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Bucket List: Holden Efijy

By Simon Telford, 01 Jun 2015 Features

Holden built one of the standout custom cars of the modern era. It won accolades around the world. And here I am, about to drive it!

Bucket List: Holden Efijy

THE Holden EFIJY concept car debuted by Holden at the 2005 Australian International Motor Show was the perfect storm of my childhood obsessions. I grew up around the first two Holden models, watching them get restored, hotted up and raced.

When it came time to get my licence, my peers were getting excited about twin-cam Corollas, but for me there was never any question that an FJ would be my first ride. I also love American and Australian custom car culture of the 50s and 60s, and the creations of the Barris brothers, Ed Roth, Gene Winfield and their contemporaries.

In EFIJY, Holden designer Richard Ferlazzo and his team melded these obsessions, re-imagining the iconic FJ Holden of 1953 as a longer, wider, lower and significantly slinkier custom show car. EFIJY took all of the FJ’s modest styling touchstones and made them sing, from the single chrome tail-light to the iconic toothy grille. Underneath, it was full of the best go-fast gear from the GM parts bin, including a Corvette chassis, transaxle and 6.0-litre V8.

So, thanks to a group of passionate car heads at Holden, a surprised GM discovered that it had built one of the standout custom cars of the modern era. It won accolades around the world and was emblematic of the last great peak of Holden’s time as a manufacturer.
And here I am, about to drive it!

I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in EFIJY before and I’ve driven one of Holden’s other great concept cars, the GTR-X, but not this one, the ultimate FJ.

I’ve geeked-out with Ferlazzo a few times in the past, but he’s as unflinchingly polite and happy to chat about it as ever. If he’s nervous about me driving it around a race track, it doesn’t show. Comfortingly, he confides that the car has had some upgrades to keep it running well, including new airbag suspension and refreshed Harrop brakes.

Although it is more than five metres long, the car is strictly a two-seater and you sit low to the ground, like a real custom should.

Ferlazzo talks me through the start-up procedure, which includes push-buttons for the ignition, handbrake and automatic trans. The car fires up – the exhaust is loud and the supercharger whine is noticeable, but being a modified car guy, this is entirely familiar and welcome. I would have been disappointed if it was production-car quiet.

Everything about the car, from the door-shuts, the handling and braking is production standard, the only major compromise being the lack of side glass. The view through both the front and rear screens is like looking through a letterbox – as it should be in any car with a chopped roof.

As we pull away, EFJIY is as tight as a drum, without any bangs, drones or clangs to break the spell. With a claimed 480kW, it hammers, too, though I take it nowhere near its limit, hyper-aware that I’m responsible for a one-of-a-kind work of art. All I want to do is drive out the gates and blast up the Hume to Sydney, so I can take my mates for a cruise through Kings Cross at night – this thing needs to be seen!

Sadly, that isn’t going to happen, so we pull over and take some shots of the car beside my humble custom EJ. Ferlazzo takes a liking to the EJ’s trick bubble tail-lights, though he doubts they’d meet modern ADRs. This sparks off a discussion about photometrics and EFIJY’s own trick lighting systems. The headlights, for example, consist of three fan-cooled high-intensity LEDs, surrounded by LED rings that flash amber as blinkers. All stuff that was new in 2005, but starting to surface in production cars today.

EFIJY was as much about looking forward as it was about looking back.

Did you know?

  • EFIJY’s Corvette chassis was easy to extend, but Ferlazzo was worried about sourcing a longer torque tube. Turns out Corvette torque tubes were manufactured in Melbourne – problem solved!
  • Holden approached Street Machine for help building EFIJY. We were flattered, but had to admit it was out of our league at the time
  • EFIJY produces the same amount of horsepower as 11 standard FJ Holdens

Living the dream

RICHARD Ferlazzo has been Holden’s design director since 2013. He has been involved with the design of every Commodore since the VN and was the chief designer for the VE and VF. He has worked extensively on US models and even redesigned the Holden Lion logo in 1994 – still in use today – but he will forever be known as the father of EFJIY.

Although he dreamed only about Italian sports cars and Australian muscle cars as a kid, in the late-80s he was inspired by CadZZilla, a ’48 Cadillac custom car built for Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame and designed by young GM designer Larry Erickson. Ferlazzo met Erickson at the GM Design studios, planting the seed that would become EFIJY.

In the early 2000s, with the 50th anniversary of the FJ coming up, Ferlazzo sketched up his dream. Mike Simcoe gave him the go-ahead to make a one-third scale model, then MD Denny Mooney approved the project – with a budget of just $200,000. That meant it would be a labour of love for Ferlazzo and his team, something that shines through in the finished product. It was the 2007 Concept Car of the Year and Hot Rod magazine’s Hot Rod of the Year.

Ferlazzo takes obvious pleasure in his role as EFIJY’s guardian, escorting it to car shows and exhibitions here and abroad. He also loves to drive it, giving it far more right boot around Broadford than I dared.

Model: Holden EFIJY concept
Engine: 5967cc V8 (90°), ohv, 16v, supercharger
Max power: 480kW @ 6400rpm
Max torque: 775Nm @ 4200rpm
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Kerb weight: Lots
0-100km/h: Fast
Economy: Who cares?
Price when new: Not for sale