This article was originally published in the October 2014 issue of Street Machine.
Resplendent in Lamborghini Orange paint, David Graham’s FC Holden is a sight for sore eyes. Its number plates bespeak its fatness, and there’s no doubt the car’s prodigious stance forms a big part of its considerable visual appeal. Even so, there are no hints as to the scope of the engineering work involved until you stick your head under the thing.
With a completely custom full chassis featuring a Rod-Tech front end and a four-link at the rear, the FC’s factory bodylines belie the fact that it’s been seriously messed with. There are tubular suspension arms and rack-and-pinion steering, as well as coil-overs and 330mm disc brakes all ’round. In fact, there’s not a single chassis, suspension, braking or steering component on the car that even vaguely resembles the factory equipment. Such is the extent of the modifications that VicRoads wanted to classify the FC as an Individually Constructed Vehicle.
“When I started the build 10 years ago it wouldn’t have been a problem, but they changed the rules along the way,” David explains. “At one point I was about ready to cut it up because I wouldn’t be able to get it registered, but then club rego came along and it was more lenient, so we went down that path instead.”
David loves his early Holdens, but he’s clearly of the belief that drum brakes, leaf springs and recirculating-ball steering belong in the bin. “The main objective was to have it look like an FC Holden but drive like a brand new car,” he says.
It’s a long story that dates back to the mid-90s, when David bought a V8 FC from his mate Greg. The car had featured in Street Machine in the 80s, and despite the fact that David treated it to a full restoration and a colour change, to him the original FAT FC always seemed like someone else’s car. He sold it in 2001, and as part of the deal scored a rusty, bog-stock FC which would form the basis of this build. “I decided that it was time to build a car the way I wanted, and not have the usual talk of: ‘Hey, didn’t that other guy use to own this car?’”
The inner guards were handmade by David’s mate Jerry, rolled over a lump of steel tube in a vice. “It took a week to do just one,” David says. “We wanted it to look nice and smooth and to get rid of the factory squareness in the engine bay.” Bonnet hinges were pinched from a VR Commodore
David purchased the Rod-Tech front end first up, then cut the entire chassis and floor from the car before taking it to Sean Mullins Race Cars, responsible for the full custom chassis, stainless four-link and sheet metal nine-inch diff. “I told him I wanted full suspension travel and a 12-inch tyre under the car, but it had to be as low as possible.”
The chassis was built as a separate unit, much like a hot rod. The body was then sat on top, channelled over the chassis to achieve that sensational stance without compromising suspension travel, just as prescribed. The custom floor was carefully configured by David’s mate Jerry to maximise ground clearance, with cavities under the front seats allowing the mufflers to tuck in nice and tight, out of sight and out of harm’s way. As a result, nothing scrapes, scrubs or clunks despite the FC Holden’s ground-hugging stance, even when cruising five-up.
Craig Brewer from Pro Pipes & Race Cars built the ceramic-coated twin exhaust system, as well as the custom extractors and brake lines. Everything is completely bespoke and designed to perform
“It really does drive nice,” David says. “I go to a lot of cruise nights and the boys follow me and can’t believe how well it hooks up and drives forwards. It handles pretty good for what it is; it’ll go around a corner without feeling like it’s going to tip over like a standard one does. My last FC had ladder bars and when you cornered it felt like the door handles were going to scrape on the road. This car has so much adjustability that we’ve been able to set it up to steer really nice.”
Steering and stopping are important but a well-rounded street machine requires grunt, and with a 594hp small-block Chev on board, FAT FC doesn’t hang about when David mashes the loud pedal. Displacing a modest 350 cubes, it’s a real little screamer, with a solid roller cam, Pontiac NASCAR heads and an Edelbrock Victor Jr Bowtie manifold, fed by a Pro Systems 1000cfm carb. The rotating assembly is a mix of JE, Carrillo and Scat gear, and it happily chugs 98 octane pump juice for regular street duties. Backed by a manualised Powerglide with a 5500rpm TCE converter, it’s powered the FC to a tail-happy 11.0sec trip down the Heathcote 1320, as driven to the track and without so much as a tyre pressure adjustment. Needless to say, a stickier set of hoops than the 295/50/15 street tyres currently fitted should yield a 10sec run.
Dynamic Trimming tackled the re-trim, using Toyota Supra front seats which were modified to maintain the traditional low-back look. The rear bench is original, tweaked to match the fronts and fit around the tubs. The steering column and wheel are billet items, and the gauges are tucked away in the glove box. Brake hydraulics reside under the dash
That gun-barrel straight bodywork and superb white-over-orange duco is the handiwork of David’s own business – Harvey Body & Customs, located in Mitcham, Victoria.
“My good friend and business partner Chris Day went at it non-stop for about three months,” David says. “There were lots of conversations about colour, and originally it was red and white, but we went with orange and white just to be different.”
Since completion the car has picked up a number of accolades, including Top Modified and Grand Champion at the 2013 FE-FC Victorian State Titles, but David is quick to point out that while it’s good to receive recognition for his hard work, the car was built to drive, not to show.
Not quite content with the prospect of 10-second quarters though, he has plans afoot for more mumbo. “The new motor should be here in six weeks,” he says. “It’s a 440ci 15-degree small-block that’ll have a bit over 700hp and 600ft-lb. There should be a high nine in the car with the new engine and some decent tyres.”
Pretty rapid for a naturally aspirated small-block streeter that’s built to cruise!
1959 FC HOLDEN
Colour: De Beer Lamborghini orange and white
Engine: 350ci Chev
Induction: Edelbrock Victor Jr Bowtie manifold, Holley Pro Systems 1000cfm
Heads: Pontiac NASCAR
Camshaft: Solid Roller
Con rods: Carrillo 6-inch
Pistons: JE short-skirt
Oil Pump: Melling
Fuel System: Holley Pump
Cooling: PWR alloy radiator, twin 11-inch thermos
Exhaust: Custom headers, custom twin ceramic-coated system
Ignition: MSD 6AL
Gearbox: Powerglide, manualised
Convertor: 5500rpm TCE
Diff: 9-inch, 3.9, full floater 31-spline axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: King Springs (f/r)
Shocks: Aldan coil-overs (f), Koni coil-overs (r)
Brakes: 330mm discs and UPC calipers (f/r)
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Weld Pro Star
Rubber: 185/65 & 295/50