MEMBER: Trevor Read
VEHICLE: FX Ute
My first involvement with FX/FJ’s was in 1970. I was boarding in Hamilton after starting my first job and the neighbour 2 doors up from where I boarded had an FJ Sedan which he let myself and the landlady’s son drive round on his big block.
The following year the 2 of us raced FJ’s at the Hamilton Speedway. I look back now at the number of FX and/or FJ’s that were raced at that time, smashed and taken to the tip.
I was transferred to Warrnambool with my work in 1972, and there was a guy who drove around Warrnambool in a chocolate brown metal flake FJ Ute. It was then, the best looking car I had seen, and from that moment I always wanted one.
In 1979 when I first started going out with Sandra, I went out to her Parent’s farm in Trafalgar. As we drove up the driveway there was an FJ Ute parked out the front of the house. After meeting Sandra’s Dad I asked him whether he wanted to sell the FJ. To my disbelief, he said that he had sold it “yesterday” and it was being picked up “today”.
Marriage, kids and work transfers all over Victoria put further thoughts of FJ’s out of my mind until 1989 when the opportunity came up to buy an FX Ute in Kilsyth for $2,950. To an untrained eye it looked a million dollars, but the paintwork covered a lot of hidden problems.
On the plus side however there was nothing missing. Another big plus was that the motor in the ute (No. 106782) matched the ID Plate in the passenger side door pillar.
The Ute is Body No. 160621 and was built in June 1953.
As a late built FX it has the FJ suspension (FJ Shockers and wider leaf springs.)
All rust was repaired by local panel beaters and my neighbour who was into Hot Rods, convinced me that I could restore the ute myself, including painting it. In his words “you can’t stuff up Acrylic paint. If you make a mistake, rub it back and do it again. By the time you have rubbed back 20 mistakes you’ll have a rough idea of what to do”
And so the long task of restoration commenced.
Paint and engine was done by myself, and tonneau cover and upholstery was done by my Hot Rod neighbour, I joined the EMHC in 1989 and went to my first State Titles in Shepparton to see what was in front of me restoration wise. That was an eye opener !!!
I finished (are they ever finished?) the ute sometime in 1990, and my first run was in September of that year to Gumbuya Park. I remember it as if it was yesterday – I think Adrian Underhill and I had the only stockies at that stage. Prior to leaving the Sandown Park Hotel, it was planned that we all travel in convoy to Gumbuya Park. I think that Adrian and I were the only ones in convoy after the first set of lights. The hotties were nowhere to be seen !!
I took it to my first Nationals in Bacchus Marsh in December 1990. I was that convinced that my restoration work was not as good as it could have been, I got Sandra to follow me to Bacchus Marsh in her car just in case I conked out. It didn’t miss a beat.
Since 1990, with the exception of 1992 and 1994 due to work commitments, I have been to every Nationals. Not always with my ute as utes are not family friendly, so I used the Nationals as a family getaway. The ute has been to 7 Nationals since 2000.
Some of its highlights over the years are…..
1990 – Appeared (very briefly) in the Australian movie Spotswood with the following actors whose careers have skyrocketed since appearing with my ute – Anthony Hopkins, Russel Crowe, Toni Collette & Ben Mendelsohn.
1994 – Top Street Custom at the Warrnambool State Titles
1996 – Best Ute at the Bundoora State Titles
1999 – 2nd. place Ute/Pickup at the Victorian Hot Rod Show
In the year 2000, the tired old original motor was in need of some TLC. I decided to retain the matching block and sourced a later model block (Engine No. B239568).
The motor was upgraded – bored out with a mild cam and steel gears. The head was sent away to be slightly ported and polished, with 186 valves and dual valve springs. It was assembled with twin carbies, extractors, 12 volt electronic ignition and a Aussie Desert Cooler radiator.
Also in 2000, the chrome grille was an issue. It was pitted and needed re-chroming. I was advised to pull the old grille apart and get it re-chromed as individual parts, as the chrome would be better. This I did, but needed another grille in the ute whilst the other got re-chromed etc. My spare grille was in worse shape than the original, so a temporary filler primer and green paint job until the original was finished was the plan.
In 2020 the original grille is still in individual parts and the green grille still has pride of place on the ute.
There are only a handful of the same FX/FJ’s that have been on at least 1 run a year since they first joined the Club – I’m proud that mine is in that group, however retirement to San Remo and the now COVID-19 may ruin my future record.
My son Aaron has an FJ Sedan that I bought him for his 17th. Birthday. It’s currently running a Lexus Quad Cam V8 which makes my ute seem quite inferior. 4 kids sees his time at a premium, however he has driven it to 5 of the last 6 Nationals.
I hope that he gets as much enjoyment out of the EMHC as I have, and that the mates he makes are as long term as mine are.