I’ve got an addictive personality. If I like something, I like it a lot,” says Robbie Allen. And when you lay eyes on his 1976 Corvette, it’s pretty easy to see what he’s talking about.
While some people would say the car is overkill, to Robbie it’s pretty much perfect. The build has been an ongoing labour of love for 14 years now, and in that time it’s continued to grow and develop to represent Robbie’s personality. As he rightly says, he’s worked hard all his life for his toys, so he may as well make them how he wants them and get the maximum enjoyment from them. The road to automotive perfection hasn’t been an easy one though, and we’re pretty sure it hasn’t been a cheap one either, but for now at least, he’s got the car he always dreamed of having, and a whole lot more.
His wingman for the build, and the guy who looks after the entire mechanical side of the car, is Richard Brister. Richard is a jack-of-all-trades, and if it were not for his involvement, Robbie probably would have given up on the build many years ago, as it just gave him problem after problem. Since Richard has been on the job though, the car has become as reliable as a Swiss watch, allowing Robbie to dream up new additions rather than be faced with constant repairs. And dream he has!
One of Richard’s first jobs on the car was to get it running reliably. While originally this meant fixing the stock 454ci big block the car was purchased with, it wasn’t long before a supercharger was mentioned and a whole lot wilder engine build commenced. With Robbie working in the freight industry, the decision was made to import all parts for the build from America, including a new World Products standard deck block, 4.5-inch JE pistons and a 4.25-inch Eagle crank. With the combo screwed together with L19 rod bolts and a bunch of ARP fasteners, it now displaces 540ci. As if that wasn’t enough on its own, a polished Weiand 8/71 supercharger and twin 850cfm Barry Grant carbs were fitted to the top.
With an MSD ignition system taking care of the spark, the combo is now producing around 900hp and 900ft/lb on pump gas! The engine bay is pretty tight; Hooker Headers with 2-1/8-inch primaries filling up the space on either side of the block, and a larger alloy radiator and header tank taking up every square-inch of the front end. The cooling system obviously does its job though, as the car sees plenty of street miles, runs down the drag strip and has spent time on the burnout pad, all without issues.
Knowing full well that the old manual box wouldn’t be impressed with the new power figures, a TCI-built Turbo 400 transmission was imported. Built in America with a full reverse-pattern manual valve-body, 3000rpm stall converter and transbrake, the box should now outlast the rest of the car, and with Robbie’s driving style, that’s saying something.
Over the years, the Corvette has continued to evolve. One major step was fitting later-model steering and suspension components. The alloy A-arms used were chosen for their increased adjustability, and the fibreglass transverse leaf springs for their increased strength. At the same time, Richard fitted Bilstein shocks and oversized swaybars on each end too. Add to the setup 4-pot callipers front and rear with 11.25-inch rotors, and the car now handles and stops just as good as it looks.
Speaking of looks, that’s where Robbie’s addictive personality comes in to play. A Motorhead fan for many years, he’s based the entire visual package on the band’s distinctive fanged skull mascot. Brent aka ‘Hippy’ from Kustom Design Studio in Hamilton was the man behind the airbrush for the intricate skull and flame work that now adorns every panel of the car. Not that you’d know it, but the deep black with purple pearl paint the graphics sit on was sprayed over ten years ago now. The ZL4 flares the car wears were fitted before he purchased the car and were one of the things he originally liked about the vehicle. The only bodywork change since has been the fitment of a 1982 rear bumper, and his custom spine-like wing mirrors.
For many years Robbie had the idea of transforming the interior of the car to incorporate the Motorhead theme. Most people he turned to said it couldn’t be done, which only encouraged him even more to see it through to completion. Then the one place keen to take on the job went into receivership while the car was there, and his car was almost taken as part of the property seizure. Finally, after all of this, he turned to Steve Levine who, although known for his paintwork, obviously knows how to make an idea come to life in 3D also.
