email@example.com or via snail mail at Unique Cars, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, 3166. Yep, he’s gonna fix you up in no time…
At first I thought he was winding me up. Sometime UC snapper Muttley was on the other end of the phone, trying to convince me he had some kind of proof that a red-motored EJ Holden did, in fact, exist. I didn’t know to think. Still don’t, really.
For those who came in late, this column has been obsessed at various stages over the last three years or so with the notion that at least a handful of EJ Holdens escaped the production line with a red motor between their chassis rails, rather than the grey motor that was said by others to be the only engine ever fitted to an EJ at the factory.
Along the way, there’ve been some riotous arguments, counter-arguments, theories, wild theories and plain old shouting matches as the supporters from either camp lined up toe-to-toe for the stoush. And even then, we never really managed to change anybody’s mind either way. What was perhaps most surprising was the fact that any group of people could be so passionate about something that happened five-and-ahalf decades earlier and doesn’t really make any difference these days. But then, car people are like that, aren’t we?
Anyway, the theories put forward to explain this unicorn Holden included the fact that Holden ran out of grey motors before the end of EJ production. From there, the theory was refined by speculation that the red-motored EJs seen in the wild (by those who remembered them) were more often than not commercial vehicles – utes and panel-vans – and that these would have been the last of the EJ breed to be produced as Holden began switching the production line over to the new for 64 EH Holden.
Not that it makes any difference, but my own belief is that the odd EJ did indeed escape with a red 149 under its lid. I’ve heard the story too many times from too many different sources not to suspect it’s true. But mainly, I’ve had a few people contact me through this magazine to tell me, first-hand, about the red-motored EJ Holden they saw as a kid way back when the EJ was the model filling Holden showrooms. To me, that’ll do. What have these folks got to gain by lying to me? I think at some point, politicians aside, you just have to take some people at face value. Especially when they’re people like us. In fact, they are us.
Anyway, things died down for a while there, and even though we put out a call for other eye-witnesses and even checked out a few EJs for sale that might have provided more clues, the trail kind of went cold. Until Muttley rang me.
What he had his mitts on, he claimed, was an official General Motors-Holden’s workshop manual for the repair and servicing of the EJ Holden, with a supplement for the newer EH model. Published by the GM-H Service Department, the book even carries a GM part number.
Now, flipping through the book, nothing really leapt out at me. Until I looked closely at the various illustrations. One of the pictures shows the special tool for engine removal; a kind of hook deal that grabs the engine by the manifolds and allows a block and tackle to do the heavy lifting. But look again. Unless I’m mistaken, the engine in the illustration is a red motor. The ribbed rocker cover and position of the crankcase breather cap tell me that much.
And now take a peek at the engine bay. More specifically, the wiper cowl under the car’s windscreen. Again, unless I’m mistaken, that split cowl-grille is specific to the Holden EJ, while the EH has a similar, but one-piece cowl-grille.
So here’s the million-dollar question: If an official Holden publication can include a picture of a red motor in an EJ (if, indeed, that’s what it is) isn’t it just possible that such a thing existed?
I don’t think I need to say any more. Over to you folks…
Morning Morley. Enclosed is a Celica brochure for your collection. The brochure came in a Celica Liftback I inspected for my son in the mid-to-late 80s. I thought it had been detailed, but looking closer, I deduced that the Celica had been kept by an absolute fanatic.
My son had it approximately three months before barrelrolling it attempting to be the quickest kid around a 90-degree right-hander on a dirt road. Not one panel was salvageable and the header of the A-pillar was bent over the steering wheel. Son and mate were okay as the big, fat B-pillar acted as a rollbar right over their stupid heads.
Also, you may already know this, but your notchback coupe was used to convert to convertibles. Perhaps that’s why not too many coupes remain.
THANKS FOR the pressie, Peter…always nice to get little bundles of joy in the mail. In the absence of a pool room, that brochure will be going up on the wall in the MBC next to the posters of Norton Commandos and the one of the Hemi six with its headers glowing red-hot. So, thanks again.
Shame about your son and him running out of talent about the apex of that right-hander. Three months isn’t a long time to own a car, even by my standards. Interesting that it was the big B-pillar that might have save him, too.
