Ian ‘Elvis’ Davis

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Imagine building this car from scratch. Roger Marmion meets the talented and technical man who is being sought out by filmmakers from around the world – Ian ‘Elvis’ Davis

Rumours have been circulating in Nabiac ever since word got out that local hotrod builder Ian ‘Elvis’ Davis had been sought out by members of the production team of the much-anticipated Mad Max 4 movie.

With thoughts of perhaps a brand-new Interceptor being manufactured in the local area, Roger Marmion tracked Elvis down at Rodbods Downunder, his very impressive factory, to find out some details – and immediately hit a wall.

While Elvis could confirm that he had been approached and sold some ‘bits and pieces’ to the production team, he wouldn’t or couldn’t elaborate any further – thanks to a confidentiality agreement!

“You can understand that if you were wanting to do a big film like Mad Max where the vehicles are so important,” Elvis explained, “you wouldn’t want someone putting photos out on the net before it was released, would you?” Despite his strong resolve Elvis, seemed like the kind of bloke who didn’t really like holding his tongue.

Rumours about Mad Max 4 Fury Road have been circulating since 1995. Nearly 25 years after the release of Thunderdome, director George Miller confirmed in October last year that pre-production had commenced and filming is due to commence around Broken Hill in August this year, but without Mel Gibson in the title role. A previous attempt to film in Namibia using South African-built vehicles was shelved six years ago.

The NSW State Government has made available the Redfern Carriage Works free of charge as a soundstage and offered financial incentives for the film to be produced here.

The original Mad Max was filmed on a budget of $350,000 and released in 1979, quickly gaining cult status in Australia and in the US (where it was released under the name Road Warrior). Fury Road is believed to have a budget close to the $130 million of Baz Luhrman’s Australia.

Miller explained that the reason the film [and budget] is so big is because “it’s got just a huge number of stunts, and we’re trying to do stuff that I believe people haven’t done before.”

“There’s a great deal of interest in the vehicles from Mad Max and lots of pub talk!” Elvis suggested.

While Elvis remained silent on his “bits and pieces”, he was more than happy to show me around his workshops and talk about his passion for hotrods and his commitment to training others in his various trades.

Elvis began restoring and building hotrods 25 years ago in Sydney, but moved to Nabiac with wife Heidi nine years ago. Rodbods Downunder builds or restores chassis and supplies fibreglass bodies and panels for hotrod enthusiasts around Australia, New Zealand and the US, employing seven locals and training TAFE students.

Elvis proudly showed me his latest vehicle in the paint booth – a blue 1934 Ford 3 window coupe built as first prize for a raffle conducted by the Australian Streetrods Federation.

“We turn out one body chassis package a week, and we do everything ourselves from start to finish under the one roof!

“Only about 15% of our work is for the New South Wales market,” Elvis explained. ”The majority is for interstate and overseas clients.

“The high Australian dollar has slowed down shipments to the US. A couple of years ago we were sending them over by the container-load!”

On top of his busy work schedule, Elvis is upgrading his own qualifications in Engineering with a view to establishing his own TAFE accredited courses to teach each of the trades involved in his business.

Mad Max 4 is due for release in Australian cinemas in May 2012 – a long time to wait to see Elvis’ work and a long time for Elvis not to be able to talk about it!

> Story by Roger Marmion.

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