WHO KNEW SOME EH PANEL VANS WERE FITTED WITH BARN DOORS?
Agood mate of mine, Frank Lemmens, is a ver y experienced panel beater, spray painter and a ll-round car guru. He had this EH panel van in his workshop, which he had started working on before the owner became seriously ill. The car sat for about 10 years at Frank’s place and, in March 2017, the owner, who had f inally recovered from his illness, came in and said he could no longer continue wit h t he project. He decided to sell t he vehicle, and I bought it. In t he early 90s a friend and I restored a 1951 Chevrolet, and I still own t his vehicle which I’ve since rebuilt again, t his time properly, and to suit my performance and comfort requirements.
Initia lly I didn’t k now a ll t hat much about t he EH. Because it had barn doors I immediately thought ‘div v y van’ and decided to restore it as a police car (you k now, light blue paint, big blue light, siren on t he bonnet etc). But when I was given t he keys to t he car I was a lso given a shoebox f ull of documentation, and this prov ided f ull provenance on the vehicle. I now have the glove box folder with owner manual, ser v ice book, Nasco accessories brochure, and running-in instruction sheet. I a lso was given t he EH Holden sa les brochure, EH commercial vehicles brochure, Holden engines
“IT WAS IDENTIFIED AS ONE OF TWO VANS ORDERED FOR LIBRARY WORK”
brochure, Hydramatic transmission brochure and a lso the original motor manual. The box held an extensive collection of receipts covering most of t he out lays on t he car over t he years.
One of t he v isitors to Frank’s workshop was a member of the EH Holden Club of Vic and he identif ied t he car as being one of t wo vans t hat were ordered for librar y work. Apparently, t hese vehicles were prett y much t he stuff of legends, and neit her had been spotted for a ver y long time. A look t hrough the documentation found a licence to carr y commercial goods t hat identif ied t he original owner as a librarian, and t his confirmed t hat stor y.
The body tag shows t hat t he car is a factor y automatic vehicle, and any auto EH panel van is ultra rare. Another document I have shows the car was ordered with sliding cargo area windows, and with optional windscreen washers, interior rear-v iew mirror, weather shield and parcel tray. The owner a lso ordered a motor manual and a spare fan belt. The tota l purchase price was £1280. There is no mention on that document of the barn doors, but t here is a lso no invoice for a conversion a long t he way so I believe t hey were insta lled as part of t he original scope of supply. It is a lso worth mentioning t hat t he EH commercial vehicles, the utes and panel vans, were a l l f itted wit h EJ ta i l lig hts, so it is common for people to mista ke these for EJ’s.
The car was delivered on t he July 31,
1964, and was bought from Swingbridge Motors in Footscray. The ser v ice book and documentation show the displayed mileage of 66,018 when I bought the car to be genuine.
After eva luat ing a ll of t his extra information I rea lised t he car was too rare to change f urt her away from it’s original config uration, and decided to get on with the restoration la rgely ta k ing it back to factor y specif icat ions.
Frank was occasiona lly working on t he f loor r ust repairs over t he f irst few months. Being t he factor y automatic, t he transmission hump is larger, but t he only repair sections available are for manual, so he had quite a bit of work to get t hem to f it, but he did a great job.
From there it was prett y much the t wo of us working f ull time on t he car. We stripped t he car back to a bare shell, and t hen turned it on its side to make t he underside brand new. The bra ke and f uel lines, petrol tank and rear springs were f itted before turning t he vehicle back upright, and af ter t hat t he rear end was completed before dropping it back on the rear wheels.
We reinsta lled the K frame and then the front end. When working on the front end we found out why the car had been ta ken off the road. A lower wishbone was badly bent, and one of the wheels was a lso badly damaged. Torana disc stubs had been insta lled on the k ingpin front end, and we left t hem t here as better bra kes are a lways good. There is a remote booster on t he front bra kes.
The 179 and Hydramatic had been replaced with a 202 and Trimatic. Hydramatics were prett y notorious and t he car’s ser v ice records show repeated problems with the transmission. With t hat in mind we left t he updated drivetrain in, but dressed t he motor up as a 179.
When the transmission change was made t hey had insta lled a f loor shif t and bucket seats, which we changed back to column shift and a bench. This was not easy as the gear order is different bet ween the Hydramatic and Trimatic, and the steering column had been replaced with a manual column, so we had to find a replacement auto column and f itt ings too.
Among the many cost sav ings in the commercial range was the absence of a door lock in t he driver’s door. You have to unlock t he passenger door and slide across. I wonder how easy this was with buckets and a f loor shif t? Maybe t hey just didn’t lock it?
The shell was painted in t he factor y colour, Windorah Beige, and for authenticit y we did t his in acr ylic.
We f itted out t he engine bay, hav ing to find a windscreen washer and pump as the original one had been replaced with a later model Holden unit. The bra ke master cylinder is still t he old steel one, and sur v ivors of t hese are quite ra re.
“WE STRIPPED IT TO A BARE SHELL TURNING IT ON ITS SIDE”
From there the other hanging panels were prepared and insta lled, mostly one at a time. The interior was painted in t he correct colours for t he front f loor, dash and t he colourf leck for t he cargo area. The original cargo area timber f loor was repainted and put back in, still showing some scars from years of use.
The sliding windows were long gone, so we had to get them re-made to the original dimensions. All the windows were f itted and the doors k itted out. The bumpers were re-chromed and insta lled and we f itted light truck t y res, which match t he original specif ications, on repainted rims.
Inside the dash was put back together and t he wiring repaired where required. We f itted a ver y good reproduction hood lining and new carpet. We a lso f itted reproduction door trims and seat covers which were made to t he original patterns in t he genuine Elephant Grey.
We did a front-end a lignment, then greased under the car and it was ready.
The commercial vehicles were low spec, and this car has no bumper overriders or mudf laps. Inside t here are blanking plates where t he optiona l cigarette lighter and radio would have gone. The car has never had a radio insta l led in it.
We are ver y proud of the qualit y we achieved on t his restoration, particula rly as we managed to do this entirely in Frank’s workshop and with just the t wo of us working on it. From t he time I bought it t he car didn’t leave t he workshop until it was tested for roadworthiness, but we did ta ke it to Unique Ex haust as soon as it was on the road to get t he ex haust f itted correct ly.
Is it for sa le ? Well, ever y t hing is for sa le at t he right price, but I wouldn’t sell t his car for a fair price, it would need to be a ver y high of fer to get my interest !
ABOVE Adding to the van’s provenance –the original service book. And the maximum load in hundredweights. Remember them?
TOP The site had to be cleared before work could begin.
LEFT With the body already stripped we were ready for the project to get underway..
ABOVE A proud Ken Collishaw and his beautifully presented library spec EH panel van.