the worst in me.”
“This FB-fronted EK ute was a shitter for me in ’94,” said Rob. “It was a faded blue 70s street machine, which I rattle-canned flat black with red wheels years before it became the rage. It ran a 186 and three-speed and was a great work hack. You didn’t need keys to start it so it was borrowed by everyone; I’d just wait until dark and see if it came home!”
The mandarin SL/R was replaced with this HQ Stato, running 90s-spec debadging and colour-coding. A 010 350 Chev was rebuilt with fuelie heads and a decent cam, all backed by a Turbo 400 and Salisbury LSD. It spent some time on the burnout pad at Summernats before being sold in 2000.
“This 1980-build HZ ute was bought in 2010 and given the full Sandman treatment – twin-headlight front, stripes, spoiler, GTS mirrors – and fitted with the 253 out of my old LH after it had been written off,” Rob told us. “It was nearly finished when I sold it to a guy in Queensland. I already had the ex-show van Checkmate in the shed and had just imported my old WB back to Australia, so something had to give.”
Rob took custodianship of the famous Checkmate van in 2006. Originally built by John Roach, it won Australia’s Top Van in 1982. Rob fell in love with the van after seeing it in Custom Vans & Trucks at the ’87 Van Nats. He stripped the van to a bare chassis and was planning a sympathetic restoration.
Rob’s Torry featured in our Readers’ Rockets section in February this year. It is a genuine LH SL/R 5000 (albeit with LX headlights). It runs a 308, Top Loader and nine-inch combo, and is resplendent in Barbados Green. When he got the car it was pretty much as it is, though the Currie nine-inch was a recent addition. Model: Sam