First wagon rolls again

A key piece of our au­to­mo­tive his­tory, a Cordell FJ sta­tion wagon, has been re­stored to its for­mer glory

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Onroad -

THERE’S a lot of pride but lit­tle joy when Mick Hodgett drives his im­mac­u­lately re­stored Cordell FJ sta­tion wagon. Put sim­ply, he’s afraid of crash­ing, or be­ing crashed into, while be­hind the wheel.

It is one of only three that his ex­ten­sive re­search can track down.

‘‘It prob­a­bly wouldn’t have done 100 kays,’’ Hodgett says of the car. ‘‘You go around a corner and hear the tyres squeal and think about what would hap­pen if you crashed it.’’

Apart from the fi­nan­cial cost — ‘‘hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars’’ — Hodgett would also have to ex­plain how he dam­aged a pre­cious bit of Aus­tralian au­to­mo­tive mem­o­ra­bilia.

‘‘It wouldn’t be a pleas­ant con­ver­sa­tion,’’ Hodgett says.

‘‘It’s part of the fam­ily now and I can’t see Phil Mun­day be­ing too happy about it ei­ther.’’

Mun­day — known as ‘‘Mr Humpy’’ for his ex­per­tise in restor­ing early Hold­ens — was re­spon­si­ble for the car’s trans­for­ma­tion from rusted wreck to Con­cours Class.

The car will go on dis­play un­der glass in the RACV head of­fice from Novem­ber 3.

‘‘This was the first sta­tion wagon— GM­made a pro­to­type but didn’t build them and it came down to spe­cial­ist body builders Cordell’s to con­vert the sedan into the sta­tion wagon,’’ Hodgett ex­plains.

‘‘Then GM tried to buy the patent off Cordell and he wouldn’t sell it . . . we be­lieve he built three of the 48-215s and six of the FJs. The num­bers were small be­cause it cost a small for­tune to con­vert the sedan into the wagon.

‘‘Cordell is the rea­son the early fac­tory Holden sta­tion wag­ons were of­fi­cially known as ‘sta­tion sedans’.’’

As is usu­ally the case, the big guys won, but Mick still en­joys see­ing VE Sportswag­ons on the road, know­ing they owe a debt to Cordell’s

Mick and his brother Greg, who run the Jo­tomex civic con­tract­ing busi­ness, paid $27,500 for the hulk pic­tured. It was left rot­ting in a front yard for 37 years.

From there, they sought ad­vice from Phil on how best to re­build the ve­hi­cle.

‘‘Two full-time tradies and an ap­pren­tice spent 10 months restor­ing it,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s as orig­i­nal as orig­i­nal can get . . . the only other one is owned by the Hughes broth­ers of Rare Spares and is in the Na­tional Mo­tor Mu­seum at Bird­wood in South Aus­tralia.’’

Proud: co-owner Greg Hodgett with the 1953 FJ sta­tion wagon that was im­mac­u­lately re­stored from a hulk, left, rot­ting for 37 years in a front yard.

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