30 Holdens, future spares, senseless electronics + more - Morley's Workshop 438

By: Dave Morley

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30 Holdens, future spares, dodgy ancestors, pointless electronics, more string theory



I’d been messing around in the workshop since about lunchtime when the phone rang. It was ABC radio wanting to know if I was available to talk about the announcement that Holden was done and dusted as a brand. News to me, I admitted, but if a bloke like me can’t talk about Holden for six or seven minutes, something’s wrong.

It’s also destined to be another case of me remembering exactly where I was when something terrible happened. I can remember like it was yesterday, sitting in the front bar of one of my favourite pubs on a Friday arvo, and getting a similar phone call from a radio station asking if I could do a quick interview on that day’s terrible accident that claimed the life of Peter Brock. And I clearly recall my flatmate waking me up on a Tuesday morning in early 1986, insisting that I come and see what had just happened to the Space Shuttle. Tragedy is like that.

And I don’t think tragedy is overplaying the demise of the lion brand, either. Okay, nobody has died, but between 600 and 800 workers are going to be hitting Centrelink. And culturally, the loss is huge. True, the Commodore was already a goner and car-making was lost to us as a nation back in late 2017. But to drive through country-town Australia and not see a Holden dealership from next year is going to be surreal.

So I started to think just how deep the Holden thing runs in the hearts and minds of so many of us. I did some quick adding up and worked out that between my old man, my brother and me, we’ve owned somewhere around 30 Holdens, spanning every generation from FJ to VY. That’s way more than any other brand we’ve been associated with and, while there have been a few Fords (mainly XR6s) in my driveway over the years, Holden has always been the dominant brand at 13 Struggle Street.

My mum and dad went on their honeymoon in a Holden, I came home from the hospital in one, my old man systematically drove them into the ground, my brother was pretty good at crashing them and I’ve done everything else, including racing, in them. A Holden was even involved in that other milestone in a young fella’s life, not that that’s any of your business.

But then you look a bit further and I don’t think any of the next generation have had much to do with the Holden brand. The odd rello has owned the odd HSV or Monaro, but the direct Morley descendants have owned more Mazdas than anything else.

It’s all to do with kids not really being interested in cars anymore. There are other, more important things. Social media, mainly, from what I can gather. But in our day, there was nothing else; there were cars and our waking hours revolved around them.

In a way, we all knew the death-knock for Holden was probably coming, but it was easier to pretend it wasn’t. Typically, Holden was stone-walling late in the game, insisting the brand was safe, and it was tempting, not to mention slightly comforting, to hear that. But, in the end, if you believe the press release, it was the return on investment on right-hand-drive cars that led GM to finally drop the axe on Holden’s neck.

I’m not sure what I believe these days. Decades spent sorting the facts from the weasel words in company statements have led me to believe that there could be more to the decision than meets the eye. Then again, money talks and this is Detroit we’re talking about, right? Not that that makes any difference to blokes like me losing a brand like Holden, but if profits (or a lack of them) was the sole reason something like Holden has been taken away from us, then that’s just proof that the world is as cruel as we all suspected it was anyway.

The better news is that those of us who still own Holdens have a new reason to look after them and keep them around for the years to come. If only to show the millennials what they missed out on.


ARC that

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If you’re welding anything with a galvanised coating, do yourself the biggest favour imaginable and grind off the galvanic coating before you weld it. It’s not that the coating won’t support an arc – it most certainly will – but when hit with that same arc, the coating melts and flies all over the place. Even through a welding mask it looks like a flame-thrower attack on a fireworks factory. Ask me how I know.



Crystal balling

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Now that GM has put the last nail in Holden’s coffin, I wonder what you see as the future for classic Holden owners in respect of spares etc. I wonder if, in true Australian spirit, someone will brainstorm manufacturing parts for Holdens. I have a 1993 VR Calais 5-litre which I enjoy as my fun car, but I imagine that spare parts are going to be the worry in the long term I find it a huge shame that Australia has lost its car manufacturing industry in general, because the amount of know-how and ability to problem solve with very little financial support is to be admired. I also think that our present government and its prior ugly iterations are partly responsible for this situation. Looking forward to your considered reply.


