WHETHER you remember the late Pat Fay’s ‘Humpy Mekka’ FJ Holden hearse or not, the truth is, if you’ve ever been to Summernats or even if you’ve simply got a tough streeter parked in the shed, Pat and his hearse are part of the reason.
Read next: Remembering Pat Fay
Pat bought the FJ from an undertaker in the early 1970s and turned it into a wild custom van that helped bridge the gap between the early-Holden restorer/modifiers and those involved in the burgeoning van scene. The body mods and demonic murals of the vanning era may seem a little antiquated now, but such edgy work laid the foundations for the street machining hobby we are now so deeply in love with. Custom car shows, including Summernats, owe a debt to the Humpy Mekka and to Pat Fay, the man.
Pat and his hearse travelled up and down the east coast, not only competing in every car show he could find, but selling classic car parts via his business Pat Fay Spares. His flatbed truck would safely deliver the Humpy Mekka to a show with his trusty caravan following behind, ready to ply his wares in a time well before the internet made sourcing parts a point-and-click proposition.
Often given ‘Entrant #1’ status at Summernats by promoter and friend Chic Henry, it’s been 22 years since Pat attended a ’Nats alongside the Humpy Mekka. The FJ was put in storage, but was never forgotten – not by Pat and never by the throngs of show-goers who worshipped the radically customised FJ Holden van.
Now, thanks to the help of veteran street machiner Peter Fitzpatrick and Steve McMahon from the Canberra Institute of Technology, moves are afoot to resurrect this important part of Aussie custom car history.
We caught up with the Fitzy and Steve at the PPG tent at Summernats 32 for an exclusive yarn about the Humpy Mekka and Pat Fay’s legacy going forward.
“It’s been iconic in the car scene, so it’s a great thing to get involved with,” Fitzy said.
“Pat passed away five years ago, so we got a team together through Russell from Summernats, Telfo at Street Machine and Steve at CIT to restore this car for the Australian public to enjoy for another lifetime.”
A simple touch-up may not do the job; the car has suffered some deterioration over the years of storage, and although the rust on the Delta wires and chunks of paint missing from the bonnet are rat-spec patina-cool, there’s no guarantee the car won’t become pure iron oxide in another 50 years.
“We want this car to be exactly right,” Fitzy continued. “We’re not going to change or update a thing.” Plans include a full replication of the Hammer horror movie-inspired murals created by Frank Lee all those decades ago. At 84 years old, Frank is happy to pass the airbrushing duties to his apprentice Wayne Harrison, although Peter has agreed to giving Frank some time on the gun.
Powertrain-wise, the humpy ran a strong 327ci Chev V8, Powerglide and Jag rear end, all of which will need work. “Pat seemed to chrome or gold-plate everything single thing on the car,” Peter laughed. “I often wondered if he had shares in a chrome-plating factory!”
Of course, all of this work will take time, money and support. Steve McMahon from CIT explained: “We will need to take advantage of our industry connections to get parts refurbished. And we appreciate all the companies who have already come on board to help us out.”
If this was Blue Poles, the million-dollar Jackson Pollock painting hanging in the National Gallery of Australia, just a few miles away from our position at Summernats, cashed-up philanthropists would think nothing of throwing some coin at it. Some may scoff at the Humpy Mekka’s importance compared to the controversial Pollock work, but it could be argued that the crumbling, Simca-grilled FJ van is actually more important. To you and me, it certainly is.
Follow Peter, Steve and team’s progress on Facebook at Pat Fay’s FJ Hearse, and click the GoFundMe page if you think you can help out with some cash. Remember, this isn’t for Pat’s widow Carol nor his descendants to make some coin – the car will never be sold; it will be shown and displayed. This is for the Aussie public. This is for you.