Guido's VK, paddock finds, the right fuel and more - Mick's Workshop

By: Mick McCrudden

micks workshop micks workshop

Guido's VK wagon, EH belts, Ferrari fun, paddock finds, fueling good and more

The build goes on...

Oh, the joys of doing a custom build! For those of you who came in late, we’re working on Ed Guido’s VK Commodore wagon, slotting in a 304 block with VN heads, taken out to 355ci (5.8lt) with a four-speed auto.

When it comes to the big pieces of the installation, one of the final issues was the headers. We had a set custom-made, providing all the specs, and they don’t fit. At first, the supplier suggested we just ‘modify’ them with a hammer to squeeze them in. Err, no. The second suggestion was it was all the fault of the transmission mount we used, which left insufficient clearance. We double and triple-checked, and again, no.


The thing is the engine bay is pretty well filled and clearances are tight. In this case, the headers didn’t have the right bend to go around the steering rack. Weirdly we found a set that works, which was originally made for a first-model HSV Maloo. Problem solved.

Next up we’re making the oil lines for the transmission cooler and power steering, all of which are a custom fit. It’s easy enough to get the fittings and hoses, and we’ve already made a start.

While the list of jobs is still long, we feel like we’re on the downhill run. We need a radiator (which has been

ordered from Aussie Desert Coolers), ignition and of course wiring. We have the old loom and will be calling in a sparky to do the honours – some jobs are best left to a specialist.

Wish us luck.

Here's my tip

Water worries


We come across this a bit – where a car that’s been sitting is coughing and hesitating, mainly at idle. It may be water in the petrol tank. An old and effective trick is to dump a good dose of methylated spirits (half to a full bottle, depending on the size of the tank) down the filler before you top it up at the servo.

Meths is hygroscopic and will help carry away the water. This may take a few goes before you completely clear it. And remember a regular decent drive that exercises the car is the best prevention.



Get Belted


Untethered is how we got around in EHs and others

G’day Mick. I’m the current owner of a 1964 EH Holden station wagon with slight modifications to the engine. Do you know any business in Sydney that supplies and fits seat belts for classic cars that meet Australian Design Rules? The car already had lap sash seat belts fitted to front bucket seats, and require seat belts for the rear.

Mick Jordan

I don't personally know anyone up for that task in Sydney and so I would be doing a Google search for ‘seatbelt fitting NSW’. That scored a few possibilities and one of the more promising-looking ones was a mob called G Force Automotive in Narellan. If it comes down to suppliers, we’ve used a couple in the past: Hepco in Ballarat, Vic, plus Seat Belt Solutions in WA.


Ferrari Fan


Cue the Family Truckster to chase her

Hello Mick, stop knocking the most recognisable, most iconic and prettiest Ferrari ever built, the 308 GTS! Who can forget Christie Brinkley driving alongside Clark Griswald in the Vacation movie and Magnum PI Tom Selleck chasing the baddies in Hawaii?

In 2010 I paid under $50,000 at 67 yrs of age, and it put my age back 50 years! Due to a back operation, I sold her after 10 years of fantasy. With service, parts and repair, I spent around $15,000.

Would I get another one? No! I’d want a comfortable Modena or used Spyder, both auto, power steering and superb air con and it would set me back around $180,000.

My comfort now is a 1979 Lincoln Mk V collector series.

Gee, Mick, when you’re in a Ferrari, there is nothing else except maybe a Lambo. You own the road.

Ron Puttick

I get what you’re saying, Ron. A Ferrari – pretty much any model – is a very special thing to own. My concern last issue was our correspondent Jim was going to tackle it on a tight budget. Prices for parts and service have risen significantly post-Covid and my main theme is that you go into any purchase with your eyes open. Plus, as is often the case, buy the very best example you can find as it will be cheaper to own in the long run.


Rare VP


The most stolen car of the early 1990s was the VP V6 Commodore, says Malcolm

Really enjoy your workshop articles, but would just like to comment on your surprise at Holden VPs qualifying as an old car, in the latest Unique Cars issue 475.

I would agree with you if it had a V8, as there are many around at quite good prices now, however, an original Holden (not a Lexus look-alike) VP V6 auto is now very rare due to it being the most stolen car of the 1990s, and a hoon favourite, consequently they were taken off the road in a blitz by the police and crushed.

