Carps is a rodder from Victoria who’s infamous for his passion for Toyota’s, the car manufactuting industry, and the Aussie rod and custom scene. However it’s safe to say that one of the things dearest to him is his beloved FJ Holden. Follow along as he shares their story…
By the time I was ready to get my first driver’s license I had been living away from home for a couple of years and had also been very carefully driving a stock 1960 model Holden for about the same length of time. I chose that car because no young person of the day would have been seen dead in one and provided I was careful I should have been able to avoid being pulled up and asked to show my license. But that’s a whole other story.
With new driving license in hand the FB Holden was sold and I quickly finished the ’34 Ford Hot Rod I’d been working on and that became my daily driver, for a while. Well, until it was written off by a drunk driver in fact, but that too is another story.
So, badly in need of a car and with bugger-all cash, there was only one thing to do. Drag the old FJ Holden out from behind the shed and make it roadworthy.
Once re-registered it remained stock for about a day. At which time the rear end was replaced with one from a ’64 Holden which did away with the dodgy keyed axles of the early model and provided better brakes and higher gear ratio for highway speed. It also allowed fitment of the 13X7″ chromies with the new-fangled and very cool Polyglass wide tread tyres. It’s the one in the middle, below.
Of course that done, the front end needed to be similarly updated if for no other reason than to provide front brakes that actually worked and of course to allow the fitment of matching 13X5″ chrome wheels and cool tyres, the first of many sets of both as it turned out.
So now I had me some halfway decent daily wheels, I could focus on finding a replacement for the broken hot rod.
Of course around the same time I also met a gurl I liked, as opposed to all the others I dated but decided I didn’t like, but again that’s a whole other story or is it part of this one? We’ll see.
Suffice to say on our first date the old Humpy had made an impression on her and I was surprised when she agreed on a second. No not for that reason, but because on the first the gearbox decided to take a holiday in the middle of the busiest intersection in the city and she got to push the old Humpy across St Kilda Junction, whilst I steered.
Good news was she came back for a third date, but the old Humpy was a bit spotty and so I decided it needed to be made a little more respectable, lest her folks think I was one of those undesireable types that they wouldn’t want dating their daughter. After a little squirt of red oxide, we both looked a treat….
In this condition I continued to drive it all over the place and even with the stock engine it was OK thanks to the modified with later model internals gearbox, updated suspension & brakes plus 3.25 diff in place of the original 3.89 unit.
Meanwhile, finding a replacement for the ’34 was proving difficult and I lusted for a car that was just a tad cooler than a red oxide primered FJ Holden.
I pulled it to bits and started painting and detailing everything, at first I used the back of my best mate’s dad’s shop which was not being used and we worked hard every spare minute to get it back on the road quickly.
Remember the gurl?
Well, she stuck around even after the third date and helped out, so I decided to keep her.
Meanwhile my hot rod club-mates decided we’d enter all the club cars in the next hot rod show, finished or not. Dunno why but that made me rethink detailing everything with just paint and so, I took some parts to the chrome shop.
That turned out to be a dumb move, because before I knew it I had taken every nut bolt, washer and screw to the chrome plater along with the brakes, steering, suspension parts and all manner of brackets and other bits. Heck, I even transferred the shape of cardboard interior trim parts like the kick panels to metal and had them chromed.
Anyhow, it wasn’t finished in time for the ’72 show so it was reassembled and displayed in grey primer.
After the show it was taken to another friend’s garage, which turned out to be a little cramped for spray painting and I ended up shooting the Duco lacquer in the driveway on the first windless day that came along.
By the next show, it was all shiny and ready to take some gold……
Spit polished and with a souped up grey (yellow actually) engine, we drove it all over the place….
Remember the gurl? Well eventually all those dates lead to this…………
And that created the need to buy a new house and all that stuff we couldn’t afford, because in the meantime after searching for a long time I had spent all my money on this……
and built or obtained a couple or three of these……
My friends used to ask how come the FJ always looked so immaculate, even tho I drove it every day, hail, rain or shine? The answer was easy, as most weekends involved getting it up off the ground and cleaning it top to boottom. Every few months that also involved waxing underneath as it was quite pretty (sorry bout the double exposure but these are the only shots I could find today) under there.
The good news was that I now had a job that included a company car, so the old gal was finally able to retire from daily duty.
