AT THE opposite end of the Summernats seesaw from the top-spec Elite cars are the no- or low-budget cruisers that arrive each year. Rusty; dented; rat rod; shit-box; wrecking-yard refugee; paddock find – call them what you want, but they’re all simple fun, and there are usually a dozen or so of these cars cruising at Summernats. One of the most outstanding of these at ’Nats 33 was Stephen Murphy’s EH Holden ‘One Tonner’.
“I bought it in Queensland,” explains the NSW South Coaster. “It was mostly pieced together by an EH-EJ specialist parts bloke up there, Brent Eades. It was just a rough runner, something unusual and cool to have some fun in, cruise and maybe do a few skids with.”
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The abbreviated EH ute body was already dropped over the later HQ-type Tonner chassis, but to make the rig ‘street legal’ for Summernats cruising, Stephen added the necessities of rear wheelarches, sorted the split brake system (the foot pedal operates just the front wheels for easy skids while the handbrake allows easy flicks at events such as mud runs) and added operating lights and horn.
The engine tearing through the rusty bonnet is a 179hp Holden red six-cylinder. “It has a four barrel-type manifold, then a Commodore V6 blower, then a triple six-cylinder Stromberg manifold, and it’s plumbed with bits of pipe,” Stephen explains. He had to track down some smaller jets for the carbies to allow it to run cleanly. “It was like a sooty old diesel,” he explains. “And it fouled its plugs. But with smaller jets it now runs quite nicely.”
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The finishing touches are the old-school Stratos buckets in the cabin and a metal-bodied 70s Esky on the back.
But as much fun as it is, Stephen didn’t get to cruise his Holden at Summernats as he’d planned. He had to leave his EH fun-tonner there with his son – who had a Skyline at ’Nats – and return home to evacuate his family to the Moruya Showgrounds to escape the bushfires; they stayed there for the next 10 days. “[During that time] I was fighting those fires,” he says.