MOR­LEY’S WORK­SHOP

HE’S MR BUSY, VH SS SE­CRETS, DE­FEND­ING THE AU, XJ40 WOR­RIES

Unique Cars - - CONTENTS -

Still show­ing red

I read you are st ill ta lk ing about EJ Hold­ens with red mo­tors. They did ex ist. We had a cus­tomer at the ser v ice sta­tion where I worked in Hunt­ing­dale (Mel­bourne) who worked at GM. He had a high-up job; not sure what but he was a lways well dressed and we even saw him driv­ing an XM Fal­con which, I think, was for test ing.

He turned up one day to show us his new car: An EJ Holden with a red mo­tor. The car had been used for test ing, t hen it got re­built and he was able to buy it.

I t hink it was beige wit h a brown top.

By the way, I got my li­cense on t he Au­gust 24, 1964 in a brand-new EH 179 man­ual. All the cop wanted to k now was how fast it went.

Howard Reynolds, Email.

NOW, THIS is very in­ter­est­ing Howard, be­cause an old mate of mine who worked at Holden back in the day (and who is no longer with us) used to moon­light at a ser­vice-sta­tion some­where around that part of Mel­bourne (he had seven or eight kids) and I seem to re­mem­ber him telling me about a man­ager of some sort who snavelled a `spe­cial’ EJ Holden as his com­pany car. Ap­par­ently, some­time in 1964, the fella in ques­tion was told he could come and pick up his new EH com­pany car, but when he sat in it, he found the mod­i­fied EJ gave him more head­room. So he elected to keep this one-off EJ. Could it be the same bloke? How good’s your mem­ory Howard? Was he a tall chap?

Mean­time, the idea of a Holden man­age­ment geezer be­ing able to get hold of an ex-en­gi­neer­ing test car seems fairly likely, es­pe­cially back then. And even if you don’t hold with the idea of any EJs ever making it off the pro­duc­tion line with a red mo­tor on board, you’d have to con­cede that Holden must have had red-mo­tored mules run­ning around prior to the launch of the EH. And what would you base those test mules on? Yep, the EJ, since it was the then-cur­rent Holden (so wouldn’t raise any sus­pi­cions if seen in the street) and it was the model that most closely rep­re­sented the EH’s var­i­ous me­chan­i­cal, per­for­mance and di­men­sional at­tributes.

Pre­sum­ably, they would all have been scrapped at the end of their testing days, but if a par­tic­u­lar man­age­ment high-up

de­cided he wanted to keep his (‘cos he couldn’t wear his hat in the new EH) then who knows…

Mean­while Howard, good for you for some­how man­ag­ing to take your driv­ing test in a brand-new EH 179 with a man­ual box. That’d be like a kid go­ing for his li­cense right now in a brand spank­ing HSV Se­na­tor. The EH with a 179 was about the fastest thing on four wheels back then, and I reckon it might have been tak­ing a bit of a risk, be­cause there’s no way a cop­per on a con­sta­ble’s wage would have been driv­ing any­thing re­motely as cool back then. At least you seem to have scored a bloke who was a petrol-head. But the ques­tion re­mains unan­swered: Did you find a quiet bit of road and show the wal­loper just what an EH 179 could do?

Me? I did my test in a 1969 Toy­ota Crown. That was ge­nius: All the cop­per wanted to do was make sure I could change gears and iden­tify the brake pedal from the throt­tle, and then get the hell out of the old death-trap. The test lasted pre­cisely one lap of the block. And yes, I passed. I miss the good old days.

Red let­ter day

Dur­ing t he restora­tion of a fac­tory VH SS 308( not HDT) the word `sport’ was found writ­ten in red paint un­der the tar in­su­la­tion on the driv­ers floor pan( tar was re­moved us­ing dr y ice).

Af­ter con­tact­ing Holden his­tor­i­cal ser­vices they said this was not a nor­mal pro­duc­tion mark­ing and sug­gested I speak with HDT. HDT said they had heard of cars be­ing marked like t his.

I then spoke with Phil Brock who sug­gested con­tact­ing Es­mond Ed­wards who was the race co­or­di­na­tor for GMPA Dan­de­nong in the day. In turn, Es­mond con­firmed that he did re­mem­ber this mark be­ing used on a few rolling chas­sis for race teams.

This V H is a late-build just be­fore t he V K sta rted, so it ap­pears t hat it was not used and then turned into a road car. So where are t he rest if any more are out t here?

