Custom build issues + more - Mick's Workshop

By: Mick McCrudden

holden vk wagon holden vk wagon

Project VK update and other happenings in the shop

Custom build issues

Progress seems glacial at times with Editor Guido’s Project VK wagon, but we are moving forward. Much of the time has been burned chasing parts and or replacing components that have been sent and are just plain wrong. or modifying them.

That’s far from unique to this project, as I’m getting similar problems just repairing perfectly run-of-the-mill cars. I swear quality control isn’t what it used to be.

If you’re working on your car at home, you’ll strike this and it will annoy the hell out of you. Really my best advice is not to start yelling at anyone, least of all your partner. Mick’s top tip on dealing with these situations is to step away from the workbench, walk back inside, make a cup of tea, enjoy it slowly and then think about how you’ll tackle it.

Then there are issues that pop up with every custom build. For example, we have a little clearance issue with the right-hand extractor on the VK and the steering rack, which we’ll no doubt sort. It’s just a matter of taking a deep breath and staying calm.

Another way to look at it is that all the heating, bending, pushing, screaming and scratching of knuckles is all just part of the fun!

The good news is the drive shaft we ordered from Duggans a little while back is ready to be picked up, which is the last major drivetrain component. Then we can get stuck into the plumbing.

Mick's puzzler


Here’s a test I want to see, between a modest-size hybrid – say a Prius – and your average gas-guzzling V8 of a similar vintage. I want the hybrid to drive flat-out around Phillip Island race circuit and the V8 to drop in behind. My guess is the latter will just loaf along and not use any more fuel than the hybrid.

I know the march in technology is a fact of life, but there are plenty of questions to be answered before we’re all happy with the result.

Here’s another: Let’s say you walk into a showroom and slap down your hard-earned $50k or so for a new car, and the salesperson tells you it will cost at least $15k more to replace the entire fuel system in five to 10 years. What would you say? ‘Bugger off’ might be the polite version. However that’s the situation we’re in with a lot of EVs and their battery packs.

For me, recycling the old internal combustion car isn’t such a bad idea for the time being!

Six build We had to show you this, a shiny 250 six Ford engine about to go into a Falcon panel van. Everyone seems to want V8s these days, so it’s nice to bring a big six back to life.

Here's my tip

Key capers


Have you got a car with a physical key incorporated with the remote? We had a C43 AMG come in recently on a tow truck. It had a flat battery and when the owner tried to use the physical key (for the first time in over two decades!) it wouldn’t work. Hence the tow truck for a pretty simple issue.

So my tip is to clean up the physical key, give it a quick squirt of lubricant and use it at least in the driver door and boot once a year. That will be enough to ensure it’s functioning when you really need it.


EA Versus ED


The Ford ED Tickford Falcon looked the goods compared to the EA Fairmont

I read with interest your article on the EA-ED Falcon in the October issue. I have strong memories of my EA Fairmont Ghia that I ordered new and received after a three-month wait due to "production difficulties". Build quality was indeed poor, with a number of design faults added to the mix.

The paint quality was of such a poor standard that after two years it was visibly dulled and the clear coat was lifting. You mentioned the front suspension: the geometry meant that front tyres were scuffed out every 10,000km and the toe in/out couldn’t be adjusted for a fix – or so the dealer said.

The Fairmont Ghia also came with a self-levelling suspension which on the open road set up a subtle up-and-down action always guaranteed to cause car sickness in at least one rear passenger per journey. This system failed when going over a railway crossing with a loud bang collapsing the rear end of the vehicle.

Power windows regularly failed. I usually waited up to six weeks for a replacement as so many were failing Ford couldn’t keep up with replacement demands.
The climate control had so few sensors as to be useless. Though as you say, the air conditioning was good, but only if set to maximum on manual.

I parted with the car after two-and-a-half years and hope that it is one that has been crushed!

I have always been a Ford supporter and had the pleasure of subsequently owning three XR6 Falcons, a BA and two FGs which were marvellous cars.

