Shane Keene transformed this Holden EH ute from a well-worn farm hack into a blown and tubbed show-stopper
This article on Shane's EH ute was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Street Machine magazine
THE EH is the quintessential classic Holden that everyone seems to have a soft spot for, but Shane Keene’s fondness for the model is profound. As a whippersnapper, he was carted off to school each day in his old man’s EH ute, and that sewed the seed that eventually grew into something of an obsession.
Shane’s first car was an EH – a Premier sedan with a hot 179 that he still owns to this day. This ute followed six months later, when Shane was still only 17 years of age, and it was used very much as its maker intended – put through its paces every day on the Keene family piggery.
“It was basically a registered bush bomb and a work ute; we used it to cart tucker for the pigs,” says Shane. “I used it up until about 10 years ago, when I pulled it off the road and stuck it in the back shed.”
The underpinnings and powertrain have been completely re-engineered but the EH’s classic shape remains unaltered. Aside from smoothed one-piece bumpers, body mods are nil. The sheet metal was simply hammered straight and draped in Italian Red paint
Shane eventually shifted it to another shed in readiness for a rebuild, and disaster struck soon thereafter. A bushfire ripped through his property, destroying his home and much of his shedding, but his ever-expanding stash of EHs – including the ute – survived.
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After Shane was done rebuilding his life, he got started rebuilding the ute. It was a full-on process, with much of the car re-engineered, from its hand-built chassis up, and Shane is proud as punch that the vast majority of the work was completed at home. It wasn’t his first rodeo; he’d also built a stunner of an EH panel van, but he was keen to raise the bar with the ute.
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“The van only had relocated leaf springs in the rear, so I went with a four-link rear and a Rod-Tech front end for the ute, and it handles heaps better,” he explains. “I made the whole chassis myself. I bought the front end from Rod-Tech and the four-link kit from McDonald Bros, and the diff is narrowed five inches either side to fit the bigger wheels.
The engine is a 6/71-blown 400-cuber that’s good for a lazy 700-plus horsepower. The beautifully detailed lump has been polished to within an inch of its life, and resides in a stunningly presented bay
“I did all the fab stuff myself, and my brother and I did the panel beating together. We were working on it every day after work for four years in our backyard shed.”
The chassis and suspension upgrades brought vastly improved levels of torsional stiffness, further bolstered by fully adjustable coil-over suspension at all four corners, rack ’n’ pinion steering, tubular arms and meaty Wilwood disc brakes all ’round – big upgrades over the archaic horse-and-cart rear suspension, king-pin front end and drum brakes that were standard issue on the 60s workhorse.
The searing red duco was applied off-site by Shane’s good friend Trev Monti, who’s the go-to painter for all Shane’s projects. Gavin Hill from Bendigo Trim did the interior, with Shane opting for the plush red motif after clapping eyes on Reece Pagel’s HT Kingswood (SM, June ’17) at Summernats.
“It’s hard picking colours, but the idea for the interior came from Reece’s Kingswood, and I saw the paint colour on a Honda motorcycle,” Shane says. “That’s where all the red came from.”
Stance is all-important with a build like this, and Shane left nothing to chance, with adjustable coil-over suspension and rear tubs large enough to swallow sizeable 335/30/18 Pirelli tyres on 18x11in Schott Americana wheels. The Rod-Tech front end is equipped with 2in drop stubs to get the EH even closer to terra firma at the pointy end
Speaking of all things red, in 1963 the EH saw the introduction of Holden’s “red” inline six-cylinder engines in both 149- and 179-cubic-inch capacity. At the time they were cutting edge, and represented a major leap forward in performance over the outgoing grey motor. A well-warmed 179 is a thing of great beauty even today, but Shane needed a powerplant that was better aligned with the ute’s wildly enhanced driving dynamics.
The tray is no longer suitable for carting pig food around the farm, but it sure is pretty
To that end, Advanced Engine Dynamics screwed together a Dart-blocked 400ci small-block Chev, topped with a Weiand 6/71 blower, twin 650cfm Holleys and a delightfully old-fashioned finned alloy scoop. It runs a Scat crank and rods, forged pistons and alloy heads, and spat out a convincing 722hp on its third pull on the engine dyno. That’s six times more grunt than a 179 offered up back in the day, so it ought to do the job.
A custom fuel cell is countersunk into the tray floor, and a Holley Black fuel pump delivers premium unleaded to the blown small-block up front
The transmission is a manualised Turbo 350 with a 3200rpm torque converter, and the diff is a fabricated, full-floating nine-inch with a Truetrac centre and street-friendly 3.25:1 final drive gears.
All up, Shane spent four years transforming the ute from a well-worn paddock basher into a stunning showpiece with an optimal blend of toughness and class. He’s now owned it 28 years and counting, and we get the feeling that he’s not looking to move it on anytime soon.
Trimmed by Gavin Hill, the cockpit features a modified bench seat and custom flat floors, with Pillar Box Red leather used liberally throughout. Other highlights include a billet steering wheel and column with billet column shifter, Auto Meter gauges, custom retractable belts and a Pioneer sound system
“It made the Top 60 and won a Rare Spares Encouragement Award at Summernats 31,” says Shane. “It was also in the 18 cars that qualified to compete for Grand Champion, and was one of 10 invited to attend Red CentreNATS in August. Owen Webb said that it was his favourite car in the Elite Hall too, which was pretty flattering.
“I want to show the car for a while and then cruise it. I like going to the Bright Rod Run and Queenscliff Rod Run and that type of thing; I like laidback weekends with the car.”
In between laidback weekends with the EH, Shane intends to busy himself by restoring an FJ ute as well as an HT sedan for his missus, because old Holdens never die!
Shane has an impressive shed. The blue EH Prem was his first car and he’s owned it for about six months longer than he has the ute; so in other words, 28 and a half years! It still runs a 179, backed by a five-speed Celica cog-swapper.
The custom EH convertible is a beaut-looking thing that’s been on the scene for 20 years and cut many a lap of the Summernats cruise route. The panel van was a big project; Shane purchased it from a mate for just $350 and gave it a ground-up rebuild, treating it to a 350 Chev, Turbo 350 trans and a nine-inch diff. The FJ is a ridgy-didge original old tilly that’s in great shape, with only 22,000 miles on the dial. It’ll be Shane’s next project, and he plans on restoring it to as-new condition. If you reckon he needs an EH wagon to complete the box-set of EH body styles, don’t worry – he has one, it’s just in his other shed!
1964 HOLDEN EH UTILITY
Paint: Italian Red
Brand: Dart 400ci small-block Chev
Blower: Weiand 6/71
Carbies: Twin 650cfm Holley
Camshaft: Crow, solid
Fuel system: Holley Black
Cooling: Alloy radiator
Exhaust: Custom extractors, twin 3in exhaust
Gearbox: Turbo 350, manualised
Diff: Fabricated full-floating 9in, Truetrac centre, 3.25:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Rod-Tech front end, 2in drop stubs, Viking adjustable coil-overs
Rear: Four-link, Viking adjustable coil-overs
Steering: Torana rack ’n’ pinion
Brakes: Wilwood (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Schott Americana; 17x7 (f), 18x11 (r)
Rubber: Pirelli; 205/50/17 (f), 335/30/18 (r)