A history of Australias Own Car Part 2

With Holden scheduled to cease Australian production on October 20, Russell Manning continues his three-part series highlighting the many highlights...

The 1960s

The EH Holden

The EH is one of the most iconic of all early Holdens and, with more than 250,000 sales to its credit, it was also one of Holden’s top sellers. While its styling has similarities to the EJ series it replaced, the EH was the first model to be fitted with the modern “Red” motor, which was a quantum leap over the outdated “side plate”, or “Grey”, engine used in previous models. The Red motor was to remain a staple of the Holden range until 1980.

EH Holden

It was also the first Holden to offer buyers more than one engine option, and the now rare and desirable S4 was the company’s first official attempt at delivering a factory-enhanced model for motor sports.

The EH was a popular model with racers of the day and was campaigned by luminaries such as Norm Beechey, Brian Muir, Spencer Martin and Queensland’s own Dick Johnson.
Today, the EH has a huge enthusiast following and is still fondly remembered and highly regarded by those who owned them in their heyday.

Fast facts

Engine: 2.9-litres (179ci) or,
2.4 litres (149ci) inline six
Power: 179ci 86kw (115hp)
149ci High Compression. 75Kw (100hp)
149ci Low Compression. 71Kw (95hp)
Transmission: 3-speed column shift manual or 3-speed Hydramatic
Production: 256,959
Body styles: Sedan, wagon, utility, and van
Spec levels: Standard, Special, Premier and S4
Price at introduction: $2102 (Standard model)
Available: 1963 to 1965

Famous models

The S4 Special is the most sought-after EH, with only around 120 being built for racing homologation purposes. Features included a 179ci engine, a special 3-speed manual gearbox and larger tail shaft, a larger fuel tank, upgraded brakes and a comprehensive tool kit, as the racing rules of the day required the driver to carry out any necessary repairs with the tools supplied with the vehicle.

The 1970s

By the dawn of the 1970s, Holden’s motorsport credentials were well established, with the company offering a range of performance models based on both Monaro and Torana platforms.

But while some racers continued to campaign Monaros and the still very potent GTR XU1 Torana, by the mid-70s preferences were shifting towards the new V8-powered SL/R 5000 Torana which came on line in 1974. Developments of this model included the 1975 release of the L34 option with its signature bolt-on wheel arch flares and the availability of a higher output engine, and the A9X option of 1977 which offered improvements such as a large rear facing bonnet scoop, stronger diff, and four-wheel disc brakes.

Fast facts

SL/R 5000
Engine: 5L (308 ci) V8
Power: 260kw (349hp) (L34 high output engine) *
Transmission: 4-speed manual. 3-speed auto available on some models.
Body styles: LH. Four-door sedan
LX. Four-door sedan and two-door hatch
Production: (L34) About 260
(A9X) About 400
Price at introduction: (L34) $6200 + $1500 for the high-output engine pack.
(A9X) $10,600 for four-door and $10,800 for hatch.

* Some sources suggest official engine outputs may have been deliberately understated.

Race history

The racing history of the L34 and A9X is legendary. Amongst the wins are the:

  • 1975 Bathurst 1000 (Brock and Sampson)
  • 1976 Bathurst 1000 (Morris and Fitzpatrick)
  • 1977 Hang Ten 400 at Sandown (Brock)
  • 1978 and 1979 Australian Touring Car Championships (Brock and Morris)
  • 1978 Bathurst 1000 (Brock and Richards)
  • 1979 Bathurst 1000 (Brock and Richards) This event was won by six laps, including a new lap record on the final lap.