My ute is an early EH, built in 1963, that I managed to find out west several years ago. Holden by this time offered a big range, with several sedans, a wagon, a van and a utility. You could get a 149 or 179ci six, with manual three-speed (no synchro on the three-speed Hydra-Matic auto.
Exactly how this came about is uncertain. I guess I was working with a guy who was into Holdens at the time and I was into old cars to some extent but never really had the time, money or inclination to do anything. For some reason working with him got me looking for an EH ute, one of the cars I always liked or wanted. I must have got one of the last of the good cars ever sold out of the paper version of the Trading Post.
I’ve had it six or seven years. It came from Dirranbandi (western Queensland) and spent its whole life there. It had only two owners before I got it. The first only drove it 10,000 miles – I have a feeling it may have been the Dirranbandi dealer’s car. And then the bloke after that passed away and his daughters sold it to me.
It was in pretty good shape for the age of the car – minimal rust and it was drivable. I test-drove it and it was still registered at the time. It was certainly a find.
The body was pretty good. There was a bit of rust in the bottom of the doors and the front guards. We did the floor pans in the end and a little bit in the back of the tray. Really it wasn’t too bad all. My mate Perry is a panel beater who welded in the floors and did much of the other bodywork. We took the trouble to strip it down and put it all back together.
We had it off the road for about 18 months, so it was a fairly quick project. The final exterior paint was done in a panel shop, though Perry tackled some of the detail work such as inside the doors and engine bay.
It’s been retrimmed. I had the kits made up by a mob in Adelaide called Winner Products and asked a local trimmer to fit them for me.
The engine was changed over long before I bought it. It would have had a 149 initially. There’s some paperwork with the car that records it happening – I think it was an Opel change-over unit upgraded to 179. We ended up giving it a light rebuild, as there was rust in one of the bores, so that was resleeved. We left it very standard as I wanted something that was reasonably faithful to the original.
I think we succeeded as it’s pretty amazing to drive and brings back a lot of memories. I learned to drive in non-synchro cars and it brings back all those feelings from whenever it was.
Once you get them rolling they feel as though they will go forever. I reckon on a long trip it would be me rather than the car that would be the problem, with the heat or the cold, as it hasn’t got all the mod cons. It’s still pretty amazing to drive.
The signwriting on the side advertises my business and I managed to find a local semi-retired signwriter who used to have a business out at Dalby.
His name’s Peter and he now lives in Toowoomba. He did a great job and enjoyed it. I hung around while he did it. There was a bit of debate over how it should look, as I really wanted that old faded effect where he felt that – since the ute looked to shiny – the signwriting should look like new. But I stuck to my guns and we kept it that way. He wasn’t too keen on putting the website on the side, either, but apparently the customer won.
2.9lt inline six (originally 2.4lt)
86kW @4000rpm 273Nm @1600rpm
Coil front, leaf rear hydraulic drums
It looks like I’ve been bitten by the restoration bug as I now have an HQ ute underway. I was finding it hard to get motivated to go to work, so I started another expensive project! That is more of a restomod and I’m hoping to kick the habit after this one. Wish me luck.