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Cherry Pie

12 May 2021

After building countless cars for himself, Pete North thought it was about time he built one for his significant other

Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Strong Style Photo


With the amount of energy that Pete North has got when it comes to building cars, it’s pretty hard to believe that he’s old enough to have been married for 25 years. Likewise, it’s pretty hard to believe that his wife Keri could have put up with him for so long, but somehow it’s true. Over those years, between raising two kids, buying and selling houses, starting and selling businesses, Pete’s managed to build a stack of killer cars. A handful of them have been featured on these pages, but there are many that haven’t, such as the ’67 Camaro that he built for Keri about a decade ago now.

As with most cars he builds, even though this wasn’t ‘his’ per se, it was soon up for sale and he was onto the next thing. None too surprisingly, the same thing happened with a Mustang that was also “built for Keri”. But, back in 2019, Keri got her own back at last. “We were at Repco Beach Hop 19, and had two cars for sale in the for-sale area. There was a bit of interest, but neither of them sold,” Pete says. “But while we were there, Keri spied a sad-looking XR Falcon in the corner, and pointed out that she liked the shape. So, needless to say, we went home with an extra car, despite trying to get rid of two!” With their 25th wedding anniversary just a year away, Pete decided that getting stuck into the build and giving it to Keri as a wedding anniversary gift was the perfect way to justify the time and money that would soon be disappearing.

No stranger to getting his hands dirty, Pete soon had the one-family-owner ’67 in the shed to begin stripping it down. This task alone was a bit more time-consuming than usual, as Pete explains: “The original owner liked to add things to it … We removed five different horns and switches, four sets of spotlights, four under-car lights, shit loads of wiring and relays, and a bucket load of dog hair.” Thankfully, under all that was a pretty rust-free body, meaning that Pete himself could take care of straightening out the body’s kinks and imperfections that had been received over the years.

Of course, having built countless cars before, Pete’s assembled a good crew of people to assist with all the parts that can’t be done at home, like the paint. Sure, he’s happy to blow some black on an undercarriage or paint small parts, but, with Keri’s wish of having the car a 

deep-cherry-type red, he knew it needed to be done right. For this key part of the build, he turned to the team at Transvisual, who loaded the spray gun with PPG Soul Ultra Red paint, and did a sterling job of getting it on the car.


While this was going on, Pete was chipping away at the rest of the combination, which included taking the motor and the newly-purchased SCAT Stroker kit down to Murray at Muzza’s Motors. Muzza has been responsible for plenty of Pete’s engines, and happily pieced together the now-331ci Windsor from the original 289 block. Although huge power was never the aim, the car needed enough power to back up its tough looks, so the stock heads were replaced with alloy Air Flow Research (AFR) versions along the way. Likewise, during the engine-assembly stage, the stock intake manifold and carb also found their way into the recycling bin, being replaced with an Edelbrock Air-Gap and a 650cfm Quick Fuel, respectively. With the car being cherry red, there was no way Pete or Keri were going to accept bright red ignition components hanging off the engine and clashing with the paint. Instead, an order was placed for a black-finished MSD 6AL and coil package that looks just the part with the silver HPC-coated headers that the car now wears. While the engine’s not been on the dyno, the sound coming from the Flowmaster-equipped exhaust is enough to let you know that it’s now producing well in excess of the factory horsepower figure.



All that new-found horsepower had to get to the ground somehow, but this time around, rather than rebuild a tired old transmission, Pete went one step further. The brand-new C4 he purchased was built by Performance Autos in the US using plenty of CNC-machined internal parts, as well as a larger oil pan for additional cooling. Off the back of this now spins a custom driveshaft with oversized universals that was put together much closer to home at Diff Specs. Diff Specs was also responsible for throwing a Truetrac head and 28-spline axles into the diff that Pete shortened in preparation of some decent-sized wheels.

The special wheels Pete had in mind are the exact same model of three-piece Simmons FRs that he’s used not just on his own cars before but that also adorn his son Cameron’s previously-featured VH Commodore. For the XR though, they’d measure in at 19×7.5 inches on the front and 19×10 inches on the rear, wrapped in 225/35R19 and 275/30R19 tyres, respectively. While the temptation was there to go for 20-inch versions, the 19s allow the car to sit just that little bit lower — not that it’s lacking in that department, thanks to Archers Auto Springs coming on board to reset the rear leaves and create a custom set of front coils. These lowered springs are assisted by a full complement of new bushes and arms, along with adjustable KYB shocks.

For now, the rear end still wears the stock drum-brake rear end that it was purchased with, but only due to supply issues, and Pete assures us that plans are afoot to change that as soon as possible. The rest of the braking system has been thoroughly upgraded though, with a Wilwood master cylinder now feeding a set of Wilwood front calipers.

Like all of Pete’s cars — the keepers at least —  Trotskies Auto Upholstery was handed the task of sorting out the upholstery. As part of this, the stock front seats were mildly reshaped, before being covered in the same vinyl fabric as the rest of the interior. Other interior adornments include a splattering of Autometer gauges, a SAAS steering wheel, and B&M Pro Ratchet shifter.

In typical fashion, Pete didn’t mess around with the build; although, with the 25th wedding anniversary rapidly looming, he really put the pedal to the metal in an attempt to get the car ready in time to debut at the celebration. Sadly, that didn’t quite happen, but the next deadline, Repco Beach Hop 20, was achieved, only for the event to be postponed from March to November. This did allow eight months for the bugs to be ironed out before the first public debut on the streets of Whangamata. As you can imagine, the car stood out, even among the thousands of others at the event, although this may have also been helped by the countless laps down main street that both Keri and Pete clocked up there.

Sadly, this may be the last of Pete’s creations that we see in these pages, as the family are packing up and moving to Aussie around the time this magazine goes on sale. Of course, with all the different options available for building cars across the ditch, we’re sure it won’t be long before he’s back in the shed and working on yet another masterpiece.


This article originally appeared in NZV8 issue No. 191