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Holden EJ-EH history

By Simon Telford | Photos: Peter Bateman, 16 Jun 2019 Features

Holden EJ-EH history

Holden sold more than 400,000 EJs and EHs in just three years as Australia hit boom time

THE last hurrah for the grey motor came with the EJ in July 1962. With a build run of just 13 months, the EJ was always going to be overshadowed by the EH that followed it.

This aticle was first published in the July 2007 issue of Street Machine

Holden EJNevertheless, the EJ was a significant leap forward for Holden, with much sleeker and more modern styling than the EK it replaced.

The EJ also introduced Holden’s first luxury model, the Premier. The Prem came with Hydramatic transmission as standard, as well as bucket seats, Warmaride heater with console and two-speed fan, twin horns, carpet, metallic paint, armrests on all doors, chrome wheel trims, whitewall tyres and many small details, including gold badges. Pretty flash — and it had to be considering the 30 per cent price premium over the Special.

Read next: Holden FB-EK history

Holden EJThe EJ also offered much improved Duo Servo front brakes and was the first Holden to come with seatbelt anchorages. Most of the mechanicals remained in EK specification, although the three-speed manual ’box was reconfigured to run a separate alloy bellhousing.

Read next: Stunning 383-cube Holden EJ wagon cruiser

A total of 154,811 EJs were produced — including Holden’s one-millionth car — over the model’s 13-month production life. It’s an amazingly short time when you consider the considerable body changes that were to follow.

HOLDEN EJ IN DETAIL: 

Holden EJ interior1. This EJ's interior is loaded with fruit, including a Diamond Dot radio and the rare clock incorporated into the oil/temp/amps warning light cluster. Premiers upped the ante with bucket seats, leather trim, carpet, Warmaride heaters as well as matching white steering wheels, indicator knobs, gear knobs and horn buttons!

 

Holden EJ engine bay2. The EJ was the last Holden to be fitted with the grey motor, long since outpowered by the new Falcons and Valiants. Harvey’s example runs a NASCO accessory oil filter.

 

Holden EJ bonnet3. From the front, the easiest ways to identify an EJ are the V-shaped styling lines on the bonnet and the badge moulded into the bonnet’s leading edge. 

 

Holden EJ rear4. While the previous FX-FJ, FE-FC and FB-EK were basically facelifts, the EJ and EH have significantly different panel-work in some areas: check the tail-lights, roofline and the way the EJ's gentle fins echo the shape of the boot. All these features were restyled for the EH. 

HARVEY MILES, EJ Holden Special

HARVEY didn’t have to look far for his amazing unrestored EJ Special — it was put up for sale by the original owner who lived only one block from him.

“She was from Tasmania, and drove it up to Canberra,” he says.

Holden EJ frontAt that stage the car had just 28,000 miles on it, to which Harvey has added 12,000. The only options from new were the radio and heater but Harvey has since added a massive array of NASCO options including windscreen washer, oil filter, bonnet spear, door scratch plates, passenger parcel shelf, boot light, taxi rail, rear Venetian and a clock!

Holden EJ“The fun is in searching for the accessories,” Harvey says. “The clock was hard and the petrol tank cover is the only one I know of. Good radios are scarce too.”

Harvey’s car is a prolific show winner and has taken out the Top Authentic gong at every single All State run since 1994. Also in his collection is a three-door EH panel van — the only known survivor of 10 built for the Sydney Council — and a pink EH that was built for General Motors managing director David Hegland when he visited in 1964.

HOLDEN EH

Introduced in August 1963, the EH was one of the most successful and fastest-selling Holdens ever, with a total of 256,959 built in a little less than two years. That Australia was going through an economic boom during this period can’t be ignored but a large slab of credit must go to the new 149 and 179 red motors. The new donks were a quantum leap over the old grey, moving to oversquare bore and stroke measurements, as well as seven-bearing crankshafts, hydraulic lifters, oil filter (yep), higher compression and a much more efficient head design. The 179 boasted 115hp and came with the extra glitz of the famous 179 boot lid badge — these were commonly pilfered and recycled as belt buckles!

