1989 VN Calais: fuel fix + sorting the rust - Our Shed

By: Glenn Torrens - Words & Photos

holden vn calais fuel fix By plumbing a hose to the fuel rail and hot-wiring the fuel pump, I was able to easily drain the fuel tank before removing the in-tank fuel pump/gauge sender module holden vn calais fuel fix

While trying to find a frustrating fumble, Glenn Torrens factors-in a fuel feed fix for his Holden Calais V8

With what we've all endured in the past 18 months there haven’t been too many sunny Sunday car cruises. However, cars don’t like not being driven so I’ve tried to regularly exercise (and of course enjoy!) every one of my 1989 VN Holden Calais V8’s 180-ish killer-watts by occasionally rolling it out of the garage and driving it to the shops.


It looks good on the outside

Trouble is, on the last few drives the engine has sometimes stumbled and lost power while cornering. I thought it possible an in-tank fuel hose might be perished, causing the engine to starve of fuel. The fuel pump and fuel gauge sender are installed together on the same in-tank module, so I jacked-up my Calais and removed the hardware to investigate. But I could find nothing obviously wrong. So what’s the problem?

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Don’t try this at home, folks! Nose-down storage for 18 months caused water to pool under the boot seal and rear screen rubber, causing rust. Damn!

Maybe it’s because I’ve usually splashed just a few litres of fresh petrol in for each drive – to arrive home with the tank almost empty – so the juice doesn’t sit in the tank for a month or more and go stale.

Possibly with my spirited driving, that splash of fuel is not enough to prevent fuel surge!


GT is distraught about rust found under the boot seal

While I was messing with the fuel system, I decided it would be a good time to renew the engine bay’s high-pressure fuel hoses. In fact, I was prompted to do so by seeing pics of another Holden enthusiast’s engine bay fire, most likely due to an old fuel hose failing and spilling fuel onto the hot exhaust. I’ve helplessly watched a car burn to the ground – it’s really not much fun – and I’d be devastated if that was to happen to my gorgeous Calais. Good news: The person who suffered the fire, Jess, managed to restore her 1995 Holden Statesman’s engine bay and bonnet and I really hope others who saw her story were reminded/encouraged to inspect/replace old fuel lines, as I was.


nd more hidden under the rear window seal

More dramas: A few years ago I’d parked my Calais, unregistered and unused, in my carport for 18 months. Unfortunately, the car was slightly nose-down so water had collected in the boot seal channel, causing some heartbreaking surface rust. Anyhow, the boot seal rust needed to be fixed – that rust was a horrible surprise when I’d found it – and while prodding and poking around, I found more rust under the lower corners of the rear windscreen rubber.



Brothers in arms at Lang Lang Proving ground (2017)

To repair that second area of rust required the rear screen be removed. Like many other cars designed in the 1980s, the VN Commodore/Calais has screens that are bonded to the body with a polyurethane glue rather than installed with channel-section rubbers. I had my local windscreen bloke, Mark, slice-out the bonded rear screen to expose the rust. Thankfully, the corrosion wasn’t bad enough to require welding-in of fresh steel. With the screen out, the cabin upholstery and rear seat removed and the nearby vulnerable panel edges protected, I very carefully hacked-back the rust on the boot seal lip and windscreen corner areas using a wire wheel and applied a two-in-one rust converter/primer product.


Painting in the rust preventer

The next day, after the rust converter had done its thing, I brush-painted the affected areas with epoxy paint before asking screen-man Mark to return a few days later to re-install the rear screen.


GTs elbow grease has it starting to look a whole lot better

Fixed! I’ll never have to deal with rust there again… I hope!


Fried banana, dried coconut, and two scoops of ice cream – and a splash of Bundy – is my favourite dessert. But I’d be devo’ed if this bunch of bananas was splashed with juice and fried


From Unique Cars #459, Nov 2021

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