With all the recent doom and gloom we’ve been hearing about Australia losing our locally car industry, I wondered how this was likely to impact on those of us, who are still driving around in early model Holden’s, the likes of my 1959 FC Sedan.
In its time, the 58-59 FC was the most chromed and bright metal’d Holden of any other model before or since, and back then it was considered a poor man’s 1955 Chevrolet. When I first got the Holden I hoped to get away with only a partial restoration, seeing it had only travelled 75,000 genuine miles since new. Thinking I might get away with a simple re-spray and make-over, without dismantling every nut and bolt, which is usually the case.
Once it had been on concessional registration for two or three years, I discovered that any car that’s been left standing idle outside for nine years (even in Wagga), will naturally deteriorate in places that cannot be seen initially. Maybe I should have left it where it was parked, but sadly this silly organ that’s supposed to pump blood around our bodies, sometimes can play tricks on us.
As soon as I saw the car, I started dreaming back to when I first arrived in Australia 45 years ago, and our very first family car was a well worn FC Holden, and in those days we drove everywhere in it. I found the early Holden’s easily to maintain, being told that they were especially designed and built for our harsh weather conditions.
Looking back, it would be silly to describe any old Holden as being mechanically sophisticated or claiming their interiors were luxurious. I’d sooner use words like…being honest, simple to work on and rugged, and this car had been waiting for some ‘nutcase’ to come along and restore it.
I’m the second owner of the FC, and this particular car, was one of only a batch of 500 hundred sedans, which came out in Black and White. This was done to commemorate Collingwood’s AFL Club winning the grand-final back in 1958.
I believe nearly four hundred of the cars were snaffled up by the Black and White Taxi fleet, however the wife of the Wagga Holden dealer, who just happened to also be a mad Collingwood supporter, placed her order for one of the ‘Special’ black and white models.
They didn’t have the Premier in their range in those days, and so the ‘Special’ came out with a transistor radio, a beehive heater/demister, a rear 12v window demister that could flatten you battery in two hours of continual use. Plus a host of other refinements that were fitted to it initially at their Fisherman’s Bend factory.
But then I noticed within two years of being on concessional registration, several niggling mechanical faults started to appear in the car. This meant I could no longer be confident in driving the car any distance, and the first thing that came to light, was the ring gear on the flywheel.
It would usually let me down, when I had other people in the car, and one afternoon I was terribly embarrassed having to ask two elderly ‘War Widows’, who’d been out on our yearly Barbeque down by the lake, would they like to push the FC to and fro, so as to engage the starter gear, before I could drive them home.
Luckily our own Norm Brennan had a good flywheel, which had all its own teeth, and so once I’d started to change the flywheel over, I thought it best to also fit a new clutch-plate, pressure plate, throw-out bearing, plus all new seals in the FC gearbox, which are famous for leaking. While the prop shaft was off, I also replaced the UV joints, and had the shaft rebalanced.
This time I was determined to do the mechanical make-over properly, and so I had the engine block and radiator chemically degunk’d, and then extra soft linings were fitted to the brakes, together with a new PBR power booster. On my original make-over, I’d done the usual machining of the drums, new Ferodo linings and the slave cylinders honed with new cups, but the brakes were still questionable. This time we renewed everything, including new brake hose lines, new master cylinders to both the clutch and the brakes.
The FC’s exhaust was still original, and so I replaced it with a new 2” exhaust and muffler system, and an electric fuel pump, plus an adjustable main jet in the carby, and a dozen or more other mechanical replacements, so that today it is a totally different car to drive. Sure I had to shell out a lot more Drachmas’, but now the FC finally drives how I want it to.
There’s one last thing the car needs to make it into a really good touring car, I need to locate and fit a 3.55 diff centre, thus upping the gearing in the differential, because Gretta and I will no longer be towing full trailer loads of sand, or moving one or two horses in a horse float, like the old FC’s were asked to do, back in 1959.
These days I’m finding very few trade’s people who are sympathetic to working on old cars, even though old Holden’s were made right here in Australia. Nowhere in Canberra could I have the King-Pins and Bushes re-done, and I ended up having to send them up to Sydney. However there was a Truck Steering place in Queanbeyan, who still uses adjustable reamers on certain trucks, but their quote got into four figures, and I’d still have to remove and re-fit them myself.
The cost of having them done in Sydney was $677, and it’s a similar story when trying to locate certain spare parts over the phone, once you mention that you’re looking for bits for an old Holden, they automatically assume that ‘old’ means a 1995 or a 2000 model?
Finally when everything was completed, I then had a young driver come over while I was filling up the FC at my local servo, he come over and asked me, “When was I going to ‘Rod’ the FC?” He did look silly, staggering back to his car with my long jack-handle, wrapped around his neck twice!
Dick and Gretta Stubbs