Iconic custom Holdens part 3: FX-FJ

In the final part of our series celebrating iconic FJ/FX builds, we look at some of the more 'modern' era customs the 1980s

Pat Fay's 'Humpy Mekka' FJ hearse

From the pioneering days of a young Dale Fisher customising youthful FX and FJ Holdens in the 50s and 60s to the scene-shattering legend that was Rex Webster’s FJ in the mid-80s.

First published in the June 2023 issue of Street Machine

Holden humpy builds have evolved with the times – Kevin Baird’s elite-level, Deluxe Rod Shop-built FX (SM, Sep ’22) is a perfect example of current trends. However, when it comes to 1980s builds, people tend to either love them or hate them.

We’re firmly in the former camp, so in this final instalment of our custom FX-FJ Holden series, we’ll moonwalk our way through some the most revered humpy builds of the 80s – an era where individuality and a dare-to-be-different mindset prevailed.

1. Pat Fay’s ‘Humpy Mekka’ FJ hearse

Few modified cars can hold a candle to the firmly stamped identity and pure longevity of the ‘Humpy Mekka’ FJ hearse built by the late Pat Fay. Pat was a larger-than-life character whose passion for the car scene was second to none, and the development of his coffin-sporting FJ spanned many upgrades and alterations over nearly three decades.

Its first significant build in the 1970s featured popular trends of the time – stacked quad headlights and a custom grille balanced with Valiant AP sedan tail-lights and deep-dish slot mags, while black paint with blue and purple art, along with a vinyl roof, gave it a distinctive look.

The black base and vinyl roof remained from then on, but the body mods continued, including the hearse’s most famous guise with Mercedes 220 headlights, Simca grille and LC Torana tail-lights. Its final form featured a Mercedes grille to match the headlights and Mk1 Escort/Capri rear lights.

The blood-themed Frank Lee murals were a highlight, while the FJ’s driveline progressed from grey and red sixes to single four-barrel, tunnel-rammed and even supercharged small-block Chev combos. After languishing for a decade or more, the FJ was brought out of hibernation following Pat’s passing in 2013 and is currently being revamped by students at Canberra TAFE.

2. Dave Johnson’s ’56 FJ sedan

Talented Brisbane panel and paint man Dave Johnson has weaved his magic over many restored and modified FX-FJ builds over the years. His blue ’56 FJ sedan wore many custom trends on its sleeve.

Mazda 929 rectangular headlights, Sigma guard vents and an inverted LJ Torana grille were distinctively 1980s mods, whereas the rear harked back to earlier influences with (later-fitted) wheel spats, ‘Canadian’ AP6 Valiant station wagon tail-lights and a home-brewed, boot-mounted continental kit.

A blue vinyl roof and wire wheels added some luxury visuals, while the blue and grey velour in the interior was very much of its time. A hotted-up grey motor was chosen for power. After being sold and sitting unloved for many years, the car has a new owner who as rebuilt it and painted it white while still retaining many of its original custom touches.

3. Neil Dieckmann’s FJ van

Here’s a custom FJ build that doubled as a pioneer of the Aussie panel van scene. Neil Dieckmann kicked off his silver FJ van build in 1974, and it evolved from its grey primer, sidepipes and 149 red motor guise to sporting black paint with flared guards, 1950s Chrysler headlights, a Mini ‘Sunshine’ sunroof and a super-cool Fairlane tail-light conversion.

By the early 1980s, the FJ had been rebuilt into its third and most iconic guise. A steel front spoiler matched reworked front flares, while the rear versions were widened with added vents, using extra FJ sedan rear guards to keep the correct profile and house the 10-inch-wide American Racing mags and later chrome 12-slots.

The 149 was replaced with a hot 202, fed by triple Webers and backed by a Saginaw four-speed and nine-inch. Neil built his own pool display for a day show at Indooroopilly Shoppingtown, perching the van in the middle; he even added litres of Blue Loo toilet dye to achieve the desired effect! Nearly 50 years on, Neil’s FJ remains a cherished member of the Dieckmann household, a time capsule of when imagination ruled supreme.

Any changes have been restricted to different wheels and a few paint touch-ups, and it is still wagging tongues as a regular sight around South-East Queensland.

4. Mark Plummer’s FJ sedan

Mark Plummer’s radical FJ sedan was a wild bit of gear back in the day. It featured a healthy roof chop, full-steel tilt front and pumped guards, and amassed a significant number of trophies during its 1980s show run.

Originally powered a by a Chrysler Hemi 265 six-cylinder, the Hermitage Red humpy was later rebuilt with a full chassis and blown small-block Chev, and featured a red velvet interior with HZ seats and a Torana XU-1 dash.

A nosed bonnet and Chev tail-lights recessed into a rollpan were calling cards for this build, along with the voluminous rear Dragway five-spoke wheels. Mark later sold the FJ, and it was last thought to be somewhere in Tasmania.

5. Graham Addicott’s FJ sedan

Mention the words ‘Porsche whale tail’ for anything other than a 911 or 930 and your mind will surely wander to those Volkswagen-based ‘Porrera’ kits of the 1980s. So, when Newcastle’s Graham Addicott decided to buck that trend and add one to his stonkingly tough, bright green FJ sedan, you could be forgiven for thinking it would be an instant fail.

Thankfully, Graham’s vision surpassed that of the everyday joe and his hot road/race-styled FJ still blows minds. That tail, flared guards, a ground-hugging front spoiler and Valiant AP sedan rear lights worked amazingly well, while the fat wire wheels and Jag rear end were turned by a Wade-blown Holden red six backed by an XU-1 four-speed.

Graham later tunnelled the headlights, 240Z style, and significantly chopped the roof and converted it to a two-door. Through subsequent owners, the FJ has seen gunmetal grey and current metallic red guises, with V8 power and variations of genuine and replica Auto Drag-styled wheels.

However, it is hard to go past the original build’s concept, execution, stance and proportions.

6. Ian Stillman’s 1953 FJ ute

Country Victoria’s Ian Stillman had already owned his black 1953 FJ ute for 15 years when we featured it the December 1987 issue of SM, and its then-current guise featured upgrades that have become street machining folklore.

A 283-cube small-block Chev and wire basket wheels were early inclusions, while HQ wagon tail-lights were grafted into the rear quarters as a model match for the HQ Kingswood door handles, grille and shortened front bumper.

For its 1987 revamp, Ian swapped out the wires for a set of Dragway Indys and bumped up the grille luxury to HQ Statesman items, but it was the 2.5-inch roof chop that made the biggest visual impact. The FJ was again made-over a few years later in gunmetal grey paint and graphics, heralding the fitment of a tunnel ram for the SBC.

The car still survives, but its latest revamp has included a return to an FJ front, purple paint, and larger-diameter billet wheels to keep it fresh and current.

7. Dave Johnson’s 1955 FJ – Jigsaw

Under the bonnet, the supercharged grey motor was detailed to perfection and housed in a beautifully executed bay. The car vanished for many years before reappearing at auction in more recent times, with the only obvious change being a set of Weld Racelite wheels.

Jigsaw was a highly controversial build back then and remains so now, but it holds a pivotal place in the evolution of modified FX-FJs.