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Why this small business is the torque of the town

“You can’t buy them new anymore, so people are keeping them and modifying.”  Rob Harvey. 

Anodised engine oil pumps. Image supplied.

Rob Harvey was a 20-year-old wanting to buy a new car with a big, powerful, 8-cylinder engine when he approached his mum for help.


“I wanted a (Falcon) BA XR8 ute when it came out in 2003 but my mum said ‘you’re too young but you can have a Turbo 6’,” he says.


While the car mum preferred had a smaller engine the turbo charge gave it incredible power. It was a light bulb moment for Rob – an understanding of how engineering could get more out of an engine.


“That ended up being what set me off on the road I am on now.”


And where he is now is Monsta Torque which, thanks to mum and Rob’s passion and expertise, has turned high powered Ford turbo engines into his livelihood.  


Monsta Torque’s Perth auto workshop is now a national destination for many looking to customise their beloved Ford vehicles. 


Turning point for automotive


Rob says COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns across various states has been transformative for Aussie car culture. Auto fanatics spent time researching and ploughing cash into their beloved vehicles. This was money they would otherwise have been used for travel. 


“People were at home and bored and not travelling,” he says.


Monsta Torque, based in Malaga in the northern suburbs of Perth, had already garnered a reputation for quality with its customised dyno tuning and performance upgrades on Ford and Ford Performance Vehicles in Perth. 


“We look after a few cars for ambulance officers so when the pandemic hit we were classified as an essential service,” he says.


“We had a couple of guys who needed repairs.” 


But it was the Ford enthusiasts trapped at home who drove a 50 per cent surge in inquiries. 


Rob employed another mechanic during the pandemic to cope with the extra business, adding to the team of him, his wife and another mechanic. 

The Monsta Torque team: Kate Harvey, Robert Harvey, Chad, Chelsie Harvey and Nathan alongside one of Rob’s favourite cars, the Monsta Torque FG XR6T sedan. Image via: Monsta Torque


Rob also says the end of manufacturing of Fords in Australia means enthusiasts are now also more likely to keep their vehicle longer – and spend more on it – rather than getting the new hottest vehicle. 


“You can’t buy them new anymore, so people are keeping them and modifying,” he says. 


Rob is also determined not to repeat some of the bad service he received as a young bloke when he took his car to mechanics. 


“Customers also want to be more involved. If you give them an insight it becomes a relationship between the car, the customer and the business.” 


The increased volume of cars does not mean certain profits though. 


“This doesn’t mean your profit increases. Where the profit comes from is being efficient and getting the car out.” 


It is that drive for efficiency that has seen Rob acquire a new workshop in Malaga in the last year, expanding from 167 square metres to 510 square metres. Monsta Torque has been in the old workshop for a decade. 


He expects efficiency to increase by 100 per cent once complete thanks to three hoists rather than two. 


“We’ve been toying with moving to a bigger premises but we are pretty reserved people. We struggled for the last couple of years in Malaga,” he says. 


“A problem we had with the (old) workshop was we had one entry now we have four so we don’t have to interrupt and move cars.” 


Rob praised ANZ for “bending over backwards” to supply the finance for the move. “ANZ said it was a bit of a unique business. They couldn’t have done more.” 


ANZ Small Business offered a 30-year term loan for the commercial property purchase, which was key to getting Rob into the new premise as the repayments were lower than rent.


John Bruneton, Business Banking Manager at ANZ says meeting customers like Rob who are running successful businesses in industries they are passionate about is always inspiring.


“It’s amazing to see what Rob has done with the new workshop with a first class premium quality fit out,” he says.


“I am pleased to have played a small part in helping make it happen.”


Despite the expansion, Rob still has the same passion that drove him to run the business as a sideline while he did other jobs – including as a heavy duty diesel mechanic on the WA mines.


That passion is clear when he talks about his first experiments with the German made ZF gear box that came in many Fords. 


While other workshops would rip them out and install turbo 400s or power glide transmissions, Rob and his crew saw the potential. They experimented and were soon getting an even better performance. 


“We knew we could go fast at the racetrack and still have it in a daily driven car. We get components made in Perth and have developed our own products,” Rob explains. 


Now customers from the east coast approach Monsta Torque if they want their ZF gear box strengthened. 


The easiest way to see Monsta Torque’s research and development is via the assorted cars it has worked on to put out on race tracks at classic car events. 


One of Rob’s favourite cars is the Monsta Torque (Black and Green) FG XR6T sedan. “This car is highly modified and is fitted out with a full roll cage and parachute. It’s built to race!”


“It ran 313kms an hour at the Racewars 1,000m event in Albany in 2009 and has ran a 8.89 sec pass over the quarter mile at Kwinana Motorplex,” Rob says. 


“A close friend drives it – the reason for that is I am providing track support for our customers at the events - you can’t provide backup support and drive at the same time.”


Jeff Whalley is a business writer of more than ten years whose work appeared regularly in The Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Adelaide Advertiser and the Brisbane Courier Mail.


In this series, Jeff talks to small to medium businesses about their journey and experience of growth, especially during 2020 - a year like no other.

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