EARLY Holdens are cool for cruising, but getting them to go seriously fast isn’t easy. They’ve got spindly front ends, puny diffs, pathetic brakes and precious little room for any kind of serious gearbox. Fit in a decent motor and you’ll have to reinforce the chassis to stop these cars bending like a banana. It’s a lot of work, but totally worth it the first time you shut down some smart-arse in a much younger car!
This article was first published in the July 2003 issue of Street Machine
Just ask West Aussie Sam Rhodes, who punts this muscular EK in the super sedan ranks at Perth’s Kwinana Motorplex. Not only has Sam won a bunch of trophies, but he has kept the drag-mad fans well entertained with the car’s nine-second elapsed times and wheel-standing antics.
The kicker is that the EK is a genuine street car, complete with all-metal bodywork and gorgeous factory chrome. I should know, ’cos Sam took me for a spin around the block in the old girl. Now, I’ve been lucky enough to ride shotgun in a few eight- and nine-second Pro Streeters before, but they’ve all been fire-breathing monsters with massive rear rubber, sheet-metal interiors and wheelie bars. Awesome stuff, but you know these cars don’t see much street duty. Sam’s car is a totally different kettle of fish. Sure it has a pair of race buckets and a padded roll cage, but apart from that, it’s all EK. Sam even booted out the stock speedo and replaced it with a Monster tach for stealth.
Sam’s EK lifting off the black stuff before screamin’ down the quarter-mile
Sam hits the key and the 630hp small-block Chev springs into life with an angry, cammy idle and we pull out onto the blackstuff. At cruising speeds, the car feels like any other V8-powered early girl – until Sam mashes the go pedal. It sounds awesome and the car sits up and begs like a starving Labrador. Yee ha! Sam buttons off, hits the brakes and we come to a stop, safe and sound. So how did you end up with such an insane old car, mate?
“I bought it for $350 from my uncle who had owned the car from new! By the time I got to it, it was rusting away on my uncle’s farm, with heaps of bits missing and home to a family of mice,” Sam laughs.
Despite its failings, young Sam could see the potential. “I got the car running on the original 138 grey motor and drove it around the block sitting on a milk crate with a severe lack of brakes,” he says. “I got it rego’d and drove it to school for a year or so, then I did the big upgrade to a 202 red motor and a four-speed floor-shift.”
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The power lift still didn’t do it for Sam. He dabbled in the local burnout and drag racing scene in a UC Torana V8, but the desire to get really serious with the EK became too much in the third year of his spray painting apprenticeship. Sam set to work, straightening the panels and applying that super slick paint. Converting the car to small-block power was more of a challenge, but Sam nutted it out, using a Castlemaine Rod Shop chassis kit and steering conversion.
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“With a fairly mild 350, Trimatic and nine-inch, the EK managed a 12.20 on street tyres, but that wasn’t fast enough for me, so I stepped up the engine and got the car running consistent 11s.” Sam even won the super street championship at Kwinana in 2000, but he was hungry for more.
Going faster meant a roll cage, beefed Powerglide, bigger rubber, mini tubs, a ladder bar rear end and a heap more power. Greg Gower from Competition Fuel Systems came up with the engine specs and prepared the heads, while the whole deal was screwed together by Phil Hardy from Chevpower. Key players in the hunt for grunt included a bore and stroke to 412-cubes, 13.5:1 compression, a lumpy roller cam, modified Brodix Track 1 heads, single Barry Grant King Demon 1090cfm carbie and some seriously sexy Norm Butler extractors.
The result? 630hp at the flywheel on C16, which translates to a current best time of 9.76@135mph. The 29-year old has also snatched various trophies in super sedan this season and scored Best ’61-’65 Holden at the 2002 Holden vs Ford show.
His fiancé Cassie – who runs an 11-second Charger – loves the EK. “She drove the EK at a test ’n’ tune this season and ran a personal best of 9.83 on her first pass,” says Sam. “The car got quite out of shape around the 60-foot mark on her second pass and she had to do a fair bit of wheel work. She was looking kinda shaky and white when I met her at the end of the track after that pass.”
With his business, Vulcan Panel and Paint booming, Sam is content to enjoy the EK in its current state, though he says it will get a further tidy up early next year when it will serve duty at the speedy couple’s wedding. Talk about getting to the church on time!
WITH the classic mini ’57 Chev styling of the EK, Sam was not interested in molesting the car’s body work, except for one thing. High on Sam’s wish list for the EK was to endow the car with a set of round rear wheel arches, to give the car a smoother look and to make extra room for the car’s rear rubber. “Essentially, I fitted a set of front EK wheel arches to the rear quarter panels, so I had to cut down the doors to match,” says Sam. It is a subtle mod that many people don’t even notice, but that doesn’t mean it was easy!
1961 EK HOLDEN
Colour: Mazda Coral Brown Red Mica
Engine: 350 Chev
Carb: King Demon 1090cfm
Heads: Modified Brodix Track 1
Cam: Crane Roller
Crank: Callies stroker
Pistons: JE 13.5:1
Ignition: MSD 6AL
Exhaust: Custom extractors
Grunt: 630hp at flywheel
Gearbox: Powerglide, TCI transbrake
Torque converter/clutch: TCI 5000rpm
Front end: HR, CRS rack and pinion
Rear end: McDonald Bros ladder bars, Spax coil overs
Diff: Shortened nine-inch, 4.56 gears, full spool, 31-spline axles
Brakes: HQ discs and WB calipers front, VL discs rear
Tyres: Moroso DS-2 front, MT 12.5x28.5x15 rear
Wheels: Weld Draglite 15x3.5 front, 15x10 rear
Seats: RCI buckets front, narrowed rear
Body mods: Smoothed and debadged, minitubs, radiused rear guards
Shifter: B&M Pro