The name Chuck Mann is a familiar one to these pages. He’s regarded as one of the best transmission guys in New Zealand when it comes to piecing together bulletproof transmissions for street or strip duties.
Unless you’ve visited his shop (Rotorua V8 Performance) though, or know someone who has, you may not know that besides being a trans shop owner, he’s one serious party guy, and his trans shop/house/bar proves just that. While most people are content with just one bar area in their shed, Chuck likes to throw parties — big parties — and it wasn’t long before the one bar area, which also doubled as his home kitchen, just wasn’t enough.
While he’s had the business in the same location for the last 20-odd years, it wasn’t until around four years ago that he moved on-site, and it was then that things quickly spiralled. Being good mates with Al Dawson from the Al Dawson and the Wildcats band fame, he soon offered up a space for them when they were on the prowl for a practice area. These days they’ve got their own dedicated stage, on what was once used as a four-post hoist. After an incident where the hoist was damaged some years back, it was no longer good to use for vehicles, but as a stage, it’s perfect, especially come party time. Better still it offers plenty of storage below, too.
Next to the stage is the area dedicated to the ‘Vegas Virgins’, a group of ladies that are always present at the parties, who decided they needed their own bloke-free area close to the stage. Chuck laughs and says his newly acquired kitten is the only real virgin to go near the place.
With the local NSRA using the facility as their clubrooms, the main bar area has plenty of seating, and a few TVs to watch international drag racing etc. on. Add to this plenty of memorabilia, both gifted from locals and purchased from eBay, and you’ve got a bar that’s seriously cool in its own right. The V8 barstools were a gift for his 50th birthday, and the walls are adorned with signed pictures from happy customers.
The more you look, the more you’ll find, and if your maths is any good, you’ll soon discover a total of six different dedicated bar areas around the facility. Of course, there’s a pretty well equipped trans building area too!
Chuck’s got a couple of cars of his own as well, and while they’ve both been on the road, they’ve not been out of the shed for many years now, as his time is taken up with crewing on customer cars, working hard, or partying harder. His green ’36 five-window has been parked up for 13 years, but before that it was used as a tow car for the ’32. Chuck laughs and says he’s now getting old enough to get into the nostalgia thing, so wouldn’t mind getting it running again.
The ’32 coupe has an ex–Bill Jenkins chassis under it after the original met an untimely end. He’s owned the car for 30 years now and pulled it off the road for a quick rebuild about 13 years ago. With a 540ci Dart big M-block, tunnel ram and Hilborn injection, it’d be a seriously scary car to drive. For now, it looks damn cool sitting on display, as does the mocked-up engine sitting on a stand nearby.
Each year Chuck plays host to a pre-Rotorua Swap Meet shindig … which is the reason he’s not made it to the swap meet yet, as he’s always been busy trying to clean the place up. And with Al and the lads playing on stage until the early hours whenever possible, this is a task that is frequently recurring and seldom complete.
Is he finished with the place yet? Not quite; at night he says he has visions of more things he can do with it. Exactly what that means, we guess we’ll have to wait and see. No matter what he dreams up next though, you can be sure it will include plenty of good times!
This article is from NZV8 issue 89. Get your copy here.
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy[Gallery not found]