In 1954, the FJ Holden entered our lives selling like hot cakes and could be found on every Aussie street corner. It came to be recognized as an Aussie icon, something for the quintessential Aussie to hang his hat on. Then in the sixties, the need to stand out from the crowd kicked in and with typical Aussie ingenuity we started customizing these iconic rides to our own taste and came up with some memorable cruisers.
With its sixtieth birthday just around the corner, many have ended up on the scrap heap having been driven to their end seeing fewer out and about on our roads. Those who are lucky enough to own one, tend to return them back to their original guise or visually anyway. I mean, if you came across one with a V8 in it, would you yank it out and drop the old grey six back in? Me neither and that goes for Andrew Searle as well.
Having spent his early years cutting his teeth on Monaros and other Lion based products, Searley decided he wanted a change and, like all of us, had a hankering for a hot rod, but found the price tag too high for his taste and went for the next best thing: a 1950s Aussie classic with a V8 in it and he knew just where such a car existed. Lets step back in time a minute. In the 1990s, good friend and fellow Colac resident, Trevor O’Dowd had purchased the already modified rust free 6 cyl red motored Humpy and set about modifying it further by converting it to an eight cylinder beast. Not about to settle for just any old donk, Trevor sourced the 350 c.i. Chev with matching Turbo 350 from an HR Holden drag car. Well, if you’re going to drop an eight in it, why not get one with some serious poke! With an HR Holden front end already grafted in from the previous mod, all that was required was a change of engine mounts, heavier coils and a strengthening kit from well known custom car identity, Rod Hadfield and he was on his way.
To finish his now V8 modified and street engineered beast off, Trevor changed the colour from white to its current flavour of turquoise blue and hit the road testing out its potential around the town. The car eventually found its way onto the market seeing it leave the O’Dowd’s stable, pass through two more owners before ending up in the hands of its current owner, Andrew in 2005.
Having acquired his new toy, Searley set about disturbing the serenity by cruising the streets of the quiet country town contemplating which direction he wanted to take the classic four door. While the makings of a tough street car was all there, it needed to be finished off giving Andrew the benefit of adding his own touch to it as he went. “I wanted the car be seen in its original style when parked but to have the potential to take off quick when required” says Andrew.
Settling on his plan of attack, the car was taken off the road and work began in earnest with a deadline of the next upcoming Colac car show giving him a tight schedule of just four months. In order to complete this monster challenge, the obligatory late nights and long weekends were required. The first thing to be ripped out was the Torana diff which lacked the strength keep up with the power being thrown at it from up front.
Having chosen his rim/ tire combination, Searley loaded up the vehicle and trailered it to Geelong Differentials for a custom nine inch to be fabricated with strict instructions that the 8 inch rims could be fitted underneath without requiring any body mods so as to fit in with his “sleeper” plans. Next came the completion of the exhaust with the Chevy already having complimentary custom made extractors bolted to it when purchased. Exhaust Bros got the nod and again the plan was to hide the tailpipes from view. From there it went down the road to A1 Automotive where motor guru, Pete Smith added his knowledgeable touch to the street sleeper by adding a 650 Holley carb, HEI ignition and tuning it all up to run smooth but fast. A 3000 stall and stage 2 shift kit was added to the Trannie for good measure. Says Searley “I wanted the best of both worlds; to be able to still cruise in it yet have the ability to take off when required. Anyone can drive it without the worry of it being too much of a handful”.
With the running gear done to his liking, next came the body work. Still in excellent condition, all that was required was the removal of some unwanted rubber beads and a respray and, while Andrew could have gone with a colour change, he liked the Turquoise colour for its visual impact while still suiting the J’s era.
Last, but not least came the interior which again had to keep with the time honoured style of the FJ seeing Searley rip out the bucket seats which had previously been installed and hunt down a period correct bench seat. The B&M shifter was then moved forward to accommodate the old school comfort. The whole lot was then covered in tuck n roll cream leather and fawn carpet for the feet. A custom steering wheel was mounted to the column and mandatory visual aids in the form of gauges have been added too while the stereo from input to output has all been hidden.
Future plans for this street cred classic? Well, Searley’s got itchy feet and is already contemplating his next ride, maybe some classic muscle from Detroit so if you’re after a well preserved yet potent classic Aussie icon, just keep your eye on the classifieds. You never know when it might turn up!
Tagged: 1954, 350, aussie icon, Australia, australian, automotive, caprice photography automotive art, chev, classic, fj, geelong, holden, hr holden, humpy, icon, rod hadfield