THIS is my last project,” says Peter Dean. Looking at his impressive retro-style, modern-power FC, you have to ask why. Build problems?
“Yeah, plenty. From paint to various modifications. There’s a real problem in modifying vehicles: there are too many so-called tradespeople who want your money and don’t deliver the goods.”
Still, Peter hasn’t lost his love of the build.
First published in the March 2007 issue of Street Machine. Photos: Tony Rabbitte
You see, at 55 years old he’s owned five FC/FEs. His latest is his first stab at customising Holden’s 50s classic and it’s taken 13 years here. It’s his last project because it’s still far from being finished.
Disaster struck when one oxy-wielding butcher, attempting to create clearance for a T350 slushbox, erected a steel tunnel you could drive a freight train through, ruining the whistle-clean donor car’s floor.
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“There were three inches between the ’box and tunnel. Standing in front of the car, you could see all the way to the back of the gearbox.”
At this point, Peter was elbow-deep in the time-consuming process of trialling engines: a Hemi straight-six, a Chev 229ci V6 and the current 4.3-litre V6 whopper. And right when the RTA (NSW traffic authority) was beating up relevant codes of practice on the matter. The only solution for the tunnel problem was to splice two bodies together — a tough blow for a Vietnam vet on a pension.
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He was also shafted on extractors and a tailshaft that now “hang in my garage as a warning for people not to get ripped off”, Peter says. Understandably, he almost threw the towel in.
Luck turned when Peter came across another FC body with a perfect floor and then hooked up with Mario Teuma at (now defunct) Pro Modifications, who rescued the project from the classified pages.
“When Mario saw the extractors he laughed — he thought I’d made them myself and was having a joke,” Peter says. “Until I showed him the receipt.”
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Pro Modifications fabricated a proper trans tunnel, installed a 70-litre custom alloy tank and CRS reinforced chassis rails, then modified a BorgWarner four-pinion diff to suit. Mario also whipped up extractors for the V6 whopper he was rebuilding for Peter.
At 4.3 litres, the Chevy six is the big brother to Holden’s 3800 V6.
“The Hemi six I had planned was too long, requiring too much firewall work,” Peter says. “Then I bought two 229ci V6s off a mate before I learned about the 4.3-litre [262ci] motor. So I worked a deal and traded the two 229s I had for a 262.”
Mario freshened the bottom end and installed Badger 10.5:1 pistons, then gave the top end the once-over by swirl-porting the heads and installing a meatier cam and more robust valve-gear. Topped with a Rochester four-barrel and high-rise manifold, and dressed-up with neat polished alloy, it’s a perfect match for the FC’s retro-classic looks.
Peter then upgraded the FC with more modern braking and handling gear. The front end is mostly HQ hardware, including a disc brake conversion, while steering is LH Torana rack-and-pinion using a Mitsubishi Magna column. Peter opted for Pedders coils in the pointy end and six-leaf ute springs under the bum, with Monroe Sensatrac shocks all ’round, which provide a moderate two-inch drop.
After his neighbour ‘Irish’ plumbed the hidden wiring — “He did a brilliant job” — Peter dusted off the Weld rims he’d had for seven years, got the FC engineered and hit the road in 1995. After four years of weekend miles, the Aussie elements were taking their toll.
“For air-dried enamel, the paint was reasonable. But there were plenty of dents and it needed a rebuild,” Peter says. So the FC was transformed.
The old girl was stripped and mounted on a rotisserie for an inside-and-out PPG two-pack respray in a near-factory colour scheme by Jason Tonna at GJ Smith Motor Body Repairs, with the badges and front guard trim shaved and the fuel filler smoothed over.
“It gets really hot under the bonnet,” Peter says, “so I got some flutes put in to try and extract some of it.”
The windscreen’s new; now Peter’s having new glass made for the side and rear windows: “I bought new rubbers and, as usual, some of them wouldn’t fit.”
