Ken Neilson’s ground-breaking FX Holden

Sheer genius turned a toy into a golden 'olden that set the Summernats on its ear...


Stand back, step aside and look sharp. Here comes one trick 48/215, a car that’s going to make trophy hunters all over the Aussie show scene run for cover. It’s not just that Ken Neilson’s FX humpy is mega quick or smoother than the steering wheel on an XD taxi, but that it’s so damn clever.

First published in the Oct/Nov 1993 issue of Street Machine. Photos: Big Light/Gartside

Clever, like the adaption of trick running gear such as a four-bar backside and a strut — as in MacPherson, ferchrissakes — front end that incorporates rack and pinion steering and proper brakes. There are tough bits, too, like the quadraphonic Weber set-up and the disc-braked Ford nine-inch butt.

Ken started all this madness about seven years ago, but grew really serious as recently as two years ago when he stripped every nut and Bolt from the FX. From the very beginning, the stock running gear was never going to see daylight again and plans were drawn for the space shuttle suspension and rolling stock.

The rear end was tackled first and consists of a four-bar set-up that locates the cut-down, ex-Galaxie nine-inch, running a 3.5:1 slippery centre. Deuce Factory coil-overs keep the diff separate from the bump stops.

Up the pointy end (if a humpy has such a thing) the chassis is even more exotic. That’s a strut front end under there, courtesy of a (gasp) Leyland P76. Ken took this direction after the HR front end he’d been toying with wouldn’t allow the car to sit down far enough without the wheels fouling the guards.

Leyland lower control arms were fat on the ground out Ken’s way, 50 in the time honoured Aussie tradition, he improvised. A suitable ball joint was sourced and hand made stainless wishbones were fabricated. The springs were trashed in favour of a custom set of 1 1/2-inch lowered units. The strut bodies were cut down to 16 inches long.

Bilstein made a suitable set of inserts and bingo! A strut front end for the FX was born. A fairly common top strut mount was used. with a strengthening stay running back from the smoothed inner guard to the mirrored-out firewall. Beautiful … but Repco won’t be much help with spares.

Like we said, steering is rack and pinion and the steering column is from a Commodore. Front brakes are XC Falcon discs with HZ Holden calipers. XC Falc discs also grace the nine-inch and the whole lot is powered by an XD Ford master cylinder and booster.

Cragar supplied a trick set of wheels in the form of Pro Stars, which measure 15 x 6 at the front and 15 x 10 at the business end. Tyres are Comp T/As. Ken was a little more mainstream in his approach to the driveline. If, that is, you can call a 360 cube mouse in a 48/215 mainstream! The block runs a stock crank and a set of Chev rods, fitted with ARP bolts. The whole bottom end spins within Clevite bearings. Pistons are Speed-Pro, running Hastings rings.

Late model Fuellie heads were attacked by Ken and the gang, opening up the ports, CeeCeeing the chambers, deshrouding the valves and precision grinding a three-angle valve job. The heads run big valves and heavy duty springs from an LT-1 engine.

Pushrods are chrome moly, lifters are Speed-Pro and rockers are rollers — all of which take their cues from a Chev Off Road solid cam. Custom extractors whisk away the nasties via a twin exhaust system and Genie mufflers.

The piece of resistance is a brace of 48mm IDA Webers that sit on top of the 350 like four Buddhas, supplying pump Super. Helping out in that department is a Mallory electric pump and custom fuel tank. The radiator is the work of Craig O’Connor of Maffra Sheet Metal, who took a Natrad fine-finned five-row core and added polished stainless top and bottom tanks.

Maffra panel man Kevin Millier — of Millier Motor Body Repairers — got the task of turning the humpy into the show winner it is today. Mini-tubs were installed before Kev moved on to the job of smoothing everything. Like we said, all parts under the front lid have been ironed clean, while the rear sheet metal has seen a re-shape of the boot lid to allow for a custom number plate mount.

The rolled pan was designed to match the lower section of the rear guards, and to hide the fuel tank and tow bar beneath the rear bumper. While they were at it, the boys recessed the tail lights and fitted a custom fuel filler. The boot was carpeted – nothing unusual there — but the tricky part is the way the battery’s hidden in the left quarter and the washer bottle and tools are concealed in the right. Access to both is via doors in the inner panels.

Once it was all smooth and clean, Kevin squirted on the first of three coats of Spartan Euronova in a special shade of his own doing. After the triple base coat, an equal number of clear coats were blasted on to give the FX’s round panels real depth.

Inside, there’s a hand made dash that’s so clever it brings a tear to your eye. Ken and the boys had to make it a little larger, to fit the speedo and tacho side by side. Classic brand instruments were fitted. The original part of the dash had all holes filled, apart from the headlight switch. Yes, there’s a fully functioning glovebox, but the lock’s been removed, in line with the FX’s overall clean theme.

Another local craftsman, Kelvin Murphy from Murphy’s Motor Trimmers, stitched up the interior. And it’s as innovative as the rest of this hi-tech humpy. The original bench has been padded in the fashion of a pair of buckets, which means it looks like a bench, but feels like a bucket once your bum cheeks hit the cushion. It’s trimmed in EA Falcon dark grey vinyl, with Honda Legend velour inserts
and a Jordan Grey border.

The door trims are unique. Ken cut a hole in each door panel, then replaced it with a piece carrying raised shapes on its surface. This is covered in Honda velour, and the rest of the door (and the kick panels) in EA vinyl.

Inevitably, there’s a heap of people to thank, particularly when you’re rushing to meet a photographic deadline. Ken owes his life to Kevin Millier, Colin Corfe, Richard Sclater, John Wood and Brian Clark, the sparky who came round to Ken’s house out of hours and fitted up the all-new wiring system. Or his dad, Wal, who spent a week on the fiddly, last minute details. But Ken’s best mate Teresa probably summed it up best. She’s dubbed the car ‘Bigamy’. Why? Because she reckons Ken spends more time with the car than her! Something tells us Ken will have to join the queue once the public gets a gawk at his other love.


Induction:Ouad 48 IDA Webers
Intake man:Weber
Cam:Chev Off Road
Exhaust:Custom made
Trans:Turbo 350
Diff:Ford nine-inch
Springs:Custom struts; coil overs
Shocks:Bilstein; coil overs
Front brakes:Ford discs; HZ calipers
Rear brakes:XC discs
Front tyres:Comp T/A 205/60
Front wheels:Cragar 15×6
Rear tyres:Comp T/A 295/50
Rear wheels:Cragar 15×10
Paint:Spartan Euronova
Build time:Two years