However, we soon reached the point I was hoping we wouldn’t get to and that was finding ourselves in the poo financially and in need of a few more bux for the deposit to buy our home. The MGs had all been sold, the project cars too and all that was left was the partly rebuilt ’33 and the Humpy. We reluctantly agreed to advertise both cars and see what happened. The Humpy was better than most of it’s kind, so it was put up for the exact amount we needed, which was about double the going rate for an FJ Holden at the time. The Ford was worth considerably more even disassembled and so we advertised it for what it was worth.
The first call on that fatal Saturday morning was a young fellow who wanted to see the FJ. He arrived with his father who thought the car too expensive for an old Holden, so I opened the garage door to reveal it and the young fella almost wet his pants. I took them for a test drive, after which dad wanted to negotiate a lower price and I said NO! it’s a take it or leave it deal. So they left. About five minutes later, they were back, the young bloke had convinced his old man the car was worth the money.
Here’s what it looked like at that time…..
Money changed hands and they drove off into the sunrise.
This was early in 1975 and we never saw or heard of the car again. Always figured it had met it’s end against a pole or tree as had so many cars we knew of, purchased by young blokes who had the money but maybe not the passion or inclination to really look after them and treat them well.
Fast forward to the week before Easter 2003 and I’m working late trying to get things done before my pal Don arrived from the US for his first visit downunder. Monday evening and I arrived home very late, that gal I dated all those years back tells me she wishes I’d called because our daughter is in the city dining with a friend and she will now need to drive into town and pick her up rather than have her on the train late at night.
No problem, I’ll drive.
We arrived to collect our daughter and her pal was going to catch a train to another outer suburb on a line with a questionable safety record, so I’m not about to allow a young lass to run that risk. So I tell her we’ll drive her home and off we go.
Thanx to road-works, I can’t access the freeway, so I take a route through the city which is also blocked and I ultimately decide to go the old fashioned long way.
So here we are in a part of town I’ve not been for maybe twenty years, it’s 11:30 p.m. on a Monday night and all is peaceful and quiet. As we drive along High Street in Preston the digits FJ 555 flash bold and white in the darkness of my mind! I immediately think, “whoa, I must be dreaming!” I continue driving, but before too long that number gets the better of me and I chuck a U turn and drive very, very slowly back along the road to see if I really did see what I thought I had seen.
The bride questions my motive and I answer by saying I thought I saw something that might be important.
Alas I can’t see it at all, then a loud exclamation from the seat next to me “THAT”S OUR CAR!!”, “Yup” sez me “that’s what I thought I saw.” There, sitting in the driveway of a small house located between two shop-fronts is our FJ and there’s no question of that at all, because it appears not one bit changed from when we last saw it. Well it was slightly changed, the louvred bonnet was gone, as too were the fog-lamps, but the rest was the same, right down to the air in the tyres which looked like they had never been driven on.
I overheard my daughter’s friend say that her folks must have been really cool if they drove a car like this.
Against the bride’s advice I banged on the front door of the house. No answer, so I grabbed a pen and business card and left a note for the owner to call me before doing anything with the car.
Next day, I’m sitting in my office and hear my assistant explaining to somebody on the phone that this is Toyota and if I needed a Holden I’d go out and buy one. The penny dropped and I raced outside to grab the phone from her hand before the caller hung up. I apologised and started to explain who I was and my relationship to the car. The guy on the other end stopped me and said no need to explain as he knew that before he called, because his name is Ian and he’s the kid I sold it to all those years ago.
I transferred the call to my office, went back in and sat down for a long chat, coz I wanted to know everything about where the car had been for the last 27 or so years. Ian explained that a couple of weeks after he got the car he changed the bonnet, removed the fog-lamps and broke up with his long time girlfriend.
Apparently the break up was a bit much for him, so he decided to take a vacation. Packed his bags and headed overseas, never to return until that week after the death of his father, who had placed the car on blocks the week after Ian left. He also made sure the car was kept dry and well maintained, even kept the registration paid up for all the years of Ian’s absence, until he became too frail.
I was gob-smacked, the car had one maybe 200 miles in all those years and still had the same air in the same tyres! So I made an offer, which most might have considered insane for an FJ Holden at the time. Ian wasn’t so sure, as he’d decided to stay and was preparing to have the car made roadworthy so he could drive it. In fact that morning he’d delivered it to his local mechanic to be overhauled and made roadworthy again. I suggested he check the current prices and call me back, which he did within the hour. He asked if my offer was fair-dinkum and I said I’ll be there whenever he wants, with cash or a bank cheque. The deal was agreed and I asked him to call his mechanic and tell him not to touch the car.
