Graham Miller’s EH Holden panel van

Reigning Red CentreNATS Grand Champ Graham Miller is well on the way to collecting a full set of EH Holdens

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

IT’S good to have goals in life. You might use them to progress in your employment or learn more than four chords on the ukulele (note to self: practise more), but Graham Miller’s goal is to own an EH Holden of each body style, and so far he’s sitting at 75 per cent. “I’ve got a ute sitting here ready to go,” he reveals, “but it’s going to take a little bit of convincing the missus before I start that, because I’ve got to have a rest.”

First published in the June 2021 issue of Street Machine

As well as the gorgeous windowless van you see here, Graham’s also got a six-cylinder station wagon, which he describes as more of a cruiser than a toughie, and a sedan dubbed EH MAD which is the reigning Red CentreNATS Grand Champion (SM, Nov ’20). With its blown 406 SBC and flat-10 timeslips, the latter is most definitely a toughie.

Graham’s pano definitely didn’t start out as a pristine example. Purchased in 2016 from the Gold Coast for $6000, the van was little more than a rolling shell, but at least it hadn’t had any windows cut into it over the past 50 years. Small mercies.

Graham has his own abrasive blasting and protective coating business, so the pano was fully blasted at his workshop on the day he picked it up and placed on a dolly before being sent off to the panel beater. There were some problems with the initial panel beater and the project stalled for a while, but then Wayne Scriven walked into Graham’s workshop.

“Wayne brought a car body for me to blast and epoxy-prime that he had done all the rust repairs on,” Graham explains. “He did a really good job and I picked up on the quality of his work. Wayne gave me some ideas on the EH build; I never planned to tub it, and I was only going to put a six-cylinder in it.”

One of the major pieces of bodywork Wayne did was the bonnet. Most people would have simply cut a hole in the middle and called it job done, but not Wayne. “We made one bonnet out of two to get the shape and strength back in it so that when you shut the bonnet it doesn’t flop around. It’s pretty cool; I don’t think anyone’s done it before,” says Graham.

The tubs started off as trailer guards from Mr Mudguard that Wayne skilfully blended into the EH to make sure there’s plenty of room for rims and rubber. “We actually dummy-fitted a set of 22×12 Simmons rims, but they looked like clown’s feet and a bit silly, so I pulled the pin on that idea and went more old-school with the 15×10 Weld Pro Stars,” Graham says. The car easily swallows up the 275/60R15 ET Streets, but could take up to a 315 with a lower-profile tyre.

In terms of build philosophies, the van sits squarely between the sedan and wagon – V8-powered, but nowhere near as wild as the sedan. It’s built to cruise, with a Chevy ZZ383 crate motor from Eagle Performance that’s got a sweet cherry on top in the form of a Borla EFI stack injection system. It’s rated at 430hp thanks to alloy heads and a hydraulic-roller cam with .528/.536in lift and 230/240deg duration. Scotty from Fat Pipes created a beautiful set of 17/8-inch headers that still manage to squeeze inside the chassis rails and run out to a twin three-inch system. Backed by a manualised Turbo 350 and nine-inch with 31-spline axles and 3.9:1 gears, the van definitely won’t be a slouch.

Chatting to Graham and joking about how the only thing missing from the car was a whisky bar and disco ball in the back, it kind of sounded like the thought had crossed his mind. In the end, though, he kept it simple and – arguably – more tasteful by getting Leon Harris and Ray Tattie to line everything in black leather with red stitching. The sides feature a panel that is stitched to match the door trims, a detail I didn’t pick up until Graham mentioned it.

Up front, a bench seat was pulled out of the stash that Graham has collected over the years, which explains why there’s an ashtray on the back of it. Panel vans didn’t get such flashy options – plus you shouldn’t be hauling smokers around in the back of your van, even back in 1964! Another neat trick is the dashboard, which has been extended using an extra dash cluster to encapsulate the accessory gauges for oil pressure and water temp – no easy task when you’re dealing with cast metal. A B&M shifter was necessary to row through the manualised trans, but it’s unobtrusive against the black carpet and blends in nicely.

When it came to paint colour, Graham was smitten by all of the Mazdas he’d seen painted in Soul Red, blasting that deep candy red glow into his eyes as the sun bounced off it. Jay Anstice was the man chosen for the job, and as you can tell in the pics, he did a pretty awesome job.

Graham was determined to get the car finished in time to debut at Rockynats this year, but all his hard work just about ended up in the bin after a mishap in the workshop. “I put it on the hoist on the Sunday before Rockynats to show a mate, after I’d detailed it underneath. The hoist didn’t cut out and the roof was crushed on the shed,” he explains. “We had to pull the whole interior out to fix it, then put all that interior back in again. That’s a lot of pressure.”

Amazingly, the roof was repaired using paintless dent removal, and there’s no evidence of the damage. The car went on to wow the crowd at Rockynats in April, and impressed the judges enough that they offered Graham a Meguiar’s Superstars invitation.
“It’s not made to be a trailer queen, and I want to take it to Red CentreNATS this year and just enjoy it,” says Graham. Could he go back-to-back Grand Champ trophies?


Paint: DeBeer Crystal Soul Red

Type: 383ci small-block Chev
Inlet: Borla EFI stack injection
ECU: Haltech
Heads: Alloy GM Performance
Cam: Hydraulic-roller, .528/.536 lift, 230/240 duration
Pistons: Hypereutectic
Crank: Polished cast steel
Radiator: Custom alloy with twin Spal fans
Exhaust: Fat Pipes custom, 17/8in headers, twin 3in system
Ignition: MSD

Transmission: Manualised Turbo 350
Converter: The Converter Shop, 3800rpm stall
Diff: Custom 9in, 31-spline, 3.9:1 gears, Truetrac

Front: Rod-Tech
Rear: Gazzard Brothers leaf springs, Pedders shocks
Steering: Rod-Tech rack-and-pinion
Brakes: Wilwood discs (f & r)

Rims: Weld Pro Star; 15×7 (f), 15×10 (r)
Rubber: Kumho 205/60R15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 275/60R15 (r)

Jay Anstice for the paintwork; Monty Brown for helping me when time was running out; Wayne Scriven for bodywork; Scotty at Fat Pipes; Andy at A&C Auto Electrics; Craig Turner and Billy at Turner’s Paint Correction & Detailing; Phil Hain at Dent Action for the last-minute repairs; Dave McVicar at Engine Conversions Australia; AOK Tyres Caboolture; Evan and Dawn Driver at Driver’s Mobile Mechanical for getting it going; Luke Mitchell; my boys and girls at SEQ Onsite Services; Nyjel Boehme and Ash Akid for the late nights getting it ready to unveil at Rockynats; my wife Catherine and kids Preston, Angus and Clara