Survivor: Candy ’n’ chrome FE Holden turbo

A Street Machine cover car from 1985 turns up in a time warp at Red CentreNATS 30 years later

Photographers: Peter Bateman, Nathan Jacobs

While we were up in Alice Springs for Red CentreNATS in 2015, we were stunned to see a Street Machine cover car from 30 years ago – the June/July 1985 issue to be exact- on show and in remarkable condition for its age. All the hallmarks of a cutting-edge 80s streeter are still there – candy paint, lashings of chrome, flared guards, seven-inch American Racer mags and a turbocharged red motor six.

The car was built back in the day by owner Paul Falcone and his mate Joe Siskovic, but has been owned since 2012 by Jim and Judy Dowling of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. The car had previously spent some years up on the NSW Mid North Coast, before making its way to South Australia, which is where Jim found it, via eBay. “I wasn’t aware of the car’s history when I first saw it,” says Jim. “It just caught my eye and I grabbed it.”

While the candy paint is showing its age in places, the car is stunning condition overall. “Mechanically all I’ve done is replace the manual gearbox with a Powerglide and fit a new starter motor. It goes really well with the turbo!

“We had it at the Katherine Show recently and won People’s Choice and Best Australian, says Jim. “It is a lot of fun. We’ve loved Red CentreNATS and we’ll be back next year with my one-tonner as well as the FE.”

It is always great to see a piece of street machining history so well-preserved and for those who weren’t around in 1985, here’s an abridged version of the original feature story to bring you up to speed on what the cool kids were building back when Bob Hawke was the PM:

After an 18 month rebuild, Paul Falcone has created an FE that looks every bit a knockout among the street cars of 1985 as the old Holden Special sedan looked among the Pomboxes of the 50s. Lean, clean and just itching to rev its polished red head off. Who needs two-tone paintwork, a sun visor or even an Air Chief radio?

Joe Siskovic’s custom brush job would take plenty of beating. Four lots of undercoat. Five coats of fine metallic gold-base coat. Six coats of clear. A sanding back with 1200 paper. Then 11 coats of candy apple red. Then seven more coats of clear. That comes to 33 coats.

The idea was originally that six coats of candy might be enough to give all that chrome-work a coloured backdrop. “But when we parked it in the sun it looked orange. It looked like a fire engine and I wasn’t pleased with it,” said Paul. So Joe rolled up his sleeves and layered on a further five coats of paint.

Even the underside has been given the treatment. The car was rolled on its side and Paul and Joe spent a whole weekend sandblasting it. Joe then whacked on four coats of undercoat and four coats of black. Paul was delighted to discover the floor was all original, it had never been welded.

Under the bonnet is a fairly well-modded 1967 red motor – originally a 186 but now sitting at 190 cubes thanks to a 40 thou bore-out. There’s also a Bert Jones Turbo cam and a half-inch lift on the valves to let the Garrett Air Research Turbo do its work with minimum lag. A single two and a quarter Zenith feeds the Super through and some pretty pleasant music is pipped out the rear via a straight-through 2.5-inch exhaust system chromed front to rear.

An especially neat trick is Paul’s own invention – an electronic over-ride solenoid, controlled from a switch on the dash. It prevents the wastegate from sensing that boost has passed nine pounds. So when Paul wants to take it to the limit he just flicks that switch and keeps an eye on the boost gauge.

The FE gets its horsespower to the hotmix through a four-speed Australian ‘box and an American Velva Touch clutch. Inside an EH diff housing rests a GTR XU-1 3.36:1 LSD. As a finishing touch to a pretty impressive drivetrain, Paul took a length of chain, had it welded and deeply chromed and it now serves as a neat gearshifter.

Paul’s approach to the interior of his car typifies his whole thinking. He didn’t want to go over the top. The car was built to be driven, not looked at. So he opted for a pair of Datsun 180B buckets up front with the original seat behind. Front and rear pews are trimmed in plain old vinyl. “It’s easier to keep and clean,” says Paul. “I didn’t want to have to shower and change my clothes just to take it for a test drive after I’d been working on something.”

And how long does Paul Falcone plan to hang onto the FE? “It’s lasted 30 years already. I think it can last another 20.”