Next morning my buddy Don arrived from the US and we were instantly on a mission. I collected the cash and we headed to Ian’s to pick up the car. It was still at the garage. As we arrived there, the self proclaimed ‘world’s best mechanic’ asked which one of us was responsible for all the paint detail and chrome underneath, because he was the one who had just sprayed black muck all over it. His reason being that the chromed parts and steering would not pass for registration. He’d also removed the lowered springs and had thrown them in the dumpster, I was devastated, but fortunately that’s all he’d had time to screw up. Or so I thought at the time.
He did however give me a certificate of roadworthiness, which considering the age of the tyres I duly questioned, to which he responded that the tread was like new and their age is not considered in the inspection process.
Paperwork done and an alegedly roadworthy car, I gave Don the option to drive the Humpy or the Prado (Lexus) 4X4 wagon. He opted for the new one, asking how the hell he was going to drive it considering he’d never driven RHD before. I said just follow me and do what I do and all would be OK.
So off we go!
About two miles down the road the Humpy develops a strange rattle and I stop to check things out. All appears OK on the surface, until I check the wheels, one is lose. We pull the jack from the 4X4 place it under the Holden and raise it off the ground, the right rear wheel falls off! Somebody has forgotten to tighten the wheel nuts! But wait! there’s only one nut inside the Baby Moon wheel-cap, the bastards have left four of them off all together!
I offered Don the option, wait with the car while I drive back and get some nuts, or…. He’s already decided this looks like a seedy part of town, so he’s going back for the nuts (I laugh coz this aint Los Angeles).
So Don has what I figure was a nerve wracking drive back to the garage, walks in and tells the guy that a bunch of wheel nuts are missing and a wheel has fallen off. To which the world’s best mechanic responds by saying “you’re joking.” I’d have loved to have been there for Don’s reply which went something like. “I just got off a freaking plane and have never driven a RHD car anywhere before, let alone in traffic like this, so how the f*#* does that make you think I’d be doing it to come and have a *^#@ing joke with you?”
The guy got a tub of nuts, some tools and came down to get things sorted out. He seemed somewhat quiet, which was understandable after Don told me the story.
Eventually we’re sorted and on our way again. Out on the freeway the old gal is humming along just like I remember and I’m grinning from ear to ear. Until some woman in a Mazda won’t let me get across into the exit lane. I’ve got the signals flashing and can hear the tell tale clicking and see the flashing repeater light one the dash. Off the freeway, I pull over just to make a cursory check and have a whinge to Don about the bitch in the Mazda not letting me across. His response being that maybe if I signalled, she might have been OK with it and let me across. So we check the signals, none of them work, despite the fact I have a certificate of roadworthiness that says they do.
We made it home and stopped at the bottom of the street, so Don could join me in the Humpy for the final and best part of the trip. As we rolled up the driveway the Mrs greeted us on the steps, with tears in her eyes. Don must have looked puzzled or something, because I heard her say to him, “Don if that car could talk, the stories it would tell.”
We parked it in the shed, took a the photo below and headed back to Geelong where the Street Rod Nationals were underway.
By the time we returned, it had puked all it’s brake fluid on the garage floor.
So up on stands it went, where it sat for the next few years, before I got round to doing anything to get it back on the road, but I didn’t care and it doesn’t matter. FJ 555 is home with family where it belongs and there’s no way I’ll let it go again.
Right now I don’t care how long it sits between drives, but it probably wont sit long anymore because for some reason despite the heavier than I remember steering, driving it gives me a bigger buzz than driving the hot rod.
In recent times it’s had a complete going over with most things made of rubber being replaced, the engine was removed and flushed clean, seals, gaskets and welch plugs replaced, all the radiator and brake assemblies have been overhauled or renewed and it’s got new wheels and tyres. Otherwise, it’s just like it was in the mid ’70s and that is how it’s going to stay.
Maybe one day I’ll change the upholstery, but it was the early ’70s and it was either this or crushed velour, which I hated.
Notice the chrome kick panels and pillar trim pieces.
No that’s not one of my garden gnomes in the driver’s seat, it’s Bob K from over on the HAMB!