Pursuit of EK-CELLENCE

THE EK-FB HOLDEN WAS AUSTRALIA’S ANSWER TO THE TRI-FIVE CHEV, AND VINCE PANUCCIO HAS HARNESSED THIS OLD-SCHOOL COOL FOR HIS MEGA-TOUGH BLOWN STREETER

STORY CARLY DALE

THERE’S no doubting that the EK and FB Holdens borrowed a few styling cues from the wildly popular tri-five Chevs. Sure, the Aussie-built early-60s sedans may’ve been more understated than their US inspiration, but they’re also lighter, taking up a smaller footprint on the road. You’ll also find it easier to locate useable specimen without mortgaging your house. Shoehorn with a massive Roots blower, whack big rubber on the rear, drop the stance and paint it a retro hue – now you’ve got yourself one killer ride.

And it’s these very attributes that Vince Panuccio desired in his own EK build. “I wanted a ’57 Chevy, until drove my mate’s – it handled like a boat, he laughs. “I wasn’t too happy with that. “Then the shape of the EK and FB caught my eye, and I had a picture in my head of what I wanted to do. When The Chop Shop came out with Henry Parry’s FB (SM, Jan ’14) I was spewing, as that’s what I wanted to do. So I went and built my own, Vince says.

Around a decade ago Vince bought his sought-after model in project form, but it proved to be too great of an undertaking. “Due to family commitments the EK just sat in the back of the shed; I couldn’t do anything to it, he says. “A mate of mine then found this one in Lismore about four years ago. It already had a fair chunk of what I wanted to do to it.

It makes sense to buy a project with plenty of the hard yakka already done; you can save yourself a heap of time and cash while getting on the road sooner, which was exactly what Vince was chasing. “It was engineered with a small-block Chev V8 and tubs, so added wheels, lowered it and put on a blower, he says. Okay, so it wasn’t quite that straightforward. First, Paul from ProFlo worked his magic to get the massive Schott rims to fit underneath by doing further tub work, before rounding off the arches and tweaking the doors and sills to suit. At the front a CRS front end kit was added, before the engine bay was tidied and an under-dash master cylinder installed. At the rear the fuel filler hole was deleted, with the neck routed inside the boot instead. The bonnet was then cut to suit the protrusion of Vince’s chosen power-adder. Once home, Vince reinforced around the hole and then panel-beated it straight.

Poking through that hole is a must-have bug catcher sitting atop a Blower Shop 6/71 pump. Below, Joe Zinghini added a bunch of go-fast parts to the small-block Chev, including AFR heads and a Scat rotating assembly. He then tuned it to run E85, which pumps through a Holley Dominator billet fuel pump up to the injectors, commanded by a Haltech ECU. An MSD ignition and ICE dizzy provide the zaps. To exit the spent gasses, Vince whipped up a pair of three-inch pipes to feed off the ProFlo two-inch headers.

I WANTED A ’57 CHEVY, UNTIL I DROVE MY MATE’S – IT HANDLED LIKE A BOAT! THEN THE SHAPE OF THE EK AND FB CAUGHT MY EYE

Getting the power down to the massive rear rubber is a TH400 with full-manual shift, coupled to a 3˝-inch custom tailshaft backed by a nine-inch packed with a Strange Truetrac centre, 3.55s and 31-spline axles. The combo makes a stout 441rwhp.

Engine

“It was engineered with the 327; I then added a blower to make it look tough,” Vince says. “It’s a tight fit, but it all works. I have the engine out again at the moment to add a bigger roller cam for more horsepower”

Part of the ‘already done’ side of the EK was the tidy FB additions. “The body was decent, it just had different colours on it, and the gaps were out, Vince explains. “So, had my mate Sid from Sid’s High Quality Smash Repairs do a quick paint-over. Sid laid down the custom Protec orange with Mercedes white, in a ’55 Chevy-inspired two-tone scheme.

Inside, the cabin is a luxurious mix of modern and retro styling. A bloke called Louie, who was also responsible for the top- notch interior in David Xuereb’s TC Cortina (SM, Jul ’18), wielded the shears and threaded together coverings for almost every surface, including the electric Toyota Soarer buckets and customised rear pew. “I chose the Camel leather-look vinyl, which became a drama, as when Louie ordered some more and it was all creased. We had to wait eight months for new material, as I didn’t want to go with another colour. I wanted to keep it old-school, Vince says.

