THE boys at Down Town Kustoms in Taree, NSW have made a name for themselves with a few off-tap builds that are as much coachbuilding and manufacturing as they are traditional street machine building or hotrodding.
Along with their SHQRP HQ Monaro build, Glenn Profilio’s FC ute is a masterclass in how to build a proper pro touring car to an elite standard.
The handmade chassis, sorted suspension and stout LS drivetrain are easy to spot, as is the incredibly straight body.
But much of the genius in the ute – known as Refined – is almost totally hidden. For instance, only the middle few centimetres of the roof skin is left over from the original Holden sheet metal.
This wasn’t just done for aesthetics; Refined was built as a driver, as DTK founder and head honcho Graeme Brewer explains.
“The only thing that’s on that car simply to look good is the engine cover and the paint; everything else has a purpose,” Graeme says. “Even in the engine bay everything is symmetrical; the radiator and overflow caps are on opposite sides to match.”
This isn’t the first two-door 1950s Holden that DTK has undertaken for Glenn. “We started building an FE coupe for Glenn but he came up one day and said he wished we’d started on his ute instead,” Graeme says. “Glenn’s dad used to have an FC ute when he was a kid and he has all these really nice memories of driving around with his dad in one. He brought the ute in the next Monday.”
The running, driving ute was then gutted and welded to a chassis table to work out how it would sit with the wheel and tyre combo Glenn had envisioned. Once the DTK boys got the hoops dialled, the grinders came out and the FC lost most of its floors and firewalls before being sent for an invasive mediablasting session.
“I sent it down to get blasted on the chassis table, all inside the sills and everywhere,” Graeme says. “They actually let us prime it at the blasters so we didn’t have to transport it in bare steel. We then mounted the LS3, Tremec six-speed and diff in place, and built everything else around them.
“The whole exhaust was fuse-welded so there was no filler rod used at all. It’s perfectly symmetrical, precision-cut. It took ages but it sounds different; it’s quiet but it sounds like an AMG V8 Mercedes or a European V8 when you give it some.”
DTK fabbed up a full-chassis, four-link rear-end with Watt’s link, and a custom tube-arm front end using a late-model steering rack, to ensure the ute’s 50s-era looks don’t extend to its on-road performance. While DTK is known for killer air suspension installations, Graeme trod a different path with Glenn’s old Holden. “We were always going to do coil springs, as we weren’t interested in ’bags for Refined,” he says. “We talked about the ride height for ages; it’s got 150mm [clearance] at the sill, which means he can get it into and out of awkward driveways, just like a stock ute.
“We kept the wheel size smaller, with 16x8s in the front and
18x10s in the rear, as we tried so hard to keep the car in proportion to itself; it all just goes together.
“The choice of wheel did make it a bit harder to sort out the brakes, as you can normally only just fit a 330mm rotor behind an 18, but we managed to squeeze a 335mm rotor with a twinpiston caliper behind the 16. The front uses Renault rotors, machined down and drilled to the HQ stud pattern, with policespec VT Commodore calipers, while the rear has VT calipers and rotors.
“We even have an emergency low-pressure warning light in the [gauge] cluster, and we sized the pistons and brake booster specifically so we didn’t need a proportioning valve, just like a modern car.”
While these touches could sometimes mean weeks or months of back-and-forth with the client, the DTK boys found Glenn, a Penrith local, a dream to work with.
“Every build has that brain strain, working out serviceability and how to make the car liveable,” Graeme says. “Glenn just let us go and design and build every single part of it exactly how we’d want to do it. Sometimes he’d suggest something and we’d just put it to a workshop vote.”
One of the mind-blowing aspects of Refined’s build is the number of hours DTK put into ensuring the body was absolutely A-grade. This meant going above and beyond where many highquality builds stop, and into the depths of car manufacturing, as Graeme explains.
“One thing we spent ages doing that was a massive deal for us was the fitment of all the parts. We read all the material data sheets from our primer and paint suppliers to measure how many microns of build-up we’d get on all the B surfaces; so that’s the door jambs, under the bonnet area, strikers, inner guards, hinges and the like.
“Once we worked out how much build-up we’d get in each of these areas, we made up custom brass shims to space the areas out to the correct gap, and we’d pull one out between each coat to keep everything spaced correctly. We even used Vernier calipers to ensure the door gaps were within 0.2mm-0.4mm of being perfect.
“What we’ve actually done is surface the car, like in precision machining. To keep everything constant we had the shims and we had dowel pins too, so you’d never get any movement anywhere.
“It adds a lot of time to the build but it makes it so much easier, especially when you go to fit doors. It’s a matter of discipline and doing every step as close to perfect as possible.”
The engineering doesn’t just stop there, however. As Refined was designed to be driven, the DTK boys had to ensure it would look old but feel modern, and that meant plenty of extra jobs the customer would probably never see.
“We took the door skins off to clean the rust out from between the flanges, which you should always do, I reckon,” Graeme says. “We also had to get into the inner structure to add modern hinges, power window mechanisms, central locking and latches.
I knew from doing a hot rod in the past that late-90s Mazda Bravos have the skinniest door latches you can find. We used all the plastic clips and rods from the Mazda to make it work like a new car; I even pulled apart an Ididit steering column and cut it up to put a locking barrel in it. It wasn’t as hard as I thought, but this is what was required to make it feel like a modern car.”
After a mad thrash to finish it off, Refined was proudly unveiled at the 2015 Meguiar’s MotorEx in Sydney. The boys took home a swag of gold from the event, including Design & Execution, Engineering, Engine Bay, and top Street Machine – just desserts for such a mind-blowing build.
But if you think this is good, just remember that Glenn still has that FE coupe sitting at DTK waiting to have even more attention lavished on it. Is it greedy to have two brand new FE/ FC Holdens? We reckon it’s awesome! s
Colour: House Of Kolor custom grey
Type: Chevrolet LS3 6.2L V8 Exhaust: Custom handmade twin-system Management: GM E-Rod Connect & Cruise Ignition: Custom relocated coils
Box: Tremec T56 six-speed manual Diff: Nine-inch, Truetrac LSD, 31-spline axles Brakes: Two-piston VT calipers, 335mm Renault discs (f), two-piston VT calipers, 330mm discs (r)
Rims: Intro billet, 16x8 (f), 18x10 (r) Rubber: 215/40 (f), 275/35 (r)