I CAN’T help but agree with you, Simon, that the Federal Government back in 2013 has to take some of the responsibility for the shut-down of local manufacturing. By refusing to support local car-making financially, the Feds certainly added to the woes that brought car-making to its knees in this country.

And, yes, I’ve heard the argument that if Holden (and Ford and Toyota) couldn’t be profitable on their own two feet, they didn’t deserve to be here. But that kind of ignores the fact that every car-making nation props up its car industry in some form or other. And all that money the Government saved by not supporting the industry? Surely, most (all?) of it has gone in Centrelink payments to the toilers who lost their jobs when the crunch came. And if it had gone into workers’ pockets as wages, it’d do another few laps of the economy before the blood-suckers got it back as tax anyway. Short-sighted? Methinks yes.

As for us blokes and blokettes who already own old Holdens, I don’t think anything is going to change too quickly. I remember when Holden stopped car-making back in 2017. A raft of blokes propped up at several front bars were all pointing to their EH or VN SS out in the car-park and telling me that they’re not making them anymore. Well, when it comes to an EH, Holden hadn’t been making them for more than 50 years.

I guess any parts you buy for an EH or older Holden these days are either NOS, of which there’s a finite supply, or part numbers that have been reinstated by a third-party manufacturer (who possibly made the originals for Holden back in the day). And let’s not forget that companies like Rare Spares have been around for almost 50 years now, and continue to expand the part numbers they offer to keep our old dears alive and running. Maybe there’s scope for a bit more activity of that sort, and I certainly hope so.

Look at the phenomenon of the original VW Beetle. These things haven’t been made since the 1960s, but there’s a whole industry out there to keep them running by offering pretty much every piece of a Dak-Dak either as a stock or modified part. I’m hoping that’s where things go for the likes of us. Meantime, keep that VR firing on all eight and know that cars like yours will always have a future as long as we keep our pastime relevant and active.


Meet the ancestors

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Digs in Cornwall aren’t this Morley’s

I recently spotted this house in Port Isaac, Cornwall. I reckon Morley’s ancestors would have restored old horse-drawn carriages there.

Shaun Jones,

NICE SPOT, Shaun. But knowing a bit about my family tree, those prototype Morleys would have been far more likely to be nicking the carriages from their rich neighbours and getting themselves sent on an all-expenses-paid (but one-way) holiday to Van Diemen’s Land. Either that, or trying to breed some kind of super-horse that could cover the quarter mile in under 20 seconds.

Meantime, I’m often asked if I’m any relation to the Morleys that owned the big Ford dealership on the river in Melbourne up until about the time the casino got built. If you could see the house I live in and the car I drive, you wouldn’t have to ask. But what’s interesting is that the wee cottage in the photo you sent me is in Cornwall. Now, as far as I know, some of my family on my mum’s side were, indeed, from Cornwall. Her grandfather came out to Oz way back as a stonemason and it’s possible that some of the churches and public buildings around the Hunter Valley are partly his work. And just to prove that it can skip a generation (or three), great-great-grandad was also a lay preacher, spreading the good word in his adopted new home.

A bit farther west, about 50km off the tip of Cornwall, lie the Scilly Isles and, apparently, I also have a connection with this little group of islands, five of which are inhabited. The story goes that another of my mum’s ancestors was the local witch (Granny Webber). The popular rumour is that many of the inhabitants of the isles made their living from salvaging shipwrecks (of which there were plenty). The juicier yarn is that they also lit fake navigation beacons to, er, precipitate those same shipwrecks in the first place. Nothing like a bit of vertical integration in the family business. None of this would be any surprise to anybody who has dealt with the Morleys over the years.


Fade to pink

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EF/EL XR series Falcons had red mouldings that were prone to fading pink. Does anyone have a solutions for future restorations?

Firstly received your book Great Aussie Car Fails for Christmas and found it both amusing and educational. Well done.

I am a fan of the EL series XR6 Falcons and hope they continue to stay under the radar. The common problem is the red stripes/moulds fade to pink over time and replacement items are long obsolete. I’ve read many a forum and advice ranges from using silicon-based products such as tyre shine to using car polish to rejuvenate them. Others suggest respraying, however being that the moulds are moulded red I wouldn’t think there would be a paint code from Ford.

Hope you and your learned readership can help.

