It takes a special kind of bloke to fling an FJ Holden around a circuit and burnout pad at full tilt thousands of kilometres from home. But it’s all in a weekend’s work for Collie’s Greg Thornton, who brought his killer ute to the NT for a crack at Gazzanats Darwin.
First published in the November 2022 issue of Street Machine
What’s your background in cars, Greg?
Since I was a kid, if it had a motor, I’ve been involved in it: motorbikes, cars, model aeroplanes, RC cars – anything! My first car was an HR Holden ute that I rebuilt in the driveway. Dad gave me a hand with that.
My uncle Les had a transport company and taught me a lot as a youngster; I helped him with projects that he had going on. Then I had an HJ Tonner that I again did up in the driveway. After that, I had an HJ sedan that I did up as a GTS, and an FJ40.
How long have you had this FJ?
Since the late 2000s, I’d guess. I’d had one previously that I put on a Chevy LUV chassis. Reading Street Machine in the 80s or 90s, there was one on a LUV chassis [Dave Hemsworth’s ute, SM, Sep ’89], so I sort of copied that. I put a tilt front on it, and at one point it had a 351 Cleveland, but it never progressed and I moved it on.
I bought this one out of Reservoir in Victoria. It had an early Hadfield crossmember with the rack in the back, and I put one of the later ones in, with a Torana rack at the front.
It was on the street, registered as a 350 in Western Australia. I did have the blower on it, but it was all under the bonnet.
How’d it go from streeter to burnout car?
It just sort of progressed. I dropped the rego and put an LS in it, and here it is now. I’d seen these young kids with LS donks doing skids; they’d smash a set, put another set on and just head back out.
So my mate Terry Tyler said to me, “Put in an LS.” It was set up for a small-block, so I had to change the exhaust and all that, and Terry goes, “I’ll build the headers and you do the rest!”
He’s been a big help, and there were other friends along the way [who helped too].
What’s the combo?
It’s a 6.0-litre, with a forward-pattern Turbo 350 and a nine-inch. It has stainless-steel valves with dual valve springs, standard rockers with a trunnion kit, Crane pushrods and roller lifters, and a custom-grind Crane cam.
It’s also got JE pistons, Scat H-beam rods, ARP studs throughout, an LS1 crank and reluctor wheel, and a Melling high-pressure, standard-volume oil pump. The blower is a Weiand 177 running 8psi of boost, which I had on my small-block.
I thought I’d put it on the LS, but they don’t make a manifold for it, so with the help of Terry again, we bought a Victor Jr and just hacked it up to make our own.
How long’s it been together like this?
A year. The last time I came up to Gazzanats, it was with the small-block, and I actually blew it up at a later event. That’s when I decided to go with an LS.
I bought it through Sandro Principe, my engine tuner from SCM Race Engines. It was built by the Grgic brothers, Paul and Mladen, with help from Sandro.
No big dramas with it so far?
It’s been trouble-free! The best thing I ever did was put the radiator in the back. I call it the kettle!
It’s got a big tank that sends water to the engine. At normal events, you smash a set of tyres and drive off the pad at 80 degrees. It just doesn’t get hot.
Where to from here?
The back end is still FJ Holden; all I’ve done is bolt a nine-inch to a set of 1955 springs. So I’ve got a McDonald Brothers triangulated four-link, and that’s the next mod to go in it.
It’s held on for a long time, but it’s just a bit of a pig!