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Rare Spares Legend John Taverna


John Taverna

It was so unfortunate we lost John Taverna last year, just as he was next in line for the coveted Rare Spares Legend award. Even though John knew he was a Legend he would have been chuffed to have it officially recognized by joining the Rare Spares list.


As reflected in his achievements something that the majority of people already know about John is that he was a true innovator. This is a brief overview of some of those achievements as it would take a book to document his life.


At the same time he was working at Ford in Melbourne in the late 60's and 70's he started modifying cars in his Dad's garage. He would fabricate, panel beat and paint and do all the mechanical work as well. I'm sure the neighbours and his Dad grew tired of the late night noise, so he decided to buy a factory and set up "John Taverna Chassis (JTC)."


His love of being competitive drew him to Drag Racing where he built and raced many cars through the 80's. JT started out with a black 57 Chev and soon progressed to the famous Grot FJ, then the HK Monaro also named "The Grot". These were all fairly normal builds but after a few wins and plenty of experience now on board, he started building race cars with innovations that even the US builders hadnít developed yet.


One of his best known cars was Peter Kapiris's Beretta which went on to win the national title. Peter is still one of Australia's best known Drag racers today with his string of Top Doorslammers. In 1985 he stepped up to Pro Stock, again building a game changing car, the JD Camira. John was always on the lookout for a challenge and saw just that, so got involved with ANDRA to become the VIC Divisional Director and Deputy National Director. For this reason he had to make a choice and in 1990 gave up racing. He did a lot for Drag Racing in Victoria particularly, including the recovery of ANDRA in the 80's, overseeing of the Vic tracks and building many state of the art sedan style race cars.


The first Street Machine out of JTC was the LJ Torana with mini tubs, power glide, 308 and yes pink paint, John wanted everyone to know they were in the Street Machine building business. Many customer cars were completed, some just fabrication, some just wheel tubs but many turn key cars left that shop.


The car that took him to the next level of innovation and showmanship was the famous 67 Camaro, which was pink again but this time had everything including a brand new set of Weld wheels. It may not be that different today, but in 1990 long before it was popular, innovating with colour combinations was another first from JT.


He was constantly making buying trips to the US for his blossoming 9" diff conversion business and started bringing in cars to sell. These were predominantly Mustangs, turning out many turn key rebuilds of mid 60's Mustangs. There were also plenty of other makes that received the JTC make-over and are part of the modified car scene today.


John never suffered fools but was extremely generous with his time and willingness to support people and made many positive contributions to the industry. He was one of the original Summernats judges, obviously covering engineering, engine bay and input overall. He showed many judges the "way" over his 20 years at Summernats and other leading shows, shaping the way they are across Australia to this day.

John has probably had more impact than anyone on the overall car building, drag racing and show scene in Australia, which is why from 2014 the "Master Craftsman Award" at Summernats will be known as the John Taverna Memorial Award.


John had the most amazing ideas on car building, from design, fabrication, paint colours and effects and showed unbelievable skills in designing and making engineering work better than anything you had ever seen before. He will be sorely missed, leaving a void that may never be filled but a great legacy and the memory of a true "Rare Spares Legend."