Some people may seek a life where they are the centre of attention, while others, like Boyd Matenga, are happy to slide under the radar
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam P Photographer
1967 Chrysler Valiant Regal
Engine: 383ci big block Chrysler, stock block, steel crank, new rings, windage tray, Moroso oil pump, Tuff Stuff race water pump, ported-and-polished closed chamber heads, Manley valve springs, Comp Cams roller rockers, hardened pushrods, Lunati Voodoo cam, Lunati Voodoo lifters, Weiand dual-plane manifold, Quick Fuel 850cfm carb, K&N filter, TorqStorm centrifugal supercharger kit, MSD 6AL ignition, MSD 8.5mm leads, NGK spark plugs, AN10 stainless braided fuel line, Mallory 140-gallon-per-hour electric fuel pump, twin fuel-pressure regulators (FRPs), Hedman Block Hugger headers, electric cut-outs, Flowmaster stainless mufflers, 2¼-inch exhausts, three-core copper radiator, 16-inch electric fan, MSD ignition
Driveline: Chrysler 727 transmission, ceramic clutches, stage-two shift kit, 3.5:1 ratio, LSD head, custom driveshaft
Suspension: Stock torsion-bar front, Monroe gas shocks (front), Nolathane bushes, air shocks (rear), lowered leaf springs (rear)
Brakes: VJ Valiant front discs and calipers, stock drum rear, VH44 brake booster
Wheels/Tyres: 14×5.5-inch stock wheels and hubcaps, 235/60R14 Maxxis tyres
Exterior: Custom DeBeer metallic green paint
Chassis: Modified front cross member, gusseted trans tunnel
Interior: Stock; Mexican blankets; Smiths tacho; Auto Meter boost gauge, oil-pressure gauge, water-temp gauge; JVC head unit; Pioneer speakers
Performance: A sleeper never divulges these secrets
In a world where everything is fighting for your attention, it’s quite nice occasionally to give your eyes a break. For a change, take them off the brightly coloured billboards, street signs, computer screen, or whatever else is designed to fight for your attention.
Hawke’s Bay’s Boyd Matenga is of this opinion too. Sometimes it’s nice to park his tubbed and blown bright orange Falcon coupe away in the shed and roll down the street in something that gets a little less attention. With Boyd’s love of horsepower, that less-standout vehicle was never going to be your garden-variety commuter car, but more something that would fall squarely into the category of a sleeper.
The reality is that Boyd can’t take credit for the Regal’s build and he’s not trying to, despite adding his own touches to it. The credit for the car should go to Hone ‘Salty’ Johnston. Although Hone’s now deep into his 70s, and a kindly spoken soul, his youth was a colourful one — which, although he’s not outright stating it, is probably why the plan was always for the Valiant to blend in, rather than stand out; he really didn’t need any unwanted attention.
From being put into a borstal at age 15, he would end up involved in a world of drugs and an involvement with the infamous Mr Asia drug syndicate. Eventually, he kicked the habit and the crime and found a life of Christianity, fast cars, and anonymity.
It wasn’t until Hone was on the straight and narrow that Boyd crossed paths with him. The two became good friends, despite the age gap of 20-odd years. Cars are a glue that brings all walks of life together, and, with Boyd growing up with a range of interesting cars, the two always had plenty to talk about. Hone hadn’t owned the car long when the pair first met, so Boyd watched its evolution over about 35 years. Some 23 years into Hone’s ownership, Boyd planted the seed that, if it were ever to be sold, he would like to be first in line for it.
The Kiwi-assembled car rolled off the production line in 1967 with a 225ci straight-six ‘sloper’ motor in it, and was sold at Tourist Motors in Hawke’s Bay. It managed to stay in the area, and still does, as Boyd — who took ownership two years ago — is also a Hawke’s Bay resident.
While the car may not be far from home, that’s not to say it hasn’t changed significantly over that time. Initially, the 225 was pulled in favour of a 318ci small block and 904 transmission, which would have made for a tough sleeper in itself, especially with Hone’s self-inflicted rule of never changing the wheels on it. While most people would be happy with a potent 318 throwing power through 235/60R14 rubber, Hone’s clearly got a bit more of an appetite for adventure than most. This meant that eventually the small block would be removed in preparation for a big block to be slotted in. Anyone who has played with Kiwi-new Mopars will tell you that this isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. That difficulty is amplified by the bulk of the Chrysler 727 transmission that often accompanies them. That big trans is exactly what came with the 1969 Dodge Charger–sourced 383 big block that Hone was determined to fit, so it was never going to be easy.
Working at home by himself, he installed and removed the engine and transmission combination countless times, pushing the trans tunnel out with a club hammer where needed before rechecking where it hit next and doing it all over again. While a metal-working maestro may have rebuilt the tunnel, that wasn’t something Hone could do himself so it simply wasn’t going to happen.
On the plus side, he had no issues in bolting up VJ Valiant front discs and calipers along with a remote-mounted VH44 brake booster — after all, with a big block sitting in place, there was no way a firewall-mounted booster would easily fit. The rear brakes were left entirely as the Chrysler factory intended — small drums attached to an equally undersized diff. Fortunately, with such a small amount of rubber on the road, the diff is comparatively under-stressed — or at least it was during Hone’s ownership.
Eventually, the seed Boyd planted about buying the car off Hone when he was ready to sell bore fruit and the car changed hands. The purchase came with strict conditions, though: nothing was ever allowed to stick out of the bonnet and the wheels and hubcaps had to remain. Boyd was happy to work with these conditions, as they were part of what appealed to him about the car in the first place — but he did have plans to take it to the next level of understated insanity.
Those plans included a centrifugal-style supercharger, and he found just the thing on the TorqStorm website: a Mopar big block supercharger kit. He ordered the kit and had it delivered to Kiwi Shipping — not to be shipped but to be held onto until the time was right for him to pick it up in person. Following a trip to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas in November 2019, Boyd swung past the depot and loaded the parts into his luggage to take home.
nce back in the Bay, the supercharger would be set up on the car. Boyd mentioned that the biggest issue was moving the three-core radiator forward enough to clear the additional belts. To allow for the boost, an 850cfm Quick Fuel carb was fitted at the same time, along with an upgraded fuel system to cope with the engine’s increased appetite. As is always the way, more and more new parts found their way into the engine bay to try to relieve it of any weak links.
The engine had previously been rebuilt by a good friend, Wade, so the internals were up to the task, as was the twin 2¼-inch exhaust system, to which Boyd simply added a pair of electric cut-outs for those very rare times that he wanted to make some noise in it.
The suspension, which consists of stock torsion bars and lowered leaf springs along with aftermarket shocks at both ends, remains as Hone had it, as does the interior, the main addition to which is in the form of Mexican blankets.
In his two years of ownership, Boyd has clocked up plenty of seat time, driving the Valiant to events around the country, where, as intended, it’s largely gone unnoticed. Boyd plans on keeping it that way. The only change he plans for the car is the addition of a nine-inch diff with Truetrac centre so he can use the available power without fear of carnage. There’s also talk of adding an EFI set-up to it, along with subframe connectors to ensure that the power doesn’t twist the car apart.
Exactly how much power does the car make? Well, you’ll just have to work that out for yourself, as a true sleeper never gives away all its secrets …
Previously owned cars: A few — six currently
Dream car: ’32 Ford
Why the Regal? A friend had owned it for 35 years, and I always wanted to buy it from him
Build time: 35 years (previous owner)
Length of ownership: Two years
Boyd thanks: Hone ‘Salty’ Johnston
This article originally appeared in NZV8 issue No. 185