Ron Kirwan’s FC Holden Crewman custom

Holden never built an FC Crewman so Ron Kirwan created his own

Photographers: Helmut Mueller

There was no way self-confessed ute nut Ron Kirwan could resist a solid old FC ute when it was offered to him. It appeared at a mate’s workshop with a dodgy second gear but apart from that was in good original condition. The owner was undecided — repair or sell — but was easily convinced when the mechanic told him about Ron and his penchant for utes.

First published in the January 2007 issue of Street Machine

Ron bought it sight-unseen but had no idea what he was going to do with it. Restoring it back to showroom condition wasn’t an option; he prefers to create something a little different.

“I was originally just going to do it up as a nice ute” he said, “but then I got the idea to build a four-door. There wasn’t one around and I thought it would be different if we could pull it off?”

The idea progressed when another mate worked up a computer impression. Ron liked what he saw and set out to buy an FC Special sedan, intending to blend sedan and ute into Crewman.

Like many car modifiers, Ron quickly discovered his project was far more involved than he first thought — so much so that he says he wouldn’t do it if he could turn the clock back.

But it’s harder to build a time machine than an FC Crewman ute so Ron found himself locked into completing the project. Lucky for us too; we get to enjoy the super-cool ute, which showed for
the first time (fully completed) at the 2006 Deniliquin Ute Muster, without the hard work.

Ron openly admits he doesn’t do the mods on his cars — he employs a team of talented Melbourne metal workers to make his dreams come true. Gun custom-crafter Dean Finch has built a number of projects for Ron and was one of the guys entrusted with the job of blending sedan and ute.

It was decided early on that the rear seats had to be full-size, capable of accommodating Ron and his burly mates. To achieve that, Dean had to extend the wheelbase by 900mm. The stretch began by slicing the sedan in half at the centre pillar, leaving the roof basically intact.

He then slid some 65x45mm rectangular steel tube sections into the sedan sills, plug-welding them every 100mm. With the tubes protruding two metres out of the sedan sills, he slid the ute body , over them, butting the two bodies together with the original floors overlapping 50mm.

The really tricky part of the sedan-ute fusion came when he had to join up the roof panels. At first it seemed easy — overlap ‘em, weld ‘ em, job done — but of course it didn’t go like that.

The problem was that the sedan roof fell away the further you got from the windscreen, so it was much lower than the ute roof once he got to the point where he wanted to stitch them together.

He cut the sedan’s roof about two-thirds of the way back but before it could be joined up with the ute roof he had to flatten it so they’d match up. It took a couple of days of hard graft but Dean eventually got it to the point where the two panels could be spliced without the need for too much filler.

The rear doors were also a problem, though not as tough to solve as the roof. It wasn’t possible to use the sedan’s rear doors as they’re cut around the wheelarches, which would have made the Crewman look like a backyard lash-up. Dean fabricated new doors using bits and pieces of the original but with new skins and frames eliminating the wheelarch cut-outs.

Forward of the centre pillar, the Crewman is mainly sedan: front doors, dash and front clip, though the ute’s perfect front guards and bonnet were used. Rear of the cab it’s basically all stock ute apart from the rear bumper which is the Sedan bar modified.

The job of painting the Crewman was given to Race Paint, where Carsten Schulze prepped it and laid on the colour. The top is House Of Kolor Red Ice Flake over a black base, while the lower half is Gold Flake over a Red Kandy base. Ghost flames, the chrome trim, and the mural on the hard tonneau cover were airbrushed by Race Paint boss John Evans. “It was easier to airbrush the trim than fabricate it in stainless,” Ron said.

Inside, Mazda seats were trimmed in raspberry and light grey leather by Sunshine Motor Trimming’s Pat Mesiti. He also fabricated custom door-trims and raspberry carpets, while the custom centre console was fabricated by Dean. Power windows and air-conditioning add a touch of modern comfort.

Mechanically, the Crewman is mild rather than wild. Most of the power-train was lifted from the FC sedan. It was a project car that was about 80 per cent finished and came with a Castlemaine Rod
Shop V8 conversion kit, so it was pretty simple to drop in a new 350ci Chevy crate motor, add a polished manifold, Quadrajet four-barrel carby and a set of extractors.

Behind the small-block sits a TH350 three-speed auto, and back from there is a nine-inch with HQ tubes and HQ brakes.

It’s much the same story underneath. The sedan came with a CRS front end, rack-and-pinion steering and HQ Holden discs and calipers. Rear suspension is original leaves with airbag helpers.

For Ron, the ultimate accolade came at the Deni Muster where the FC scored a swag of trophies including Top Ute.


Ron Kirwan has always had utes. He bought his first in 1961 and he’s still buying them.

These days he buys and builds special utes, not work wagons. The FC Crewman is the latest addition to his collection and now resides alongside other wild utes like the Studefaker, a wild confection of American Chevy El Camino and reproduction early 50s Studebaker front guards, bonnet and hardware.

There’s also a Cadillac ute, one of a handful made by the factory, a hot rod ’56 Chevy pick-up, and a Hummer in his garage.

While they’re mostly customised, he’s not afraid to drive them, and regularly gets them out of the shed for a run with his mates. The FC is busy carting off awards right now but it won’t be long before it too becomes a driver. When it does, Ron will be seen cruising the Streets of Melbourne in one of the coolest utes around.


Colour:HOK Red Ice Flake over black base, Gold Flake over Red Kandy base
Engine:Chev 350
Carb:Quadrajet four-barrel
Exhaust:CRS extractors, custom system
Trim:Raspberry and grey leather
Front:Uprated springs, shocks
Rear:leaf with airbags
Steering:rack and pinion
Brakes:HQ Holden
Rims:Dragway Draglites