Project VK + Fiat 124 + Ford follies - Mick's Workshop 465

By: Mick McCrudden

holden vk commodore wagon holden vk commodore wagon

Bits for Ed Guido's new toy, Fiat fancier, Ford follies and more

You’ll have noticed I’ve had a bit of a hobbyhorse of late, which is the risks involved in buying parts long-distance, particularly via the internet. Though everyone means well, all too often we’re seeing the wrong parts delivered. Sometimes it’s close, but still not right.

On top of all the Covid-related shortages and delivery delays, it’s making life in the workshop pretty exciting.


The latest was getting a manifold for a Chev C2 Corvette. We’re talking a small block 350 V8, so one of the world’s most popular engines, particularly for aftermarket restorers and tuners. So getting an inlet manifold should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong. We had serious trouble finding anything. On approaching a trusted supplier, we were presented with something that looked right, but didn’t actually fit. And no amount of machining at my end was going to fix that. The supplier was horrified, because that meant the entire freshly-made batch he had in his warehouse was wrong, too!

Luckily he had one of the old batch left, which we quickly grabbed and fitted before anyone could change their mind!


On a happier note, things are rolling along when it comes to collecting bits for Ed Guido’s VK wagon build. As you may recall we have started with a Berlina wagon that once hosted a six and is about to be re-engined with a 304-based 355 stroker. One of the issues was tracking down a transmission at reasonable cost, and we’ve found a TH700 four-speed auto that’s now been rebuilt with a shift kit. Next, we need to chase a torque converter.


Recently added to the parts pile are a shiny new Edelbrock 600 carb and a new set of headers from CAE Performance Products. So we’re getting very close to hitting the spanners with this one. Watch this space...

Here's my tip:

Rego regs


Something we get to see a lot of is recently-purchased old cars, bought overseas or interstate, that have all sorts of interesting struggles when the optimistic new owner goes to register them. Suddenly they find they need extra paperwork such as an engineer report, and/or significant mods. Sometimes the rules change and not many people know about it. So before you hand over the money, make sure you are up to date with the local regs.



Tired Tourer


I’ve got an old P6 Ford LTD, which is a great old car and still in reasonable shape. It’s worth tidying up, I reckon, but I’m wondering what were we’re in for on the mechanical side of things. The engine is getting smokey and the transmission is taking a few seconds before it decides to pick up drive or reverse. What do you reckon?

Ben Hoskin

YEP, THAT’S THE OLD Ford’s way of warning you that all is not well and it’s time to pay attention. Otherwise it may eventually let you know very loudly and more permanently. There’s a big following for those old P6s and if the body is okay I wouldn’t hesitate to invest some money in a proper freshen up. I think you could do a pretty thorough job on both the engine and transmission for up to $12,000. Let’s say you blow it out to $15k by the time you do bushes and suspension. That’s still money well-spent, as the car is worth it.

For the engine, I’d be thinking a crank-up refresher, with new bearings, pistons, rings and valves. I’d also be shouting it a carburetor (or rebuild) and ignition system. The transmission rebuild is easy to source. They’re a great old cruiser and they’re not making any more of them. Well worth the effort and it will probably outlast you!

Fiat Finder


Fiat 124 coupe

Hi Mick. I’ve been offered what looks like a really nice Fiat 124 coupe as a first classic car, and I’m very tempted. I love the look of it, there seems to be a good service and repair history and the overall package suits me. Your advice?

Adriana Coleman

DON’T LISTEN TO THE old jokes about Fiats, as these are a great little car. Stylish, simple enough and they’re great fun to drive.

Okay, the big killer is the same for a lot of Fiats of the period, which is rust. Particularly around the plenum, the sills and the rear guards. I’d be taking a close look around the rear screen as well. Really, it would pay to get it on a hoist and get an expert to take a look.

The mechanicals don’t scare me as they’re pretty simple and there’s reasonable support out there for them.

Happy Memories


Issue 464's cover car was a rare spec

Hello to the team at Unique Cars. The hero-spec HT Premier and Peugeot 504 comments in issue 464 brought a rush of fond memories. I wonder how unique that Premier V8 four-speed manual combo was?

Back in my youth, a mate had an HQ Premier with factory 308 and four-speed plus full instruments. I assume that too was pretty unusual.

Then, there was my HT Kingswood with 186 plus four-speed Opel, bucket seats and front discs. The 186 was later replaced with a hot cam, triple SU (sorry but the heater had to go) 192 and it went like the clappers until the Opel gearbox packed it in. I sourced an Aussie four-speed, put that in and all was sweet until it was stolen, never to be seen again.

The replacement was a manual 504. What a great car. Long legs, awesome seats and supple suspension but with lots of grip. A fantastic cruiser.

