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The story behind this 60’s Holden classic

Holden classic car

If you’re out early enough at Noosa’s river mouth or First Point, you’ll likely spot this striking 1964 EH Holden wagon with surf board on its roof.

Views here are practically unspoilt by developments, so with the EH in sight and sun beating down on rolling waves, you could be transported to those carefree 60s surf days before tourists knew about the place.

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History’s very important to this wagon’s owner, 77-year-old Warren Evans. A 40-year Noosa local, he bought the EH from a representative of its original owner about 14 years ago. The well-used EH came complete with its original bill of sale, service booklet and tool kit.

Warren also tracked down an EJ and EH shop manual off eBay; a chunky booklet that’s invaluable for maintaining this 60-year-old classic.

The little red motor that could

“Older cars are easy to work on,” Warren explained. “You open the bonnet and can see the grass underneath. You haven’t got this plethora of electronics and mechanicals everywhere.”

Popping the hood proves his point. Holden’s famed “Red” motor made its debut in these EHs, and this – the smallest 149cu in (2.4-litre) inline six-cylinder – takes up just a portion of the generous engine bay. Back in 1963, when the EH was introduced, these 149 and larger 179 red motors were big leaps over the outgoing “Grey” Holden engines.

The 149 offered 75kW and the 179 86kW – tame by today’s standards, but increases of 33 per cent and 53 per cent over those old greys. The new engines featured goodies such as a seven-bearing crankshaft, an external oil pump and filter for easier servicing, hydraulic valve lifters and higher compression. It was smoother, stronger and more economical, and Warren says for daily driving, despite his 149 being the smaller motor, “it goes okay.”

Not quick, but why rush when you’re on the coast road anyway?

Blue skies

Warren’s carried out the bulk of the EH’s engine, transmission and interior work himself. He grew up around Essendon,
Victoria, where his mechanically minded father taught him basic mechanics as a kid.

“I’ve kept it going ever since,” he said. “I started off hotting up Victa lawnmowers, then went to racing motorbikes, before getting into cars like hotting up FJ Holdens.”

When he bought the EH wagon it was in good but tired condition. The previous owner had already had the body repainted its original Barwon Blue/Fowlers Ivory two-tone, but had run out of money to do the interior. Even so, the life the vehicle had led meant some aspects still appeared factory new.

It was originally bought new in June 1964 at Eagers Toowoomba, by a builder from the nearby town of Pittsworth. Holden called this wagon the Special Station Sedan, and it cost £1199, rego was £16 and delivery another £10.

“I reckon the builder rolled the rear seats forward and would have put a tray across the back for his tools,” said Warren. “The rear seat and door cards are original, and look virtually unused.”

The front seats and door cards were re-worked by a contact who bought all the original colour dyes from GM Holden. These – and the rears – still burst with that 1960s blue colour.

One special wagon

You could buy these EHs in three grades: Standard, Special and Premier. The ‘Special’ badge on this car’s front fender gives away its level, although Warren said “there’s nothing I can find that’s special about it, except that I love it. It hasn’t got anything other than an air vent; there’s no heater or anything.”

The ’Special’ features actually include stainless steel trim along the sides, two-tone vinyl interiors and the white roof.
You had to move into the Premier to score goodies like leather, a two-speed fan heater and rather fancy push button AM radio.

The dashboard in this wagon is original, its chromework and rather optimistic 120mph speedo sparkling in the sunshine after a thorough clean-up job by Warren. Simple chrome knobs to the left of the steering column covers your lighter (integral back in the 60s), wipers and choke for the threespeed manual gearbox. It’s a column shift with no synchro on first.

“The original owner had a stroke and couldn’t put the clutch in anymore,” Warren explains. “He’d used it with a trailer on the back and with roof bars, and by the time I got it, it needed some TLC. The motor was well worn, but it just needed a re-bore, new rings and bearings.”

While leaving the bore job to professionals, Warren put the engine back together himself before tackling the
gearbox. He gifted it new bearings, new universal joints and new synchro rings, but was pleased to see the diff remained fine.
Robust old things these Holdens.

“Parts are quite easy to get hold of, Rare Spares has plenty,” Warren explains. “Little things like synchro rings are hard to come by, but the EJ-EH Holden Club has people with workshops full of parts, so I can pick up a fair bit.”

Consistent care

There was a good dose of rust in the wagon’s panels, which must be regularly monitored. It had spent most of its life in inland Queensland, but now must endure the salty moist air of its current coastal home. Warren had new metal parts cut
in rather than bogging it up to ensure the job was done properly. The finish, as you can see in the images, has made the
expenditure worthwhile.

The suspension and drum brakes are as original fitment, and Warren said the EH’s anchors are more of a concern than being able to keep up with traffic.

“It’s very hard to pull up quickly,” he said. “It’s not sophisticated brake-wise. You must check they’re working okay quite regularly, as if you don’t use the car the brakes will stick.”

As for general maintenance – as Warren said earlier – these are relatively very simple cars to work on.

“You just adjust the points, put new plugs in, just tune it,” he explained. “It prefers being used, so I drive it pretty regularly to the surf spots.”

The car made a very important trip to Toowoomba when its original purchaser passed away.

“I drove at the front of his funeral parade in this car, as it was the vehicle everyone knew him for,” Warren said. “His wife and daughter, who had learnt to drive in it, were in the EH with me.”

Now firmly a part of his own family, Warren said he still loves working on his classic wagon, and it remains a popular sight in prized Noosa parking positions when the surf’s pumping. Exactly sixty years ago these EH Holdens were the fastest selling Australian car ever. It took the fight to the recently-launched Ford Falcon, and we bought over 250,000 EHs in its 18-months on sale, before it made way for the new HD.

Parked up beside Noosa’s shoreline, Warren’s well used, much loved and beautifully restored example is a quintessential slice of Australian history.

We (sadly) really don’t make them like we used to.

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