I did know that the RA40 Coupe was used to make convertibles and I think there was at least a couple of mobs doing it back in the day. I think Sunchaser was one that I know of, but there were probably more than one in California in the day. But, to be honest, the subject of chopping the roofs off otherwise useful Celicas is a bit of a sore point with me.
I know I’ve mentioned it here before, but as a kid I owned an RA23 Celica coupe that I plonked an 18RG twin-cam engine into and drove it like there was no tomorrow. I eventually sold it (immediately regretting it) to a knob who took it straight to a panel shop and had them chop off the roof of this arrow-straight, zero-rust RA23 coupe. All because he wanted to feel the wind through his thinning hair. I guarantee that car is now three fridges and a dishwasher, but had it been left alone, I’m certain it would have survived simply because it was so sound.
At least when your son ruined his Celica, he did it in an honourable (if stoopid) way.
I read an article in the October edition of Unique Cars in relation to the Austin J40 pedal-cars. My father purchased one of these cars, second-hand, around 1960. The car was given away to another family when I got older but was able to track it down when I had children of my own. I gave it a quick overhaul and my children had fun driving around in it. When I finally put it back in the garage it had lost a lot of the chrome bling.
I now have grandchildren and a couple of years ago I pulled it out of the garage, was able to source parts from England, repaired and painted it and now my grandchildren enjoy it. I thought you might like to see how it looks now.
IT LOOKS AMAZING, John, especially since it wasn’t even brand-new when your dad bought it way back in around 1960. Apparently, there’s a huge cult of pedal cars in the USA – and has been for some years – and some of them change hands for incredible sums of money. Five and six thousand bucks is not uncommon, it seems. From what I can gather, the world record price for a pedal car was back in 2015 when a kid’s Morris Minor sold for £3600. More, it seems, than a real Morrie Minor at the same auction. That said, the prices of some of the US stuff changing hands now must be rivalling that figure.
Meantime, I’m sure your grandkids love it as much as your kids and, indeed, you enjoyed the old Austin back in the day.
According to research I just made up, the manufacturer was determined to make the J40 as authentic as possible, so a small bottle of oil was fitted under the car with a valve adjusted to leak a few drops each night. And Editor Guido wants to know if the car would be worth more to a collector if both pedals have matching part numbers. But we’re both idiots, so don’t take any notice of us.
I wonder what the ratio is of surviving J40 pedal cars to surviving actual Austin A40 Devons. Anybody want to hazard a guess? I guess given that both the J40 and A40 were built by Austin itself, they probably had similar durability problems, making either version a pretty rare sight these days.
A contribution for you following your call for famous movie and TV cars: Cars made famous (or more famous) by linking them to crime fighters on the screen got me thinking. Steve McQueen’s Mustang in Bullitt and Tom Selleck’s Ferrari in Magnum PI are a little too obvious. So too, maybe, is Roger Moore’s saintly P1800 Volvo.
But what about the not so famous? When Patrick McGoohan was cast to play the Bondesque John Drake in Dangerman, producers thought it fit to give him a Mini. No Aston Martin in that budget.
If you made a TV series about a fired CIA spy trying to make a living as a private-eye, surely you’d give him a set of wheels a bit more muscular than a Hillman Imp. But that’s the car chosen for Richard Bradford in the oddly-titled and short-lived Man in a Suitcase.
Who remembers our own John Stanton in the detective series Bellamy from 1981? The other star of the show was Steve Bellamy’s yellow XD Falcon.
If you took your eyes off Angie Dickinson for a moment while watching Police Woman you might have noticed her 1974 model Mercury Cougar.
But arguably the finest of this little list was the choice of wheels for Steve Forrest (of later SWAT fame) in his role as John Mannering in The Baron. They gave him an oyster-grey 1965 Jensen CV8.
SOUNDS LIKE you’ve been spending a wee bit too much time in front of the idiot box, Jason. Other than the ones you’ve mentioned as too obvious, I don’t think I’ve heard of any of the others. That’s apart from Angie Dickinson (as Pepper Anderson in Police Woman) and her Mercury Cougar.
