A LOVE of cars can come from many places, but for a lot of us, our earliest roots in this hobby stemmed from our fathers and close family relations. A shared interest tightens bonds like little else, and when that person is no longer with us, we can find solace and comfort in happy memories of them hurling spanners across the garage because that blasted, infernal, stupid doohickey failed again.
First published in the June 2021 issue of Street Machine
Chad Ribbons doesn’t just have memories. Following the sudden passing of his dad, Scott, Chad spent 12 months rebuilding the ’65 HD Holden ute that his father had spent many years piloting – often with a young Chad riding shotgun.
“This was my dad’s daily driver when I was growing up, so I spent half my childhood in it going to BMX races and swap meets all over NSW,” Chad explains. “When Dad passed away, suddenly I was lost. He was more than just a father; he was my best friend. My fiancée said: ‘What about his old ute? You should get it and fix it up’ – even though the first time I drove the ute to her place when we were dating, she told me she wasn’t getting in it!”
With so many memories wrapped up in it, Chad felt the old Holden was a special link to Scott, so he wanted to do a proper job on it that his dad would have been proud of. “I was just going to put the ute back on the road as a weekend cruiser, looking all ratty, but once I started digging, I knew it had to be done properly,” he says. “The whole car was a labour of love, and even though many people offered to help, I was too stubborn and determined to do as much as I could myself, just because that’s how Dad did things. The only people who touched the car were my father-in-law, some mates of mine and me, right up until it was wet-rubbed for paint.”
While it would have been a tidy classic, Chad took the HD to the next level when he looked to his past with mini-trucks and decided to fit air suspension. This sees Slam Specialties RE-6 and RE-7 air springs used front and rear respectively, with a custom four-link whipped up to replace the stock leaf springs. AccuAir electronic management controls the ride height.
“The air suspension started as a joke, as I’d had a few mini-trucks when I was younger,” says Chad. “Dad would always give me and my mates heaps, saying bags are for groceries, but one night, my friend Luke from Hellbent Customs suggested I ’bag the ute. I said I’d do it if he helped me, so the next day we mocked it up and it looked awesome. Within a couple of days, it was sitting on the ground.”
Once he and Luke had the ute sitting tough, they had to whip up a new custom tray floor before tackling the onerous task of getting the body slick and ready for paint.
While many projects need a deadline, Chad set himself a cracker, with less than 10 days between the paint being applied and having the HD ready to debut at Summernats 33! “Rod from Rod’s Custom Restoration came through for me, like he always does, and painted the car for me on Christmas Eve,” Chad says. “We pushed it out of the booth and onto the trailer at 5am Christmas Day; then I had nine days to get it ready for Summernats. It was no mean feat, but it meant a lot to me, as Dad always took me to Summernats – we made it thanks to no sleep. The minute the car got its stickers in scrutineering, it was all worth it.”
That striking spearmint, which suits the HD’s lines so well, is a custom mix that Chad calls Toilet Wall Green – for quite literal reasons. “The colour of the car was Dad’s choice; he always said he’d get to the ute one day and paint it ‘toilet wall green’ just like in the old houses, so I got my own version mixed up,” Chad laughs.
Under the bonnet is a classic Holden black motor, another nod to the memory of Scott, who was a Holden six devotee. The 202ci mill copped new rings and bearings, had the lumpy mystery cam thrown back in it, and was then topped with a sweet set of triple SU carburettors on an Armour inlet manifold.
A Bosch electronic ignition module sparks the firewater, which is provided by a VL Commodore fuel pump and a VN fuel tank. A set of custom headers flow into a 2.5-inch exhaust system, while a 2200rpm converter and Trimatic handle the grunt.
The diff is a disc-braked Volvo unit, chosen because of its narrow track width and very keen pricing: “The diff came out of a Volvo 240 sedan, and I found it on Gumtree from a wrecking guy who said if I removed it myself I could have it!” Chad says. “I went with a Volvo diff because they have disc brakes, plus they’re narrower and much stronger than a banjo. I’d love an LSD for it, but they’re hard to find.”
Being such an important vehicle to him, it’s not hard to understand why Chad has poured so much time into perfecting the HD. “It’s an absolute childhood dream to have my car in the magazine. I am beyond stoked to feature something I built myself, and being in memory of Dad just makes it that much better.”
1965 HOLDEN HD UTE
Paint: Custom Toilet Wall Green
Brand: Holden 202ci
Carburettors: Triple 13/4in SUs
Head: Holden 12-port
Camshaft: 35/75 mystery brand
Conrods: Black 202
Pistons: Black 202
Crank: Black 202
Oil system: Black 202
Fuel system: VN Commodore tank, VL pump
Cooling: Alloy radiator, twin thermo fans
Exhaust: Custom extractor, 2.5in exhaust
Ignition: Bosch electronic
Diff: Volvo, 3.7:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Slam Specialties RE-6 air springs, Monroe shocks, custom front crossmember
Rear: Slam Specialties RE-7 air springs, Monroe shocks, triangulated four-link
Brakes: Holden HD discs (f), Volvo discs (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood tandem
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Intro Matrix billet; 17×7 (f), 19×10 (r)
Rubber: Rapid; 205/40R17 (f), 275/30R19 (r)
Dad for teaching me everything I know about cars and also to give things a go as you have nothing to lose; my fiancée Sarah for the support; Luke at Hellbent Customs; Paul for all the wiring; Rod at Rod’s Custom Restoration; my father-in-law Joe for all his help; Bren and Timmy; Chris at Preload Performance; Car Builders for their awesome products; Damien ‘Chubby’ Lowe and all my family and friends for their support