N.S.W. Leyland Owners

Restoring the replica

Warrewyk Williams

It was 1989 when I first heard about the “clone” P76 wagon and had even contemplated converting a sedan to a wagon myself, but the further into it I looked, the more difficult the project appeared. Unless one has seriously investigated or has had a chance to see a factory-made P76 Wagon I don't believe they could appreciate the differences or work involved in building this type of vehicle.
When I was in Cootamundra for the P76 Nationals at Easter, I had chance to visit Michael Livingston who, due to health problems, had elected to sell the P76 ‘Clone’ wagon he had purchased from Anton Franks in Adelaide.
As I understand, Anton himself had purchased the vehicle from Larry Cole, the gentleman who built the wagon in Mildura, Victoria.
Though I have never met Larry personally, he has earned my great respect for not only building the wagon but his attention to detail in making this vehicle appear as close to a factory Executive model as could be expected.
From what I can piece together, Mr Cole took a V8 4 speed Deluxe P76 that had sustained front end damage to the front D/S corner of the vehicle including the D/S front guard and rebuilt it into the wagon, using a Bitter Apricot Executive as a donor vehicle as well as an XY Fairmont Wagon to supply the basic componentry of the rear tailgate area.
I say basic componentry as after actually looking carefully at the construction of this area it becomes obvious there is precious little Ford left.
The replica wagon after a cleanup.
Nice Exec interior.
I like the fold down centre in the rear seat while the tailgate is based on a Fairmont tailgate, in reality only the inner panel has been retained as the sides and bottom panel areas have been remade to a P76 shape.
Obviously the outer skin is from a P76 boot-lid but even the hinges are not Ford hinges, these items have been fabricated to suit the specific application. As the Ford torsion rods could not be used to relieve the weight of the tailgate when opening, a custom-made torsion rod system was installed to suit the P76.
Wiring for the electric window had been rerouted to suit the P76 application also.
In fact as P76 tailgates go, from the outside at least, the only give-aways to its non-genuine heritage are the indented upper paneling, a leftover from the skin’s boot-lid heritage, the key switch being mounted in the centre of the tailgate as opposed to the D Pillar on the genuine article (the factory-built Leyland wagon did not have this and thus presented a much cleaner rear end) and finally the tips of the hinges protruding from both lower, side, corners rather than from under the
tailgate. (Personally I think this might actually look better!)
Fairmont tailgate and Larry Cole’s handmade wagon tailgate.
The problem in this area is simply the sheer amount of rust present.
Mr Cole while being brilliant with his panel beating seemed to fail when it came to proof-coating his work and this apparent unfortunate oversight has seen the tailgate rust out to a point where it is unrepairable.
(I know Joe Green will say, and I’d agree, that nothing's unrepairable, but sheer amount of time and labour makes this exercise uneconomical.)
While the wagon came with a spare Falcon tailgate, the precise problem here is exactly that – it is a Falcon and not a Fairmont tailgate – and while the two are similar, the wind-up window of the Falcon has additional substructure that would need to be cut out prior to its use for the P76.
Fortunately, on my first foray onto eBay for some time I discovered a Fairmont tailgate in excellent condition and managed to secure this for the princely sum of $21, an amount for which, I’m sure, the seller was not exactly impressed.
Obtaining the Fairmont tailgate is one thing, conversion for P76 use to quite another.
As I mentioned previously, most of the Ford tailgate will have to be discarded before new sides and lower paneling are added and finally a modified boot skin.
As I am insistent on the tailgate looking like the factory wagon, and not a sedan, the upper indented area will
be removed and ‘smoothed’. Only a subtle mod, but still a substantial one.
When took delivery of the wagon its tailgate was in the load area.
While it didn’t take long to fit the rear door, the key switch was missing and the electric window had to be
operated via some wires hanging out of the full-length rust hole in the outer skin.
Naturally, I not only had to wire this back up but made a couple of wiring mods along the way that would route the wiring in a more desirable manner to facilitate easier removal and installation in the future. The key switch problem was solved when I managed to locate a key switch from someone wrecking a Fairmont wagon (albeit without any keys)
for $10.
A further $32 at my local locksmiths finally resulted in a fully functional key operated rear window.
The tailgate support cables had both lost their swaged ends, meaning the tailgate couldn’t be opened without having some support system available.
