Restored 1957 Holden FE – Reader’s car

Cara Pearson's restored FE Holden, dubbed 'George', has been in the family since new

Photographers: Troy Barker

This article on Cara’s FE Holden was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Street Machine magazine

WE CAUGHT up with Cara Pearson on Holden’s final day of manufacturing in October last year. Throngs of enthusiasts gathered at the Holden factory in Elizabeth with their Lion-badged rides for a teary farewell to their maker. Parked in a prime position was Cara’s crisp FE, dubbed George after her late great-grandfather. Having taken out Best In Show at the one-off Holden Dream Cruise the weekend prior, Cara was still on a high and keen to share with us the remarkable story of her ’57.

Cara Pearson

Tell us about your Dream Cruise win.

I was quite surprised to be one of the 100 chosen to show the car, let alone win. The experience was fantastic and I met so many people who were genuinely interested in the story – including Bev Brock!

So, this was your great-grandfather’s FE Special?

Yes, though my grandpa, John Elliott, originally bought it new. He later sold it to my great-grandpa, Gwynne ‘George’ Elliott, in the early 60s, and he drove it until the mid-90s. It was then garaged before he went into a nursing home in 2005, when it was bequeathed to me. In 2008, after my great-grandpa passed away, I began restoring the FE for my Year 10 International Baccalaureate Diploma Personal Project.

What did you do?

My dad, Anthony, and I pulled apart the exterior, then stripped the paint, as it had bad surface rust. We also replaced parts of the door pillars and the bottom of the doors, as well as doing the lead loading, undercoat and wet rubbing. Dad taught me step by step and I did as much as I could. Only the more difficult bodywork and the two-pack Corsair Tan and Castle Grey was done by Dad’s mate’s crash-repair shop. Of course, things like chrome-plating we couldn’t do, so I went along to the workshop to watch and document the processes, a requirement for my 40,000-word thesis and photographic journal.

That’s not FE chrome flashing, though!

It’s Chrysler Royal, from my great-grandfather’s time working at the local Chrysler factory. So the flashing is part of his history with the car, and we decided to keep it along with other changes he’d made, calling them ‘Grandpa’s mods’. It’s what makes this car unique.

You’ve added your own touches too.

The SA-made cast-alloy Silent Seal rocker cover was one of our own period finds. Dad has a good knowledge of the car industry; therefore he wanted any additions to be period-correct and local, or something that Holden offered as an extra. The 138ci is the original engine; we’ve only done oil changes and plugs and added an exhaust and period-correct Genie headers.

How’d the school project score?

An A+, the highest grade of the class – I would’ve been upset if it didn’t! Now, 10 years later, I want to compile it all into a book. Primarily for myself, with a potential to publish in the future. Until then, my partner Matt and I have just created Instagram and Facebook pages to show the adventures of George.