While Vince has certainly upped the ante on the finish, he kept to a short two-and-a-half year build time. “It all went pretty smoothly. I’m very happy with how it’s turned out, he says.

I’d be happy too if my Summernats 31 debut earned me a trophy haul, with Vince taking out Top Interior, Top Modified and Outstanding Engineering in the Street class. “I was rapt to have won! I then thought that I should pull it apart again and go in Elite. But I decided not to, as really I just want to drive it!” Vince laughs.

“It’s excellent to drive, as everything has been done to suit so it sits on the road really good, he continues. “It has plenty of power, though if I want I can put five people in and just cruise s it. Whenever I get a chance, I drive the thing.

THE CAR’S SUMMERNATS 31 DEBUT SAW IT TAKE OUT TOP INTERIOR, TOP MODIFIED AND OUTSTANDING ENGINEERING IN THE STREET CLASS

VINCE PANUCCIO

1961 EK HOLDEN

SEDAN

Paint: Custom Protec orange & Mercedes white

ENGINE

Brand: Chev 327ci

Induction: The Blower Shop 6/71, EFI

ECU: Haltech

Heads: AFR

Camshaft: Comp Cams solid 230

Pistons: Scat forged

Crank: Scat

Oil pump: Melling; Aeroflow modified sump

Fuel pump: Holley Dominator billet

Fuel: E85

Cooling: Custom four-core radiator, twin 12in thermos

Exhaust: Custom 2in headers to twin 3in; Premier race mufflers

Ignition: MSD ignition, ICE dizzy

Power: 441rwhp

DRIVELINE Trans: TH400, full-manual shift Converter: Slingshot 2800rpm stall

Tailshaft: Custom 3˝in

Diff: 9in, Strange Truetrac centre, 3.55:1 gears, 31-spine axles

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Front suspension: Adjustable Strange coilovers, CRS front end kit

Rear suspension: Adjustable Strange coilovers, four-link

Brakes: Wilwood discs (f & r)

Master cylinder: Wilwood

Other: HQ stud pattern

WHEELS & TYRES

Rims: Schott Mod 5 eXL; 19x7 (f), 20x12 (r) Rubber: Kumho; 225/40/19 (f), 315/35/20 (r)

INTERIOR

Seats: Soarer and custom rear seat, Camel vinyl

Carpet: Mercedes loop

Gauges: Classic Instruments for ’57 Chev Seatbelts: Custom brown re-webbed

Shifter: B&M

Stereo: Kenwood

THANKS

Smithfield Tyre Service & Exhaust; Paul and the boys at ProFlo; Edsson and team at E Auto Electrical; Louie and all the boys for the trim; Joe Zinghini for putting the engine together; Raymond Bajada at Mobile Brake Hose Solutions; Sid at Sid’s High Quality Smash Repairs

WHEN THE CHOP SHOP CAME OUT WITH HENRY PARRY’S FB I WAS SPEWING, AS THAT’S WHAT I WANTED TO DO. SO I WENT AND BUILT MY OWN

Interior

Electric Soarer seats (sans headrests), a custom-made rear seat and door trims are swathed in Camel vinyl, with stainless embellishments. Classic Instruments ’ Chev gauges reside in the factory bezels, while hiding in the glovebox is a sneaky Kenwood stereo. The custom centre console has a compartment for Vince’ phone to be used as a GPS screen. Below are switches for headlights and interior light, with two spares. Shifter is a B&M unit alongside a modern handbrake

Rims

Behind the massive 19 and 20in Schott wheels are Wilwood discs, making sure the EK has as much whoa as go

Boot

With the factory filler hole removed, the neck has been routed to the left rear of the car, and is filled through a hidey hole in the boot. It’s then been neatly boxed over and covered in Camel vinyl. “Originally wanted it like a ’57 where you open the tail-light,” Vince says. “But it was too much mucking around; I wanted the car on the road!”

Laying Low

ProFlo has opened up the wheelarches, to not only allow for an extra 6-7in of wheel width from factory, but also get the car closer to the bitumen, with the EK now right on the legal 100mm ground clearance