As an aircraft engineer, Tony Antonievich is as meticulous as you can get. After years of maintaining, owning, restoring and flying both aeroplanes and helicopters he has a large range of experience to call on. After selling his aircraft maintenance business at Ardmore he worked for the prestigious Avspecs company as a contract engineer restoring a de Havilland Rapide aircraft. This he says was a highlight of his engineering career and working with the Avspecs team was a real privilege, as these guys are up there with the best in the world for this kind of work and have a number of awards to show for it. After a two-and-a-half-year stint on the Rapide, it was time to slow down. And now, Tony and his wife Duane are busier than ever …
Before selling the business, the couple had built themselves a hangar on a rural block; in theory it had enough room for any toys they could ever imagine owning. However, it wasn’t long before Tony was building cars for other people, and soon the name and business ‘Auto & Aero Restorations’ was born. These days, half the hangar is full of a range of customers’ cars, in for anything from a nut and bolt restoration, to repair work to paint touch ups. The other half has Tony and Duane’s impressive collection of cars — well, some of them at least are cars. Throw in a Cessna and a 1941 Stearman bi-plane and you’ve got a ‘shed’ like no other.
As the business has grown, a spray booth has been added, as has a specialised media-blasting area, a fabricator, and a painter, meaning that almost everything can be done in-house. Not only is this handy for customers, but also for Tony himself when working on his own toys.
Amongst the collection is the very well known ex–Dennis Marwood Camaro, a car that Tony has owned for 28 years now, and which was restored (for the third time) five years ago. As the interest in nostalgic racing grew, the car was retrofitted closer and closer to the specs of its glory years, and that’s the way it will remain.
Tony’s philosophy is to make the most of life while enjoying a good lifestyle and quality of life, and he’s worked hard to allow him to play hard and live this dream.
With such a diverse interest in cars, there’s a range of things in the shed(s) that aren’t a common sight, including the ’34 sedan, which was a barn-find from Avondale. The car was parked from 1959 until two years ago, and was going to be hot rodded, but it’s far too good for that, so Tony got it running, registered and warranted and now loves driving it around, with it looking exactly as it did when it was dragged from the shed, covered in mould and muck.
In a similar vein, there’s an old Coke truck, apparently a bargain too good to refuse. Tony purchased it with the click of a mouse, and it arrived a few months later, complete with genuine old signage. It’s not the only old truck in the collection though, as in another shed, you’ll also find a couple of ’32s, the larger ‘Express’ Tony has plans to turn into a beer-tanker truck, an idea that we love. Look further and there’s both a Jailbar and an F5 fire engine tucked away, neither one restored as per the one sitting in the main shed though.
With Tony’s dad Louie being a very well known driver in his day, he grew up at the track alongside names such as Johnny Riley and Red Dawson, which is where his love of all things old and performance-oriented comes from. Included in this is his love for flathead V8s, of which he has a few stashed away.
One of his own projects on the go is a five-window coupe, which will run an 8BA flathead, topped off by a genuine Judson supercharger, making it a very cool retro ride.
At the other end of the scale is his largest project on the go, an ultra-modern styled ’32. Based on a Brookville body, the car runs a ‘Multimatic’ front end, which sees the front suspension sitting right inside the wheels. Hydraulic lines lead from here to operate coilovers mounted up on the firewall. It’s an incredible piece of engineering, which gives the car absolutely no bump steer. Power for the car is from a 427ci L88, which came from Stone Brothers and was from the Hulme CanAm programme of yesteryear. With a Tremec TKO600 backing it up, it’s going to be an insane machine for the road and track. We’ll bring you more on it as it nears completion.
Tony isn’t just about going fast though, as he and Duane love nothing more than cruising in their stock ’55 Chev coupe, which was imported from Missouri three years ago (check out the current issue of NZ Classic Car for a full feature), or if the weather is good, you can often see them in the sky in the Stearman, and with a 985ci Pratt & Whitney supercharged motor in it, it’s not hard to see why. Tony has a good point when he mentions that when you drive an old car on the roads everything else around you is new, whereas up in the air, it really could still be 1941.
With Auto & Aero Restorations going from strength to strength and plenty of customer jobs on the go as well as plenty of his own projects sitting-in-waiting, Tony is a busy man, but with a shed like this, and a wife who’s into it as much as he is, you’d be hard pressed to find a happier one.
This article is from NZV8 issue 88. Get your copy here.
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy[Gallery not found]