1963 Holden EH Standard - Reader Resto

By: John Bugg with Guy Allen - Unique Cars magazine, Photography by: Guy Allen

Presented by

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Ironically this base-model gem is rarer than a Prem!


1963 Holden EH Standard Resto

This story might have started a long time ago when I was a kid. The EH coming out was a big thing at the time, when I was 13. It had the new ‘big’ engine – the 149 or 179 – and to me, it was the best-looking shape to come out of Holden. Things were different then – cars were more expensive compared to what people were earning. So if you had a new EH in the driveway, you were doing very well indeed.

It’s not certain that I was really looking for a car at the time, but I was playing about on the computer and came across this one. The ad said it was an early car, with number 49M stamped on it, so in theory the 49th example out of Melbourne.

This wasn’t a perfect car. It was all there, but it had been modified over time and needed a few things fixed. When you saw the body it looked pretty good. A little rust on the doors and a little on the guards. But when the body was dismantled it was a different story. It had the rust that’s in all of these old cars.

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When it got here, I started to pull it all apart. That was the easy bit! Every single bolt came out, it was down to the subframe and body shell. Eventually I came to the realisation that I couldn’t put it back together again and had to enlist the help of a mate, Mark Sandwith, who restores cars for a living.

As it turned out, this was a much bigger job than we first expected. Everything has been done. If it’s not new, it’s been re conditioned.

Reader resto: EH Holden S4

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For example, while it had been fitted with new floor pans at some stage, they hadn’t been done properly and the new metal was overlapping the original. So out they came and new panels were fitted. The rear parcel shelf turned out to be a big headache, as the original had been cut to take big speakers. This is a piece you can’t get new, so we eventually sourced a donor part.

That area, plus the lower doors, bottom of the front guards, the firewall, beaver panel and rear quarters are all rust spots. Window frames can also be an issue. Mark found a problem with the bolts at the bottom of the frames and, being a fitter and turner by trade, was able to make up a new set. We also replaced the front guards – one is a new unit, while the other is a good used item.

Iconic Holdens #3: EH

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This car was originally a Standard, but had been dressed up over the years, with a 179 engine, a white roof and an HD front end. We decided to take it back to stock. The Standard was a very ‘plain’ car: one colour only, no chrome trim strips and rubber floor mats. We did add a correct period heater, which was a dealer-fitted option back then. Mark did the paint, Amberley Blue is the colour and it was applied as a two-pack.

As for the engine, we got a little bit lucky and found a replacement 149 that had been sitting in a shed for the best part of 40 years. It was in pretty good shape, but we decided to do a top-to-toe rebuild anyway. It was stripped down to the crank – which was machined – and we put in new bearings, camshaft, plus valves on hardened seats so it could accept unleaded fuel. Parts availability was pretty good, except for one thing: pistons!

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We could have left it on the original bores, as they just needed a hone, but the only factory set left in captivity was 40 thou oversize. They were discovered gathering dust on a parts shelf somewhere – it was a lucky find. That engine is now whisper quiet and starts almost instantly.

The three-speed transmission is a column shift, with no synchro on first. So you have to be at a complete standstill to engage it. We put new bearings through the transmission.
The final touch under the bonnet was the fitting of a new wiring loom.

Inside we managed to retrim the car with materials that look right, and even include the original stampings on the door cards. Rubber mats turned out to be pretty easy to find, as were most of the panel and door rubbers.

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I guess the whole project took more resources than I originally expected, but that’s a common story when it comes to old cars. My advice for anyone planning on doing something similar is to join a club, as the people there will have a lot of invaluable knowledge.

This EH was well worth the trouble. They’re a light and simple car and I love the shape of them, so it’s not going anywhere!


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1. Looks presentable - it looked pretty good on the day of pick-up.

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2. Don’t look up! Well, it’s a bit tired but about right for its age.

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3. Different tastes - okay, so the lairy gearknob and suspect seat covers have to go.

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4. It’s all there - kind of, but the old dear had been given a 179 transplant at some stage.

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5. What a find. This 149 had been sitting in someone’s shed for 40 years.

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6. Complete - the more you look the more complete it seems. It got a rebuild anyway.

Original car: 1963 holden eh standard

Length of restoration: 24 months

People to know:
Restoration: Mark Sandwith
Pre-cut trim panels: Winner Products
Vic club: ehholden.com.au

Holden EH Specs

Number made: 256,959
Engine: 2442cc & 2934cc in-line OHV six cylinder with single downdraft carburettor
Power & Torque: 86kW @ 4000rpm, 237Nm @ 1600rpm (179)
Performance: 0-96km/h 11.2 seconds.(179 manual)
Transmission: three-speed manual or three-speed automatic
Suspension: Independent with coil springs, upper & lower control arms, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
Brakes: drum (f) drum (r) pwr assist optional
Tyres: 6.40 x 13 cross-ply



Vote for John's EH Holden in the Unique Cars Reader Resto of the Year and you could win one of five $100 Visa gift cards.



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