CLOCKWORK ORANGE: Simon Grima’s Phantom FE Holden Ute

28 Jun

Simon Grima's FE Holden

CLOCKWORK ORANGE

Simon Grima created this incredible one-off ute from a $500 sedan shell and 20 years worth of spare parts
Story and Pics by hoskingindustries.com.au

Simon Grima's FE HoldenSimon Grima’s 1956 Holden FE phantom ute is proof that you don’t need to spend the earth to take home trophies. This Vermillion Fire two-door has won over 25 awards since he finished the build back in 2006; including five People’s Choice awards. He also took out the top gong at the very first ute muster he attended in 2010.

Yet for all the plaudits and praise, Simon has only spent around $25,000 bringing what was once a $500 wreck back from the brink.

“The vehicle was purchased off a customer that wanted it out of his shed,” starts the 39-year-old mechanic and proprietor of Bonnyrigg Tyres & Mechanical in Sydney’s southwest. “It was just a sedan shell with enough parts to build two cars, including a HR front end. I paid $500 for the lot.”

The enormous pile of parts joined Simon’s existing enormous pile of parts for a few years until the creative bug hit. “One day I decided the shell would make a great learning project to practice MIG welding,” explains Simon.  “So, I started to build a ute out of the sedan shell, knowing it would give me a challenge with no intention of building a real car out of it.”Simon Grima's FE Holden

Using only a tape measure and a ‘good eye’, Simon went about cutting and shutting bits and pieces of the panel work. After a few weeks Simon thought the project was really starting to take shape, but his welding hadn’t improved. “I spoke to a real welder at one point who told me that because I was welding outside, my MIG shield gas was being blown away causing messy welds,” Simon remembers. “So I built a shed and the welding started to get better.”

It was at around the same time that Simon’s mates started suggesting that his go-nowhere welding project could in fact make a pretty good work truck. “Before I made the decision to get too deeply into making the FE a real car, I approached an engineer,” says Simon. “He said it wasn’t a problem if I stuck to his instructions – which were contained within a 30-page report and a bill for $2000!”

Simon Grima's FE HoldenWith a new goal in his sights, Simon set to work more seriously on the FE and work progressed steadily. “When my mates used to come over my wife would tell them that I was in the shed with my second wife. That’s how much time I used to spend on it,” exclaims Simon. “Whenever anyone would ask me when it would be finished, I’d tell them Christmas. They’d always ask which Christmas! To everyone else it was a nightmare project and I wanted to do everything myself.”

Indeed, Simon did prove himself a very capable and handy guy to have in the shed over the course of the FE’s build. Not only did he perform much of the body fabrication (helped by paint and panel guy Jason Dean), but he also built pretty much everything else as well. This included the chassis mods and fitting the injected 5L.Simon Grima's FE Holden

Originally from an HSV SV89, Simon sourced the engine from eBay with 180,000kms on the clock. It sits within the tight little engine bay thanks to Simon’s handiwork fabricating engine mounts, steering rack mounts, cross member modifications and building a custom sump from three other pans. “I used a dummy 308ci block during the construction process,” says Simon. “I used a VH Commodore rack that’s rear mounted. It needed very little modification to work properly.”

The 304ci injected motor copped minor performance mods in the form of a Crane 286 cam’, ported throttle and Chip Torque MEMCAL and it’s backed up by a VP T700 auto’ that’s been fettled with a stage-2 kit and B&M 2500rpm stall. Being a custom install, the tail shaft came in for some modification and it feeds torque into a 100mm narrowed VN diff’ that still uses its 3.08:1 gearing.

Simon’s FE sits nice and low, achieved through the use of the HR front end that came with the original mountain of parts. Up front you’ll find the setup completed by King springs and Monroe shocks while out back the leaf sprung rear has been modified by reversing them and removing a leaf. Simon made up custom coil-overs by using modified Nissan Pulsar struts and front HQ shocks. He also strengthened the chassis to cope with the weight and power of the V8, at the same time rigging up some larger tubs that now house 17x8in VX SS alloys.

Simon Grima's FE HoldenIngenuity and resourcefulness are themes that run through this entire build and you’ll find more of it inside where Simon has used a plethora of factory parts and some creative vision to build a sweet interior. VQ Statesman leather buckets provide the seating while he steers with a HZ Monaro tiller. Fresh grey carpets and velour roof linings complete the look, together with a neat custom centre console trimmed in matching grey leather and featuring a few VX Commodore parts like the shifter surround.

“On its maiden voyage to the 2006 All Holden Day the ute was suffering a major fuel problem,” Simon remembers. “Upon further investigation we found that a wasp had decided to make my fuel tank home while it was in storage. So, after putting fuel in the tank and making mud of its nest and eggs, the filter clogged and staved the car for fuel. The car survived and I even won a trophy!”

Simon is right to be proud of his FE. It has been a huge undertaking that he’s completed with primarily second hand parts and stuff he’s had lying around from decades of collecting bits – not to mention all the work he completed with his own two hands. “The only things that were redone were the chrome work, door trims and roof lining,” confirms Simon. “I tried to recycle everything. I suppose that makes it environmentally friendly – recycling old parts.”

Owner: Simon Grima
Model: 1956 Holden FE
Colour: Ford Vermillion Fire
Bodywork: Phantom ute style
Engine Type: SV89 304ci 5L
Engine Mods: Crane H286 hydraulic cam’, Crow timing chain, custom modified sump, Chip Torque MEMCAL, VT engine covers, JP oil pump, twin thermo fans, ported and polished throttle, pod filter, ported and polished intake, alloy radiator, Bosch external fuel pump, modified Triumph PI fuel tank (behind seats)
Power: 200fwkW (268hp) claimed
Exhaust: VR Commodore cast exhaust manifolds, twin 2in mild steel system, twin cats, 2x high-flow mufflers
Gearbox: T700, B&M 2500rpm stall, stage-2 kit, modified tail shaft
Diff: Modified VN Commodore, 3.08:1 final drive
Brakes: HZ front calipers, VN rear calipers
Suspension: HR front end w/King springs and Monroe shocks, Modified rear leaf springs, custom rear coil-overs, VH Commodore steering rack, chassis strengthening
Wheels/Tyres: 17x8in VX SS rims
Interior: HZ Monaro steering wheel, VQ Statesman seats, custom centre console, Smiths gauges, grey carpets
Other Mods: Relocated battery, 100mm widened wheel tubs
Stereo: Sony head unit, DVD screen
Build Period: 7 years
Cost: $25,000
Thanks: Bonnyrigg Tyres and Mechanical, Jason Dean (paint and panel), Turbo Exhaust Systems, ACA Transmission Services, Hi-Torque Trucks, Bosnjak Engineering

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