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My Pontiac Collection

Paul Holter, 54, of North Arm on the Sunshine Coast got his nickname from years of converting American cars, mainly Pontiacs, to right-hand drive.

Over the years he claims he has restored, converted, traded and owned as many as 600 cars and now has a dozen in his backyard and shed as well as a few restoration projects belonging to mates.  "I've been collecting cars all my life," he says  "When I got married 35 years ago my wife threatened that if I got any more cars she would leave me. She's still here."

Holter got his first car when he was 11 years old.  "My dad bought a Mk V Jag and sold off the tyres and battery and gave me the rest," he says.  "I sold it and bought a '48 Ford Prefect for $40."

His daily drivers are a 2005 CVZ Monaro, a 2007 Holden Rodeo and a 2008 Honda Civic, while his collectible cars include a 1976 Chrysler VK Valiant Hemi, a 1968 Pontiac Firebird Convertible, a 1959 Plymouth Suburban sports wagon, a 1960 Pontiac Ventura, a 1962 S Series Chrysler Valiant and a 1983 Pontiac Trans Am race car.

He bought the Trans Am for $2000 and converted it into a race car by pulling out the 305 Chevy engine and four-speed auto box and replacing them with a Gen III Commodore 5.7-litre V8, six-speed Tremec gearbox and adding GT-R Skyline rear suspension and brakes.  He claims it gets about 350hp (260kW) at the rear wheels and propelled him to 77th out of 185 cars at last year's Noosa Hillclimb.

His current project is the Plymouth he bought for $8500 two years ago. It features nine seats, including a rear-facing row in the back.  He's leaving it in left-hand drive, but is replacing the engine with a 440 V8 he bought online.  "I don't know what it will all cost," he says. "I'd prefer not to know as it could get expensive.

"It's all the little bits and pieces you have to buy that add up."  Over the past six years he has spent up to $40,000 in a loving restoration of the Ventura he bought for $11,000 and plans to spend about $30,000 _ "or something stupid like that" _ on the S Series Valiant.  "When you do it a bit at a time it doesn't seem so expensive," he says.

He plans to fuel-inject and turbo-charge the Valiant's 225 slant-six engine.  "It's rated at 145bhp (108kW), but I reckon I can get it up to the middle 300s," he says.  "I do all my own mechanical work, but I get interiors, paint and body done by experts."

Holter is a qualified train driver who moved from Victoria to Queensland 21 years ago and started his right-hand-drive conversion business.  He also had a business importing Nissan Laurel four-door, rear-wheel-drive pillarless sedans but found compliance laws kept changing too often. He bought an Autobarn franchise six years ago and another a year later.

Business must be good because Holter has been able to indulge his interest in American cars, travelling several times to the US to buy cars and ship them home for conversion and restoration.

And Holter is always looking toward his next project.  He's currently considering trading his Firebird for a Grand Prix and he's always had a soft spot for a Valiant Charger although he reckons they cost too much these days, some fetching as much as $300,000.

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