1961 Holden EK - Reader Resto

By: Spencer Leech, Photography by: Spencer Leech

Presented by

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Youngsters take on the Salvo resto program to restore an EK Holden, and learn a bit about themselves in the process


1961 Holden EK Restoration

If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of how therapeutic working on an old car can be. To some it’s a bonding experience, to others it’s an escape from everyday life – either way the psychological benefits of tinkering around on an old beastie are undeniable. Look after your car, and it’ll look after you – both mentally, and physically.

Two years ago, the Salvation Army was donated an old EK Holden in pretty rough nick. Scratch that — very rough nick. Signs of bodgie home repairs hid rusted-out body panels, and a thick coat of house paint covered decade’s worth of automotive abuse. The Salvos quickly realized why they were given the car for free. However, with an optimistic eye, the car appeared savable. All the important bits were there, and it drove — just.

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Salvation Army Captain Peter Hobbs was put in charge of what to do with the car. He wanted to develop a community outreach program where members of the local area could get involved in restoring the car, so he approached some high school students who may be interested.

"We got in touch with these kids because they are quite socially disconnected, they would be the sort of kids that would just keep to themselves. They needed an outlet" Hobbs explained.

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"The kids came into this with no mechanical experience; in fact, most of them came in with no real life experience at all".

So now Peter had the car, and a group of boys keen to get started on the build. All that was missing was a place to pull the car apart, and someone to guide the kids through the process. This was going to be a ground-up restoration, so there needed to be someone with serious know-how on deck.

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"After a while we approached the guys at Drysdale Smash Repairs to see if they could lend their services, and they jumped on the opportunity. They have been so generous — none of this would be possible without them".

The students disassembled the car at its new home at Drysdale Smash Repairs. They began to strip it back to bear metal and it soon became clear that just about every component was going to need attention, and some, completely replaced.

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"The car was in pretty bad shape when we first got it. It was held together with all kinds of weird stuff," Said Andrew Fitzpatrick, one of the five boys currently on the program. 

"The brake light surrounds were made out of noodle cups, the bonnet was held on with a padlock latch, and the fuse box was made out of an old biscuit tin" Fitzpatrick explained.

It was important that this car was built properly, with no shortcuts taken. David Yeomans and Scott Gainger from Drysdale Smash Repairs taught the kids the importance of taking your time and doing things the right way.

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"We made sure that the boys learnt to work on the car with extra care. Even the parts that were okay, we double checked and cleaned up. As I always say to them; measure twice, cut once." Yeomans told Unique Cars. 

Once the car was apart, the boys rubbed everything back and started to cut out the rust. This was no easy task; hours upon hours were spent filing, sanding and grinding away at the shell before they could eventually start putting the car back together. The boys used sheet metal to fabricate panels to replace the rusted-out areas.   The engine and drivetrain were sent up the road to Drysdale Motors for reconditioning. The kids went along for eight weeks to assist in the build. "Believe it or not, the engine internals were in spot-on nick. When the boys pulled it apart, they thought it must have already been rebuilt" said Yeomans. "That’s just another of this car’s many mysteries".

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The boys have been working on this car for almost two years now. Working together every week, they’ve learnt the value of hard work and dedication. "The boys have become very social and enthusiastic about life. They’ve completely changed and grown as people. I genuinely believe that this car has made that happen" Hobbs explained. "The Salvo Resto program started off being all about the car, but it’s ended up being about friendship and comradery."

"A lot of the things they have learnt through working on the EK can be translated to their own lives. For instance, if they don’t work on the car, the car won’t improve — the same thing is true with their relationships with other people".

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After seeing the effect that this program has had, Peter Hobbs hopes that with the right momentum, he will be able to expand the program so more people can get involved.

The build has been a slow process, and although the car has come a long way, it’ll be at least a year before it’s complete. Until then the boys will continue to meet up and hammer away at the old EK every week. And as Scott Gainger of Drysdale Smash Repairs puts it, "It’s all about the journey, not the destination. Even if we never finish building the car, the project is worth it".

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 You can follow their progress here: www.facebook.com/salvoresto/


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