Alan Grif­fiths, Email.

SOUNDS TO ME, Alan, that you might have stum­bled on to a car that was ear­marked for a tour­ing-car team (per­haps the mighty HDT it­self) which was then dis­cov­ered to be sur­plus to re­quire­ments and thrown back on to the pro­duc­tion

“THE EH WITH A 179 WAS ABOUT THE FASTEST THING ON FOUR WHEELS BACK THEN”

line to be fin­ished off as a road-car. Which also seems to be the con­clu­sion you’ve drawn. It makes sense that `sport’ was painted on the bare floor be­fore sound-proofing was added, be­cause a race-car wouldn’t have had sound-proofing in the first place. It fur­ther makes sense that a VH Com­modore SS was the model cho­sen, too, as these had all the mounts and holes for a V8 in­stal­la­tion as well as be­ing based on the base-model VH, making them the light­est of the V8 range.

But here’s how to tell defini­tively if your bodyshell was once des­tined to be­come a race-car: The race-car shells were, I’m told, built in batches and were usu­ally white. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been painted a dif­fer­ent colour later on, but they usu­ally started life in stark white. The other give­aways are that the shell will be dou­ble seam-welded, so you’ll need to get down and dirty to check the welds and see if they are in fact dou­ble-seam jobs. The third clue is that the race shells had cap­tive nuts welded into the A-pil­lar to at­tach the roll-cage just be­fore it dis­ap­peared through the dash­board on the way to the front footwell. If your car has those el­e­ments, I’d say you’re def­i­nitely on to a race-car bodyshell.

It’s pos­si­ble to imag­ine that a bunch of cars would have been ear­marked for mo­tor­sport du­ties and that not all of them were ul­ti­mately needed, es­pe­cially as one model (the VH) handed over to the next (VK). You also need to bear in mind that back in those days, the race-car in ques­tion did, in­deed, need to be based on a pro­duc­tion-car bodyshell. That was the CAMS re­quire­ment, be­cause a whole bunch of other stuff be­yond the body also had to be pro­duc­tion-based. Ob­vi­ously, that’s not how it’s done these days with what are es­sen­tially tube-chas­sis cars with non-struc­tural car­bon-fi­bre body pan­els and a whole bunch of other stuff you can’t buy from a Holden or Ford deal­er­ship. But back in black and white, that was the deal.

So, back to your ques­tion: Where are the other `sport’ cars lurk­ing. Ac­tu­ally, I wouldn’t mind bet­ting there’d be a few out there with own­ers that are none the wiser, purely be­cause they’ve never had oc­ca­sion to re­move the sound-proofing tar and gaze at what se­crets lie be­neath. Mind you, if you took any VH Com­modore at ran­dom and re­moved the sound-proofing, all you’re likely to see is rust, a crack in the floor­pan where the driver’s seat mount has stressed the metal over time and a cou­ple of big lumps in the floor where the car has fallen off a jack over the years.

By the way, Alan, the dry-ice thing is a good trick, no? It saves plenty of time and ef­fort with a heat gun and scraper and does a neater job into the bar­gain. I have to thank Scotty on sis­ter mag Street

Ma­chine for the tip, but hav­ing used dry-ice on Project Duck­poop, I’ll never try to re­move tar in­su­la­tion any other way.

Durable Daim­ler?

I’m con­sid­er­ing a Jag-Daim­ler XJ40. What can you tell me about en­gine dura­bilit y? Are t here any nig­gles to be aware of or any other short com­ings in­clud­ing sus­pen­sion? How about build qualit y?

Ray An­der­son, email

OH BOY, here comes a can of worms. Jaguar and Daim­ler peo­ple re­ally do love their cars and can get quite hot un­der the col­lar when any­body dumps on their pre­cious cars. Which wouldn’t be such a prob­lem if so many of them weren’t so­lic­i­tors and mag­is­trates. But here we go any­way…

The XJ40 was sup­posed to rep­re­sent a new dawn for Jaguar in terms of per­for­mance and qual­ity. Fun­da­men­tally, it was sup­posed to re­place the age­ing XJ6 which had run from 1968. But when the XJ40 lobbed in 1986, Jaguar found there was still de­mand for the old girl, so the XJ6 sol­diered on in Se­ries 3 form right up un­til 1992.