Peter Primorac,

GLAD YOU enjoyed my little book, Peter. It was a lot of fun writing it, mainly because it involved sitting down with a cold beer and a chat with mates of a certain age who were there and remember all that crazy stuff happening. And like I said in the intro, everything in that damn book was true… you couldn’t make it up. Even the contentious stuff like car-makers cheating on fuel-economy tests and cars that were designed to rust to bits or fall apart the day the warranty expired, was all true dinks. I guess the end of local car manufacturing was the green light for me to write about it all, but I’m still sleeping with one eye open.

As for your red side-moulds, the best solution I’ve heard of is to use a tyre-shine product. Apparently it lasts longer than some other plastic rejuvenators. It doesn’t work forever, but at least it’s simple to apply when the pinks set in again. Some of the other treatments require more elbow grease and as for sanding the red bits back and polishing them…forget about it. Masking the rest of the vehicle off and painting the stripe red seems like the hard way to do it, too.

What I haven’t heard of or seen done is actually wrapping the red stripe. Modern vehicle wraps are pretty resistant to UV light (yep, even shades of red) so maybe that’s the secret to a red stripe that stays that way. Okay, so I’m thinking out loud here, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. And at least then, when the rubbing strip earns its keep the next time some meth-head at the supermarket runs his trolley into the side of your car, it should be easy to re-wrap. Dunno. Any wrap merchants out there who like the idea?


Great till they stop

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eBrakes are something new. Not better

I’m a regular reader and great fan of UC and get plenty of giggles and laughs from DM’s Workshop.  Normally I’m happy to stay out of things but this time I feel compelled to put in my two-bobs’ worth. I’ve seen first-hand what can go wrong with these electric handbrakes.

A few years back, friends of mine were going away for Easter in their whizzbang, top-spec very electronically complicated VW Passat which, as far as I was concerned was a shocker since it gave them so much trouble from day one. Anyway, they were finally ready to go on Thursday night with the car loaded up to the hilt with stuff and three kids and, guess what? The electric handbrake would not release! So, they had to scramble and try to find a rental at 8.00pm the night before Good Friday. 

A mechanical handbrake, even if it malfunctioned, could be dealt with on the spot.  I really don’t like all the electronic wizardry in modern cars, much of which is completely unnecessary and also makes you a hostage of the manufacturer in many ways. So, on this one, I’m with you. Keep up the good work.

Cary Polis,

JEEZ, I CAN imagine a rather tense conversation with the VW dealer on the Tuesday after Easter. I wonder how that panned out. But you’re right, turning something as simple as a cable-operated park-brake into a complex, motor-driven, electronically-switched, body-computer-controlled device is asking for a smack in the bugle from every engineer worthy of the title.

And, for me, there’s just no reason whatsoever that justifies the move to eBrakes. They’re certainly not simpler and more reliable, they can’t possibly be lighter and I’ll stand by my original statement that they’re not even as intuitive or simple to use. I get annoyed when designers confuse something new with something better and, in the process, ignore years of perfectly good consumer muscle-memory.

The only – and I mean THE only – thing I can think of to support eBrakes is that it makes it harder for some dimwit to drive off with the park-brake on or leave the car parked without it applied. Tremendous. Just what we needed: more dumbing-down of the driving population.


That piece of string

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How long is a piece of string?

You really have been stringing us along! In fact, you have exaggerated the length of string by a factor of 10. The extra string required is only 62.8mm. You see, the circumference of a circle is pi times diameter. So any increase in diameter affects the circumference by a factor of pi (or 3.1415926…). So a 20mm increase in diameter increases the circumference by 62.8mm. The Earth has an approximate diameter of 12,742km, or 12,742,000 metres. This gives a circumference of 40,030,173.592m. If we increase the diameter to 12,742,000.020m, the circumference becomes 40,030,173.655 which is a mere 63mm more. I know it is hard to comprehend such a small change over a huge distance, but you are quite right that it doesn’t matter whether it is the Earth, a bowling ball or a marble, the increase in circumference will be the same!


AH, STEVE, you’re right and you’re wrong. You’ve got the formula nailed but in the original brain teaser, I added 20cm (200mm) to the equation, not 20mm. That was based on a series of 10cm-high poles placed around the equator, and then measuring the difference in the length of string required to link them up for a full lap of the planet. And when you put 200 extra millimetres into the equation (rather than 20mm) the answer comes out at 628mm extra.

