Holden 48-215 ute + more - Mick's Workshop

By: Mick McCrudden

holden fx ute holden fx ute

It's all happening in Mick's shed

We have a lovely old Holden 48-215 ute in the workshop at the moment. It was here a while ago and we put a lot of work into chasing down parts and getting it back on the road.

It’s a very original car. We had a great deal of discussion with the owner about not repainting it. I don’t like that word patina, but we’ve managed to keep it looking like a dignified old car showing a few signs of age.

The wheels are subtle with a wider rim for a better quality tyre, without going over the top. And you can still get the original hubcaps on as they’re running the original centres.

All the stainless steel and chrome on that car, including that complex grille, polished up beautifully. We didn’t have to get anything redone, which says a lot for the quality of the original material. In those days it was done right.

And the paint is original, it’s incredibly hard. We really did take to it with wet and dry and a buffer – a modern car wouldn’t handle that treatment.

More recently, it had a little electrical drama. It was a bit slow cranking and smoke came out of the generator. We got it towed back here and we’re sorting the generator and voltage regulator. They were old components and threw their legs in the air.

We upgraded the electrical system to eight volts. Now that may seem odd, but it’s a lot less work and fiddle than a full 12 volt conversion and produces really good results. Going for 12 is a huge job. With eight we can effectively keep a lot of the original equipment as you’re not doubling the voltage. When you go from six to eight, it’s only two volts but everything comes to life.

You upgrade the generator and adjust the regulator and get an eight volt battery. Bond in Ballarat (Vic) make them.

We were doing this 35 years ago – it’s not new, but well worthwhile.

Here's my tip:

Sneaky Serpentine


It’s that time of year when it’s hot and you’re heading off for long trips. One of the key things to look at when you do your pre-trip check is the serpentine belt on your later cars. Now an old-style V-belt is pretty robust and lets you know when it’s on the way out by squealing and looking shabby.

Serpentines however seem to hide their contempt for you! Look carefully on the inner toothed side for wear and cracking. However I would also give them the flick once they’re five years old. You need to remember that, with those later cars, they’re literally undriveable without the belt.


ZB Hunter


Chrome bumper Fairlanes are getting harder to find as the years roll on

I’m in the market for an Aussie chrome bumper classic and have narrowed down my search to a ZB Fairlane 500 or similar – definitely a V8 and probably the 302.

I had one years ago and loved it.

What are your thoughts on these, Mick?

John Prescott

A lot depends on what part of the country it comes from – look for something from a dry inland area, if you can find such a thing. Rust is always the main concern and they’re prone to it in most of the lower areas of the body, such as the lower quarters, sills and doors. Look closely at any place where the body can capture water.

Look for a factory 302 as they’re a great engine. It’s only when people messed with them that they buggered up. Left alone, they’re a great little motor. My only recommendation for that engine, just to give you that extra little oomph, is to take off the old two-barrel carby and put on a nice modern four-barrel manifold and carby, plus a nice ignition, and away they go. They were pretty much bulletproof until smart-arses felt they could make them better. The transmissions were tough, too.

Transmission Pilot

I amazed how many people don’t realise they should always align their bellhousing transmission pilot hole with their engine’s crankshaft centreline when changing / upgrading gearboxes.  This is "easily" done in about 20 minutes with concentric bellhousing dowels and dial indicator.

My 1970s Valiant Service Manual provides the technique as do many current online videos. Misalignment as the miles/years go by causes shorter bearing life, both internal and pilot bushing, greater wear on main drive pinion dog teeth which can result in harder shifting, trans popping out of gear and even clutch disc cracking.

Chrysler always machined their bellhousing pilot holes undersized, with the final machining operation performed once mated to the engine.  However as mine has a T56 (since the late 1990s thanks to Rod Hadfield) the concentricity of my transmission pilot hole with the crankshaft centreline is critical.

Maybe consider a how to lesson for those unaware? Could save some head scratching.

Jim Guckert

You’re absolutely right there, Jim. A lot of people think that they can take out the old three- or four-speed and swap it over with something more modern, and the alignment is critical. I can’t over-emphasise that. That input shaft alignment for the clutch throw-out arm to be working is critical.