Holden EHPerformance made a big jump. Modern Motor tested the EJ in September 1962 and recorded 82mph (132km/h) for the manual and 77mph (124km/h) for the auto-equipped Premier, each with 3.9:1 gears. The EH, tested the following year, recorded a best of 103mph (166km/h) for the three-speed 179 with 3.55:1 gears, and 97mph (156km/h) for the auto Premier. Acceleration was similarly improved: a manual EJ managed the 0–60mph (0–100km/h) dash in a leisurely 18 seconds; a manual 179 EH did it in 10.7sec. Even the 149 manual EH with 3.36:1 gears could manage it in 15.8sec.

The 179 was initially only available with the Hydramatic auto or with the S4, Holden’s first foray into the performance car market. Just 120 S4s were made in order to qualify for the 1963 Armstrong 500 (the first to be held at Mount Panorama) and were based on the Special. While the 179 donks remained essentially standard, the S4s copped hardened gears, beefed-up clutches, brake boosters, sintered metal brake linings, 4.5JJ rims and larger capacity fuel tanks. Nothing to set the world on fire but Ralph Sach and Fred Morgan’s S4 placed second outright in the 500, a great sign of things to come.

Read next: Harrop-injected LS2-powered 1964 EH Holden

Holden EHThe EH also added a Premier wagon to the range and was the first model to offer factory fitted Saginaw power steering, though some EJs had been fitted with aftermarket units.

Body-wise, the EH shared a number of panels with the EJ but was significantly different in other areas, including the boot, rear quarters, roof and front guards, as well as its new tail-lights, bonnet and grille. This was a far greater change than FX-FJ, FE-FC or FB-EK, all of which were simple facelifts by comparison. These changes delivered a tougher, more masculine design.

Read more: SMOTY-winning 1964 Holden EH wagon

The EH has been a hugely popular car with street machiners ever since, though values of the less popular EJ have caught up in recent years. As the fastest-selling Holden to date, the EH was always going to be a hard act to follow.

HOLDEN EH IN DETAIL:

Holden EH interior1. The interior was one area in which the EH remained similar to the EJ. A 120mph speedo replaced the EJ’s 100mph item and two-speed wipers were fitted to all models. They also featured small indents on the fold-down glovebox lid for cups or glasses — decades before the advent of cup holders!

 

Holden EH engine bay2. The EH was the debut of the famous red motor, on which all Holden sixes were based until the 3.0-litre Nissan six in the VL Commodore in 1986. The red motor was a much more modern engine than the grey it replaced, with seven-bearing crankshaft, external oil pump and filter, improved head design and an oversquare bore x stroke ratio.

Read next: Celebrating the Holden Red motor six 

Holden EH wagon3. The Premier was Holden’s first shot at building a luxury model, introduced on the EJ and continued through until the HZ. On EJ and EH, Prems can be identified by gold badges. They were available as automatic only and were loaded with extra fruit.

 

Holden EH rear4. The EH sedan is easy to pick from the EJ from the rear by its flatter rear 'screen, vertical tail-lights and squared-off boot. The EJ's smooth fuel filler flap was also replaced with a more conventional external round cap. EH wagons were fitted with the vertical tail-lights but utes and vans stuck with the EJ design.

GRAHAM PRICE, EH Holden Special

Holden EH front

GRAHAM’S 1964 EH is a gorgeous example in Wandana Turquoise and Fowlers Ivory. Graham restored the car in 1986 and it has just 27,000 miles on the clock. While it was delivered with only mudflaps and the windscreen visor as options, the car now has around 40 accessories fitted, including spats, stainless sill moulds, passenger parcel shelf, push-button Air Chief Diamond Dot radio, gearlever light, seatbelts, twin horns, plastic seat covers, handbrake warning light, pull handles, electric windscreen washer, heater and a clock incorporated into the temp/oil/generator warning lights.

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