And man, aren’t some of those car choices mind-boggling. I reckon if modern crime fighters drove around in Hillman Imps, a Mini and an XD Falcon, crime would definitely be on the increase. The good guys would certainly be easier to outrun in the inevitable car chase scene, anyway.
Meantime, I’m off to search the internet for Steve Bellamy’s yellow XD Falcon. Somehow, this is an Aussie cop show that managed to pass me by altogether. That said, when I was growing up in the bush, we often only had two channels; the ABC and one commercial network. Which is why I was forced to mess about outside with billy-carts and mini-bikes rather than sitting inside glued to the crystal bucket (as Bill Tuckey used to call it). Hmmm, might be something in that…
Hi Morley. I refer to your picks in issue 423 and your comments on the early Toyota Crown. I believe the Toyota Crown you saw at the 2018 Motorclassica is my car and, I agree, that your ‘horrified’ mates can indeed ‘go to buggery’. One thing for sure is that none of them will ever own a finer early Crown which was a finalist in the ‘preserved class’ at Motorclassica.
I like the early Crowns because of their unique Japanese styling and sophistication which became diluted as transpacific trade accelerated. They certainly put Toyota on the path to world automotive leadership. Hopefully, I will be presenting my extremely rare, preserved 1965, six-cylinder MS41S at this year’s Motorclassica (pics enclosed). As to value, the price that I have been offered for my Crown De Luxe would shadow that of many high profile ‘trophy cars’. Cheers.
AH, SO IT was your car I was (metaphorically) dribbling over at Motorclassica, eh? It’s nice when somebody else comes out of the woodwork and admits a fondness for something a bit left of centre. Kind of restores your faith in your own judgment.
You raise an interesting point about the style of these 60s and 70s Japanese cars, Brian: Yes, they had their own thing going on, probably (I think) because of the way Japan interpreted America back then. I reckon there are other examples, too. My own RA40 is a classic example; styled in the USA, engineered and built in Japan. The early Mazda 121 coupe from the mid-70s (which also sold here as an RX-5 with the rotary engine) is another. In fact, Mazda took things one step further than that with the Landau version of the two-door 121 with its oriental take on the opera window and padded vinyl roof of Yankee yachts like the Lincoln Continental and others.
My ultimate Crown is either an MS50 or MS60, preferably in station-wagon form, although the ultra-rare Ute would be tempting, too. Think about that: A flagship luxury car that was also available as a Ute. Can you imagine a Rolls-Royce Corniche as a ute? (That said, some Hooray Henry in the UK, untroubled by an especially deep gene pool, has probably already done it.)
Driving songs: Not an easy question for me. Depends upon what type of driving I am doing and the mood I am in. When I used to drive Canberra to Melbourne on a Friday night after work (or the reverse on a Sunday night after race meetings) I would put on anything from Vangelis’ Antarctica to AC/DC and a lot of good stuff in between.
I needed the music as I started doing the drive when the Hume was single lane so the trip would take seven or eight hours, as I was going down the south-east side towards Frankston. As this is ‘A’ I will go with ‘Are You Ready’ by AC/DC on The Razors Edge album.
Here's my tip
GEEZ, MAL, I don’t know what would put me to sleep at the wheel faster: Listening to Vangelis or knowing that I was heading back to Canberra. I mean, really, Vangelis? He of Chariot’s of Fire theme music fame? Well, I suppose at least you weren’t going to have to listen to it again in a hurry. Until you stepped into a lift, anyway. But I’m with you all the way on AC/DC. In fact, I don’t think there’s an album the lads have produced yet that hasn’t had some good bang-itup-a-gear-and-floor-thethrottle songs on it.
Meantime, let’s retire the alphabet thing (the deadlines of a magazine mean there’s always two issues between results) and just concentrate on the songs that make us want to double-clutch and rev the engine at the lights.
And in that spirit, I’d like to nominate one of my all-time driving song faves, ‘Take a Long Line’ by the absolute pinnacle of Aussie pub rockers, the Angels. How can you go past lyrics like:
“He gave them a smile, pulled out a bottle of wine, And said, I never existed, you’ve been wasting your time.”
