SPLASHING across silver screens in Mad Max, John Zeigler’s custom HJ Holden ute, known as The Sorcerer, is now a firm part of Ozploitation movie folklore. Parked up at Fat Nancy’s cafe with its Mercedes headlamps and custom green paint, in the ensuing decades it has been dubbed the ‘Mad Max ute’ by many.
But the story of The Sorcerer stretches well beyond its five seconds of screen fame. It’s a journey spanning more than 40 years, and now a new chapter is being written.
In 1975, John Zeigler plonked down the readies for a new HJ Holden ute as a workshop hack for his Shell garage. John, a seasoned hot rodder, hotted up the HJ with a set of ROH Wildfires and a rear wing, and it’s widely acknowledged as the first commercial Holden to sport an HJ Statesman front. It was looking cool and earning its keep, but John felt there were too many appearing that looked the same, so it was taken off the road and treated to an extreme makeover.
The HJ copped full custom bodywork, which included the aforementioned Mercedes headlamps, splitter front spoilers and a tube grille for the nose, while flared guards and sail panels altered the side view. The tail end had the wing repositioned and smoothed, while two pairs of tail-lamps were joined to create one of the coolest ute rear ends in the history of the world. Dark metallic green paint with green and yellow highlights rounded out the body, while a massive set of Hotwires completed the exterior.
The interior retained many of its GTS-spec fixtures, however, was treated to a wild retrim in green and yellow cloth and included a portable TV as a centre piece. The rear was lined with mirrors, headphones and yet another TV, all kept safe from most elements with a clear Perspex hard lid.
The factory 308, Turbo 400 and Salisbury driveline were retained, yet detailed to the styles of the time, and it was in this guise that The Sorcerer appeared in Mad Max and attended myriad hot rod runs and car shows, quite often with a skeleton and/or cockatoo riding shotgun.
The Sorcerer was treated to further changes and refinements to keep it fresh and innovative, including a T-top roof conversion and shaving of the door handles, but road use and age were taking its toll so the HJ was treated to a full nut and bolt rebuild – the culmination of which we featured in SM, Jul/Aug ’86.
The removal of the front spoilers and opening of the sail panels were two of the most notable body mods, while a colour change to solid black and a whopping set of chrome spoked rims brought the HJ into a new era.
The 308 was swapped out for a 350 Chev, while a chromed Jag rear end was slotted underneath. The engine, chassis and driveline were detailed in bright red, while the interior was retrimmed in red velour and vinyl.
The ‘new’ Sorcerer kept up appearances for a number of years and was treated to a flame job and other minor updates as we approached the new millennium.
John then handed the ute over to his son, also named John, who, after storing it for a number of years, decided a revamp was in order. Enter Sasha Hollenbach from Dandenong’s Delux Kustoms, who had built a few cars for the younger John.
“I grew up knowing this car from Mad Max,” Sasha explains. “I just love how innovative it was for its time. There are things in this ute that were so technologically advanced it kind of blows your mind – stuff like 70s-spec LEDs in the tray area and the TV screens. It’s like John Sr was hooked on shows like Towards 2000.”
Sasha has spent the last few months giving the car a birthday from top to bottom, with the aim of returning it to its former glory as a show car. Without losing touch with the heritage and significance of the car, the plan was to blend the Mad Max style car with the Sorcerer design while retaining as much of John Zeigler senior's own handy work as possible. Check out the video to see how he and the guys at Delux Kustoms did it.
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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