BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA :
All right, Motor Dolls and Dudes! Don your Akubra hats and throw another Shrimp on the Barbie, ’cause we’re going Down Under for this month’s Featured Motor Doll! Meet the lovely Miss Rhea Morris!
I tell ya. Australian’s are the coolest people. I’ve been to a lot of great places thanks to my job–like Hong Kong, Fiji, Rome, London, Greece–but the only time I’ve come home and said, “I could live there,” was after returning from the summer Olympics in Australia. I loved every minute of my month there.
So when Australian blogger Sheri Bomb contacted me about reviewing MOTOR DOLLS, I was thrilled to reconnect with my Aussie friends. In fact, I had just secured distribution there, and really wanted to feature an Australian Motor Doll, so I asked Sheri who she’d recommend, and without hesitation she said, “You’ve got to talk to Rhea.”
Rhea loves to talk and to meet new people, loves a good prank, loves vintage style, and of course, she LOVES a good V8 with a ton of power.
But before we dive into the muscle madness that is Rhea’s car, let’s have a bit of geography lesson. From where I sit in Southern California, Brisbane is 7182 miles across the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the equator. In Australia it’s already tomorrow, a nineteen hour time difference from Los Angeles. Oh… and it’s summer there right now. They drive on the left side of the road, which after being there a month, really confused me when I got stateside. It’s the world’s sixth-largest country by total area, and the world’s smallest continent. It’s a country of G’Days and No Worries (a phrase that totally planted into my vocabulary), but it’s not, as some might think, all koalas and Crocodile Dundees. In fact Rhea says:
Apart from all the things trying to kill you, bite you, make you itchy or give you a heart attack in Australia, it’s actually a really nice place!
Ha! Ha! Ha! Totally not the answer I expected. That seriously made me laugh. The following, however, I know first hand to be true.
Australians have this wonderful way of uniting together, we are pretty friendly down here. Pretty much anything goes and we love making new friends, especially Americans! You mention you are from America to an Aussie who loves cars and our eyes glaze over like a Krispy Kreme as our minds wander into fantasies about Camaros, NASCAR, giant pretzels and cheap fuel!
Who knew giant pretzels had such a global reach! I wonder… would an Aussie dip that pretzel in Vegemite? I tried the stuff and… oh my. Let’s just say, it must be an acquired taste. Anyway. While there are differences from that hemisphere to this, one thing remains the same:
The love between a Motor Doll and her car.
Rhea’s baby, “Fatty”–otherwise known as her little money-pit-heartache-causing-mistress–is a sexy, alluring 1973 Ford Falcon Fairmont Coupe.
Yep. That’s a girl’s car. And not just any girl, but our girl Rhea’s. Her goal when putting the car together?
I wanted it to look like a tough muscle car, and I love it when people just assume it’s Chucks car, and refuse to believe him when he tells them its mine!
But wait a minute, you say, back up a little. A ”73? How can it be a ’73 when Ford stopped making the Falcon in 1970?? Simple! Because the Falcon we all know and love in the states…
… isn’t the same Falcon made for Australia.
Both are Ford products, but while here the Falcon was created for fuel economy, hosting a 90hp straight six and an affordable price point…
…the Australian Falcon was a full-sized car built for power, and is in fact, still in production today. Falcon’s were even used for racing!
The Falcon is a genuine Aussie muscle car, even promoted in ’73 as “The Great Australian Road Car.” If you’re a Mad Max fan–like Rhea–you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when I say this is one BADASS car. Just look at this beauty!
While we’re on the subject of Mad Max… it’s partially thanks to good old Mel that Rhea’s passion for steel ignited.
I was about 14 and out for a drive with my dad when something red and loud screamed past me. He told me it was an XA GT Falcon coupe. Not long after that I discovered Mad Max (which is where my love affair of coupes began) and really fell in love with old cars. I love that they were built to be desirable, built to last, and usually V8s!
And now… let’s talk some specifics about Rhea’s fabulous car.
Just four years after being bit by the Coupe bug, eighteen-year-old Rhea was working at an auto parts store when she opened the pages of the trading post newspaper they sold, and saw an ad for the ’73 Falcon.
I rang the guy up and begged him not to sell it until I could come have a look. I went out there and dragged my dad along, fell in love and we came back that afternoon with a car trailer and picked it up.
Interestingly, the car was owned by a police officer in a rural part of Brisbane (how Mad Max, right?). It ran, but wasn’t quite roadworthy so Rhea made an initial goal to do a quick fix: get the car drivable and painted. Since she’d had some mechanical courses, she got the car running pretty well, but when she tried doing some welding and rust repairs, she, in her words, just made it worse. And when she found out the paint job alone would be around ten thousand dollars? She had to put the project on hold. The car sat in her garage while she saved some dough, studied mechanical engineering, planned, and of course… dreamed.
The car went through a full, ground up restoration, swapping out the 302 Cleveland… .
… for a 460 big block.
The engine is pretty mildly worked but it’s got more than enough torque and power to keep me happy! I also did a 9” disc brake rear end conversion with a Richmond Locker, which is probably the best thing I have put in the car! My friends call it “eyeball burning yellow” and it’s the original colour, painted like a GT Falcon (would have to sell my soul and probably some organs to buy a real GT).
The car took two years to complete, and Rhea got her hands greasy in the project as much as she could, doing mechanical and fabrication work, assisting with the body work and trimming, learning as much as she could along the way and with the much-appreciated help of her guy, Chuck, and her fellow car-lovin’ mates.
Robert and Paul and Jenny and Chuck] gave me their time and assistance for free and taught me so much, for which I will be eternally grateful. Every single part has been restored, replaced or upgraded better than factory.
The first time I saw her painted I cried. It was like things were getting real. My very first drive was around the block and to the service station, where I filled her up for the first time. People were taking pictures and coming and telling Chuck what an awesome car it was, they could not believe it was mine. It got so much attention that afternoon! I felt like a new mum showing off her precious baby, she still makes me so happy.
When I’m going 100km/h (like on the freeway) and you floor it, she wakes up and goes like the clappers until I wuss out and back off. And if you floor it taking off from a standstill it’s instant sideways… I have done many accidental skids ha ha without even trying!
She’d love to find a 1958 Pontiac wagon to keep her Coupe company, and get a much bigger shed!
Okay. So remember the story about how when Rhea was fourteen and driving along with her dad and something red and loud screamed past? Here’s a nice little tidbit to end on.
I got a bit sentimental [once] driving out to Chuck’s work for a wheel alignment (my second drive). I was driving down the same piece of road [where] all those years ago, I saw the Red XA that started it all. If only that guy knew what effect his car had on me!
Whew. That got me just reading it.
If you’d like to keep up with Rhea’s happenings, friend her on Facebook, and while you’re there, check out the Fakesys Speed Shop Facebook page, a venture Chuck and his dad are doing. They recently built an Ed Roth-styled 60s Roadster that Chuck imagined, and included Rhea in on the build, where she learned a ton about metal fabrication and panel work. Pretty cool, eh?
Until next time…