Ahhh, the memories. Thanks!

Peter Knowling

GLAD YOU ENJOYED that issue, Peter. As you point out, with locally-built cars of that era you could order all sorts of interesting combinations, which sometimes resulted in some quirky and rare cars.

As for your hotted-up Holden, I’m surprised the Opel gearbox made it to the end of the driveway! They were great old cars.

We have a few fans of Peugeot 504s among our crew – they’re a very comfortable long-distance cruiser. Parts can be on the pricey side, though they’re among the easier French cars to work on.


CVT worries


My Nissan X-Trail is seven years old and has done 140,000km. As an ex truck driver, retired, I had trouble getting my head around this type of transmission. But decided to just let it do its thing and not worry about it .

My question is do I get it serviced or leave it. Nissan says leave it, but I can’t understand why we change engine oil regularly but not the transmission.

I think your magazine is great and your advice is to the point and sensible.

Steve Fox

AS YOU KNOW, Steve, I’m not a fan of CVTs and experience says they don’t last anywhere near as well as more conventional types.

As for non-serviced transmissions, that’s a load of nonsense. A lot of people in the industry, including me, have worked out how to at least change the fluids if not service ‘sealed’ transmissions and there’s no question they benefit from it.

A recent example we came across is the owner of a W202 Benz who experienced a very real improvement after the so-called sealed unit was given fresh fluid.


Brummie Joints


Re my note that you published last issue in Mick’s Workshop, I have just had the ‘brummie’’ universal joints changed out on the Compact Fairlane. You may remember the mechanic who last did the job was well-meaning and put in a cheap set, the cost of which was about a quarter of a more reputable brand.

All is sweet again but my mechanic, who was up to speed with why I wanted the job done, passed the remark that those parts he took out looked brand new and they did! After only two thousand kilometers I guess they should have.

Anyway I still retain some accurate measuring gear here from my days as a toolmaker, so I decided when I got the extracted parts back home that an ‘autopsy’ wouldn’t go astray.

Suffice to say you would never see components so out of tolerance as these, (machining wise), come out of a Toyota factory.

I used to work cylindrical and centre-less grinders at Lithgow Small Arms factory as part of my training as a fourth-year apprentice ‘Tooly’, and machines similar to those would produce the critical surface finishes and sizes required on universal joints for any number of transmission applications. We would have got a kick up the arse if we produced components like these uni joints I have just had replaced.

Eric Waples

ERIC SUPPLIED US with a fascinating diagram of his discovery with the cheap units. They were way out, showing tapers where there shouldn’t be any and some worrying end float. Basically worn out before they’d had actually experienced any in-service wear! None of this surprises me.

Here’s my rule when it comes to these things: Cheap is nasty!

I had a similar experience with the axles out of a customer’s HJ Statesman. He was concerned about the cheap wheel bearings which had been installed and he was right. They had done maybe a 1000km and they’d come apart. We only use Timken and SKF – the same for universals, those two brands or genuine parts.

Filter Follies


Hi ya Mick. Aussie here. In reference to your mention on retrofit oil filters, a while back a mate of mine had a by-pass oil filter can in his early Land Cruiser. I can’t remember if it was original factory or aftermarket. However, he used to install dunny rolls instead of a cartridge. They fitted perfectly, were much cheaper and seemed to work OK believe it or not. He was a Scot by the way.

Incidentally the Glenlyon name has been around for some time. My missus bought an EH Holden from Glenlyon Motors car yard situated in Sydney Road Coburg on a slight bend not far past Pentridge just before she met me in late ‘67. It’s the same car to which I alluded in a previous issue of this esteemed magazine, #427, May 2019 which has photos of the 186 we had dropped in it. (2019?! Geez where has the time gone?)

Here’s to ya.

Aussie Sadler

OH DEAR – THAT oil filter story makes me wonder what the bloke used for toilet paper...never mind. Right, kids, do not do this at home as the idea of a toilet roll as a replacement oil filter is, to use the technical term, crap! Sure it’s innovative, but seriously flawed.

I have visions of some poor automotive engineer out there somewhere howling, after they’ve spent countless hours developing just the right component with the right types of pleated materials, only to hear this story!

And yes, that Glenlyon Motors car yard was something my grandfather tried many years ago. Most of the time, however, we’ve existed primarily as a workshop.



Injected Benz


Benz were early adopters of mechanical injection technology

Modern fuel injection has its roots in wartime aviation, particularly WWII, when mechanical injection became both commonplace and a necessity. Mercedes-Benz was a relatively early adopter in the automotive world, with its all-conquering 300SLR racer being among the most famous exponents of the technology. However there were numerous other users, particularly in competition, as far back as the 1930s.


From Unique Cars #465, Apr/May 2022


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