To be honest, I’m a bit surprised at how many of you lot were intrigued by this. I wondered at the time whether I was wasting my time, but it seems that the answer to the question was so odd, weird and non-intuitive, that plenty of people loved it. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving…kind of like red-motored EJ Holdens. (And here we go again…)


Wagon of pointlessness

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Start button and a key. Technology gone mad

I feel the need to climb on your bandwagon of pointless technology protest and support your stance with little exception. I own and run an automotive workshop so I get to drive various customer vehicles – if only to move them from car park to workshop – so have encountered many of your pet peeves. Electric handbrakes are a pain where I sit down, not only is their operational direction often a mystery but I have sometimes had trouble locating them or identifying which damn button is the correct item in the first place. I can’t recall having this issue with mechanical items and, by the way, do they still work if the battery goes flat?

Another cause of consternation is start-buttons. What was the problem with ignition keys? I have spent many a confused minute trying to find start buttons – hello Mazda, I’m talking about you. Which devious engineer thought it was funny to hide the start button directly behind the steering wheel which successfully masked it from someone as vertically challenged as me? What is actually the benefit of either of these supposed advances?

Quarter vent windows were handy item although I don’t miss the wind whistle and I can’t agree with foot operated high beam buttons.

But my biggest modern car annoyance is warning bells or buzzers. You haven’t experienced frustration until you’ve tried to drive a car on to a hoist with it shouting at you for not having a seat belt on and berated you for having the door open so you can see the edge of the ram – assuming it hasn’t automatically ripped the hand brake on, which you then can’t find because it’s a tiny button. Meantime, there is another alarm screaming that you are close to hitting something. It feels like my wife is in there with me. Anyway, I’m off to my therapist, so no time for further old-bloke whingeing.

Richard Mahoney,

MATE, I’D BE sending the car-makers of this world the invoice for your therapy sessions. Clearly, modern car design has bent you completely out of shape and somebody needs to pay. But, yep, I agree with you 100 per cent (except for the bit about floor-mounted dip-switches, which I like).

I remember in the 1980s when cars first started getting warning buzzers and chimes. The Japanese stuff at the time was the worst with a range of happy little beeps and bongs to remind you that you were wearing a hat inside or that this was a leap-year. Or somesuch. The only good one was the rev-buzzer in the Mazda RX-7 which gave a metallic growl as you approached redline (which was pretty much every gearchange when you’re a kid with a rotary engine under your right boot).

I can understand a starter button in a car with remote unlocking where you don’t actually need to take the key-fob out of your pocket to unlock the car. Because then you can also hit the button to start the engine, again, without touching the key. But the bloke who designed cars to be started with a twist of the ignition key and then a stab on the starter-button should be shot with a ball of his own shite.

I hadn’t actually thought about what happens to a car with an electronic park-brake that gets a flat battery. Presumably (for safety’s sake) once the brake is applied, it stays on. So if there’s no power to release it, what happens? Good question, and one that deserves further investigation. Anybody out there have the answer? Actually, how do you even get into a modern car with remote locking when the battery goes flat? A lot of new cars have a remote with no semblance of an ignition key attached, and others don’t even have external door locks any more. So what happens then?




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Okay, so we’re all familiar with the film Duel, right? Good. But what you mightn’t know about the flick with the big, bad, Peterbilt, is that it was one of the very early feature films by Steven Spielberg and, arguably, the film that put him on the Hollywood map. Even more obscure is the fact that the original story of Duel was written by Richard Matheson and was first published as a short story in the April 1971 issue of Playboy. Maybe you could read it for the articles…

Wagon Wheels

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So we all know that Bathurst is the home of the Great Race. But the town has a transport connection that goes back a lot further than the first Bathurst 500 of 1963. What you mightn’t know is that Bathurst – thanks to its location en route to the goldfields – was also the spot chosen by Cobb and Co for its national HQ. Founded in 1862, the Cobb and Co head office operated stage coaches for passengers and mail until the arrival of the railways.


Write to Morley c/ouniquecars@bauertrader.com.auor Unique Cars magazine, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, Vic 3166


From Unique Cars issue 438, Apr 2020

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