I saw the Angels live a couple of times in the 80s (most notably at the Rulies Club in Wagga) and they never failed to inspire a reckless spectacle. RIP Doc.
Meantime, I also recall the Hume when it was a highway rather than a freeway. Back in those days, if you had your shit together, you could get along quite nicely. I remember one day, tucking my twin-cam Celica in behind a genuine Blue Meanie (still a new car back then) and travelling the stretch between Kalkallo and Wangaratta at a proper, old-school, pre-metric ton. Nobody died and, from memory, nobody cared. And yes, I believe I had The Angels in the tape-deck at the time.
In the mid-70s a mate of mine from the Triumph Sports Owners Association of WA was enjoying a sunny day driving around Riverside Drive in Perth. He pulled down the sun visor and was suddenly eye to eye with a BIG Huntsman. Trying to swat it out of the car he lost control and the results can be seen in the pic attached!
The TR6 was repaired after a lengthy wait for parts, specs now included a roll-bar. Another member of the club owned a TR5 and also a Series 1 Land Rover. He and a Huntsman shared the Landie happily for years!
I’VE NEVER REALLY understood people’s negative reactions to finding a spider ridesharing with them. But then, I’m not terrified of the eight-legged buggers, so I can’t really relate to the horror that arachnophobes experience. Fact is, I don’t even like shoo-ing them out of the house at 13 Struggle Street; to my way of thinking, they can sit there and eat mosquitos all they like. The Speaker has an alternative view, of course.
Looking at the picture you sent, Geoff, it appears to have been quite a big prang suffered by your spider-fearing mate and his TR6. Which leads me to a fairly entertaining mental picture of the titanic struggle that must have ensued between man and critter. I mean, you don’t run off the road and flip a car because you’ve casually wound down the window to flick a spider out, do you? Nope, there must have ben some serious arm-waving and heavy breathing going on at the time.
As for your other mate, well, I reckon a spider in an early Land Rover is the least of your worries. Having driven an early, short-wheelbase Landie quite recently, I can confidently tell you’re likely to be vastly more concerned with the crash gearbox, the lack of brakes, weedy engine and suspension that wants to bounce you off the road, long after you’ve forgotten about old Schneider the Spider. (BTW, bonus points for anybody who can tell me what esteemed publication Schneider the Spider first appeared in.)
Just an update on the light saga for my Skoda. I went to the big shop that sells stuff Really Cheap to price some LED driving lights. A 20-inch light bar was about $200, wiring loom about the same and the mounting bracket was about $100. So, about $500 for the lot.
Then I looked up Mr Google and had the lot landed here for $70. Now that’s what I call cheap. Bolted straight on and worked fine.
It’s a miracle. I can see. Just one thing; how the bloody hell are you supposed to get the wiring inside for the switch? It’s not like the old Kingswood where you could drill a hole in the firewall and poke your wires through. Open to any suggestions out there from anyone.
GLAD TO HEAR you got a result, Phil. Like I said, there’s nothing worse than driving a car at night that wants to outrun its own headlights. I get the convenience of shopping online, and from your maths, it’s clear that you saved a lot of money doing it that way. But I reckon a word of caution here doesn’t go astray.
As I found out the hard way with an online radiator (that cost me a head gasket) the quality of some of the gear you can buy online is just not there.
And, yes, I know a lot of the stuff at the big budget auto shops mightn’t be much (any?) better. But at least if it goes wrong you can take it back to the shop with your docket and have a meaningful conversation with the manager.
But buying it online, you’ve got a whole lot less comeback should the stuff not do what it says on the box. You can’t always trust the online ratings and customer comments, or at least, I don’t.
The other catch is that sometimes you buy something like a thermatic fan online, only to get it home from the mailbox and discover that there’s no loom included nor switch to control it. Once you’ve gone out and bought those extra bits and pieces, the original purchase can start to look a lot less like a bargain.
As for getting wiring through a modern firewall, good luck with that. I usually try to find where something else like part of the factory loom passes through and piggy-back with that. Sometimes you luck out and find a blind grommet that isn’t in use, but you can’t even use the hole where the throttle-cable passes through these days, because everything is throttle-by-wire. And yes, drilling a hole in a brand-new car gives me the shivers, too.