Surprisingly, Ford still had these parts available but at the incredible price of $48.50 each!
Before deciding whether to replace them I had to remove them anyway, and this was a problem in itself.
The special bolts holding the cables to the tailgate had rusted into position and the fact than ordinary spanners couldn’t provide the necessary grip, and it was impossible to fit a socket onto the low-rise bolt-head, made sure they were going nowhere. After some thought, I purchased a cheap 5/8 inch ring spanner and modified it with a grinder for one specific purpose.
This device, along with some WD40, allowed the removal of these cables with no damage to the unique collared bolts or the tailgate.
The cables were reswaged at a local ship’s chandler, at a cost of $7.50, and were fitted that day with no problems.
Another mystery highlighted by the tailgate is that if a Bitter Apricot Exec donated its front and rear, and in fact also its four doors, then what was wrong with this vehicle in the first place? Maybe it sustained underbody damage? This is perhaps something only Mr Cole can answer, but while on the subject of underbody I was pleasantly surprised to
find that the wagon's underbody area was completely undamaged – very dirty and loaded with clay, but otherwise perfect. In fact, it displayed none of the usual scrapes and dents that every other P76 I have purchased (aside from a one-owner Super I bought in Tasmania) has shown.
While the rear was Fairmont-based, I suspect the rear-side windows are Cortina station wagon.
This is another area where the dreaded tin-worm has attacked and where I am hoping to make some changes. The rubber rimmed Cortina glass (if that’s what it is) will be removed and the frames changed to accommodate glass that is sealed in place in the same way as the P76 windscreen. As new glass will have to be made, an opportunity exists to realign the windows in an effort to take away the “droopy” look they have at some angles.
The final body related curiosity is the roof panel that is in fact not Ford but actually has been hand made to the P76 shape using another P76 roof panel. Honestly, the time and labour involved in this exercise alone is mind-boggling. And not just to me.
As I’ve hawked the wagon photos around various panel shops I’ve noticed more than a few jaws drop as they suddenly realise the amount of work that has gone into this rig.
While Leyland never made an Executive wagon, Larry Cole had other ideas.
The basic Deluxe sedan he started with was upgraded in every way. Power steering (although the rack is long gone), auto transmission, seats, door ajar lights, C-pillar lights, radio – all the usual Exec appointments, and even air conditioning. The most impressive attention to detail however, was reserved for wagon appointments like the fold-forward rear seat notmade possible by installing a Force 7 rear seat, but actually achieved by making the
existing rear seat into a fully operational wagon-style unit. Other little things, like the rear radio speaker (normally installed in the parcel shelf) that had been positioned, along with an Exec courtesy light, in the roof area just inside the rear window opening only added to the list of impressive attention to detail features.
One thing I can’t fathom though, is that there appears to be no way to operate the electric rear window from the driver’s seat, something that I intend to remedy at some time in the future. Another oddity is that the aerial is installed in much the same position as a sedan.
I guess Larry had no way of knowing that Leyland’s wagon would have the aerial installed on the front passenger-side guard, so this oversight is forgivable, especially considering the unique mount (remembering it was 1981 when this was built) required for this purpose. In fact, as I intend to install a stereo with an automatic antenna system, the aerial switch, I envisage, will ultimately become the control for the rear window.
Finally the colour.
Once all the rust has been removed, and given that the wagon will have to be stripped entirely during the restoration process, a colour change is certainly possible.
While NV Green is a beautiful colour, I have considered other options – Plum Loco, or even returning it to its original colour of Corinthian Blue. Ask my wife or
daughter and they will tell you they don’t like Corinthian Blue. I’ve even tried suggesting a metallic candy-apple version of this colour, which I think would look pretty cool, but since the paint is a long way off anyway I guess I’ve plenty of time to dwell on this facet of the project.
As for the future: Returning it to a 4 speed, fitting a dual exhaust system, adding some bigger wheels and rubber, lowering the suspension and retrimming the interior are all on the cards too… just a long way off. Stay tuned!
Leylines November 2006

Last updated
Nov, 2006
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