A chance encounter with a clapped-out ute for sale on the roadside prompted a 10-year odyssey for Ray Gullotto, who’s transformed it into one of the sweetest FB Holdens we’ve seen. It might look at first glance like just another Holden ute with a V8 stuffed in it, but there are a few clever tricks involved that blend modern updates with an old-school look.
First published in the January 2023 issue of Street Machine
Ray had that fateful meeting with the FB back in 2012. “It was parked on the side of the road for sale, so I just pulled in, had a chat to the guy and basically walked away with it,” he says. “It was originally owned by a guy in Nedlands who was a house painter; he’d actually painted the car with a roller, and it looked terrible.
He went over all the trim; everything was all flat black. It covered up a lot of bog and a lot of rust, which we didn’t see until we had it sandblasted. I was expecting rust in it, as every old Holden is renowned for it, but it was probably double what I expected. I probably should have thrown it away, but I didn’t.”
Needless to say, it took a fair bit of time and a truckload of cash to remove all that rust, replace it with fresh metal and get the ute back to its full fighting weight. Ray then took a bit of a break from the project so the bank balance could recover before sending the FB off to SCM Race Engines to get on with the next stage of the build, which involved putting in a much tougher drivetrain.
Ray chose a 5.3-litre LS, which works out to 327ci – a legendary number if ever there was one – and is also as large as you can go to get the car engineered legally in WA. It’s a pretty mild combo with a stock bottom end, but it’s had some tweaks up top with a Crane came with 224/230 duration, Crane springs and LS7 lifters. The intake is an Edelbrock dual-plane with a 750cfm QFT carb.
With the small-block rocker covers hiding the coil packs, you could easily mistake the mill for a good ol’ SBC. “I wanted the old-school look because it’s an old-school car. In my book, injection detracts from that look,” Ray says.
Backing up the stout little LS is a Turbo 350 and 4000rpm high stall from AllFast, while the four-linked nine-inch diff was supplied by Final Drive and is filled with a Truetrac LSD, 31-spline billet axles and 3.9 gears.
The rest of the ute’s underpinnings are more than up to the task as well, with a CRS tubular IFS with rack-and-pinion steering up front, Strange adjustable coil-overs all ’round, and cross-drilled and slotted discs on all four wheels clamped by Wilwood four-spot calipers.
As you would expect, fitting the narrowed nine-inch, four-link, 15×10 rims and 12-inch-wide rubber meant the rear cargo area needed a complete rework. “The only thing original in the back end is the outer panels; everything else is all new,” Rays says. “From the back of the cab to the tailgate is all new tubing and sheet metal.”
You may also notice the ute’s clean flanks, devoid of the fuel filler cap that normally sits just behind and above the rear wheel. Instead, the new tank sits below the floor and is filled from inside the tray, which might be a problem if you’re carrying a load of gravel, but it’s unlikely Ray will put his ute through any such hardships.
With the fabrication completed, the car was sent off to Sam and Colin Carameli, who did all the bodywork and got it dialled in so that Ben at Kustom Rides Panel & Paint could lay on the candy orange hue, which is based on a Mazda colour. Depending on the light, it flips from dark bronze to golden orange. That’s awesome for us to look at, but can be a real pain to photograph. However, I think you’ll agree that Jordan Leist did a pretty stellar job of catching the paint’s different moods.
The interior is another example of cleverly mixing the old with the new. The bucket seats are out of a Subaru, but they’ve had their headrests removed and been retrimmed in Mercedes leather in a custom pattern that Ray and the team at Trimcare came up with.
They also trimmed the custom centre console, which was fabricated by Paul at Grgic Bros Automotive and houses the ratchet shifter, electric window controls, electric park brake and the controller for the hidden Kenwood sound system. The latter punches out the tunes through Rockford Fosgate speakers.
The dashboard follows the same mantra of modern tech with old-school looks, and features electronic gauges, LED lighting and push buttons instead of switches. “That was just to get rid of the old knobs that were very unreliable, and to have a clean look,” Ray says.
All of that hard work would have amounted to nothing if Ray didn’t get the ute’s stance and the wheel-and-tyre combo right, but I’m sure we can agree that he absolutely belted that one out of the park.
With the complete replacement of the suspension, the ride height could be dropped considerably without any loss of suspension travel. The 15×6 and 15×10 rims give it that pro street stagger that we all love, and everything just tucks in perfectly.
While it might have taken a decade to get there, the results speak for themselves; this FB is a real head-turner when Ray takes it out for a cruise. “I took it to Fremantle one day and I had people stopping me in the middle of the street just so they could take some photographs,” he marvels. “I like old cars because you’ve actually got to drive them, whereas new cars more or less drive themselves. It’s a pleasure to drive.”
FB HOLDEN UTE
|Paint:||PPG Candy Orange|
|Inlet:||Edelbrock Performer RPM|
|Carb:||Quick Fuel 750cfm|
|Cam:||Crane Pistons, crank and conrods: Standard|
|Radiator:||Brown’s custom radiator, 16in Spal fan|
|Exhaust:||Custom 1.75in headers, twin system|
|Ignition:||MSD, standard coils|
|Gearbox:||AllFast Turbo 350|
|Converter:||AllFast 4000rpm stall|
|Diff:||9in, Truetrac, 31-spline billet axles, 3.9:1 gears|
|Front:||Castlemaine Rod Shop IFS and rack-and-pinion steering, Strange coil-overs|
|Brakes:||Wilwood cross-drilled and slotted discs, four-spot calipers (f & r)|
|Rims:||Center Line Convo Rev II; 15×6 (f), 15×10 (r)|
|Rubber:||Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R; 26×6.00R15 (f), 28×12.00R15 (r)|
Sandro at SCM Race Engines; Grgic Bros Automotive; Ben at Kustom Rides for the paintjob; Sam and Colin Carameli for the panel-beating; Trimcare for the interior; Final Drive for the diff and tailshaft; AllFast for the transmission and converter