MAD ON MAX: Former panel beater Geoff O’Loughlan has painstakingly transformed a 1976 Falcon 500 into an authentic replica of the Interceptor driven by Mel Gibson early in the first ‘Mad Max’ movie, released 40 years ago in 1979. Photos: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

‘MAD Max’ devotees will be heading to Maryborough on Saturday, February 2, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of film’s release.

The event will see more than 25 faithfully restored Ford four-door and two-door black coupe Interceptor models on display, including this one, RIGHT, owned by Birdwoodton’s Geoff O’Loughlan, INSET.

Geoff has spent more than two years painstakingly restoring his pride and joy in his home garage.

A former panel beater who changed careers more than a decade ago, Geoff is now an electrics asset inspector, a role which sees him visiting sites across the Mallee inspecting power poles.

“I became a panel beater and worked in that industry for more than 20 years and changed fields about 10 years ago,” he said. “I have always had a fascination with Mad Max. I saw the movies when I was about 12 or 13, and it had a lasting effect on me.”

The garage where Geoff restored the Interceptor is the ultimate men’s shed, decked out with a great collection of Mad Max memorabilia – an old motorbike is also a feature.

“I’ve got a bit of a tribute wall to Mad Max, pictures and the motorcycle I built, which is a Suzuki GSX 250, and while it looks like it needs restoration, I have purposely tried to make it look like a bit of a relic, and something straight out of the desert wilderness of Fury Road,” Geoff said.

“It’s not a replica of any bike, but rather it’s inspired by Mad Max 2 and Fury Road, although I built it before Fury Road was released (Fury Road, the latest Mad Max movie released in May 2015, won six Academy Awards at the 2016 Oscars).” 

Geoff even has a DVD player and TV in his shed, and often has the movie running while he’s working on the Interceptor, and of course no man’s cave is complete without a beer fridge.

“Yes I’ve got the old Pope fridge, but it’s only filled with water. I’m not a big beer drinker!” he said.

Geoff said that he purchased the original vehicle in 2010, but has only been working on it regularly during the past two years.

“I heard about the Mad Max 40-year anniversary and decided to pull out all the stops and go as hard as I could to get it finished,” he said.

The restored car is a 1976 XB Falcon 500, which originally was powered by a six-cylinder engine. Geoff has replaced that with a throaty 351 V8.

“I bought an old Ford Fairlane to get parts from it basically, and used it as a ‘donor’ car – it was a real rusty one which wasn’t able to be ‘saved’,” he said.

The wheels of the Interceptor are fitted with wide 265/15 tyres, but the real excitement is under the bonnet, and when Geoff reveals the former Ford Fairlane 351 Cleveland V8, it’s absolutely immaculate – there isn’t a speck of dust or spot of oil or grease to be seen.

The paint job on the vehicle is equally impressive. Geoff used authentic Ford colour paints from the era when the film was made.

“Through meeting and talking with a lot of other people that owned and built replica cars, I’ve been able to source a lot of information from others who have already built vehicles, and the colours that have been chosen are all authentic Ford colours from the 1970s,” Geoff said.

“I’ve used Neptune Blue, Flame Red and the bright, canary yellow colour is called Glow.”

Some of the other customised changes that Geoff has made include the steering wheel and seats.

“Max’s first car had a standard Falcon steering wheel on it, and I have changed to a leather-bound sports steering wheel – which is the same as the one in the black Ford two-door coupe he drove later in the movie,” Geoff said.

“The Falcon also came standard with a bench seat which I replaced with buckets. I’ve sourced the replacement parts from all sorts of places, including swapmeets and garage sales – you name it, anywhere, trying to find parts.”

Geoff registered the Interceptor in early December last year, and it now proudly displays the customised Victorian number plates MADM-79, which his wife Pam surprised him with on his birthday two years ago.

“It’s been a labour of love, but he’s done a brilliant job restoring the car,” Pam said. “He’s just so passionate and good at what he does, and with the recent heat, he’s been waking up at two in the morning and getting out in the shed working on it, and then having a sleep in the afternoon!

“He’s meticulous with every detail of course, he was a panel beater and he’s taught himself how to paint, observing the guys in the paint shop when he was still at the panel-shop, and he’s put all of the decals on as well.”

One of the decals is the name which appeared on the car in the movie, and is located on the right-hand front guard and reads…‘M. Rockatansky’, which was Max’s name.

“It should have the ‘Dark One’ under that, but I’ve personalised the car and put ‘The Mad One’ instead – that’s me!” Geoff said.

One things for sure, Geoff’s restoration has probably cost a bomb, something he said he hasn’t really kept a tally of.

“In all honesty I haven’t really kept a tab on it. It’s probably more time than anything,” he said.

“For someone to put something like this together if they had to pay someone, it would likely be in the order of $50,000 or $60,000.”

What it could fetch at an auction is anyone’s guess, however there’s no indication that Geoff would ever part with it anyway. But, if he did, it would have to be for a pretty penny.

“All cars as they get older and become rarer and harder to find seem to increase in value, and so one day who knows, it might be worth quite a bit,” he said.

Prior to the cars being displayed in Maryborough, there will be a convoy of the vehicles which will leave from Clunes, near Ballarat, with the The Kawasaki Z Owners Club of Victoria, to provide an escort.

The bikes will be out in front, and the registered Mad Max vehicles will follow behind. A few of the vehicles will have some of the actors and stunt people from the original movie on board. Organisers are hoping that some of the actors from the second, ‘Road Warrior’ installment, will also be in attendance.

There has also been mention of a ‘wild card’ person making an appearance later in the day, and speculation is mounting that it may be the film’s creator and director George Miller, or the movie’s lead actor, Mel Gibson – Mad Max himself! 

Geoff will be joined by his wife Pam and their son Brad when he makes the trip to Maryborough for the big weekend in the Interceptor, something they are all looking forward to.

For more information about the event visit bit.ly/2xF4bLI – a link to the event’s Facebook page.