Project VK + Jag XJ6 + XR8 hunt - Mick's Workshop 462

By: Mick McCrudden

holden vk wagon holden vk wagon

VK build, Jag misses, finding a good Ford



You’re forgiven if you’ve forgotten – but some time in the dim dark past, Ed Guido bought my VK wagon project car along with a shiny engine, and then rashly announced we’d be doing a build. That was a few years ago!

Look, we’ve all been busy and the plans somehow went astray. Anyway, we’re now back on the case.

A quick refresher: It’s a Berlina wagon that started life as a six-cylinder auto. The original engine has gone to the crankshaft gods and we’ve since bought a freshly-built 355 V8 stroker (based on a 304 block, below) to drop in.


That of course raises the question of what transmission to bolt to the back of it. We got a quote on a current five-speed manual with most of the required trimmings, and that came out at $11,000. The whole car and engine cost that!

This is a result of the current situation where costs for builds and restos have skyrocketed in recent times, thanks to a shortage of parts, materials and transport. I know of reputable companies which have been hit hard by this and simply can’t absorb the cost.

Another option we considered was a four-speed auto, which would have reduced the costs, but still required some extensive mods including a subframe.

You know what? We’ve decided to keep it simple. The car already has two pedals and a Trimatic three-speed will slot straight in. You can modify the Trimatics with clutch packs and shifter kits at minimal expense, add an oil cooler, and you’re right to go. They’ll handle up to 500hp, (That’s Uncle Phil and me chewing over it, below.)


As for the engine, I’ve bought another complete stock unit to donate a lot of the ancillaries, and we’ll be running with a good old-fashioned carburetor, such as a 600 Holley. All up, we’ll keep the costs down to a dull roar and still have a good car at the end of it.

Project Rover

One of the gems we’ve been working on is a Rover P5 V8 – lovely thing but refusing to start. The culprit was a pair of carbs that have simply worn out.

And the solution? A single four-throat carburetor mounted to an Edelbrock manifold. It started the moment we touched the key.

We’re also upgrading the cooling system on this one. Most Brit cars of the era simply don’t cope with our heat, and so we’re getting the radiator changed from a two- to three-core unit.


Point of contact


It’s surprising how often I hear the question: How often should you replace your tyres? Given a lot of our old cars don’t do big miles, this is an issue, as they don’t wear out. My answer? Six years. From there-on they get noticeably harder and simply stop gripping. You may well end up being shocked at how different the car feels when you switch old for new.



Ford XR8 Hunter

Mick, I’m in the hunt for a late-ish model Aussie Ford. Chrome bumper era has got too expensive and I’m zeroing in on the BF XR8 series, around 2006.

The prices are all over the place – anything from $25,000 to double that. What should I be looking for?

John Sheppard

NORMALLY I’D say anything like the XR8 is pretty straight-forward, as they’re a known quantity. However I’ll add a caution, which is these are performance cars and some of them were thrashed, particularly when their values plummeted to well under $20,000 a few years back. Some simply weren’t looked after, as they weren’t worth a fortune.

Now of course the market is starting to wake up to what they are, and the prices are rising.

Okay, so I would be checking the thing really carefully. A service record really is worth its weight in gold, and I’d even be looking under the rear guards for signs of melted rubber!

What you really want is the almost mythical old-person’s toy that’s been garaged and coddled all its life. A really, really, good one will cost a lot more initially, but I reckon makes sense when you add up potential restoration costs and the fact it will pay off if/when you go to pass it on to the next owner.



I noticed Glenn Torrens recently mentioned getting the seat belts redone for his old Pajero. There’s a place in Moorabbin, Melbourne, called Seat Belt King that does them.

Mike Kelly

THANKS MIKE. Yep, there are three such places that we know of, who can do them to ADR-approved standard. They are Seat Belt King in Melbourne, Hemco Industries in Ballarat (Vic) and Seatbelt Solutions in Perth.

While it can sound a little odd, restoring belts when new ones are readily available makes sense. The quality and look of the fittings on the new gear can look out of place in an old car and it can have a surprisingly big effect on the overall look of the cabin.


Tired Trans

I’ve got an HQ Statesman with 253 V8 and Trimatic transmission and the gear-shifting is getting pretty slow. Do you think I might be up for a rebuild?

