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Peter Fitzpatrick's Grand Champion-winning 327ci FC Holden - flashback

By Glenn Torrens | Photos: Kent Mears, 18 May 2018 Features

Peter Fitzpatrick's Grand Champion-winning 327ci FC Holden - flashback

Crashed, repaired, reborn; Fitzy's champion FC

After crashing at Summernats this bold FC Holden returned better than before

This article on Fitzy's FC Holden was originally published in the May 2001 issue of Street Machine magazine

HANDS UP those of you who remember what you were doing this time last week. You were at work, right? Catching up with some mates at the pub? Struggling through some study?

Okay, what about this time last year? Looking forward to some holidays, perhaps? Building a new sundeck? Renovating a bathroom? Can’t remember?

What about this time last decade?

Holden FC sidePeter Fitzpatrick remembers. He was head down into the build of this FC Holden. In fact, Pete remembers it as if it were yesterday.

But unlike many street machiners before him, Pete wasn’t simply in the throes of reassembling a lightly modified FC Holden with fresh paint and new chrome. He was doing mental somersaults making sense of a total re-engineering job that would see his family’s 1959 FC Holden emerge from the garage as one of the first of a groundbreaking new genre of Aussie street machines built to go, show, stop and handle.

Read more: Peter Fitzpatrick - my life with cars

Holden FC taillightThis story actually begins waaaaay back in the 1970s; this is actually the P-plate car of Peter’s wife, Michelle. Fast forward to the late 1980s and the FC was, by then, fitted with a healthy Holden Red six, an HR front end and a scattering of other street-machining tricks. “I’m to blame,” Michelle says today. “I said I’d like a set of Welds for it. Pete said if you want Welds, you have to fit a decent size. A decent size under one of these means wheel-arch work.”

And that, like many other street-machining stories, is where the four-year rollercoaster rebuild began.

Related: Twin-turbo pro-tourer 1959 FC Holden Special

Holden FC frontLike many cleverly crafted street machines, Peter dabbled in a bit of genetic engineering by fitting an HQ sedan chassis and front suspension. Actually, it’s more than a dabble – it’s a near-total re-engineering exercise. The 1970s HQ series is considerably wider than the 15-year-older FC, so the chassis lost a slice from the centre of its integral crossmember. “I just stuck it in a dropsaw and got cutting,” is what Peter said of his fat-to-thin transformation.

But there’s more to it than that. Like the welding of outriggers onto the prongs of the chassis to mate it to the abbreviated rail sections under the FC’s floor. Narrowing the track also meant a new steering drag link and swaybar had to be manufactured. An HQ floor panel (to suit the Muncie gearbox) was grafted to the recessed firewall, too. The FC’s rear chassis rails were relocated closer to the centreline of the car to allow for the bigger rubber. Hey, it all sounds easy when you say it really fast.

Related: Nine-second turbo 1958 FC Holden

Peter FitzpatrickAnd where was all this work performed? Why, in the garage at home, of course. In fact, Pete welded the bare FC shell to the side of his steel-framed shed to keep it all stable and secure for the months it took to rehash the floor and the chassis.

All along there was reference to the Australian Capital Territory’s modified-vehicle legislation. Pete designed and built the car to drive straight through the regs hassle free.

Holden FC bootThere’s as much boom-boom here as a four-cylinder car!

“I was sort-of involved in the drafting of the rules,” says Pete. “The car, as it stands, is 100 per cent legal and always has been. It was built from the ground up to comply with the rules.”

Up front is a Chev 327 V8. With a pair of Holley carburettors on a tunnel ram manifold, the engine is what you’d call healthy without being over the top. Steel crank, Crane solid valvetrain, decent sump, bigger valves. “I reckon about 300kW,” says Pete of his Graham Silk-built mill. “I like 327s. They rev!”

Holden FC headlightThere’s a Muncie four-speed because – in his own words – Pete likes to drive, not be driven, and the nine-inch diff carries a 4.11 non-slip centre, which, with his chosen tyre height, means a good gearing compromise for cruising and bruising. Brakes are XC Ford and HQ Holden, upgraded with a quartet of DBA Longlife Gold rotors. The name on many other parts is Lovells.

Over the car’s first eight years Pete and the family cruised and showed the FC, collecting dozens of trophies. Pete also stunned Summernats showgoers and fellow entrants by winning four Summernats Grand Champion trophies. Another highlight was Holden’s 50th Anniversary party at the company’s Lang Lang Proving Ground in 1998.

