Holden cars have dominated Mark Galea’s life.
He grew up taking family trips in his parents’ FB Holden.
When he was 13, a family friend gave him an EK Holden for use as a paddock bomb.
‘‘It was actually a good car,’’ Mark recalls. ‘‘It was a manual but his wife couldn’t drive it as she could only drive automatics.’’
When he was old enough to get his driver’s licence, his first registered car was a HT Premier sedan in 1978.
Since then he has owned a few Toyotas and Subarus but it was Holden that he could never stray too far from.
So much so that he now runs the National Holden Motor Museum in Echuca in partnership with Tony Galea (surprisingly, no relation).
The inkling to work with his hands has been handed down to him from his father.
‘‘Dad had trucks and was always fiddling with things, keeping things going,’’ Mark said.
Mark started out as a carpenter, which led to installing aluminium windows in the building industry and from there gravitated towards building prison cells before settling back in to a life of Holden cars.
Mark’s 1959 FC Holden Ute holds sentimental value, from the bird badge on the bonnet to the number plate.
‘‘Mum and dad had a FB Holden and this registration plate — HGE 337 — was the same one on their car,’’ Mark said.
‘‘I applied for it and had it re-issued to me.’’
Mark’s father also had a friend in Malta who was looking to fit a Holden bird badge on to his car.
‘‘He drove an Opel or a Vauxhall and got an FC Holden bird to bolt on to his Opel but never fitted it,’’ Mark said.
Eventually the family friend migrated to Australia in the early 1970s and brought all his tools and gear with him.
‘‘It’s hard to find a decent bird for the bonnet,’’ Mark said.
‘‘He saw this car, I told him I was looking for a bird and he said he’s got one in his shed.
‘‘So this bird has been right round the world and has come back and it bolted straight on because the holes were already there.’’
The Skyline Blue is the car’s original colour and it has the original Holden Grey Motor 132.
Mark restored the ute himself in his garage in Melbourne, with some help from his now business partner Tony in tracking down some spare parts.
‘‘It was in reasonable condition when I got it,’’ he said.
‘‘It needed straightening out. It had rust issues on the panels.’’
Mark made replacement panels by hand, retrimmed the seats, did the panel beating and painted it in his first attempt at restoring an old car.
‘‘I taught myself how to do it,’’ he said, improvising as he went, even to the extent of welding a piece from a dishwasher into the bodywork.
‘‘The engine (even though it’s an EJ engine), transmission, diff are all the same as the original,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s all me. What you see is what I’ve done.
‘‘It has all standard running gear, including the three-speed column shift. I fitted a heater to it to make it a bit more comfortable.’’
He installed period power assisted brakes to help stop when pulling up with his caravan in tow.
‘‘I wanted to stick to the period the car came out in,’’ he said.
Even his caravan is a period piece, with stove, cutlery, barbecue and esky from the 1950s/1960s era.
The ute was a popular vehicle in its day.
‘‘They all worked for a living so it’s hard to find a good ute that’s not ruined or worn out. It is a commercial vehicle,’’ Mark said.
WHERE DID YOUR CAR COME FROM?
Mark has owned the ute for about 17 years.
‘‘It was a plumber’s ute in Cockatoo,’’ Mark said.
He was actually looking for an FB ute but saw the FC advertised and decided to buy it on impulse.
‘‘I just saw it. They’re very hard to find so I just bought it.
‘‘I registered it, drove it for a couple of years then spent a year part-time doing it up.’’
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE CAR?
‘‘I like the shape of it,’’ he said.
‘‘I like to have it as a ute. I use it to tow my (folding all timber Australia-made) caravan.’’
And Mark has full faith in the ute’s ability to get him to wherever he’s going.
‘‘There’s no qualms about jumping in and driving to Sydney,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s comfortable, keeps up with the traffic and it’s fully reliable.’’
SO WHAT’S YOUR PERFECT CAR?
‘‘I don’t really know. I need some time to think about that,’’ Mark said.
AND WHAT’S NEXT?
For Mark, it could be to start working on his Victa lawnmowers.
‘‘There’s some there waiting for some love and attention,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve got a collection of about 15 mowers.’’