Meet Johnny and check out his vintage Holdens

By Madi Chwasta

Shepparton's Johnny Ross has owned more than 25 Holden vehicles in his lifetime.

So when the car manufacturer announced it would close late last month, he was lost for words and reflected on his memories and photographs instead, including when he met his wife, Lee, in the mid-1970s.

Johnny had a HR Holden at the time and drove it to the Sherbourne Terrace Hotel on Wyndham St, where they met.

One of the first questions she asked was “what car do you drive?”. And he knew she was the one.

Although Lee was impressed, Johnny told her not to get attached because he had already sold the car.

Sold the day after: The HR Holden Johnny drove to the Sherbourne Terrace Hotel the night he met his future wife.

True to his word, it was gone the next day. Such was Johnny's way back then — he would rarely hold onto a car for more than six months.

He would buy a Holden, fix it, sell it and use that money to buy the next.

“Something would catch my eye, and I’d find a way to get it,” he said.

Johnny said he would upgrade the car in all sorts of ways. Trained in panel beating, he would start with the mechanics — often installing a V8 engine.

Then he’d strip the car, cut out the rust and plate it, tinker with the suspension — "dropping the car low was cool" — and finish it off with a pristine new coat of paint.

But sometimes he wouldn’t even get that far and would sell it before he finished.

An exception was his first car. It was a Holden EH from 1964, bought in the early 70s, and it was his first custom paint job, too.

He drove it for three years until a Holden Torana SL/R T-boned his car.

"I loved it": Johnny's first car was a 1964 Holden EH.

“It was written off,” Johnny said.

“I rode motorcycles for a few years after that.”

Another memorable car was the one used in his wedding. It was a HG ’72 coupe Johnny bought from Shepparton Wreckers on Archer St for $2000 in 1984, which he painted gold.

The bridal party rode in his friend’s coupe, and Johnny used GTS panels and painted it two-tone silver and black, a week before the ceremony.

“I still had black paint on my hands when we got married,” he said with a chuckle.

As the years went on he continued to buy, fix and resell in his spare time, installing V8 engines, lifting the back wheels, or giving a fresh coat of paint.

Holden HQ 1972 Coupe: This was Johnny's wedding car, in primer before he painted it gold.

But there were a couple he wishes he'd held on to.

One was a grey and white FC, which he bought from a shed at a Wunhgu farm.

He coated the body in Palais White, the roof in Venetian Red, and glazed the car with a translucent red pearl coat, making it shimmer in the sun.

But like most of his other cars, he sold it once the novelty had worn off.

“I’m annoyed about that, I’d just love to have it,” he said.

Another was a blue 1972 HQ windowless van, which he bought 10 years ago from behind the Inkerman Hotel in St Kilda.

“That type of car is really hard to find,” he said.

For all the cars he has sold, he sadly hasn’t seen any around Shepparton, but has heard the red and white FC might be cruising Kyabram.

Palais White and Venetian Red: Johnny has heard this FC he painted can still be seen driving around Kyabram.

And he wonders how much money he could have made if he had hung on to his vintage cars.

“I think about that a lot,” Johnny said.

But he's content with the keys he has in his hands for now. Johnny's "daily drive" is a reliable 1997 VS five-litre white ute, which he has had for eight years.

And he plans on keeping it for a while yet.

“I don't normally keep cars that long, so there must be a reason,” he said.

“It's an awesome car.”