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