LIFE’S A BEACH

WE CATCH UP WITH GREG ‘BEACH’ BALL, 25 YEARS AFTER HE FIRST APPEARED IN STREET MACHINE

STORY CRAIG PARKER PHOTOS PETER BATEMAN

HIS name might be Greg Ball, but he’s universally known as Beach. His business, Pro Street Restorations, is also universally known for turning out hundreds of streeters over the past 30 years – a number of which have graced the pages of Street Machine, as well claiming a swag of big awards. SM even did a feature on Beach in the Oct/ Nov 1991 issue.

Oh yes, he’s also a Summernats institution, having cut more laps of NATEX than most – all while proudly wearing a cap sporting two bountiful bosoms.

We thought it was high time we caught up with Beach to chew the fat.

For the benefit of our newer SM readers, give us the abbreviated Greg ‘Beach’ Ball story.

I’m a panel beater and spray painter by trade. After my apprenticeship I worked for Kevin Monk building his ’32 Fords, Lincolns, etc. After that I worked for a mob doing Valiant soft-top conversions; we chopped the roofs of about 180 Valiants. My white Valiant (SM, Apr/May ’88) won Top Convertible at Summernats 1, which was a real highlight for me. But most people know me for the pink one I built after that (SM, Apr/May ’89) – which I sold just after starting up Pro Street Restorations on Sydney’s northern beaches in 1989. I’ve built a heap of show winners, concours winners and a shitload of nice streeters.

I stayed at the one address for 21 years, before setting up a new shop in the Hunter Valley. It’s a funny thing; I have a lot of friends now that have no idea I used to go to every show in the universe wearing a pair of tits on my head.

Like your new digs?

Love ’em. I’m out of the rat race and have a lot more room. I’ve got 14 customer cars and 12 of my own projects all under one roof. I don’t get many tyre-kickers. You do get the odd one, but as soon as you start quoting big bucks they tend to piss off.

How has the industry changed?

Everything is big dollars these days. There’s no such thing as a cheap job anymore and a lot of builds will top 150 grand. Virtually all our customer cars are bare-metal, no-nut-or-bolt-left-in-the-car rebuilds. Price doesn’t seem to scare a lot of people. For example, the customer I just finished a super-nice Barracuda for is back in again with a ’67 Belvedere that I’m turning into a Richard Petty NASCAR tribute. When that’s finished it’ll probably be the most genuine replica ever built.

So, you like doing full-house builds?

I won’t touch anything these days unless the customer wants me to do it properly. I tell them straight up: “I either do it properly, or go away.” We’re not cheap, I’ll be the first to admit that, but we only charge for the work we do and we only do the work properly.

What’s your main focus at the moment?

Get five cars out in the next three months. The rotary-powered MGA has been finished for a month, it just needs to be road-driven and complete the brake test. I slashed my leg open and got a heap of stitches; now that they’re out I can push the clutch in and get it done. The other cars are painted and just need assembly.

Are there any long-term projects in the works?

We’re doing an XA coupe, a street car with a Southern Chassis Works twin A-arm front end, 600-cube injected big-block, bull-nose Top Loader and 20x12s with 385-wide tyres. Boy, you can get some rubber under them things when you widen the wheelarches!

Then there’s the genuine HK GTS 327 Monaro. It’s a massive project that was absolutely rooted: doors wouldn’t open because the pillars were so badly rusted; the boot hinges were rusted to the point the boot lid fell off; there was no parcel tray; and the floor was so far gone the seat fell through trailering it here. We had to do rust repairs before sending it to the blaster – if we hadn’t we wouldn’t have got anything back.

Why didn’t you ever resurrect the convertible F100 you crashed on its maiden voyage?

I bent the chassis, tore the four-link mounts out, bent the cab – I was over it. The big-block and driveline was still good and went into an XC wagon; we used the 15x15 Sunraysias for pot plants and tossed the rest.

I HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS NOW THAT HAVE NO IDEA I USED TO GO TO EVERY SHOW IN THE UNIVERSE WEARING A PAIR OF TITS ON MY HEAD

How many cars have you had in Street Machine?

Everyone remembers the pink convertible but actually the white convertible with a blue stripe was first. The pink one was way more fun, because with the white one we spent all our time cleaning and polishing it for the show ’n’ shine. We just sank piss and cruised the pink one for four days.

Other cars include a Capri (NOV6), which was the very first car we did at Pro Street 26 years ago, and Mitch Reinders’s FC wagon and yellow ’36 chopped truck (TOW454). There was the blue HJ sedan (PRO HJ), and I did the graphics on a few cars including the green HQ (SM, Jul/ Aug ’92) and an HQ Monaro (REVHED).

You’ve recently been to the US; any highlights?

We did the Hot Rod Power Tour. Started out in a Rambler I bought over there, but ditched it in Memphis because of relentless fuel problems and ended up finishing off the last 1500 miles in a little Golf hire car. I also drove Kevin Monk’s old RHD Daytona up in Detroit. John Pappas owns it now – he also owns a yellow Superbird and a Sox & Martin Superbird.

At the Petty Museum, in Charlotte, they let me measure everything on Petty’s genuine NASCAR for the tribute machine I’m building. I took 171 photos and they pretty much let me do whatever the heck I liked.

Very friendly, eh?

Everybody was as nice as shit to me over there. They just let me walk around their shop and do whatever. Don Garlits gave me a personal tour through his museum and private garage. I went to Schumacher Racing, which was great. Normally you can’t do that, but I had a guy who knew a guy that got me in. Charlotte Speedway, the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Hendrick Motorsports were awesome. What a great place to visit!

The guys who ran the GM Motor Medic on the Power Tour also invited me up to Detroit for a tour of GM’s proving ground. It’s mental; it makes Lang Lang look like a kid’s car park! Three hours and I only saw about half of it.

When I got home I sent them all Pro Street T-shirts for being so helpful.

I sent about 40 all up, to the all the boys at Trepanier’s, all the guys from Car Shop Inc in Moline, Illinois, and everybody else who helped me out and did the right thing by me.

Seems like you went everywhere!

That’s only half of it. Three days of Nitro at Bristol, and then Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville, Tennessee. Doesn’t look like much, but you walk in and f**k me! There are Yenko Camaros, a Vanishing Point Challenger, Hemi cars, L88 Corvettes – hundreds of killer cars.

What cars push your buttons?

That white ’68 Mustang – ‘The Boss’ – by Kindig-it Design. Saw it on the Power Tour, it was real nice. However there aren’t many guys I rate these days; I pick the shit out of everything. Last year I was at Ringbrothers with these Yanks that were dribbling over that Chevelle they were building. I said to these Yanks: ‘Look at the f**king welds, are you kidding me?’ They’d made up these billet floor panels with countersunk bolts, not one of them fitted!

Are you going to get ’round to building that pro street Rolls- Royce you talked about in the Oct/Nov ’91 SM feature?

It’s been done! That silver one in the States with the blown Hemi.

It’s awesome, I’ve seen it live. Other than the colour, the rest of it is exactly how I would have done it – blown, injected Hemi, all-leather interior. Mental!

If cost, time and resources were no object, what car would you build?

A genuine, restored 1971 Hemi Cuda convertible. I already have a ’71 Cuda convertible and it’s one of my all-time favourite cars. Hemi Cuda convertibles are a bit hard to come by. They only made 11 of ’em and I’d love to have one in my collection. s

I TELL CUSTOMERS STRAIGHT UP: ‘I EITHER DO IT PROPERLY, OR GO AWAY’