Joined: 21 Jan 2004
User's Age: (70)
Location: Swanton, Ohio
|Posted: Tue, Jun 04 2013, 1:06 am Post subject: FJ-555 An Autobiography
"Walk it off Snack Fairy"
Last edited by enjenjo on Mon, Dec 16 2013, 12:06 pm; edited 1 time in total
Joined: 13 Feb 2004
User's Age: (23)
Location: Right here.
|Posted: Mon, Dec 16 2013, 7:41 am Post subject:
|Hey Frank, you can delete all the words, here's the story with pictures.
The photo below is Ararat, Victoria, Australia, circa 1955.
On the left, next to the old roadster pick-up is the new Holden Special that would, in a couple more years deliver me to school for the first day of my formal education.
Over the ensuing years the car served as family truckster, until a newer model was purchased around '64, but it remained with us and was used to teach the kids to drive.
Which we did in a large field that had been suitably cleared of obstacles and had a track roughly graded into it so we knew where to steer.
By the time I was ready to get my driver's license I had been living away from home for a couple of years, all that time very carefully driving a stock 1960 model Holden. I chose that car because no young person of the day would have been seen dead in it 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, for another day.
With my new driving license in hand the '61 Holden was discarded and I quickly finished the '34 Ford Hot Rod I'd been working on.
This became my daily driver for a brief time, before it was destroyed by a drunk driver on Christmas eve, but that too is another story.
So, without wheels and with bugger-all cash, there was only one thing to do.
Drag the tired and battered old FJ Holden out from behind the shed and make it roadworthy.
Once back on the road it remained stock for about a day.
First thing to go was the rear end, 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 speeds.
It also facilitated the fitment of modern super wide 13X7" chromies with new-fangled, ultra cool Polyglass wide tread tyres.
In the pic below, It's the one in the middle.
Naturally, now 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 with narrow front 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 mangled hot rod.
Of course around the same time I also met a gurl I liked, as opposed to all the others I dated but for one reason or another decided I didn't like.
Once again that's a whole other story or is it part of this one? We'll see.
On our first date the old Humpy sure made an impression on her.
So much so, that I was surprised when she actually agreed on a second date.
No not for that reason, but because that was the night the diff decided to take a sickie.
Happened right in the middle of the busiest intersection in the city and my date got to push, whilst I steered the hurt humpy off the road.
Good news was she came back for a third date.
By then the old Holden was looking a bit spotty.
So I decided it needed to be made a little more respectable, lest her folks think I was one of those nasty bad boys that they wouldn't want dating their daughter.
After a little work with a few spray cans of red oxide primer, we both looked a treat....
In this condition I continued to drive the car all over the place and even with the stock engine it performed OK thanks to the later model internals in the gearbox and the 3.25 diff in place of the original 3.89 unit.
Updated brakes and suspension meant it handled OK too.
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 FJ Holden.
I pulled it to bits and started painting and detailing everything.
At first I took over the back of my best mate's dad's shop, which was not being used and we worked hard every spare minute to get the old thing back on the road quickly.
The girl must have liked me coz she decided to stick around after the third date.
She even got her hands dirty helping out wherever she could, so I decided to keep her……………. which would ultimately prove to be the smartest thing I ever did.
Meanwhile my hot rod club-mates decided we'd enter all the club cars in the next Victorian Hot Rod Association show, finished or not.
Dunno why, but that made me rethink detailing everything with just paint. 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 some cardboard interior trim parts like the kick panels and seat side trims, to metal and had them chromed too.
Anyhow, it wasn't finished in time for the '72 show so it was reassembled and displayed in grey primer, with a few spots of green.
After the show it was taken to another friend's garage, because he had a compressor.
The garage turned out to be a little cramped for spray painting and I ended up shooting the nitro-cellulose lacquer in the driveway, on the first windless day that came along.
By the next show, the old gal was all shiny and ready to take some gold......
Spit polished and with the original engine now suitably dressed and souped up, we continued to drive it all over the place....
Occasionally it was even requested for special duties.
Remember the gurl? Well eventually all those dates lead to this............
That deal created the need to buy a new house and all kinds of stuff we couldn't afford, not the least because after searching for a long time I finally found this......
And had dragged home and restored a couple or three of these......
And of course this soaked up more than a few pennies……but that's a whole other story also.
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 at least one weekend every month involved getting it up off the ground and cleaning it top to bottom.
Every few months that also involved waxing the underside as it was quite pretty under there. (sorry bout the double exposure but these are the only underside shots I could find)
Good news was that I finally got a job that included a company car, so the old gal was retired from daily duty.
However, we soon reached the point I was hoping we wouldn't get to and that was still being a few too many pesos short on the deposit for that first home.
