Karen Howarth’s beautiful chopped FX Holden ute is the result of a clear vision and a lot of hard work
This article on Karen's FX ute was originally published in the February 2014 issue of Street Machine
KAREN Howarth’s chopped black FX Holden ute hits the mark. And it should, her hubby Grant has bled as a result of countless hours spent on the body and driveline. The result is a beautiful crisp black beast, and not a bad effort from a motorbike mechanic, some highly skilled mates and a lady with a vision.
Karen’s mate KG knocked up the 120-litre stainless drop tank. In place of the FX’s factory single tailight are a pair of LED teardrops
Have you always been a car chick?
Nah, only the past decade or so, motorbikes were always my passion. I raced side-cars at the speedway since I was 16, after being introduced to it by my boyfriend at the time. I swung (slang for being sidecar passenger) for a couple of other people, then later I rode and my brother Jeff Gittus swung for me.
Why a chopped ute?
Our mate Grant ‘Dr Chop’ Eckert has a chopped FX ute which I love. So my hubby Grant and I hunted for an FX or FJ ute, finally coming across a running and regoed FX in 2004.
Did it look like it does now?
No, it looked ridiculous as it was pink with a high roof – it looked like a pimple! So when Grant mentioned chopping it, it was a dream come true. But we soon found out that it had more bog than metal and was a death-trap to drive.
The chop has given it a shrunken appearance, compared with how it left the factory.
Yeah, the four-inch chop used three different roofs, cut into nine pieces. This kept the pillars on the exact same angle, so I still have functioning quarter windows. Dr Chop did a great job on it, and Grant did a fair bit too.
Much else done to it?
Heaps! There’s not much that left from the original car. We dipped it and found extensive rust so Grant steeled-out the body, added a flat floor and new firewall. Kiwi in the Riverland hand-fabricated the rear back panel of the cab, lower rear quarter panels, tailgate, lower rear section at the tray’s end and the trans tunnel. Grant modified the steering, added a CRS chassis kit, 1½in drop spindles at the front, a reversed top leaf at the back and HR disc brakes. Now it drive likes a new car.
What’s under the bonnet?
It’s a 192 which was a gift from our mate KG. He gave us a 179HP block, crank and rods. Grant bolted it together and worked the Yella Terra head. It runs a Bocam custom alloy rocker cover which covers the roller rockers and confuses people as to the motor’s origins! Grant moved the motor forward 1½ inches and added the Gilmer belt drive – which I love the sound of – but it meant we needed a custom radiator which now sits in front of the radiator support. Behind it all is a Trimatic with 2500 converter and an HR diff with 3.08s.
The healthy 192ci red motor runs a worked Yella Terra head, roller rockers, Gilmer drive and a 350cfm Demon two-barrel carb
There’s also a love story with the ute, yeah?
I said to Grant, ‘Once the ute’s finished, I’ll marry you.’ So after 15 years, we married in May 2013.
Apart from the wedding duties, do you drive it much?
Absolutely! It’s a daily driver, rain or shine, racking up 12,000km in the past 18 months. That includes the 1200km round trip to Chopped, twice – which is where Gene Winfield saw it in 2013.
What did Gene think of it?
Gene Winfield said to us, ‘It is a beautiful car,’ and then took a photo of it. Grant says that moment makes all his grey hairs worth it. Grant has done a fantastic job.