Car restorer turns junk into 'fine jewellery'

Howard Astill's lifelong penchant for car building is almost unrivalled, but even he had reservations when he first laid eyes on a rusting wreck 18 months ago.

"I basically said to the guy 'take it to the tip' - that's how bad it was," the Illawarra enthusiast recalled.

But after a painstaking restoration worth $200,000, the 1976 Ford XB GT Coupe is now turning heads for all the right reasons.

The rare, cool mint-green edition made the Top 60 elite category at the weekend's Summernats event in Canberra from more than 1700 entrants, as well as clinching third in the Coupe class.

Complete with a 427 Cleveland engine - which pumps out 700 horsepower - and an aftermarket six-speed gearbox, the car has been fully restored by Mr Astill on behalf of Emerald-based owners, Rod and Tracey Vandersee.

"This is the first complete build I've done for a customer, so whilst it has my workmanship and detail and finish, the design of the car is the owner's," Mr Astill said.

"This is Rod's childhood dream, to have this car, and it's going to be their wedding car and their daughter's prom car this year.

"I remember it was sitting in this guy's shed - just the bare shell and parts spread out over the table and stuff."

Car forums and social media have been abuzz with Mr Astill's latest piece of work.

The project is the latest in a long line of creations by Mr Astill, who moved to the Illawarra from Broken Hill in 2005 and utilises the region's well-established modified-car industry during his meticulous builds.

Among the 55-year-old's accomplishments in the trade he calls "street machining" is being awarded Rare Spares Legend at the 2009 Summernats.

Mr Astill is now using his background in small business set-ups and the restoration game to build dream rides for the public, which begins by sitting down with a potential client and going through a "business plan" for a complete restoration.

"I guess it's a passion thing - cars are a work of art, they're like sculptures," Mr Astill said.

"I've taken a piece of s--- and turned it into a nice piece of jewellery," he said.

"I've enjoyed the ride ... "

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