We also had a VL Holden Calais at the same time as the EA and there was no comparison between the two cars, with the Calais being superior in every way.


Nigel Hocking

I think I’m with you on that, Nick. I loved the EDs, but the EAs were living proof of my granddad’s advice: never buy the first model of anything – wait until the second one comes out and has most of the bugs fixed.

There was nothing wrong with the engines, though they improved again by the time the AU came out. In many respects they did the job as a family car for Mr and Ms Smith really well.

With the EA, it sounds like you had the misfortune to get a proverbial Friday afternoon car (and they do exist). I’m not sure what the dealer was on about regarding adjustment – these things can be fixed. It sounds like laziness to me and is an easy fix.

I’m not a fan of self-levelling suspension on any car. Take it out and throw it in the bin. There has never been one yet that has good longevity. Most of the major suspension suppliers make replacement kits that are well worth investigating. They’ll do the job, often better, and won’t let you down.

We just removed it from a 2017 Camaro, got new springs and dampers, plus new electronic components out of the USA and the customer loves it.

Bimmer Update


Check thoroughly before you buy

I currently own a BMW 525i E39 which I am contemplating updating with a BMW 520i F10, post-2013, and seek your feedback on the marque plus a couple of specifics. Are the regenerative charging system on the brakes, the turbocharger, the performance mode facility and the electric powering steering reliable?

I have no interest in the diesel variant and no need for the increased power output from a larger capacity motor.  No power steering or alternator draining engine power is an attraction, particularly on fuel costs.

Jim Boyd

All the modern cars are going this way to the point where we’re even taking some of that technology and putting it into older cars. For example, I’m about to put electric power steering into an older Mustang, but not what we were doing before with electric power steering pumps, but fully electric on the end of the steering column.

It’s a good idea because it takes away a lot of the weak links in an hydraulic system, but you have to keep in mind that you need the extra charging power to drive these systems and that if you get a flat battery you’re in serious trouble. That car is not moving.

So you have to approach these later cars a little differently. Things like battery health are critical. And I’m not criticising BMW with this, but servicing on that later generation has to be absolutely by the book. That particularly includes using the correct lubricants.

That series does not lend itself to poor servicing in any way, shape or form. It has zero tolerance for incorrect oil. The way they manufacture the cylinder heads, for example, and the metals being used mean using the wrong lubricant will result in them seizing up.

If there is a weak point, that’s what it is. If maintained correctly, they don’t have those problems that you see out there online. For example, you see people talking about them burning oil. It’s surprisingly common to see them blowing copious amounts of smoke, but it’s down to servicing. For example, they run low ring pressure to help reduce drag, but that again places importance on the lubricant.

I’m not saying don’t buy it, make sure the service records are genuine (call the workshop) and make sure it’s properly serviced.

Rover Fan


Rovers are faithful if well serviced

Hi Mick, being a Pommie, I tend to like the English classics. Early in 2023 I will be looking for another classic car. In the past I have had four Sunbeam Rapier’s and as much as I appreciate them, I am wanting a change with my next classic. I have also had a 1954 Morris Minor.

I have admired the Rover 75 for a while now, so I am leaning that way. I will be able to garage it. The year range would be 2000/2005 and I’m interested in the 2.5lt V6. What say ye?

Tony Wheeler

Gee, that’s an interesting fleet of cars you’re building up. I like the look of the 75 and reckon it’s a pretty car. Like a lot of later models, they don’t lend themselves to poor servicing, so you need to check out that side of things before handing over any money. This is a design that was done when under BMW ownership, and then ownership was handed over to the now-defunct MG Rover group.

They’re comfortable cars to ride in, have everything that opens and shuts, and I have a lot of time for them. But check it and the servicing out carefully.

Trivial Pursuit

Two wheel start


One of our readers has asked a Rover question and that got us to thinking that this is one of several marques that got their start in bicycles. It launched as the Rover Company back in 1878 and got around to building cars in 1904.

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 #473, Dec 2022/Jan 2023


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