It is incredible to think that a simple Encouragement Award at a minor car show was the trigger for the build on WA’s most awarded show car and just as amazing, the car is a 1982 GJ Sigma, yep, a Sigma. It just goes to show you that build quality and attention to detail are more important than the badge on the front of the hood.
Owner Joe De Faria is the first person to admit that his pristine Sigma was a love/hate thing for plenty of people back in the day. “Some of the show organisers would often ask the judges ‘Isn’t there anything better than a Sigma here?’ But at the end of the event, the judges were just doing their job and my car, well, it was just better in all of the critical areas,” said Joe.
And, as many old school enthusiasts will tell you, the car really was the best of the best of that era. If you don’t believe my words, perhaps the results and the collection of trophies Joe has might hold some more weight. Back at his home; kept securely, are over 90 trophies.
At one stage, the car won Best Engine six years in a row, and more often than not, Joe drove the car home with the Best Overall trophy riding shotgun with him and a backseat full of silverware.
Joe is a unique person, perhaps a little OCD when it comes to the cleanliness of his vehicles but, that is a good thing. There were many rumours circulating in the 90s about just how much he cleaned the car, and after asking the man myself, well, they are all true. “It was a well-known fact that I drove the car every day to and from work and because I cared how it looked, I would put a cover on it at work and then once I got home I would clean it before I put it away. I remember one time; I cleaned the car five times in one day because it was raining. Some people might think that is over the top but when I was younger, I was told by my father to respect and look after my possessions, and I took that advice to heart. At the end of the day, that is an element of what sets this car apart from all of the others,” explained Joe. Mind you, Joe’s cleaning meant under the car, in the door jams, under the bonnet and a thorough detailing of the paint.
What makes the story behind the car even better is that this was Joe’s first car and he purchased it brand new back in 1983. “At the time, owning a V8 or even a 6 cylinder wasn’t an economical option. My old man helped me get the car, so I had to accept some compromises as well. There weren’t too many cool rides in the 4 cylinder market back then, but I thought the Sigma had some promise. I had no idea just how far I would take it though, and even now it still shocks me.”
For Joe though, it wasn’t a straight jump into modifying the car, being his daily drive he had to be a little sensible, but then slowly but surely, the Sigma began to develop. First, he did the general tidying up thing, threw some rims on it and played with the audio and then it was time for the mundane 1.6-litre motor to get attention. Joe got creative and decided to develop a draw-through S82 Sprintex supercharger system for the motor. As usual, it wasn’t long before the horsepower was no longer enough and Joe was onto the next combo or rather the plural – combos. “Each time I upped the size of the cubes I was also increasing the size of the superchargers and then changing the ECUs, the exhausts and then taking the time to paint or polish and detail all the new parts. It was always a big task that was time-consuming and expensive, but I guess that is part of the modified car building game,” said Joe fondly. As each motor was exchanged, the next round of modifications went with the car. It was all about progressing, and Joe was making each area of the car perfect for the judges for the next show appearance.
It wasn’t long before Joe was stripping the car and painting the whole thing, top to bottom in that sensational Impact Red colour. Hard to believe that the colour is, in fact, a factory hue and even harder to believe that the paint is now 15 years old! The reason why it is still so good, well it was Mark from B&B Smash Repairs that did the work. At the time, he was the guru of the paint scene, and all of his work was impeccable – the Sigma is no exception.
The car originally wore a sweet set of Simmons B45s bathed in silver paint. The current wheels are the second set of ‘late model’ wheels that have been fitted and are primarily there to clear the larger disc brakes. Getting the right offsets and stud patterns for a GJ Sigma were near on impossible, so Joe had a limited choice of wheels.
Inside the car has changed a little over the years but most of the gear from the 90s is still intact. Updates relate to the new head unit for the audio system, the MOMO wheel replaces a wood rim number, and Joe whipped up that trick centre console for a fresh look. “The seats were a real score. They are Recaro buckets from a Proton and fit the bill perfectly. I had the guys at Myaree Trim re-do the rear seats to match and then re-trim the whole car. The doors are a serious bit of gear and were designed just when the car audio thing was just taking off in Perth. That is one thing I still enjoy, the sound system and how good it looks inside,” Joe explained.
One of the most significant changes that Joe performed around 13 years ago was ditching the Astron motor for the much larger Buick V6 donk. “There was a mob around the corner from me in O’Conner that were importing motors, and at the time I could get a brand new, supercharged V6 for just $3,750 and I knew I could make it fit with little to no drama.”
The marriage between the V6 and the nose of the Sigma was a surprisingly simple one. Joe made up some custom engine mounts (which went onto the unmodified Sigma cross member) while the most challenging part was modifying the front swaybar for clearance against the harmonic balancer. After making sure it all fit in there, Joe set about applying some of his now trademark ‘attention to detail’ tricks. He tidied up the wiring, put in just the right balance of colour coding, braided lines and fabricated some elegant stainless steel trim pieces – like a radiator cover, the coolant overflow reservoir and the trick strut tower bar.
“While people were taking things out of engine bays and stripping it all down to look empty, I was just concentrating on making all the bits and pieces super clean and functional. Being my everyday car, I needed things to be accessible, and I wanted the conversion to look factory. I think it really frustrated people that I kept winning the Best Engine awards,” laughed Joe. I remember admiring this engine bay every time I saw the car at a show, and it always had me stuffed how he kept it so clean! Behind the blown six, Joe installed a VN Commodore T5 manual box and a Ford Borg Warner 3.5:1 LSD.
“All up, I have had the car for around 34 years now. I have been through four motors and have upgraded everything on the car that I could. Watching the car develop and grow has been a major part of my life, and the achievements I have earned have really made me proud. Plenty of effort has gone into the car, and it is a great feeling to have that recognised by other people who really understand cars and what it takes to build something with quality. Being a perfectionist probably makes me my worst enemy, but I am thankful I have that quality inside me.” Well, I for one thank you, Joe, for being one of the first guys in Perth to really step outside the box and create a masterpiece that wasn’t from the usual suspects. You showed plenty of people that quality and attention to detail will always be rewarded, respected and admired. This humble Sigma will go down in history as the most-winningest car on WA soil and as one of my all-time favourite cars.