CHRIS Christou and his Electric Blue Phase III GTHO are the stuff of burnout legend. Thanks to his fistout- the-window driving style and a tough-as-nails 351 Cleveland under the bonnet, Chris and his Hoey took out back-to-back Summernats Burnout Championships in 1990 and 1991, featured on the Summernats 8 cover and was included in Street Machine’s list of the All-Time Greatest Falcons (Aug 2013).
Although now retired from burnout duties, HO 775 still takes pride of place in the Christou garage.
SM caught up with Chris for a chat about the life and times of two true-blue legends.
Didn’t matter if it was a Bathurst Monaro, GT or HO – back in the 80s everybody did stupid things with them. Besides, I’ve never tagged the wall or Armco. The only damage I ever got was a bit on the quarter, if the tyre exploded. I was a panel beater, so I’d just fix it. As much as I loved doing it, later on I started to realise the value of the car and shut it down.
I had plenty of success with the fist pump, although I never really practiced it. If I felt comfortable and had plenty of time, would definitely go the double fist. The old joke was that I was steering with my nose. Never actually did that, but I definitely used the knees a bit, because she was a fair old handful, as I ran a lot of tyre – 265/50/15 and sometimes a 275.
Yes, for a long time – won my first Summernats Burnout Championship with a manual. I eventually saw what the other guys were doing with autos and made the swap. Before that it was bloody busy, I would be all arms and all feet. It was definitely good fun and I took all the precautions; I always checked the clutch and ran a scattershield. These days the cars have so much horsepower, they just touch the throttle and it destroys the tyres.
I eventually did another car, for a few reasons. I didn’t want to kill the first car anymore, and Summernats wanted us there for the 25th anniversary. The car was in pieces, undergoing a full rebuild. I knew we weren’t going to get it done in time, so we built another car in two weeks. We put in massive hours – it nearly killed Rhys! It was a good XY; we stuck a sunroof in it, painted it, and bang – Bob’s your uncle. The original car is called Blue Thunder; the boys have nicknamed the other Secret Thunder.
I think the photoshoot was on my way back from the Street Machine Nationals, up Cemetery Road, Haunted Hills
Hernes Oak [in Gippsland, Victoria]. To be honest I can’t remember whose idea it was, mine or the photographer. But I’ll tell you what, I was none-too-shy back then, I would never say no. You can’t take chances like that anymore; it’s not like the old days. You’ll get your car impounded.
I actually approached them and they said they’d give me some tyres. In the end they only supplied two tyres – which I never actually skidded on. Then Bridgestone went and made up a poster that went into all their tyre dealers. They did that off their own bat, nothing to do with me at all.
I built this six-metre long bar, they’re all sitting along the top of it and the car is right behind them. They all have a lot of meaning; they make me feel good, make me feel like I’ve achieved something.
I’m over the moon with what I did. I’ve owned the car since I was 19; I’m 57 now and if I had the chance I’d love to do it all over again. I went to a wedding once and four guys came up and said: “You’re Chris Christou, you’re a legend.” It’s nice to be recognised, it makes you feel good.
Honestly, they’ve really taken it to the next level, there’s some serious friggin’ competition out there and you need a dedicated car to be competitive. The power levels are crazy – 1500, 1800hp. Those blown, injected set-ups are serious peanuts. I’ve been putting one together for about five years now; it’s a lot of money. Honest to god, 800 to 1000hp is plenty. Heck, even 700 is plenty – you can do some really good things with that much power.
What does the future hold for Chris Christou?
After going through hell and back health-wise, I’ve had to slow things down bit. However I’d really like to build another car and go out with a bang – if I could get the money together I’d be there like a rat up a drainpipe. Also my priorities have changed, I’ve got other commitments. I want to get my young fellas’ cars done. We’ve just finished Rhys’s XR, then there’s Mitch’s XW GT and Steve has a ’69 Camaro. After that, who knows? After all, it’s in my blood. s