Henry Parry’s SMOTY-winning ‘Old Love’ FB Holden

Bought brand new by mum, reborn at the Chop Shop

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

Henry Parry and his close mate John Matthews were sitting on the back porch of Henry’s Nyngan farmhouse looking at the forlorn early Holden sitting in the shed. “You’re never going to finish that car,” said John. “You should pay someone. A friend of mine, Owen Webb, will know the right person.”

First published in the January 2014 issue of Street Machine

The car in question is the stunning, candy-apple red and white FB Holden you see before you. Well, technically it was an EK when Henry’s mum bought it fresh off the showroom floor. “She bought it brand new,” says Henry, “drove it home and it’s been around ever since.” Some 10 years ago, Henry decided to do the right thing and give his mum’s beloved old Holden a rebuild. Unfortunately work ground to a halt not long after it got underway – and that’s how it stayed.

Henry could see the logic in John’s advice. “You’re probably right, it’s going nowhere,” he agreed. Henry and John organised a meet with Mr Webb at MotorEx, 2011. “Show me the cars you like and I’ll introduce you to the builders,” said Owen. By show’s end, Henry had done handshake deals with The Chop Shop, Custom Bodyworks and Stitched Up Interiors. The car was delivered to The Chop Shop in January, 2012, with John acting as project manager.

Henry has a fair collection of old Holdens, a number of which are pristine. “I’ll take a Sunday off, unless we’re shearing or something, and take the grandkids out,” he says. “They love it.” He also has a number of unrestored examples – some for donor parts, some as future projects. With such resources at his disposal, he was able to supply The Chop Shop boys with 12 doors and six guards to choose from. A good start!

Henry’s brief was simple: “I want a car that anybody can drive, nothing stupid. It’s got to drive nice and have all the mod cons.” Ryan Carter from The Chop Shop rendered a few concepts, including a convertible and a coupe, both of which were kyboshed by Henry. His other stipulation was that he didn’t want to change it too much, as he’s fond of the factory styling. So the theme for Old Love (in memory of his mum) was set; relatively stock lines, FB side trim conversion and killer engineering, interior, body and paint.

For ease of drivability, an LS1 crate motor, backed by a 4L60E four-speed auto was selected to power the FB. The mill is stock except for a GM Performance inlet manifold and Billet Specialties accessories drive. Ryan wired up the motor and ’box along with the rest of the car.

The stunning Red Kandy was mixed by Mr House of Kolor himself, Owen Webb

To stiffen things up to better handle the gruntier powerplant, Laurie and The Chop Shop crew plated the entire chassis (including the original front sub-frame) and added a chassis-strengthening structure. The rear was also mini-tubbed while they were under there.

Up front, there’s an all-new, CAD-designed, double A-arm front end, incorporating hand-made tubular arms, HQ stub axles and a Flaming River RHD power rack. All of which required radically different inner guards – in fact the entire car from the firewall forward was custom-fabricated around the original rails and K-frame.

Out back is a Chop Shop sheet-metal nine-inch suspended by a parallel four-link and Panhard bar. All four corners ride on fully-adjustable Spax coil-overs. For optimum durability and serviceability, much of the driveline was powder-coated in contrasting gunmetal grey by Oxytech.

Henry is especially pleased with all the engineering changes, as they’ve dragged the FB’s handling and road manners kicking and screaming into the 21th century. “It handles very well and is nice ’n’ firm,” he says.

The brakes are Harrop’s Monster Kit, featuring 343mm-diameter, two-piece rotors (32mm thick front, 28mm rear) complete with radial slots, clamped by lightweight, four-piston calipers. They certainly bring proceedings to a rapid halt.

Oddly, given the engine’s mild manners, quietening the bark proved a major hurdle. At one stage it looked like it would have to be fitted with four mufflers and dual cats – a lot to package in such a small car. Luckily after a tonne of mucking about, a legal dB level (the car is fully engineered as you see it) was attained with just two mufflers.

The engineering changes have dragged the FB’s handling and road manners into the 21st century

Although Henry didn’t want to change it too much, he did allow the boys to hand-make new front door skins that were 1⁄2-inch longer to eliminate the original strip that ran down between the front and rear doors. The rear door openings were slightly enlarged, and the rear door jambs reshaped to help entry and egress. The roof was also shaved of its drip rails to clean up its lines. For the same reason, the front and rear quarter windows were eliminated, requiring unique one-piece glass.

Internally, all four doors have been completely re-engineered. They now feature modern, smooth-running power window mechanisms and central locking, with the original bell-crank opening action converted to pull operation like you’d find in a modern car. Edging was added to the interior’s metal areas so that all the interior panels sit flush with the surrounding metal.

