WAGON WHEELS

WHAT HAP­PENS WHEN THE CAR YOU WERE CHAS­ING TURNS OUT TO BE A WAGON RATHER THAN A SEDAN? YOU BUY IT AND RE­STORE IT TO ITS FOR­MER GLORY, OF COURSE

Unique Cars - - GARAGE GURUS -

This may sound a lit­tle fa­mil­iar to some of you. Owner/builder of this stun­ning VH wagon, Kylee Craw­ford, cheer­fully ad­mits “I was try­ing to re­live my youth” when she de­cided to track down an early V8 Com­modore. The whole idea, how­ever, didn’t quite go to plan. For a start, she had been on the look­out for a sedan when the ad for this car – a 1983 VH SL/X popped up on the hori­zon. What the photo didn’t re­veal was it was a wagon, so that came as a bit of a sur­prise when she rushed out to see the car. She fig­ured what the heck, she liked wag­ons. As it turns out, that may have been an in­spired choice as they’re com­par­a­tively rare and now back in favour with en­thu­si­asts.

How­ever she ended up get­ting a lot more than she orig­i­nally ex­pected. “I checked the tags to see if it was orig­i­nally a V8 and then he (the seller) tells me it’s not the orig­i­nal en­gine. He said if you take that car you take all this other stuff with it, which was a whole other wagon, with an­other mo­tor sit­ting in the back.” That turned out to be the orig­i­nal pow­er­plant, which had been ‘cooked’, but not ir­re­versibly.

It took three trips late at night with a trailer to haul it all back home. “Thank god for my part­ner for his help,” she says. “We just tried to get it go­ing but the wiring was a mess and I de­cided, nup, that’s it, we’re pulling it apart.”

She reck­ons it was crit­i­cal to be well-or­gan­ised at this stage, so ev­ery­thing was bagged and tagged as she pulled the car

to pieces. “I reckon I have shares in zi­plock bags,” she jokes. “I write on ev­ery­thing – where it comes from. Wind­screen noz­zles, door trim badges, ev­ery­thing gets its own lit­tle bag.”

Then the re­ally hard graft be­gan. “I stripped it and hit it with the san­der. That was prob­a­bly the long­est part – 12 months, easy, work­ing on the body. It’s the hard­est job. I had no fin­ger­prints for a long time, work­ing 400, 600, 800 wet, six coats of primer and high-build.

“There was ver y lit­tle bog. I didn’t want any. I hunted down an­other bon­net be­cause that one had rust in the front chan­nel – that was a mis­sion in it­self. I re­placed one of the rear doors – ev­ery­thing else is off the orig­i­nal shell.

“Very lit­tle came off the spare car. If I wanted some­thing re­placed, I would buy new where I could.

“Af­ter the rolling shell was done, I had it painted by a friend in a shed. I let it sit around for a few weeks to make sure the paint was hard­ened. He came and gave it a quick cut and pol­ish.

“The orig­i­nal colour was indigo blue, which doesn’t get made in two-pack any more. So I went look­ing for some­thing that was close that had a bit of sparkle about it. I saw Mazda come out with this beau­ti­ful colour called Deep Crys­tal Blue Mica – as you can see it re­ally pops in the sun.

“Then we started putting it to­gether.”

As for the orig­i­nal 253 V8, she hauled that out of the back of the spare wagon body and sent it off to a lo­cal me­chanic. “I had the orig­i­nal re­built and put it back in. It had only been cooked and was still on the first bore, so it was beau­ti­ful,” she says. When Kylee says she ‘put it back in’, she ad­mits she at­tempted to re­in­stall the en­gine on her own, and was annoyed she had to wait for her part­ner to get home to pro­vide an ex­tra pair of hands.

The en­gine and Tri­matic trans­mis­sion have been left close to stock. “It has a lit­tle bit of a cam in it to make it nicer,” ex­plains Kylee. “The auto was taken to an­other mate who put a lit­tle bit of a stall in it, so it does get up and boo­gie when it wants to. It doesn’t go quite as hard as I want it to,” she laughs, “but it goes al­right.”

While she’s tack­led many of the jobs, Kylee plans to do a weld­ing course so she can add that to the skills list. One of the big­ger tasks she un­der­took was the electrics. “I did do a lot of the wiring, and took it to an elec­tri­cian friend of mine to check it. There were one or two things. I didn’t do any­thing that would set fire to it.”

It’s funny how the lit­tle things can catch you

“IT DOESN’T GO QUITE AS HARD AS I WANT IT TO, BUT IT GOES AL­RIGHT"

out. In Kylee’s case it was an in­no­cent-look­ing wind­screen wiper, which she was strip­ping back with a bench-mounted elec­tric wire wheel. “I did nearly kill my­self do­ing the wipers. It was with the wire wheel – I don’t know ex­actly what hap­pened. The wheel grabbed it and it swung around and stabbed me. I had to take my­self to hos­pi­tal… it came up in big welts. I’m on the hunt for a vari­able-speed wheel as I didn’t need it go­ing that fast. You should see the scar!”

As is of­ten the case it was the de­tail work that proved most chal­leng­ing. Find­ing and re­cov­er­ing cabin trim cards pre­sented some prob­lems, while the dash got sent off to the Dash Doc­tor in Coburg (Melb) for a re-skin. Sourc­ing some of the mi­nor ex­te­rior trim was a job in it­self, while re­fit­ting the chrome mould­ings around the win­dows proved to be a ma­jor pain.

How­ever the end re­sult is stun­ning. The metal­lic in the paint is sub­tle – the car can look al­most black in the shade and then changes com­pletely in full sun. For Kylee, it was two years well spent. “I’ve been into cars since I was 14 and had my Com­modore when I was 18,” she says, un­der­stand­ably pleased with this one.

So what’s next? She has a cou­ple more Hold­ens lurk­ing in the shed – watch this space…

“SHE HAS A COU­PLE MORE HOLD­ENS LURK­ING IN THE SHED"

ABOVE Al­most ready for the paintshop.RIGHT Holden al­loy wheels look the part.BELOW Chrome roof rack fin­ishes it off nicely.

BELOW The ribbed velour seats and in­te­rior look bet­ter than new.

ABOVE Kylee’s wagon looks stun­ning in Crys­tal Blue Mica.

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