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Labour of love

Thursday, 28th November, 2013

SPECIAL INDEED: Kellan Stenhouse and his father Randy with the restored 1963 EJ Holden Special. SPECIAL INDEED: Kellan Stenhouse and his father Randy with the restored 1963 EJ Holden Special.

By Darrin Manuel

Academics in the insurance industry recently advised Australians to stop spending so lavishly on cars. They obviously aren’t familiar with the work of Kellan Stenhouse.

The talented 19-year-old mechanic recently used his considerable skills to create an automobile that his father, Randy, will treasure for the rest of his life.

His work first began to take shape in late January as he sat talking about the past with Randy at the family home.

Randy spoke of his father, Max, who had owned a 1963 EJ Holden Special that he had described as ‘his pride and joy’.

The car was particularly significant as Max, after struggling through a kidney transplant, had died of a heart attack in 1972 when Randy was just nine years old.

Then, just weeks after Max’s death, the family car was stolen and torched, robbing Randy of the one item that he had always associated with his departed father.

While chatting with his son about the events, Randy idly commented that they should one day restore an old EJ themselves.

The line was not lost on Kellan.

Within days he began quietly gathering the pieces needed to bring the Stenhouse family’s EJ Holden back to life.

He sourced a very rough car body from Melbourne and scoured the internet for the various parts needed for the ambitious project.

“It had rust holes, the door was all dented - it was just a bomb,” said Kellan.

Kellan’s friend Wes Turvey headed to Melbourne to pick up the old car and stored it at his home where the pair secretly worked on it for months.

“Wes was my main helper, without him I could never have got it done in time,” said Kellan.

They raced against the clock to have the car ready for Randy’s birthday on July 23, often working until late into the night.

“He’d be coming home at all hours and I was trying to tell him he has work in the morning ... I never suspected for a second what he was doing,” said Randy.

Kellan registered the car on the day before his father’s birthday with the custom number plates “MAX 050” and worked until 1am to ensure it was ready to hand over on the day.

But this was to be no ordinary birthday gift giving.

Randy had often spoken of his desire to “have a beer with his father” on his 50th birthday, so on the morning of July 23 his daughter Jaleesa picked him up and took him to Max’s resting place.

Upon arrival he saw that the grave was immaculately clean and decorated, and at its base sat two beers for him and his father.

Jaleesa then produced a 1:20 scale model of a red EJ Holden and wished her father a happy birthday.

Randy described the gesture as a “wonderful father-daughter moment” that left him deeply moved.

Little did he realise that the birthday event his family had carefully planned was just beginning.

Gradually, family, friends and neighbours began to arrive at his father’s gravesite to pass on their best wishes and congratulate him on his birthday.

It was a truly momentous occasion, but something was amiss - where was his son?

“I looked around and I said ‘Where’s Kellan?’ and not long after I did, I looked and there was this car coming towards us,” said Randy.

“There was Kellan driving this red EJ toward us and I tell you, I lost it. I got emotional.

“He pulled up right next to me and gave me the keys right in front of my father’s grave... it was just an amazing thing.

“It was one of those moments where you wish you could just hold time in place. I never thought anything like that would happen to me in my lifetime.

“For your lad to do that for you, I don’t know... maybe I have done a few things right in my time. It was a magnificent thing for him to do.”

Kellan, Jaleesa and Wes were not alone in their endeavours to make Randy’s birthday unforgettable however.

Kellan said his mother Kylie had made a significant financial contribution to the effort, while all his friends had also offered what help they could - even if it was just keeping him company as he worked.

Randy said he hoped the classic car would remain in the Stenhouse family for many generations.

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