One survivor was recently followed for 5km by police in Queensland and, as the driver dropped rubber, he was charged and the VP taken. It was donated to the fire service to practice survivor extraction then crushed.

I own a fully original VP Executive V6 auto and belong to a historic car club.

Malcolm Short

My surprise wasn't that people value VPs - it was more where did the time go? To me, they're still a new car! Anyway, one of the reasons they were a popular target was thieves twigged they could read the ID under the corner of the windscreen and then go and order a new key. That practice was soon stopped by Holden.


Paddock Finds


GT’s tale about the perils and pitfalls of rescuing an old car out of a paddock reminded me of an EH Holden I pulled out of a muddy field on the Atherton Tablelands many years ago. It wasn’t too rusty, so I thought it’d be worth the effort.

I had a decent stash of parts in my shed, to replace most of the bits that were cactus. So I soon had the old girl whizzing around the Tablelands.

It was about two months later that I discovered the pitfalls an old paddock bomb can be hiding, when the diff started whining, which soon became a terminal shriek.

Pulling it apart revealed that its many years left standing had allowed all the oil to drain off the top of the crown wheel, which had then rusted. A couple of thousand kilometres later and it was ready to go to that big scrapyard in the sky. So when resurrecting the long dead, it certainly pays to go through everything.

Gary G Smith

Good point, Gary. Rust (otherwise known as nature's Loctite) will trash a crown wheel. Once the ahrdening is broken through, you need to fling the gears. Fortunately, even on a Banjo diff like the one in the EH, checking it is not a big job.


Hemi Fuel

I am in the midst of freshening up my 40-thou-over 265 Hemi with oversize valves, double valve springs and triple 45mm Webers.

It was running an E38 cam for torque but am going to upgrade the cam to a stage 3, and will research a cam grind that will give me the best combination of torque and horsepower to give me the quickest quarter-mile time in my VJ Valiant station wagon. I ran a 14.2-second pass on the Tarmac in Tasmania.

But my question today is regarding which unleaded fuel octane is best to run in the 265 and which fuel additive/s to use in that fuel. Is there anything I can add to the fuel that would increase my ability to get maximum bang?

The engine has never run on unleaded fuel and only has about 10,000km on it after my Charger that I built it for was involved in an accident in 1992. It has been under covers ever since.

I don’t believe that the valve seats were hardened when I first rebuilt it in about 1990 since unleaded fuel wasn’t on my horizon as a 19-year-old at the time.

I’m not financially able to do more than a minimum freshen-up. I am just fortunate that already having the basis for the motor, I have all other parts I need to build a station wagon with a Chrysler by Chrysler front end and was only able to finance a structurally sound wagon by selling a small coin collection.

Anyway, I’m interested in the fuel options to help with the fire breathing because I really want to try to get into the 13-second quarter mile bracket and then try slicks even further down the road.

Todd Sims

Unleaded fuel and LP gas were both very much on the minds of engine rebuilders when yours was done and I know by then workshops in Victoria (and nationally, I suspect) were required by law to install hardened valve seats. It would be worth tracking down the receipts or builder to check what happened in your case. If you’re building the engine for performance, you’re probably looking at high compression and will need to run it on 98. Your distributor will also need to be set up to avoid detonation. One proviso, 98 and even 95 don’t last well, so keep the fuel fresh.

And no additives! There’s no such thing as horsepower or a mechanic in a bottle.

When it comes to a cam, talk to people in the industry, for example, Clive from Clive Cams. They can provide good advice based on experience.

The six cylinders with the triple Webers were built for circuit racing rather than drags. If it were me and my pockets were reasonably deep I’d hang on to the Webers and go to EFI Hardware in Melbourne, which makes an injected six-throttle body set-up that starts and runs better.

You may be better off aiming for a nice street car rather than drag times – strip racing very quickly becomes cubic dollar racing.


Trivial pursuit

Charge me

The first alternator is thought to have been invented as far back as the 1830s and they began to see industrial use from the 1890s. However they only came in to wide use in cars, replacing generators, from the 1960s.


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 #476, March 2023



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