Although the car had been Henry’s mum’s pride and joy, it was still your average old farm vehicle, which meant the body needed a mountain of work. Des Knight shut down his own shop in Orange to take up residence at Custom Bodyworks in Sydney to work his panel magic. Looking down the side of Henry’s baby, there’s not a ripple or bump in sight. Des even went to the trouble of fitting up the moulds and light fixtures and finessing them into the body for a perfect fit. Every piece of chrome was stripped, blocked with 600, copper-plated and blocked again with 600, before finally being chromed. The silky smooth result is well worth the effort.

The stunning Red Kandy was mixed by Mr House of Kolor himself, Owen Web – at 11:30 the night before Danny from Custom Bodyworks was scheduled to lay on the colour! The key to its vividness is the unique red base, not to mention the hundreds of hours that went into preparation and paint.

A lot of thought has gone into the design of the interior. Virtually no part has been left untouched and there’s not a screw or fastener in sight. “It’s very understated, yet quite extreme at the same time,” says Darren from Stitched Up. All the interior panels were fashioned from Alupanel composite, with the front doors featuring a recess that required considerable modification to the door structure itself.

To create the smooth hood lining, the FB’s roof skin was turned into a mould – a release agent was applied directly to the steel before the fibreglass was laid up. This piece was split into two and a steel perimeter was then added for support, with the whole lot held in place via the central billet strip which incorporates the rear-vision mirror up at the windscreen. This billet piece and most of the others like the one-off interior door handles were water jet cut from 25mm aluminium sheet by Mallaby Sheet Metal before being hand-shaped and polished to a brilliant finish.

Front seats are radically modified Ford Territory, while the rear bench was made from scratch. All were covered in specially-imported Scottish leather, which Stitched Up highlighted with suede and metal mesh highlights. Inertia-reel seatbelts were added, with the bulky retractable bit flush-mounted into the pillars. The one-off belts were also dyed to match the leather and fitted with fabricated stainless buckles complete with the Holden factory crest. Over 600 hours went into the interior. “It’s hard to see that,” says Darren, “but there’s so many panels in this car and they all fit perfectly.”

Henry was confident that his FB would be the first of many stellar vehicles to emerge from The Chop Shop. So he convinced them to design and affix a build plaque to the firewall – naturally he’s got build number 001.

Overall Henry is extremely happy with the car and is a consummate gentleman. When asked about taking out gold awards at MotorEx for engineering, trim, design and execution – along with silver for bodywork – on debut, he replied, “They’re genuine, nice people, the whole lot of them. It’s a great achievement for them, as they’re very skilled. So I’m very happy they received recognition for their efforts.”

Henry shipped the FB home for the Nyngan Fair, where it was the star attraction, a terrific eye-opener.

“Most people had never seen anything like it,” says Henry. “I got a lot of satisfaction being able to show them what you could do to a car. It was great.”

Having previewed the car in bare metal at MotorEx 2012, everybody involved was then committed to having it finished for the following year – after all, if you don’t set a firm deadline, projects often languish. For months, everyone converged on Custom Bodyworks, with Old Love being worked on virtually 24 hours a day.

As Danny said, “Everybody did what they had to do to get it done.” The extreme stress of such a punishing schedule normally ends in frayed tempers and less than cordial relationships. Not so here. Laurie, Danny, Dez and Darren are still good friends, which is just as well because Henry’s already talking about the next car.

“I won’t be so restrictive this time,” he says. “I think I’ll just let the team do whatever they want. Free reign, free control. I can’t wait.” Neither can we, Henry. Bring it on!

Henry Parry
FB Holden

Colour:HOK Kandy Red/White
Engine:5.7 LS1
Inlet:GM Performance
Intake:Custom OTR
Exhaust:Chop Shop headers, dual 2.5-inch stainless system
Diff:Sheet-metal nine-inch
Brakes:Harrop four-piston calipers on 343mm rotors
Master cylinder:Boosted Wilwood
Front:Chop Shop custom double A-arm
Steering:RHD Flaming River power rack ’n’ pinion
Column:Collapsible RHD Ididit
Rear:Parallel four-link with Panhard bar
Springs/shocks:Fully adjustable Spax coil-overs all round
Seats:Highly-modified Ford Territory
Door handles:Wet jet cut
Wheel:Billet Specialties
Gauges:Classic Instruments
Tunes:Secret Audio with USB MP3 input
A/C:Vintage Air
Rims:Schott 18 & 19-inch billets (cool!)
Rubber:Falken 235/40/18 & 285/35/19

The Chop Shop, Custom Bodyworks, Knights Panel Works, Stiched Up Interiors.