Wednesday, May 22, 2024
FEATURES

GARAGE CRAWL – BRUCE ‘BARRIS’, PERTH WA

If you have an admiration for those who do for love, not glory, then let us introduce you to Bruce. This reclusive west coast customiser prefers to be known simply as Bruce, whilst friends may refer to him as Bruce Barris, a reflection of his affliction to alter almost anything on four wheels. One of those friends is Tony Gatani, aka Von Kustard, another Perth-based custom car lover and pinstriper to boot.

“I knew that he (Bruce) was about but I never got to meet him. Then one day I came out to check out an EK Holden he had for sale and fell in love with his work,” recalls Tony.

Tony introduced us to Bruce on this day, who was happy to give us a tour of his home. It’s far from the glamorous workshops you might see on television, a modest two car garage for tools and fabricating, with cars stored in a collection of carports around the property. It’s very honest, and so is Bruce.

When he’s not cutting up cars, Bruce is working with metal in other ways. Here he stands with a Star Destroyer which is mounted in front of his house. It’s made from computer bits, oven parts, ice trays, headlight buckets and countless other objects.

“Nothing is sacred to me, I’ll cut it up,” says Bruce as we look over his ’57 Cadillac. He’s owned the car for about 15 years, modifying it soon after he bought it. Aside from the custom front end, there’s something else different about it that it’s hard to put your finger on. It’s then that Bruce mentions he’s added eight inches to the front of it. You need to take a few steps back to really take it in, then you start getting flash backs to customs of the late 50s and early 60s when customising was in its infancy and not always subtle. The rear end didn’t escape restyling either, but most would be hard pressed to recognise the HZ Holden bumper tucked in where the Caddy piece once resided.

By now I’m trying to guess what’s parked in front of the Caddy, but I fail. Some elements seem familiar but the lack of a signature grille or emblems makes me uncertain. It turns out to be a 1960s era Mk10 Jaguar. “I only have this car because it was given to me,” reveals Bruce before pointing out some of the changes. Like the door frames, which Mk10 Jags never had. These ones are from a Humber. The rear section of the roof is FJ Holden, the wheel arches have been remodelled and Bruce also made the taillights. The car is on a Toyota Hilux chassis and the running gear is from a Valiant.

From here the cars just keep coming. Parked out back are two more Cadillacs, a 1949 Sedanette and a ‘68 Eldorado. The Eldorado is pretty radical, it would be more at home in the back alleys of Las Vegas rather than Perth suburbia. After reading this article you’ll be googling 1968 Cadillac Eldorado just to see what one looks like from the factory, if you haven’t done so already. The rear bumper and trunk lid are stock, but Bruce built those lethal fins and custom taillights. Moving forward, the side quarter glasses have been eliminated and then there’s that giant V-butted windscreen. “The original screen got broken when it was being removed, so I thought I’d do a V-butt windshield instead, similar to the back window,” reasons Bruce. The front end has also been redesigned, parking lights eliminated and single round HD Holden headlights now reside where hideaway quads once lived. About now Bruce drops the bomb. “I’m not a stickler for being original…”

Regardless of whether you like Bruce’s style or not, you have to appreciate his resourcefulness. You won’t find any catalogues on Bruce’s coffee table, everything he needs can be found in the back yard or at the local hardware. Two dollar shops are a treasure trove of ideas. The rest he just makes.

“I’ve been retired for 13 years but I’ve been doing this all my life,” Bruce sums up. “I do all my own bodywork, it’s good enough for me but won’t win any trophies. I have no interest in modern cars, they’re too complex. I reckon they’ve just gone the wrong way.” Looking around the property again, you realise there’s nothing younger than 40.

So what’s next? “I’d like an old ute, maybe an FJ or 50s Mainline, I need something to cart things around. I probably wouldn’t modify it though, I couldn’t alter an FJ ute, I think they’re perfect.”

Our ‘insider’ Tony Gatani owns this EK Holden custom convertible, built by Bruce. Since meeting Bruce and buying the car, Tony fell in love with his work and they’ve since become mates. 

BY GAVIN KELSO, PHOTOS MILLBROOK STUDIO, FULL FEATURE CRUZIN #167.

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