Restoration tips & tricks - finishing off the project

By: Guy Allen, Unique Cars magazine

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Part three of our Restoration Tips & Tricks series - let's tackle the trannie, trim and brakes

Restoration tips & tricks - finishing off the project
Mal Wood & offsider look pretty happy wth that Tremec trannie.


Restoration tips & tricks - finishing off the project

We’d love a dollar for every time we’ve heard of someone spending a fortune on building a really nice car, only to stick an el-crappo set of brakes that weren’t even that good when they first came out 50 years ago. Seriously.

The fact is even a basic crate motor will give you 350-plus horses and we’re talking about a 1.5 tonnes or more of rampaging muscle car! You need good brakes.

The best solution we’ve found is go to a specialist like Hoppers Stoppers (, who we used for our recent Project HQ muscle car. Manager Shanon Boult runs a workshop and brake build service, but the main business these days is the 200-plus kits for a big range of machinery, with an emphasis on Aussie and American. "We’re proud to say everything is Australian-made, including DBA discs and PBR calipers," he says.

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"We meet Australian standards such as pressures for calipers, which is 3000psi. Some people sell calipers which only reach 1200psi – 40 per cent of where you need to be."

His advice is, when doing a car build, make sure you think about the whole chain of components (including driveline), not just individual pieces. Thinking through the whole process and starting with a decent foundation will save money in the long run.

Cost varies, but as a rough guide $3000-4000 will fit out the entire car with new, properly engineered components – not a massive spend when you look at a total build budget.

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Trannie Kings

Let’s talk briefly about getting all that lovely power to the ground. One of the top experts in the country is Mal Wood Automotive ( in Queensland.

Mal, if you give him a chance, is happy to point out (correctly) that too many people concentrate solely on the engine, forgetting that a transmission will make or break your efforts to enjoy the end result. "People spend $20,000 on an engine and put a $1000 Toploader behind it," he says, shaking his head.

His bread and butter is Tremec, and his service typically includes stripping a new a five-speed TKO to shim and effectively blueprint it. Why go to all that trouble? Essentially it improves the feel of the transmission and makes it as close as possible to bulletproof.

Meanwhile if auto is more your bag, we can recommend talking to the good folk at BBE Auto ( which recently built us a stunning TH350 for our Project Torana A9X tribute car. Their advice is to ensure you pick the right transmission for the power output and use of the car – it’s not always an obvious choice. Unlike most others out there, they also run their own transmission dyno to test each unit, which adds much-appreciated  peace of mind to the project.

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Fit and Trim

Okay, it won’t have a big effect on how the car performs, but decent trim will make a world of difference to how you feel about driving it. And it can make or break your resale value.

There are plenty of trimmers out there and the person you want needs to understand the project and the difference between an interior that looks nice and one that looks like it really belongs. To some extent, that’s a very personal choice and we recommend visiting the business and chatting with them before you decide.

We recently entrusted our A9X tribute car to industry veteran Sam Fisicaro and his crew at Auto Image Car Interiors ( in Thomastown, Vic. The company has trimmed everything from street machines and hot rods to Harley seats. "These days we specialise on Aussie and US muscle cars and restorations but we’ve also done the new cars like the HDT retro Commodores," Sam says.

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"We usually work from the roof down. The roof lining goes in first, then all the sides and door panels and the carpets and seats go in last."

These days there are many high quality reproduction parts and materials available to restore an Aussie classic to a showroom finish. Thanks to their much bigger production numbers, American classics have a wealth of options on offer and are often easier to do than the equivalent Aussie car.

One vulnerable area that nearly always falls apart with age is the dash pad. Dashboard Doctor ( in Coburg, Vic, is our long-term solution and is well worth a call.


See all three parts of this story:

Part 1: Restoration tips & tricks - body

Part 2: Restoration tips & tricks - engine


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