AT 37 years old, Luke Toffolon is at the tailend of a generation lucky enough to have grown up when 1960s and 70s cars ruled Australian roads. With influence taught from the family driveway through hot cars and performance boats, Luke was destined to be a gearhead, and nowadays restores old-school inboard speedboats under the Midnight Restos banner. While Holden is his primary brand of choice, Luke appreciates all manner of makes and has dabbled with four-, six- and eight-cylinder projects.
01: THIS is where it all started for Luke. “My dad, Claude, bought this LJ Torana as his first car and owned it for 25 years, he says. “It was your typical 80s build with a 192 running triple Webers, a twin exhaust and backed by a four-speed, with a Charger fuel cap and velvet interior for bling. It was our only family car for 18 years and towed our speedboats through the 80s and 90s, which resulted in one very rusty and stretched Torana. The body was scrapped in the early 2000s – crazy now – but with all the key parts kept to build another car if we choose to.
02: PUNCH buggy! How cool are VW Baja bugs? Luke’s folks bought him this Beetle at 16 as incentive to keep him in school, but it didn’t quite work out that way. “It was my first project, with help from my dad and my uncle Darren, Luke says. “We bought it looking similar, but stripped the car right down and started from scratch. The paint, interior, 1835cc engine, mechanical, fabrication, machining and suspension mods were all done in our family sheds. This VW was the perfect all-rounder, which I used for mud-bashing and Chapel Street cruising! I won my first prize at a car show with it, too!””
03: P-PLATE smoking, done right and in style, was par for the course for Luke and his HZ SL/E Statesman. The brown luxo-barge was his first V8 and kept as a mostly original car. It ran a mild 308 with a decent exhaust and ended up dropped in the weeds over Chev Rallye wheels. The Stato served Luke well as a daily driver, mates cruiser and tow car for the family speedboats, but was sold due to that bad pairing of poor fuel economy and apprentice wages. We all have seller’s remorse of one kind or another, and for Luke, this is the one that got away.
04: HOW tough was Luke’s bright yellow HR ute? It too ticked the Toffolon prerequisites as daily driver, parts-chaser and tow car, running a 192, Supra five-speed and banjo diff. CRS drop spindles, Dragway Indys and a custom interior sorted its street cred. “I could break axles and diff centres on demand with those 265 tyres on the back, Luke laughs. “My mate ‘Crazy Wayzee’ is rebuilding this car now and hopes to make it to the next Six-Banger Nats.
05: ACCORDING to Luke, this XD wagon was his lifeline. “During the week I’d scoot around with a ladder on the roof using it as a work hack, but on the weekends and especially during summer, I lived out of it, water-skiing around the state and having it double as a tent. It ran a mild 250 crossflow six-cylinder, extractors and a decent exhaust, along with a four-speed, LSD and XF Fairmont interior. It was slammed and had pretty big wheels for that time, and actually pulled a pretty mean burnout too.
06: THE old saying, ‘those that play together, stay together’, rings very true for Luke and his wife Kat. “When we first got together she sold her fairly new Corolla to get into something cool. Luke explains. “Kat bought this HQ Kingswood wagon from a deceased estate running an untouched, low-mileage 202 and Trimatic. We lowered it and fitted some whitewall tyres and it was her daily driver for a couple of years. It too doubled as a tent and tow car for our skiing weekends.
07: KAT needed a new daily driver, so she and Luke swapped their unfinished Bronco project for this HZ One Tonner. “The Tonner had been through a few mates as owners first. They’d all fixed or added something different to it along the way, so by the time it got to us it was nearperfect, Luke says. A flat tray, Weld Draglites and a worked 308 with an air cleaner poking through the bonnet sorted the show-and-go department, while a Turbo 400 and LSD BorgWarner diff held up their end at a few burnout comps. “It was a great-looking car that sounded tough and used to snap a few necks, especially when they saw a chick driving, Luke says.
08: THIS second HZ SL/E Statesman has been a long-term build for one of Luke’s friends, and they’re hoping to have it finished this year: “My mate’s dad bought it brand new, and it’ll be a matching-numbers restoration with a worked 308 and small converter, Luke says. “It’s lowered over WB Caprice wheels, but will probably score a set of Cragars to toughen it up a bit. Once this is finished, then I can start on another car for myself; it’s been eight years between drinks so I am hanging out to get my s arse back into a chrome-bumpered car.