Iconic custom Holdens part 2: FX-FJ

Part two of our hot humpy flashback customs from the 60s and 70s


We continue this special series with part two of our hot humpy flashback, looking at a variety of custom FX and FJ Holdens that graced the Aussie scene on both the show circuit and local streets in the 1960s and early 1970s, along with a couple of more modern builds inspired by that era.

First published in the May 2023 issue of Street Machine

The variety of modifications and sheer individuality that many builders incorporated into the basic humpy shape during that time is staggering, with imagination seemingly the only limitation.

Unfortunately, only a handful of customs from the period have survived to tell the tale, but thankfully there are some colour photographs still doing the rounds that give us a greater insight into what made the hot-car builders of that era tick.

We’ll finish up in part three with a selection of more modern custom humpies – and by ‘modern’ we mean the 1980s!

1. Peter Bartrop’s FX

One of the coolest and most pioneering custom Holden builds was this FX sedan built by the late Peter Bartrop as a teenager between 1963 and 1965.

A forward-opening sectioned and tapered bonnet, quad headlights, custom grille relief and guard scallops sorted the front clip, while a frenched aerial recess and home-fabricated rear wheel spats were also made and added.

Chromies with two-bar spinner centres and narrow whites were fitted up, but one of the car’s most amazing features was the roof chop – a rarity for a custom Holden of this decade. Twin carbs on the original grey motor were about as hot as it got, but it is amazing what the mostly self-taught Peter achieved with only the simplest of tools in limited yard and garage space.

The FX was never fully finished, with the front missing out on the sky blue hue, and was eventually sold on after receiving minor impact damage.

2. Len Fenech’s FJ

Gorgeous candy red paint and Mercedes 220 headlights make Len Fenech’s FJ sedan instantly recognisable.

A popular show winner in the late 1960s, Len’s Holden featured custom bodywork performed by Dave Andrew at Kustom City, which, in addition to the front lights and custom grille, included a rear rollpan and Mercedes sedan tail-lights.

The build’s clean styling was set off with plenty of under-bonnet chrome, and it was rightly deemed worthy to adorn the cover of Australian Hot Rod magazine in September 1968.

Sadly, the car was stolen in the mid-to-late 1970s and found dumped in the bush, stripped and burnt out.

3. Les Watts’s FJ

Resplendent in beautiful sky blue paint, this custom FJ sedan was the handiwork of a young Les Watts from Brisbane.

The FJ was bought by his father brand new, before being sold to an 18-year-old Les in 1964, and he immediately began transforming it into a show-and-go machine. Rollpans front and rear were complemented by a simple grille treatment and recessed low-mounted tail-lights, respectively, while the Corvette-inspired scallops on the front and rear guards were this custom humpy’s calling card.

A louvred bonnet housed an extensively chromed and detailed hotted-up grey donk, while the interior was retrimmed in red and white vinyl and featured a custom centre console and EH steering wheel. By the late 1970s, old customs were just that, with many sold on and worn out as daily drivers or stripped for parts.

Thankfully, some legends do live on, and early-Holden aficionado Lindsay Wilson found the ex-Watts front clip languishing in the long grass of a Brisbane backyard 20 years ago, and has it proudly hanging from his garage roof as a nod to this golden era of Australian customising.

4. Des Woods’s FJ

Ipswich, west of Brisbane, remains a modified-car hotspot to this day, and in the 1960s and 70s, a healthy number of custom early Holdens were born in the city.

This included the FJ sedan of Des Woods, who outfitted the front end with a MkII Zephyr pan and EH Holden headlight rims, along with an FE grille surround that sported a few different custom inserts.

The bonnet, bootlid and rear door handles were shaved, while S-Series Valiant tail-lights were incorporated into a rear rollpan.

Chromed and reversed wide-five wheels with bullet centres put the mild grey motor’s power to the ground, while the scrollwork is an interesting and worthy addition to the red paint.

5. Ray Sperotto’s FJ

5: The radical front treatment on Ray Sperotto’s FJ sedan was a stand-out for the era, with the tunnelled headlights and Perspex covers styled along the lines of Ferraris of the time, while the pony grille centre is obviously a Mustang piece.

Royal blue metalflake paint accentuated the custom bodywork, which also included canted Hillman tail-lights, while the reversed chromies were eventually replaced by the now-very-rare Kustom City wheels.

A Waggott-tweaked grey motor lived up front. Ray sold the car to a South Australian buyer, and the eventual fate of this very distinctive FJ remains a mystery.

6. Tom James’s FX

One of the most tastefully executed radical humpy builds is this shortened and sectioned FX sedan owned by Shepparton’s Tom James. Tom bought the car as a basket case in 1986, but its origins remain unknown.

Unfortunately, the quality of the original 1960s build was questionable, so Tom set about completely rebuilding the Holden and adding a few changes closer to his heart.

The need for extensive body repairs opened the door to replace the previous Vanguard Spacemaster tail-lights with horizontally mounted VC Valiant sedan units, while the custom front was redone with a Simca Aronde grille and Austin 1800 headlight surrounds.

A stout grey motor with triple SU carbs powers the FX, while an EK dash swap and Skoglund wheels are extra dashes of period perfection.

7. Kyren O’Loan’s FJ

Brisbane’s Kyren O’Loan is a stalwart of the Australian modified FX and FJ Holden scene, and has enough runs on the board to have experienced this era first-hand! Back in the 1990s, Kyren built this FJ as a tribute to the customisers of the 1960s, incorporating many of his favourite early-Holden styling cues.

The many years Kyren spent collecting the right parts paid dividends, with a MkII Ford Zephyr pan and 1956 Dodge headlight rims for the front end, along with a grille made by Dennis Twigg using half-inch copper tube, which was then chromed.

The bonnet was louvred by renowned local fabricator Keith Hinchliffe, who originally made the wheels back in the day, too. The bootlid has been shaved and is complemented by Valiant AP sedan tail-lights, while a rollpan and recessed number plate round out the rear-end treatment.

After nearly 30 years on the road, Kyren still intends to paint the car someday.