“We trailered the car to Melbourne but drove the 80 kays or so out to Lang Lang to run in the big parade,” Pete related. ”Great day. On the way home, it was pissing down. We pulled into a bottlo to buy some Crownies and a couple of blokes there were just speechless. Honestly, they couldn’t get the words out. They knew the car but couldn’t believe we were driving it 700km from home in the rain.”

Holden FC wheelAnd then came Sunday morning at Summernats 2000: the driving event finals. Pete – as usual – ran a quick time in the Go-Whoa. Then, in what has to be one of Summernats’ most tragi-comic scenes, Pete revved the FC off the finish line – and crashed it into the fence!

“I was planning a freshen-up anyway,” Pete says sheepishly. “But any doubts I had about doing it were blown away when I tapped that bloody railing!”

Take Two began soon after Summernats 2000. The car was disassembled, stripped by A&A Sandblasters and repaired by Jim Kershaw’s Auto Repairs in Canberra. The shell then went south to Trevor Davis Auto Refinishers in Dandenong, Vic for its House of Kolor Oriental Blue Kandy. The car’s familiar character was freshened by inverting the original blue on white.

Holden FC engineWith young children, a decade ago the car was trimmed with durabiity in mind but this time Pete and Michelle really splashed out. The work of Canberra’s Classic Car Upholstery over Nissan buckets (and a new, tub-friendly New Gel Fibreglass-built rear seat frame) adds up to seven cows in there!

The false flat floor is leather with painted inserts. When he’s not scoping for apexes, Pete drops his gaze to a dash of white VDO Pro Cockpit dials.

Holden FC interiorInterior is a luxury cocoon based on Nissan front seats and lotsa moo

There’s a stack of VDO Dayton gear in here too. A CD3300 single-slotter is aided by a six-slot CHO600 under one front seat. Two PA2460 amps and a single PA4600 live in the boot with a set of QB1200 subs. Most of the installation is by Scott and Dave of BDL in Belconnen, ACT. Hooking things up is $2500 worth of Stinger wire and there’s a Stinger capacitor in the boot too. The icing on the cake is the sat-nav system that shares screen time with the TV. Yep, it’s an FC that can find its own way home!

Like a decade ago, Pete spent the months before the Summernats flat out into the build of the FC. And at Summernats 14, the Fitzpatricks’ fresh FC Holden once again drove into the Top 20 and reinforced its stature in the hearts and minds of Australia’s street machine community.

Holden FCTHE STUFF OF CHAMPIONS

Fitzy and the FC are famous for winning four Grand Champion awards, at Summernats 6, 9, 11 and 12.

“You can tell ’em I went real close the other times, too!” says a happy Pete. There’s also a string of combined show and driving-event gongs collected around southern NSW and in Victoria. So what’s the secret of his success? “You’ve got to focus,” reckons Pete.

“A lot of people drive beyond their ability. You have to stop, steer and control your car, not let it all hang out. You have to turn up with the attitude to do the absolute best you can.

“Have fun with your car and don’t be afraid to use it. Hey, these things should be driven, not hidden. Let’s be realistic: I trailer my car to lots of places – I’d be crazy if I didn’t – but I get out in it, too. And I know I can drive it to anywhere in the country.”

It’s not his, it’s hers!

“I was promised an FJ by a relative,” explains Michelle Fitzpatrick of her first-car aspirations when she was a teenager. “But he sold it, so dad bought this one for me out of The Canberra Times.

I still have the receipt - $240. I even recall the rego – YEE 250. But I couldn’t get the rego transferred because it was fitted with a Red (engine) and FCs with bigger donks weren’t legal in NSW at that time. So I had to put a Grey back in it!” (At one time, Michelle lived in Queanbeyan, a stone’s throw from the NSW/ACT border.) “I was going out with a bloke who bought Peter’s old EH. I knew one of his mates, too. He had a Brougham at that stage. That’s sorta how I met him.”

Holden FCPETER & MICHELLE FITZPATRICK
1958 FC HOLDEN

Featured: May 2001

Cool info: Peter built the FC to be both a show car and a driver. The car was constructed in the early 1990s and updated (as seen here) in 2000/01. Peter has won four Summernats Grand Champion titles with this car
Paint: House of Kolor Oriental Blue Kandy/Gold Prism, Pearl Green/Pearl White
Engine: Chev 327ci V8
Gearbox: Muncie four-speed manual
Diff: 9-inch, 4.11, LSD
Wheels: Weld
Interior: Nissan 300Z-based seats, Vanilla Ice leather trim