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NISSAN RB30ET-POWERED FAMILY HEIRLOOM 1960 HOLDEN FB WAGON

By Andrew Broadley | Photos: Tony Rabbitte, 20 Nov 2017 Features

holden fb wagon rear 1896 nw

Brett Wright inherited his dad's Holden FB wagon and turned it into a cool retrotech cruiser

Passed down from father to son, this Holden FB wagon is more than just a car to Brett Wright

This article on Brett's FB wagon was originally published in the October 2010 issue of Street Machine

BRETT Wright knows station wagons make great family cars — this FB has been in his family since his old man, Don, bought it new in 1960. That was four years before Brett was born.

Holden FB wagon rearDon would have been pleased as punch when the FB was brand new but he admits it’s even better now

“It was Dad’s first and only car until about 10 years ago. I was brought home from hospital in it, and I can remember the whole family of two adults and eight children piling into the FB at Maryborough to go visit my grandparents in Brisbane.”

“I used to race go-karts,” Don says, “and the kart was almost permanently in the back of the wagon. It used to smell like new upholstery and racing fuel, which I didn’t think was too bad at all!”

Family heirloom 1966 Chrysler VC Valiant

Holden FB wagonIt’s rare these days for a car to stay in one family for 50 years, and it’s those memories that motivated Brett to rebuild the car. In 1960 the FB was the latest and greatest offering from GMH; today this example is ready to provide another 50 years of faithful service to the Wright family. That’s damn cool.

“I would often imagine the FB low to the ground with big wheels, only to see the look in my father’s eyes as if to say: ‘In your dreams.’ I don’t know if it was the fact that it was old or that it was in such good condition but years ago, when we drove the car to the shops, I would notice that people always looked at it. When Dad finally decided to sell the car, he went down to the local caryard to see what they thought. I said: ‘No way — if you want to let it go, I’ll do it up nice.’ Dad agreed, on the condition that I didn’t put a sunroof in it.”

Henry Parry's SMOTY 2014 winning FB Holden 

Holden FB wagonDon says the original paint was Twilight Turquoise but it looked green from some angles

After stripping the car, the first decision was whether to breathe new life into the old 138ci grey motor or look at repowering the wagon. As the government was about to turn off the leaded petrol taps, Brett grabbed a Nissan RB30-powered VL Commodore from the wreckers and went about relieving it of its engine.

“It would have been a lot easier to put a V8 in it but I have no regrets. You can drive it normally or stand on it and it just goes, and there are no worries about it breaking down.” Not that there ever have been; Don says he went through three engines “but they never stopped, they just wore out”.

Brett WrightBrett made a wooden template for his brother, Troy, to whip up a custom sump in the shed. Then they got the engine mounted in the bay, backed by a Supra five-speed ’box and a Ford nine-inch. But as the years wore on, progress stalled.

“Living so far from the city it was hard to get parts,” Brett says. “Everything had to be ordered and most of the time when it got delivered it’d be wrong. This became a regular thing — sending parts back and waiting for the right ones to arrive.”

Eventually he’d had enough, so rather than let the car sit in the shed for another eight years, Brett decided that it was time to involve a professional to finish the job.

“Oz Rods was keen to take the job on, and it was a load off my mind knowing it was in good hands, with the guys taking as good an interest in it as I had.”

Holden FB wagon engine bayThe RB30ET was built to be strong, reliable and responsive — 310rwhp on 7psi is just perfect

Brett delivered the car with the groundwork in place and clear instructions for how he expected the finished product to look and perform. Something of a one-stop shop, Oz Rods took care of the engine build and cooling system, fabrication, paint and panel as well as the interior — and did a fine job.

The team yanked the RB30 from the bay and gave it a freshen-up, replacing the slugs with more durable ACL Race Series items. They prepped and balanced the rotating assembly before refitting it with a mains stud kit, while up top they added a ported and polished head complete with a warmer Crow camshaft. But getting an RB30 to boogie is all about the bolt-ons and the Oz Rods manifolds, plenum chamber and front-mounted air-to-air intercooler with the T3/T4 hybrid turbo help the straight six produce 310rwhp on stock boost.

“It’s a good streeter with plenty of power,” engine builder Danny says. “It’s a good thing to drive, and with more boost there’s plenty of potential.”

Holden FB wagon interiorMultipurpose Classic centre gauge features speedo and tacho; there’re oil pressure and volts gauges too, without changing the factory FB dashboard configuration

The paint and panel department at Oz Rods really excelled and the car’s exterior finish is superb. The customised Mitsubishi blue over white with blue pearl is a masterstroke, and the car wears it beautifully. There’s a little bit of bling too, with VZ SS guard vents, a polished alloy tank cover, reconditioned bright work and those tough traditional-looking Greg Weld rollers accent the look perfectly.

The cockpit says plenty about the car’s use as a cruiser. Stylish, yet comfortable and practical, it features late-model Mitsubishi seats that have been re-covered in black leather with cloth inserts, as have the door trims. The blue-over-white colour scheme is splashed across the dash and, importantly, there’s a quality Alpine stereo system. A neatly constructed custom centre console houses the shifter for the Supra five-speed, and thanks to a Vintage Air a/c set-up tucked away under the guard, Brett can cruise in air-conditioned comfort, protected from the sweltering Queensland heat.

Holden FB wagon interior rearNow that the car is finished, he’s stoked with the outcome and is busy making plans to rack up some serious cruising miles.

“I love the attention it gets. My missus, Sharon, and I want to join a club so that we can take the car out for runs and BBQs. We want to enjoy the car, meet people and enjoy the lifestyle.”

As for Don, he says: “It’ll be 50 years old on 23 August and I reckon he’s done a fantastic job! I haven’t driven it but I have been for a ride through Surfers. All these hotrods drove past flashing their lights and honking their horns and Brett’s smile was just getting bigger.”

BRETT WRIGHT
1960 HOLDEN FB WAGON

Colour: Two-tone Mitsubishi blue & white with blue pearl

ENGINE
Brand: Nissan RB30ET
Turbo: T3/T4 internally wastegated hybrid
Blow off valve: Drift
Intercooler: Front mounted air-to-air
Plenum: Oz Rods
ECU: Microtech LT10S
Head: Ported & polished
Camshaft: Crow
Conrods: Shot-peened
Pistons: ACL Race Series turbo
Crank: Standard, balanced with mains stud kit
Oil pump: Nissan N1
Fuel system: Bosch 044 pump, custom fuel rail, 550cc injectors
Cooling: Custom radiator
Exhaust: Custom Oz Rods turbo manifold, 2.5in dump pipe, 2.5in mandrel-bent exhaust system
Ignition: VL dizzy, single coil

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox: Supra five-speed manual, CRS bellhousing
Diff: Shortened 9in, 3.5:1 gears

SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: Lowered HQ, CRS drop spindles (f), lowered HR leaves, custom Cal Tracs (r)
Shocks: Koni adjustable (f&r)
Brakes: P76 discs & HQ calipers (f), VL Turbo discs & calipers (r)
Master cylinder: VN master, 200B booster

WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Greg Weld Racelite 15x5.5 (f), 15x7 (r)
Rubber: Nankang  185/50/15 (f), 225/50/15 (r)