FX-FJ Holdens were supremely popular on Aussie drag strips in the 1960s. Rather than upgrade to newer models with red motors, many racers opted to swap the bigger six into the lightweight early bodies for a rapid upgrade. Here are six of the best.
This article on FX-FJ Holden drag cars was originally published in the April 2007 issue of Street Machine
1. RON Harrop’s black ‘Howler’ FJ has to be #1. It’s still the subject of debate, how an unblown six could go that quick, but it’s a legend. A then-youthful Harrop debuted the car in April 1969, running 13.42sec — more than a second under the national C/MP record. It went on to virtually own Mr Holden contests and Street Eliminator at the Nationals up to 1971, before Harrop launched his very successful engineering business in Melbourne. Like all good race cars, Howler continually evolved; from 179 to 208ci, and from 220 to a maximum of 343hp. Harrop reckons the car only went quick because he “thrashed the shit out of it”. At its peak in 1971 it ran 11.84@113 mph!
Harrop's Howler: The FJ Holden that kicked off Ron Harrop's career
2. After winning the Mr Holden Senior Division in 1967, Warren Armour wanted to stay on top and secretly put together a chop-top FJ. With a tough 179, it won the Open Division at Mr Holden ’68, over a red-lighting Dennis Syrmis in ‘Time Machine’. Two weeks later Armour was paid for a four-round match-race up at Surfers Paradise, where it ran a 13.80, and it was then retired. It became Armour’s street hack until he sold it in 1975. He still owns the original engine and his son has bought the car back to restore it to its original glory.
3. Brian Keegan was one of the earliest serious drag racers in NSW, and tangoed to national prominence with ‘Keegan’s Kustom’, a green metalflake FX, when he became a challenger for Ron Harrop’s title as the owner of the quickest FJ six. Keegan was first into the 14s, then the 13s (13.90 in July ’68), and first unblown six into the 12s (12.91, Nov ’68). The car was super-light — the grille was replaced with chicken wire — and the engine was set back eight inches for traction. But at an outright best of 12.73 it couldn’t quite match Harrop.
4. A slugger FJ, bought for $90 in 1966 for daily transport, soon became too uncomfortable to keep driving on the streets. Dennis Syrmis put it on the strip but when fellow Brisbane racer Ron Richards offered his Norman-blown 186, ‘Time Machine’ became a legend. With added power and reduced weight, and the car rocketed from 17s to 14.03, and on to a best of 11.74. This was 1970, and even big V8 sedans were no quicker. The engine was brittle but potent and its wail put the wind up the opposition until Syrmis built a Corolla in 1971.
5. As the major local rival to Dennis Syrmis, Jeff Burnett leapt to stardom with a blower from Olbis Engineering. That pushed the old Humpy from 17s to a 13.87. An upgrade to a 186 and lots of ’glass panels and other lightening saw an angry foot-through-the-firewall thrash result in an 11.85 ET, the first sub-12 by any Holden six sedan. Syrmis then leapfrogged to 11.74 but both racers moved into smaller, lighter-bodied cars in 1971.
6. Two young brothers from southern Sydney, Allan and Wally Moore began racing with their 179-powered ‘Moore’s Missile’ FJ in 1967. It was pretty hot for its day, scoring 14s. The car was developed from a street-driven machine, and as it evolved it scored bests of 13.28 ET and 104mph in 1968 — tough stuff in the day. A fresh body and bigger 186 engine in 1970 didn’t improve the team’s performance but the car continued to rack up wins and trophies. The ‘Moore’s Missile’ name remained part of the quarter-mile culture until 1971, when it was replaced by a blown Holden six-powered dragster.