For proof that close enough isn’t good enough, check out the immaculate interior. The wild four-seater treatment, whipped up after Peter scored two pairs of damaged SAAS buckets for a song, is the real eye-grabber but there’s detail everywhere.
“I’d collected Smith’s gauges for years and had these rebuilt and fitted into the custom dash,” Peter says. The power window switches are hidden under a flip-top panel in the dashboard.
Custom door trim, boot and anything finished in velour or carpet is by Mark at Blackneedle Upholstery. Modern belts were essential for re-certification.
No stereo, however. “You can sit in your lounge room if you want to listen to a good stereo but I can’t listen to my engine in the lounge room, can I?”
Although the FC’s now a legitimate trophy winner, you sense from the quietly spoken Sydneysider that awards aren’t the point.
“Peter Fitzpatrick once said that if you’re in it for the trophies, it’s much cheaper to go out buy one for yourself.” Fair point.
It’s more about the need to share the love of the build with his family. “My son Troy has been a big part of this build. He was four years old when the rebuild started, and he’s almost 18 now. I couldn’t have completed the project without him.”
So the new Dean blood couldn’t twist Dad’s arm into going for one more project?
“If the kids want to build up something, I’d love to help them,” Peter smiles. “And besides, I just bought a 265ci V6 race motor out of a Sports Sedan, good for about 475 horsepower. Once I install it in to the FC, it should make for a pretty wild ride.”
SON OF SMALL-BLOCK
WHILE the Buick/Chev-derived 3800 is the most popular V6 for GM conversions, the 4.3-litre or 262ci V6 hidden in Chev’s US engine family is definitely one of the coolest.
It appeared in US vehicles in 1985 as an update of the 229ci engine, the smaller donk derived from Chevy’s 305-cube V8 internals. The 262ci is almost literally a 350 V8 with two slugs chopped off.
Its cast two-bolt main block and 90-degree V design shares identical bore and stroke dimensions as well as conrod length with the small-block V8. The benefits are clear.
“There’s so much US factory and aftermarket gear available for the 262,” says Peter. “You can just use 350 Chev pistons, no dramas! And bang for buck, it’s got it all over Holden’s 3800.” Some engine importers have complete new motors for around $5000.
But the big benefit is for early-girl Holden projects such as Peter’s FC, where an old-school carbie V6 suits the theme better than Holden’s injected Ecotec.
“The FC’s 262 was originally a TPI injected motor from around 1987-89 [GM used these engines in vans, pick-up trucks and even Caprices]. I just got the long motor, installed a carbie and HEI ignition. It’s got plenty of grunt, and an even-fire crank so it’s very smooth. They’re great.”
1958 HOLDEN FC SEDAN
Colour: PPG cream beige and grey
Engine: Chev 262ci V6
Heads: Ported, LT1 valves
Pistons: Badger 10.5:1
Cam: Competition Cams solid (490lift/244deg in, 510lift/256deg ex)
Induction: Rochester four-barrel
Exhaust: Custom, with Charleston Exhaust rear system
Gearbox: T350 three-speed, stage two kitted
Converter: Dominator 3000rpm
Diff: BorgWarner four-pinion, custom axles, 4.11:1 final-drive ratio
Brakes: Holden HQ discs (f) and drums (r), HQ master cylinder
Steering: LH Torana rack and pinion, Mitsubishi Magna column
Seats: SAAS buckets (f&r)
Trim: Light grey velour trim and inserts
Instrumentation: Smith’s gauges, custom dash
Springs: Pedders coils (f), six-leaf ute springs (r), lowered two-inches
Shocks: Monroe Sensatrac
Wheels: Weld Convo Pros 15x6 (f), 15x8 (r)
Tyres: Falken 195/60 (f), 225/60 (r)
My wife Sally, son Troy and daughter Melinda, Mario Teuma, Mark from Blackneedle Upholstery, Irish the mad
Irishman, Jason Grima at Westside Auto Electrical, Jason Tonna at GJ Smith Motor Body Repairs,
Fleetmaster Automotive imports