1960-62 Holden FB/EK: Buying used
Buyers' guide for 1960 - 1962 Holden FB/EK
1960 - 62 HOLDEN FB/EK
Toward the end of the Tailfin-Pride era this iconic Australian example convincingly justified its sales success...
WHAT IS IT?
In the summer of 1960 when its newly-finned FB model arrived, Holden controlled 47 percent of the Australian car market and was building a strong export presence. Not even the sleek modern shape of Ford’s new Falcon was able to overwhelm Holden’s overall dominance and reputation for durability, despite the new FB’s already-dated ‘new’ styling.
Developing the ‘new’ look apparently cost $15 million, but beyond the heavily-finned shape and curved glass, it was hard to see where so much money might have been spent.
The passenger range consisted of Standard and Special models – sedans and wagons all sharing the same suspension, braking system and engine. The Special came with a cigarette lighter, two-tone seats and extra stainless-steel trim. A dished wheel and shorter steering column were a concession to safety.
Engine design was unchanged but for a capacity increase from 2.2 to 2.3 litres and increased compression ratio boosting power 4kW to 56kW. Torque increased marginally but still peaked at just 1400rpm.
Within 15 months the FB had easily outsold its much-admired predecessor, the EH, with 175,000 units out the door.
The 1961 update, the EK, debuted in a market afflicted by a ‘credit squeeze’ that savaged new vehicle sales. Most obvious among the EK’s changes were a new grille and the deletion of the FB’s big stainless-steel spear-like body moulding.
An extensive accessories list allowed buyers to upgrade and personalise their Holden with extras including a radio, weather-shield and mudflaps. Improvements to the EK design included new vinyl for the seats and electric windscreen wipers replacing the primitive vacuum system.
The most exclusive attribute of the EK was a badge on the boot denoting the car as a ‘Hydra-Matic’. Having come late to the automatic transmission party, Holden was determined to compensate for its time on the sidelines with heavy promotion of the advantages of its ‘slush-box’.
ON THE ROAD
Jump from a modern, ABS-braked 200kW ‘family’ car into a 53-year-old Holden and the culture shock is bound to be daunting. But judged against the standards of the day, FB/EK Holdens were good enough to justify their sales success providing room for six adults and competitive overall performance. The non-assisted steering and brakes are reasonably light and work well.
Tyres, of course, were skinny cross-plies, so the one thing that a Holden enthusiast can do to improve response and cornering prowess is to fit slightly wider rims and radial tyres. Yes, the ride quality will suffer but radial-shod cars are decidedly easier and safer to drive.
The ‘grey’ engine was well overdue for replacement but still delivered slogging low-end torque that helped mask the manual car’s absence of first-gear synchromesh. You could trundle down to 15km/h in second then floor the throttle resulting in modest acceleration with no protest from the engine. EKs with a three-speed Hydra-Matic transmission were sluggish in hilly or twisty terrain but appealed to city-bound buyers who appreciated the auto’s ease of use in heavy traffic.
With 60kg more weight than the superseded FC and pretty ordinary aerodynamics, FBs and EKs were marginally slower overall.
THE COST FACTOR
More than 320,000 of the big-fin Holdens were built, so the numbers that survive come as no surprise. What will produce some shock is the money being asked and occasionally realised for excellent cars.
A couple of decades ago, the price of a decent FB/EK was less than $3000 and the best cars cost no more than $10,000. In the recent market, however, those selling for under $10,000 frequently need some work and display-quality cars have reached $30,000.
Expect rust. Starting at the wheelarches, feel under the edge for filler or bubbling, then check the sills, lower door skins, mudguards, firewall, sub-frame, floors and even the roof. Good used sub-frames and some panels – including mudguards – are scarce. Tailgate rust is common so check them thoroughly. Check the spare wheel compartment as well.
Floorpan, door skin and sill repair panels are easy to source and not expensive. New lenses are available, but good brightwork is hard to find and dear.
Although the ‘grey’ Holden engines discontinued 50 years ago parts are available and inexpensive. Check for piston and crankshaft knocks, leaking main bearing seals and cracked exhaust manifolds.
Look for bearing, synchro and selector problems with manual gearboxes. Hydra-Matics can be rebuilt. Fitting a later ‘red’ engine and transmission is a practical and affordable option. Check differentials for pinion noise and oil leaks.
Steering response and stability noticeably suffer with worn front ends. Check for uneven tyre wear and creaking when the wheel is turned at low speed. Bouncy suspension indicates shock-absorber wears. Check rear springs for sag and u-bolt damage.
Gentle pressure on the brake-pedal will show up ovoid drums. Firm pressure when stationary should reveal hydraulic leaks.
Obtaining vinyl that closely matches the original has become difficult and some owners scour US suppliers for close facsimiles. Replacement door trims are obtainable for around $400 per set; rubber kits and mats are available. Handles and switches can be found at swap meets but it takes patience to track down rare accessories.
1960-62 Holden FB/EK
Body: 4-door unit-construction secdan
Engine: 2262cc OHV inline six-cylinder ‘grey’ engine
Gearbox: 3-speed column-shift manual; optional 3-speed Hydramatic (EK)
Suspension: Independent with double wishbones, coils, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar (f); live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic dampers (r)
Brakes: drums (f/r)
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