Ballarat's Mustang men

The Griffin brothers have turned a passion into a profession.

To what extent did Ballarat brothers Chris and Tim Griffin pursue their dream job? To what extent did that dream job choose them?

The Griffin brothers are Ballarat's Mustang men. Fans of the great American "pony" car from across the country call on them to source a classic Mustang and return it to its full and former glory.

Country Cars visited Griffs American Auto Parts and Restorations in Wendouree this week. It is part showroom, part workshop, part exhibition, and part parts and memorabilia shop, devoted to the Ford Mustang and (to a lesser extent) its American muscle car rivals.

The completed cars include Mustang coupes and fastbacks, along with a Chevrolet Camaro parked almost defiantly among the Fords, while projects out back include a fastback destined for racing and an 'Eleanor' being purpose-built for a buyer.

Chris Griffin says Griffs evolved from a plan to turn a passion for cars into a business - if only to have an excuse to tinker on cars. Becoming a bit of a Mustang specialist was not necessarily the plan.

"Officially we've been in business since 2007 but Tim and I have been restoring cars since we were 16 or 17," Chris said.

"We started doing a bit of everything, actually. But we did some high-profile restoration jobs on some Mustangs, so that's what we became known for. It was our customers and clients who made the decision for us to become Mustang specialists."

Both Tim and Chris came to the enterprise with a working background in cars. Tim had concentrated on engineering while Chris had worked at Ballarat Toyota as parts and service manager.

In the meantime they had both gone down that slippery slope of becoming car collectors and needed some way of paying for their addiction.

The step from expensive hobby to rewarding business came when local businessman, Stuart Henley, came to collect his Prado from Ballarat Toyota, and spied Chris's classic Mustang parked in front. 

"He said he was blown away by it. At the end of the conversation he had told me he wanted one too," Chris said.

Chris and Tim purchased, imported and restored that car - which was transformed into a convertible Shelby clone. In the process they trialled the method which, with further fine-tuning, became the model under which Griffs now operates. 

As for the restorations themselves, the Griffin brothers can do the lion's share of the work in-house.

"We don't do full exterior paintwork here. We hire a booth to do it properly," Chris explains.

"But we do bodywork, fabrication and all mechanical work in-house. Our cousin Mark Griffin, who has his own business, does upholstery."

The Griffins say they love all cars - including Aussie, Japanese and European stuff - but like to concentrate on classic and muscle cars from the United States. 

They head to the US a few times a year and have plenty of contacts over there, such as the Mustang Owners Club of America, to make sure they get the right cars. 

They also have some advice on what to look for, and just as importantly, what to avoid.

"We tend to only bring in rare cars. We generally wouldn't bring in a plain Jane one because rarity helps as a future investment," Chris says.

"Of those we bring in, 75 per cent are in nice condition while 25 per cent are full restorers, sometimes already unfinished projects. Usually we wouldn't touch one in poor condition.

"We love it. Working on the bodywork, the engines, everything. Every day brings something new.

"We have a motto here. Life is all about the ride."


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