The old proverb of measure twice and cut once applies here. You first put your bell housing up on the dowels and get your alignment there, and then here we use a laser (you can use a string line) and find the centre to your throw-out bearing or spigot and then line the clutch up again. You’re again measuring the hole in your bell housing for the hole in your gearbox, through to the front. You do this without the clutch in there, just the flywheel and the spigot, and no cover so you can look up inside as your sliding it in.

This is one of those jobs where you do it slowly and carefully. You can force it, and it will go in, but if it works at all, it will not be for long. It will wear extremely unevenly and quite likely vibrate badly.


Renault Research


Renault 16. Innovative at the time

Hi Mick. I’m in the market for a Renault 16. Now before you ask, I have another car more sensible car as a daily run-about and am looking at the Renault as a weekend toy.

What should I be looking for? I’m in a situation where I can do basic maintenance, but not major work on a car. Your thoughts?

Tracey Williams

Oh my god – French bastards! Okay I’m joking, but I’ve heard people say worse when it comes to dealing with old Renaults. Here’s my main tip: Buy a good one that’s already been restored and check it out very carefully. Get someone to put it up on a hoist and go through it thoroughly.

There’s no question the French have built some very pretty and appealing cars over time. The 16 rides beautifully, though it’s not the most powerful thing out there. That’s typical of road cars of the period, as they tended to be light on engine capacity and power to get around French tax laws.

The bodies are light and prone to rust, so that’s your major area of concern. Get a good one and it should last okay and when you eventually need mechanical assistance, it’s worth tracking down a specialist. Happy hunting.

Marathon Magna

I am the owner of a 28-year-old Mitsubishi Magna SE station wagon. It’s a TR/TS with the 2.6lt EFI four and has so far clocked up 403,000km.

My mechanic in Narrogin, WA, has rebuilt the engine twice and has always kept it running sweet.

My issue now is it has a sticking throttle cable. If a replacement can be found, we’re looking at up to $400. The other option is to send it to Flex Drive in Melbourne, who can remake it in about two weeks for $210.

Is there an option of converting it to ‘fly by wire’? Cost is an issue.

Russell McIlwaine

Your mechanic has pulled off a minor miracle, getting that sort or mileage out of that engine. Back in the day with those fours, and I was guilty of it myself, we were often pulling the pistons out of them with the engine left in the car. They were so easy to work on and were prone to rings wearing out and cylinder glazing. So we’d give them a quick hone, put new rings and bearings in and away they went. It wasn’t strictly the correct thing to do but it was budget-oriented and it would work. And we’d do it again, years down the line when they again started to burn oil.

As for the throttle cable, a rebuild through Flex Drive is exactly what we would do and is your most cost-effective option. Switching to drive-by-wire isn’t realistic as the expense would be worth more than the car. Among other complications you’re talking about a whole different ECU set-up.


Commodore Climate


G’day Mick. I am having a problem with the climate control in my VR Calais. It’s just started a new trick to play on me. Just the climate control has decided that it won’t turn itself off. I can’t get it to turn off without turning the car off. It also doesn’t like having the fan speed adjusted and it really makes little difference to the fan speed if I fiddle with the manual or auto setting.

I’ve done some research and the possible answer is the fan resistor I think. I found that this is able to be gotten to by removing the plenum cover over which the windscreen wipers bolt into. I’m just wondering if you can verify whether this could solve the problem for me before I go off and waste money only to find that it wasn’t the cause of the problem.

I might add that the aircon itself works fine...just that the speed of the fan won’t adjust. Enjoy your musings greatly.


It sounds like a familiar problem, Simon, and I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. Judging by what you’ve said, my vote is for the body control module or BCM. If the climate controls are illuminating and generally operating, the BCM has probably gone to lunch. They’re a known issue and you can get replacements easily

Trivial Pursuit

Steam Racket


While we may regard the steam car as largely dead and buried, the sector in its heyday was huge. Over 120 makers are listed by Wikipedia for the period 1900-13, while a further 27 had a go across 1914-39.


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 uniquecars@primecreative.com.au


From Unique Cars #474, Jan 2023


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