Golden oldie

Two into one does go.

The plan to create the latest addition to the RACQ’s Heritage Fleet sounded simple enough – take the mechanicals out of a Holden FJ sedan donor car and fit them into a panel van body of the same model. Yeah, right. Just check out the before-and-after images to see it was anything but simple.

The man charged with making it all happen was RACQ Historic Fleet Coordinator Peter Duce. Who better, then, to take up the story?

“It (the project) had me up, worrying at night,” Peter admitted.

“There were a lot of challenges, not the least of which was sourcing good parts.”

Specialist parts supplier Rare Spares was the obvious go-to, but Peter went above-and-beyond for some items, including trawling enthusiast swap meets. The panel van body came from Gympie and the donor car from Rose City Towing in Warwick.

Being different to those fitted to the FJ sedan, the 5.90/15 tyres were difficult to locate before finally being sourced from Vintage Tyre Sales. Even appropriate hubcaps were hard to get, so Peter recycled existing ones and spent hours buffing the chrome.

Speedo on an old RACQ vehicle

He also took charge of the mechanical work, rebuilding the 132.5ci OHV petrol six-cylinder engine, 3-speed manual column-shift transmission and suspension.

“All-in-all, every nut and bolt were replaced,” Peter said.

The budget was not restricted, but I was cautious about spending – if I could do something myself, I did.”

Where necessary, specialised work was outsourced for optimum results. Hughes Stepsides & Hot Rods at Maryborough tended to the panel van body bare metal restoration and Cameo Yellow paintwork, the signwriting and paint detailing was performed by Sam Keddie Signs.

Carman’s Auto Trimmers took care of the upholstery and trim. Brake and clutch components came from Slacks Creek Brake & Clutch, RACQ Autoglass at Lawnton made up and fitted all-new glass, Wizard Classic Chrome handled the chromework and Evolution Coatings did the powder coating.

Everywhere, the attention-to-detail is amazing. One of the standout examples is the Holden badge at the front. The gold plating was reinstated by S Cook and Sons Restoration Electroplating of Arana Hills, which performed this sort of work in the FJ’s hey-day.

Finally, after some 12 months’ hard and committed effort, it all came together as a faithful interpretation of a vehicle commissioned by the RACQ in 1954. As a Mobile Service Unit fitted with various test equipment (some of which Peter has been able to track down), tools and technical manuals, the original vehicle serviced regional areas, initially Toowoomba.

“The Heritage Fleet now has a vehicle from each decade,” Peter said proudly of the gleaming 11-vehicle line-up.

Indeed, it’s an appreciating asset that does the RACQ and its state-wide members proud.

Images by David Pattinson & Peter Duce.