Mary Oldfield

YOU MIGHT BE, Mary. But before you go making a decision, it’s worth having a look at the whole driveline. For example, if the engine isn’t producing sufficient vacuum, that in turn can let down the performance of the auto.

Or there is the classic give-away that transmission rebuild time is fast approaching. For the Trimatic and some others (Borg Warner 35 is another) it takes several seconds to pick up reverse.

So the best answer is get it to someone who knows these older cars and have them check it out. With a bit of luck, all it needs is a service and adjustment.


Jag and Miss

Hi Mick. I know you’re a bit of a Jaguar enthusiast and have a question about my 1972 XJ6.

It seems to have a miss at idle and low engine speeds, though it seems to disappear once you up to highway cruising speeds.

The car is fairly well-maintained. Any thoughts?

Adrian Hurt

THIS IS ONE of those situations where you need someone to go over it reasonably carefully. Here’s how I’d approach it: First locate the miss – which cylinder is misfiring?

You then start with vacuum. You go to that port – have we got a leaking gasket or loose hose?

I look for vacuum leaks by using a little barbecue gas near the cylinder, if it suddenly starts firing, there’s your problem. A little Aero Start will do the same thing. In that case it will pull in the fuel and start firing.

Next, check that lead and that sparkplug. Then you look to compression.

The reason you’re not feeling it when you’re cruising is the rotation of the engine takes over and you simply don’t feel it.


Supra Woes


Rough shifting Supra could spell trouble, or maybe needs an adjustment

My 1990 Supra had a service recently and now seems to be pretty rough on the upshift between second and third. Is there something that can done about it?

It’s running pretty well, but I’ve noticed that after a decent drive it runs a little hot and there seem to be a few bubbles appearing in radiator coolant. Should I be worried?

Sam Davies

FIND someone nearby who can drop the pan on the transmission and set up the kick-down correctly, which also affects the change up. It’s not a big job.

As for the heat and the bubbles, it hasn’t blown a head gasket, but it’s about to. Don’t stress.

We’re talking aluminium heads, where bolts do stretch. The first thing to do is retension the cylinder head. Pull it back down again, put another five pound on it, and that will more than likely fix it.

Worst case scenario is to remove the head and replace the gasket, which isn’t the end of the world. Good luck with it!


Panel Lessons

There used to be an occasional school in Melbourne for lessons in panel beating and metalwork. I can’t seem to find the story, but can you help me out?

Neale Perkins

THERE HAVE been a few over the years, Neale. Richmond TAFE in Melbourne I think was the most recent. Check out what your local TAFE is offering, in any state, as they sometimes tackle some workshop subjects and are nearly always well worth attending.


Advice Aversion

In response to Glenn Torrens’ column about daft recommendations, I worked with a bloke who wouldn’t listen to good recommendations or advice from those in the know.  One day he announced he buying a "weekend" car (read: midlife crisis car). He asked for a suggestions in his price range and I found the odd MX-5 and a 300ZX and sent them through. He shrugged them off as he had his heart set on that engineering marvel, the Holden Astra convertible. "Don’t sodding do it, mate," many other blokes and I tried explaining why that was an awful idea and his funds were better spent elsewhere.

Monday morning rolls around and he arrives to work in a shiny, black Astra convertible. He had a shit-eating grin on his face when he told me there wasn’t a single warning light on the dash and that it drove "like a dream." Three weeks later, the Astra was at the mechanics for an eternity before living in the carpark at work for even longer. He eventually decided it was a total loss and sold it to the wreckers for $300.

He never divulged what went wrong and how much he spent on it. Six months later, the same bloke bought a second-hand Holden Captiva despite the advice of literally every man and his dog. You can lead a horse to water…Love your work, GT.

Jesse K

COURAGEOUS! Choosing an Astra or Captiva is risky enough, but to pick both is more than a little bit special.

I’m usually pretty tolerant when it comes to cars and their foibles (you’re talking to a serial Jaguar owner), but both the Astra and Captiva were trouble. As for your recommendations, yep, pretty good. Of the two I’d pick an early MX-5.



Ford power


Henry Ford is best know for establishing the Ford Motor Company, but prior to that success he had another claim to fame. He and mechanic Ed Huff set a new speed record, in 1904, of over 90mph (140km/h) on this terrifying-looking device.


Got a problem?

Want some advice on a build or a potential car purchase. Heck we’ll even tackle long distance diagnosis. Drop MIck a line at


From Unique Cars #462, Mar 2022


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