FAMILY MATTERS – DENNIS TWIGG FJ HOLDEN

If you pick up on a hint of admiration in this story, it’s no accident. Most of us hold onto mementos of our childhood, things that bring back special memories of our younger days or those that we love. Those artefacts can be large or small, as minute as a ring or as large as a car. Yeah, you know where this is going.

Purchased by his dad in 1964, Mr Twigg sold a 1937 Plymouth tudor to upgrade to the pre-loved 1956 FJ Holden. It was pale grey with a dark grey roof with red and grey button tuft seat trim. Dennis was almost in his teens at that time and for the coming years, the Holden served as reliable transportation for Dennis, his parents and two sisters.

“When we got the FJ, we thought it was Christmas, it even had a radio in it! It was pretty flash,” laughs Dennis. “It would be nice to have that ’37 Plymouth now, but we couldn’t afford two cars in those days,” he adds.

Sadly his father passed away a few years later but those years with the FJ must have made an impression, mum nor the family wanting to part with it. Now of driving age, Dennis spent some time behind the wheel but the FJ was ageing and after a while it was deregistered and parked.

Dennis played with a few other Holdens before electing to rebuild the FJ. It was the late 1970s when he pulled the FJ apart, repaired the body, installed HR front and rear ends and a 179 red motor. A mate was parting out an EH Holden so Dennis scored a heap of parts including the pedal box, dash knobs, even the wiring harness.

“It had a bit of rust in the sill and the floor, it wasn’t perfect. I painted it myself in acrylic lacquer the same colour that it is now. Then I had Keith Albury from Zillmere do the trim. He was one of the top trimmers in Brisbane at the time. The same trim is still in the car today.”

With a set of chrome 13×6 five slot Elstars and mum’s blessing, the Holden’s maiden voyage was to the FX/FJ Holden Nationals at Tumut in 1978. “I picked up a couple of trophies down there, then we went to Narrandera for the next couple of years for the same event,” he reflects.

Dennis enjoyed those early years of driving and showing his Holden, and checking out others. “When I went down to the Nationals at Tumut there was a really nice FJ, one of the top cars of the time, that had all the rear end chromed. He even had chrome leaf springs, I thought, gee that looks pretty flash. From then I always wanted a chrome diff housing. Around 1980 I pulled it out got it chromed, still looks pretty good too. You don’t see much of that these days.”

Dennis left the Holden pretty much along for the next twenty years, but certainly not unused, and definitely not neglected. In between jaunts in the ‘Jay he continued to play cars, mentioning an EH panel van, EH sedan, FX ute, ‘34 Chevy and a WB one tonner in the conversation. The WB he actually bought new in ’83, used it for 15 years as a work vehicle, then bought another for work because he got tired of cleaning his first one, which he still has. That’s another clue as to Dennis’s commitment to maintaining his vehicles.

Come the late 1990s Dennis figured it was time for a rebuild of the FJ, so blew it apart once again. This time the original three speed manual was given the flick in favour of a Trimatic, Dennis having to alter the floor pans to suit. He also smoothed the firewall and engine bay, and rectified some of his previous body repairs with the help of previously unavailable rust repair panels. Bolt on chassis kits were available at the time but instead Dennis made his own from 3”x2” RHS, merging them into the framework. He repainted the car the same as before, Ford Neptune Blue, but this time in two pack, and not forgetting the underside either. Inside the FJ needed little more than fresh carpet and a Gemini T-bar shifter to suit the new transmission.

The second rebuild took around 18 months and little has changed on the Holden since it hit the road again almost 20 years ago. “We use it almost weekly,” said Dennis, adding that there’s also a hot rodded ’32 Ford tudor he built himself and his old One Tonner still in the shed. To speculate on the car’s future in the Twigg family was a foregone conclusion… it’s not going anywhere.

“We’ll maybe pull motor out, freshen it up, add a little cam, but that’s about it. I’m 63 now, I’m getting too old for this sort of thing!”

BY GAVIN KELSO, PHOTOS BY DANIEL WARD. FULL FEATURE GASOLINE MAGAZINE #20.
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