A 4WD workshop preparing old race cars? That’s different.
The HTCAV’s latest Just Cars Gold Sponsor – engineer, fabricator, businessman, deer hunter and guitarist – is your different kind of rev head.
Like many Just Cars readers, Geoff Whitehead reckons it’s time to ease off and spend more time playing with the things he’s passionate about.
With his successful 4WD Workshop approaching its 40th year and blessed with quality staff he’s adding another string to his bow – the Performance Classic Workshop – where he can help prepare older cars become their best for road and track.
“Get your tow car and race car sorted under one roof!” the lanky (but never laconic) spanner man jokes.
Born into it
His father, the late Arch Whitehead, was Manufacturing Manager at Repco in Richmond, brother Paul was a ‘brainy Experimental Engineer’ at Holden.
And Geoff? “I sort of think with my hands,” he says, “I wake up in the middle of the night solving a problem and seeing myself making something. Sometimes I get up, go to work and get into it!”
An exhausting start
The young Geoffrey needed to fund his riotous lifestyle (complete with Austin Healey 100/4) and naturally gravitated to a Repco apprenticeship. He learnt from the best in the country – and now passes ‘the knowledge’ on to his own apprentices.
Never backward in coming forward he put himself forward for a marketing role, which somehow parlayed itself into buying the first franchise for Repco’s Mufflafit enterprise. When these were cancelled he became a FastFit man.
Beyond day-to-day repairs he found great pleasure in sand bending extractors and fabricating sports exhausts for an eager market. (He hasn’t lost the skill – stepped headers on the writer’s race MGB unleashed 40Nm of torque over the previous set.)
Problem solved; lesson learnt
In the late 70s no-one could solve the new Datsun 200B’s irritating exhaust resonance. Cars were being returned, not good. Geoff made a system that worked and was busy making two or three a week for delighted dealers.
Nissan representatives appeared smiling at the door, full of praise and asking for set which Geoff obligingly made. The next model run had them on… Life lesson learnt for young businessman!
Into the 4WDs
A farmer’s 6-cyl 4-Litre Toyota LandCruiser 2F couldn’t get up his drive towing a horsefloat. Geoff built headers and an exhaust system, found him 20% more power. The farmer found him more and more country customers – the 4WD ball was rolling…
“Every corner garage was dropping their prices to get general trade. No-one wanted to touch 4WDs, it was a ready-made opportunity and just grew from there – I haven’t advertised in 25 years…” he says. Word of mouth is powerful thing.
Proofing the product
The 4WD Workshop has prepared vehicles for events like the Australian Safari and the Outback Challenge for decades, as well as for family 4WDs on weekend trips or long adventures in the outback. A big inventory of springs and suspension parts, spares and accessories, camping kits and more are carried.
A keen game hunter, Geoff’s own 4WD tests all the kit that he sells to his customers, in the most miserable and rugged places one could imagine. He claims it’s fun.
And now, the Performance Classic Workshop
Geoff’s dream has come to fruition. The logbooked Holden 48/215 Sports Sedan he built in the 70s peers down from a hoist, awaiting its turn for restoration among the classic performance cars in for fettling.
Fully equipped with all relevant machinery including a milling machine and a chassis dyno, bits can be fabricated in alloy, steel, stainless and cast iron – quickly.
A Lotus Cortina needed urgent surgery after a Sandown start line incident, only two weeks before the Phillip Island Classic. After many decades the A-frame rear end had torn its mounts from the chassis rails, which were weak from too many patches. With all hands to the pump new chassis rails and mounts were made, other issues were sorted and the car performed faultlessly.
“If you do what you love, work is a joy”
Geoff is never happier than when he’s designing and fabricating something for a 4WD or classic. Each part is an elegant piece of work, almost too good to go into or under a car.
“Everybody who loves old cars knows they’re all special, but each one is different. That’s why it’s such a pleasure being an HTCAV sponsor,” he says. “It’s a privilege to help someone’s pride and joy become the best it can be – could be a simple as stopping an oil leak, or as extensive as a complete rebuild.
And it’s the same for 4WDs. Nothing is impossible, everything just needs to be thought through…”
Call or email Geoff: 039786 1818 or email him Or follow The 4WD Workshop on Facebook.