The MGs had all been sold, the project cars too, so all we had left was a partly rebuilt '33 Ford and the show quality 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 advertised 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 was advertised 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 was waaaay 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, paperwork was completed and they drove off into the sunrise.
This was early in 1975 and we never saw or heard of the car again.
We 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 Monday the week before Easter 2003 and I'm working late trying to get things done before my pal Don arrived in Australia rom the US for his first visit down-under, I arrived home very late.
On arriving home, the gal I dated all those years back tells our daughter is in the city dining with a friend and she was heading off to town to pick her up (actuallyy I think she gave me an earful because I didn't call to let her know I was leaving the office which was only a few minutes away from there the kids were and I could have saved her a long drive), rather than have her riding home on the train late at night.
No problem, I'll drive sea me, and off we go back from whence I had just come.
We arrived to collect our daughter to find her pal was going to catch a train to another outer suburb, on a line with a questionable safety record.
Since I'm not about to allow a young lass to run that risk, I insist we drive her home.
And off we go again!
Thanx to road-works, I couldn't access the freeway from where we were.
So I take a route through the city which is also blocked and I ultimately decide to go the old fashioned long way using surface roads through the suburbs.
So here we are in a part of town I've not been for maybe thirty 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!"
So I continue driving, but before too long that vision gets the better of me and I chuck a U turn, driving very, very slowly back along the road to see if I really did see what I thought I had seen.
Of course the bride questions my sanity and the kids also think I've lost it, I tell 'em I thought I saw something that might be important.
Alas I can't see it at all, then just as I started thinking maybe I was dreamin' a loud exclamation comes from the seat next to me, "THAT"S OUR FJ!"!
"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 Holden 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 tyres which looked like they had never been driven on.
I overheard my daughter's friend tell her that her folks must have been really cool if they drove a car like that when they were younger.
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 outside explaining to somebody on the phone that this is Toyota and if I needed a Holden I'd just call up a dealer and buy one.
Took a few seconds for the penny to drop and I raced out to grab the phone from her hand before the caller could hang 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 my relationship with the car 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 over the 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 passing of his father. His dad who had placed the car on blocks the week after Ian left, also made sure the car was kept dry and well maintained, even kept the registration paid up for nearly all the years of Ian's absence.
I was gob-smacked!
The car had covered 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 and was significantly more than I sold it for.
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 (Aussie for genuine) 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 Don arrived from the US and on meeting him at the airport, I informed him we were instantly on a mission.
I stopped by the bank, collected the money and we headed to Ian's to pick up the car. It was still at the garage.
As we arrived, the self proclaimed 'world's best mechanic' asked which one of us was responsible for all the detailing and chrome plated parts underneath.
I owned up and he responded by telling me he was the one who had just sprayed black muck all over it.
His reason being that the chromed parts would not pass for registration.
He'd also removed the lowered springs and 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 f the tyres I duly questioned.
He responded telling me that the tread was like new and their age is not considered in the inspection process.
Paperwork done and an allegedly roadworthy car, I gave Don the option to drive the Humpy or the Lexus 4X4 wagon.
He opted for the newer vehicle, asking how the hell he was going to drive it considering he'd never driven a right hand drive vehicle before.
I said just follow me and do what I do and all will be OK.
So off we went!
About two miles down the road the Humpy developed a strange rattle so I stopped to check things out.
All appeared OK on the surface, until I checked the wheels, one is lose.
So we pull the jack from the 4X4 place it under the Holden and as it is raised 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, it's worse than I think, the stupid bastards have left four of them off all together!
Again I offered Don the options,………. 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 taking the big rig and going back for the nuts (I laugh coz this aint Los Angeles).
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 loved to have been there to hear Don's reply, which went something like; "I just got off a freaking 'plane and have never seen or driven a RHD car before today, let alone done so 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 after Don told me the story, seemed understandable.
Soon we're sorted and on our way again.
Out on the freeway the old gal was 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 on the wheels and have a whinge to Don about the bitch in the Mazda not letting me across.
His response was that maybe if I signalled, she might have been OK with it and let me in.
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 using hand signals 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 ran down the front steps to greet us, with tears in her eyes.
Don must have looked puzzled at her apparent joy that I'd dragged another old car home, 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 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 couple of 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, because FJ 555 is home where it belongs, with family and 00 1933 and there's no way I'll let it go again.
The Mrs wouldn't let me even if I wanted to.
Right now I don't care how long it sits between outings, but it probably wont sit too long anymore because for some reason despite it having shrunk and the steering being heavier than I remember, driving it gives me a bigger buzz than driving the hot rod.
In recent times it's had a thorough going over, with everything 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 hey 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.
To help put the car's size into perspective, here it is with my pal Col's '36 Ford coupe.
||All times are GMT - 5 Hours
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