Motorhead skulls were moulded up and grafted to a complete new dash assembly, the horns off their helmets flowing seamlessly into the doors and centre consol. An adjustable steering column was added which exits one skull’s mouth, and a digital dash unit fitted in the centre. All up, 1000 hours went into the job, and that’s not including the custom floor that’s now in the car too. Once the interior was finished, the car was handed back to Hippy to have the airbrushing done to match the style of the exterior work. Again, hundreds of hours went into this one aspect alone, which as far as we can tell probably makes it the most detailed and potentially most expensive interior in the country.
While currently there’s a decent stereo system in the car, Robbie has plans to make it bigger in the next facelift the build will receive. As part of that build, a full aftermarket chassis is to be imported from America, which will allow a tubbed rear end to be fitted. Along with this will come a roll cage, which is the only thing that is stopping the car from running 10-second passes currently. While the car is off the road for the rebuild, Robbie’s not left without a toy, as he’s got his daily driven Hummer and an airbagged Viper-powered Dodge Ram to play with. The three vehicles are often hired out for weddings and school balls under a business Robbie has setup called Bridal Beasts. The popularity of the service has blown him away, but then again, it’s not hard to see why people would want a ride in the cars either.
We can only imagine, anyone who gets a ride in the Corvette will get an experience to remember, and not just because of the Motorhead face staring back at them when they’re in the passenger’s seat, but due to Robbie’s habit of turning the rear tyres into smoke, and his complete inability to do anything in moderation… burnouts included.
Engine: 540ci big block Chev, World Products standard deck block, JE 4.5-inch forged pistons, Eagle 4340 forged H-beam rods, L19 rod bolts, Eagle 4.25-inch 4340 forged crank, World Products Merlin III alloy heads, Crane shaft mount rocker gear, titanium retainers, Crane hydraulic roller cam, hydraulic roller lifters, matched springs, 0.720-inch lift cam, Manley push rods, Cometic head gaskets, 2x BG 850cfm annular Mighty Demon carbs, polished Weiand 8/71 supercharger, Mallory 250gph fuel pump, Mallory regulator and high-flow cartridge filter, MSD billet distributor, MSD Digital 6 ignition, MSD boost retard control, MSD Blaster HVC coil, modified Hooker Headers 2-1/8th primaries, 4-inch collectors, Hooker 4-inch side pipes, aluminium radiator, custom header tank
Driveline: TCI GM Turbo 400 transmission, full-manual valve-body, reverse pattern shift, 3000rpm stall convertor, transbrake, B&M trans cooler with electric fan, stock Corvette 8.2-inch diff, Eaton carrier with carbon-fibre clutch discs
Suspension: Transverse fibreglass springs with adjustable spring rate, power rack and pinion steering, alloy upper A-arms, oversize sway bars, rod-end camber adjustable link arms, Bilstein shocks
Brakes: 4-pot callipers, 11.25-inch rotors all round
Wheels/Tyres: 15×8 and 15×10-inch Cragar Star Wire rims, 265/50R15 and 295/50R15 tyres
Exterior: 1982 rear bumper, ZL4 flared guards, custom cherry purple paint, airbrushing by Brent Larsen at Kustom Design Studio, Hamilton
Interior: Standard Corvette seats, aluminium steering wheel, aftermarket steering column, Hurst ratchet shifter with transbrake control, Racepak digital dash, Auto Meter gauges, full custom dash, doors and interior, Sony audio
Performance: Approx 900hp and 900ft/lb, 11.2-second quarter mile
Occupation: Transport operator
Previously owned cars: ’58 Goldflash, ’57 Customline, ’56 Mainline ute, ’57 & ’58 retractable, ’60 & ’61 Fairlane, ’60 Sunliner, ’64, ’65, ’67, ’69, ’82, Mustangs, ’69 Pontiac, T-Bucket, ’47 Club coupe, ’51 Chevy, ’56, ’57, ’58, Ranchwagons
Dream car: This is it!
Why the Corvette?: I liked the shape and knew straightaway what I could do with it
Build time: Endless!
Length of ownership: 14 years
Robbie thanks: Richard Brister; Brent Larsen at Kustom Design Studio, Hamilton; Barry, Larry, Grant and Richard at Mitchell Motorsports; Ian and Steve at Prestige Collision Repairs; Noel McMillin at Nostalgia Motors
Words: Todd Wyllie
Photos: Adam Croy