LINDSAY Houston is a seemingly ageless bloke of incredible enthusiasm.
At 63, he has been working to modify cars almost all his life.
He began as a teenage apprentice signwriter, and in his third year, he grabbed an EJ Holden panel van and changed that into an EH. He also got into painting custom self-taught graphics, and, being married and earning a massive $42 a week, he decided to leave the signwriting job and go out on his own. He survived week to week, mainly on painting jobs and the odd graphics commission, but word of mouth soon improved the customer flow.
In Lindsay’s 21st year, he was involved in the creation of the legendary Mad Max XB GT. He fitted the air cleaner-mounted blower, cut a hole in the bonnet so it would fit through, and then blew the famous black paint over all of the panels.
“I was the first to drive the car,” he says. “Then it took ages to get paid. And when the movie was such a success and they started work on the second, none of us who did work for them got a look-in.” Now Lindsay employs six workers in his LDI Kustoms shop in Gympie in South East Queensland, creating way-out wild cars and fibreglass full bodies that still resemble the three-window Willys coupes of the 1930s. Lindsay was into rods from early on, with the first built in 1976, while special paint contracts included work on ‘Splitpin’ Brock’s race cars and Dick Johnson’s Bathurst Falcons. A special car was Lindsay’s own Austin A40 van, reworked with go-faster gear from an MG B.
“I’ve done a lot of work on rods, but now they’re nowhere near as safe as they could be,” Lindsay says. “Like hitting two pedals at once, which put one guy we know into a shed; there’s got to be a better way.”
That’s why all of Lindsay’s modifications are precisely engineered to state transport specifications; the eight- and 10-inch-wide rims on his Willys-bodied, Ford-running-gear rods don’t even raise the inspectors’ eyebrows anymore. They look at the full rollcage, the torsion test result – where the super-strong chassis rates at 13.3, against the normal road car average of 4.5 – and haven’t found anything to trip Lindsay up yet.
The first four-door fibreglass Willys body came off an original steel shell that was saved from Sims Metal’s recycling pile, but cost Lindsay 1000 bucks. That GRP body got a V8 under it. Then came a request for an extended and stretched Willys body to fit a monster truck. More orders came in, and then a three-window, two-door Willys coupe was located in New Zealand. A deal was done, shipping organised, and soon there was a new fibreglass mould in existence.
“The reason we chose Ford running gear for these coupes was because we had no option,” Lindsay explains. “The Commodores have to have bonded-in windscreens to strengthen the rest of their bodies, or they simply collapse. With the Ford floorpan, we don’t have a problem, so it’s all legit. We fit the Ford wiring looms and a lot of stuff like that. And if there’s a problem, I just sit down and nut things out.
“We’ve just fitted an FE Holden body to a HiLux diesel chassis, where the guy had the FE and someone came good with the HiLux, which had been sitting in a paddock. We started the engine in here, and you wouldn’t believe the smoke. But we put a beer keg in the back, and it’s come up awesome!” Their first chopped car was a Plymouth, with a Jaguar section at the rear, and this creation got Best Radical Custom at a major show in 1994.
“I just want the cars going out the door to be the best I can possibly make them,” Lindsay says. “I come to work happy.” I ask Lindsay who taught him to paint and mould those incredibly wild, eye-candy fibreglass body shells. “Most of these things come with instructions on the packet. You start with a repair kit, and go on from there!” he says. “And that guy with the HiLux FE, he was pulled up three times by the police on his way home. They couldn’t believe his car was legit!
“I’m trying to get as much of this stuff done before we drop dead,” he continues. “But I’ll always be broke, and die with a mortgage.” Then there’s that curious business name: LDI Kustoms. Stands for ‘Lindsay Did It’. So typical of this straight-shooting, no-nonsense, brilliant man. And why not?
Live on, Lindsay, because you can create car magic, somehow visualising the custom changes you will make right through to the finished product almost before whatever vehicle s rolls in through your workshop doors.