It now seems a bit odd that Jaguar would have sold the pair along­side each other, but I guess it’s man­age­ment de­ci­sions like those that help ex­plain why Jaguar was once sold to Ford and is now owned by In­dian gi­ant Tata. Any­way, the XJ40 was de­signed to re­tain the nice things about an XJ and build on that with a bit more moder­nity. So, it got a new fam­ily of six-cylin­der en­gines (the AJ6) that re­tained the fa­mous DOHC lay­out of the old XK se­ries of en­gines, but with four valves per cylin­der. It also kept the sup­ple in­de­pen­dent rear end and, un­less you’re com­pletely blind, the XJ40 still bore a strik­ing re­sem­blance to the old XJ6. That said, it was not as pretty as a Se­ries 1 XJ.

As for buy­ing one to­day, well, it prob­a­bly shouldn’t be your only car. Don’t get me wrong, they were lovely to drive back in the day, but re­li­a­bil­ity was not then one of Jaguar’s par­tic­u­larly long suits. From what I can gather, the ba­sic me­chan­i­cal pack­age is quite well re­solved. It’s just the an­cil­lar­ies that are prone to let­ting you down. But, ob­vi­ously, any car of this age can have worn sus­pen­sion bits and pieces and a gear­box that’s on the way out, so get­ting a Jaguar spe­cial­ist to in­spect any po­ten­tial purchase is prob­a­bly the smartest move you could make.

The big bo­gey is any­thing to do with an XJ40’s elec­tri­cal sys­tem. Es­sen­tially, if it works on the ba­sis of a flow of elec­trons, pre­sume it won’t. And it’s not just the power win­dows; the dash­board on the XJ40 was one of the early elec­tronic ones and even the noise you hear when you turn on the in­di­ca­tors is an elec­tri­cally-syn­the­sised one and not the sim­ple, re­as­sur­ing sound of a re­lay click­ing.

The dra­mas were largely down to cost-cut­ting at Jaguar, com­bined with a work­force who tended to de­spise the very peo­ple for whom they were build­ing the cars. And as a direct re­sult, build qual­ity was de­cid­edly iffy.

On the up-side, they’re

cheap now and since the world has moved on, they don’t rep­re­sent the heights of elec­tronic com­plex­ity they once did. Find a spe­cial­ist me­chanic with the right ex­pe­ri­ence and you could be on to a dead-set bar­gain luxo. Run­ning prop­erly, they’re quite good to drive, too, with smooth en­gines and han­dling that is right up there with any­thing Jag’s ri­vals were achiev­ing at the time. Good luck and let us know which way you jump.

Rebel shout out

G’day there Dave. En­joyed your re­ply to t he fella look ing for a T-Se­ries Ford and your com­ments on t he AU se­ries 3. I am t he proud owner of a late se­ries II ‘Rebel’ which has t he iden­tica l up­grades as t he S3 with the 220k w Wind­sor, IRS, LSD, bra ke up­grades and Momo interior. Mine is Win­ter White and has done just over 100,000 km. I have done a lot of work de­tail­ing, re­plac­ing worn items and im­prov­ing other as­pects.

I agree with you about the han­dling as I have owned a bunch of XR Fal­cons, in­clud­ing EL XR8s and the AUII and III are worlds in front in terms of brakes and han­dling com­pared wit h older and, dare I say, newer Fords. One of the best things is that the only driver-aid is ABS. I have a few things in store to wake mine up a lit­tle, but noth­ing that will de tract from the car that Ford and Tick ford de­signed.

I would re­ally en­joy a fea­ture on these great A Us that are, in my opin­ion, the last all Aus­tralian ef­fort.

Cameron O’Brien, Baulkham Hills, NSW.

THERE ARE peo­ple out there, Cameron, who just can’t come to terms with the poor old AU. In fact, there’s a school of thought that it was the AU that sowed the seed of fail­ure that even­tu­ally grew into the tree of mis­ery that top­pled over in the storm of con­tro­versy and started the down­ward spi­ral that even­tu­ally saw Ford Aus­tralia pull out of lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing. Could be, too.

But even if you for­give the old girl that much, the ba­sic AU was still a pretty homely piece of work. But, as I’ve said many times, throw on the XR fas­cias and body kit and you sud­denly had a car that looked a whole hell of a lot

“MOD­ERN CARS ARE ABOUT AS IN­TER­EST­ING TO OWN AS A TURNIP”

bet­ter. Yours looks pretty sharp in that stark white, too.

