David Ryan’s FX Holden Build

In this week’s Rare Spares Blog we will be taking a look at a project car close to the heart of Rare Spares Director David Ryan. It would be fair to say that David has an affinity with old Holdens, more specifically 1950’s FX’s and FJ’s, having owned numerous of the early Aussie classics and having raced them across the country and overseas!

David has recently been able to purchase back one of his old Variety Club Bash cars, and has an ambitious plan laid out for it to be completely restored by Christmas 2018 for a special occasion – his granddaughter Chloe’s wedding! The 1953 FX in question has had anything but an easy life, let’s take a look!

In 1953, David’s father, uncle and a mate decided to take part in the REDeX  Around Australia Reliability Trial using a black 1953 FX Holden taken from the fleet of the family taxi service and used for the event.

Upon its return it was reinstated to the rank to serve out its days once again as a cab.


In 1986, David, and some mates decided to take part in the famed Variety Club Bash event using an EH Holden setup specifically for offroad racing. Officials deemed the car was too fast and not suitable for this sort of event, hence a more suitable replica of the original FX was decided to be built for their next foray into the Bash the following year.

The work undertaken to build the replica FX was completed by David and his mates utilising the converted bus depot that was at that stage the premises of the fledgling Rare Spares organization.  David’s father was kept in the dark on the build until the time of unveiling, when one day he drew back the garage doors to unveil the pristine replica of his beloved REDEx machine.



In 1990, the FX was sold and David was left to focus on his many other ongoing projects. These included competing in the 1993 London to Sydney Marathon in a HK Monaro, taking an Aussie 1946 Chev ute street rod to the US and a trip to Mexico to compete in the 2013 La Carrera Panamericana, a 3200km open road event, racing a 1954 FJ! You can read about this incredible restoration and event here

Over the past decade David was in regular if not frequent contact with the owner asking if the FX would ever be available to buy back. The once loved car was languishing in a suburban backyard, dying a slow and rusty death, with the new owner unwilling at that time to part with it..

Fast forward to early 2018, David was searching through some online early Holden forums where low and behold, his FX was listed as possibly coming up for sale! A quick phone call was made to the owner to re-express his interest.



After a week or two of negotiating back and forth, the car is now back in David’s hands and plans are well underway for a complete restoration to be finished by December for Chloe’s wedding. With an abundance of options for her wedding car, one would think Chloe would go for something a little more luxurious. However, with the FX once again back in the hands of her grandfather, there was only one car Chloe had in mind!

The car is now in Adelaide where it is being paint stripped and rust treated, this is due to be completed by mid next week. From there extensive rust repair will be undertaken before being baked, primed and painted by a good friend. The seats will be re-trimmed in their original colour (red) all while a full mechanical refurbishment will be undertaken. The 132ci grey motor, 3 speed transmission, differential and suspension will all be rebuilt to stock specifications.

We will be paying close attention to the FX Holden build, so stay tuned for further updates as 2018 progresses!

What are your memories of the early 1950s Holden’s? Did you or someone you know own one? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about it in the comment section below!

Viva La Mexico

11. March 2014 12:34 by Rare Spares in Rare Spares  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

In a feat two years in the making and for over twenty years a goal, car restoration figure and Director of Rare Spares David Ryan and his navigator Greg Stevenson have completed the gruelling La Carrera Panamericana in their 1954 FJ Holden.

The Mexican classic rally event was originally held for five consecutive years in the 1950’s however safety concerns at the time halted further events. It was revived in its modern format in 1988 and spans the length of the country over a demanding eight day schedule using predominantly public roads.


With an event of this magnitude, in a country far away, an incredible amount of time and effort is required to pull everything together and for David Ryan and Greg Stevenson this amazing journey started nearly two years ago when they acquired a run-down FJ Holden after a successful EBay bid. The car had been sitting completely dismantled in a backyard for over five years. Soon after picking the car up, a meticulous restoration began.


Rare Spares provided all of the parts essential to a high quality rebuild for such a demanding event. With modern componentry purchased, a later generation Holden 202 engine installed, a comprehensive modern safety cage and a final coat of paint, the car was ready for its maiden voyage.


After an arduous six weeks sea voyage, the car arrived in Mexico in one piece and on time to the relief of Ryan and Stevenson. Ryan described Mexico as a cosmopolitan place “with villages like something from a Clint Eastwood movie to the densely populated Mexico City”


The rare car was an instant hit amongst other teams and fans. Many were curious of the vehicle and compliments on the preparation of the vehicle were common. One of the more famous local entrants Memo Rojos Snr spent 45 minutes looking over the car in detail and finally commented “Compadres, this is a work of art.”


Sitting on the road, ready to be waved off for the first time was surreal for Ryan and Stevenson as they thought back to the time and energy that had been poured into achieving that very moment.


Having any car last the full event without any issues would be a miracle and despite the preparation and the car’s otherwise faultless performance, Day 3 threw a spanner in the works. The Holden 202 engine block split one of the cylinder bores, which was a major setback, however not an event killer.


Fortunately, Ryan and Stevenson’s support team were none other than a Mexican Rally Championship service crew.


Ryan explains the lengths the service crew went to, to get the Australian team back on the road for the remainder of the event.


“The engine was pulled out and the fault diagnosed that night. At 3.30am service team members left the service park with the cracked engine for a 400km drive back to Mexico City to a local engine builder. The builder worked wonders, making a sleeve and machining the bores before reassembling well into the next day”


Upon completion the fresh engine was rushed back 400km to the service area where it was slid back under the FJ bonnet. The whole process had been completed within 24 hours. Ryan and Stevenson were now free to re-join the event, having only missed a single day of competition.


One particular moment Ryan remembers fondly was when they were blasting up the freeway out of Mexico City and missed the off ramp exit they needed. “The next convenient ‘exit’ was actually an on ramp from the adjacent side road back onto the freeway, so before we knew it we were heading down the on ramp, against the flow of traffic with horns blaring and lights flashing, much to the cheers and whistles of the throng of spectators lining the roads of the route.”


The team finished fifth in class and 56th outright, but the result was insignificant to the feeling of completion. “It was a sensational event and amazingly well run. Everyone was friendly and happy to help and it is probably the best thing we have ever done” said Ryan.  


As a thank you to the Mexican service crew, Ryan and Stevenson have offered the crew the chance to campaign the car themselves at next year’s Targa Adelaide event.


Post Targa the car will be stripped down for a thorough overhaul before the little Aussie FJ returns to Mexico to once again be part of the iconic event.


Greg Stevenson summed up the fantastic adventure that was the La Carerra Panamericana best with the simple comment “this is the wild wild west of motorsport.”