In any case, to all those who reckon the AU was the model that wrecked Ford Oz, I’d just like to of­fer a coun­ter­point which rec­og­nizes the fact that the AU with its al­loy front cross-mem­ber and ac­cu­rate rack was the best steer­ing Fal­con the world has ever seen. The EL that went be­fore it wasn’t as ac­cu­rate and the EA through EFs had that silly high rear roll-cen­tre that spoiled things. Ev­ery­thing be­fore the EA had a steer­ing box, not a rackand-pin­ion set-up and the BAs, BFs and FGs that came af­ter the AU just never seemed to have the front-end del­i­cacy that the AU de­liv­ered. And as I men­tioned last is­sue, that 220kW tune on the Wind­sor V8 was so sweet, it ac­tu­ally had calo­ries.

Mean­time, you look af­ter that car: If a P76 can be­come col­lectible (and it has, ap­par­ently) then a 220kW AU XR8 is gonna be worth money some­day, too. And you’re al­ready on the right track by keep­ing your mod­i­fi­ca­tions to ar­eas that will im­prove the thing, but leave the over­all char­ac­ter of the car in­tact.

Speak­ing of white AUs, fel­low UC con­trib­u­tor Dr John Wright was shop­ping for an AU XR6 when they were first launched and was think­ing about a white one. But he reck­oned he just couldn’t have lived with the pure white paint con­trast­ing with the black shad­ows of the panel gaps. I told him to just buy it and have the panel gaps painted white. He thought that was good ad­vice, but went and bought a Sparkling Bur­gundy

Fair­mont Ghia any­way. You just can’t help some peo­ple.

Long in the tooth?

I have a 1983 XE Fal­con with a man­ual gear­box and 167,000k m on the clock. At t hat mileage, peo­ple have been adv ising me to get rid of it and buy some­thing newer, or even brand-new. They’re a ll telling me t hat t his is more t han 100,000 miles and t hat any car is likely to be worn out by t hen. What’s t he rea l stor y?

Also, is it just me, or are a ll new cars bor­ing? I can’t f ind any t hing t hat would ac­tua lly re­place t he XE apart from ta k ing up the same space in the drive­way.

Craig Holmes, Bris-Vegas, QLD.

SOUNDS LIKE your mates are car deal­ers, Craig me old mate. Be­cause let me as­sure you, 167,000km is not a whole hell of a lot for a well-main­tained XE Fal­con to have cov­ered. Yes, it does equate to 100,000 miles in the old money. And yes, cars from the 50s and even 60s were gen­er­ally ready for a valve-grind and de-coke (if not the knack­ers’ yard) by then, but the rel­a­tively clean burn­ing al­loy-head six in the XE will go for at least twice that mileage given the right pre­ven­ta­tive at­ten­tion.

Make sure you change the oil reg­u­larly (and don’t for­get the fil­ter) and warm it up be­fore giv­ing it the berries and it’ll con­tinue to put a smile on your dial for many years to come. Watch the val­ues of these old Fal­cons hit their straps in the next hand­ful of years, too. And yours will def­i­nitely be a prized catch if you ever do de­cide to sell it, be­cause even though the dooms­day­ers would have you be­lieve oth­er­wise, 167,000km is ac­tu­ally very low mileage for an XE.

Mean­time, I reckon you’re dead right about mod­ern cars. With a hand­ful of ex­cep­tions, they’re about as in­ter­est­ing to own as a turnip. The big sell­ing point these days is safety and there’s no doubt a new car is go­ing to look af­ter you bet­ter in a shunt, but even then, I have my doubts. See, from where I sit, air-bags and au­ton­o­mous brak­ing are sim­ply mess­ing with nat­u­ral selection.

OP­PO­SITE PAGE Ford’s al­loy-headed six is there for the long haul if you look af­ter it. BE­LOW Whether you’re for ‘em or agin ‘em, there’s no deny­ing that the AUs are sweet steer­ers.

OP­PO­SITE PAGE An XJ40 of­fers af­ford­able lux­ury and hunt club mem­ber­ship is en­tirely op­tional. BE­LOW It’s the Jag’s elec­tri­cal grem­lins that can spoil your day.

BE­LOW it would be hard to say no to a VH SS re­stored to its for­mer glory. OP­PO­SITE PAGE A life on the track may well have been the orig­i­nal plan for Alan’s project car.

DAVE M ORLEY

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