Adam Housler’s EFI V8-powered EH Holden

Adam Housler was a teenage apprentice when he bought his first EH

Photographers: Tony Rabbitte

What better way is there for a first-year apprentice mechanic to cut his teeth than building a retrotech street machine project? And the smart money is on using a polished-up stocker as a starting point, rather than a rusty junker. For a cash-strapped teen, a donor car with all the bank-busting body and paint work complete makes the task straightforward, leaving the mechanical fun bits to be added as a bloke’s spanner skills progress.

First published in the March 2007 issue of Street Machine

These days, finding clean stockers takes luck. But the stars really aligned for 17-year-old Adam Housler during a tyre-kicking expedition in Sydney’s west. While digging up a clean EH Special sedan. with a 161-cube six-banger would be tempting, finding a straight, cancer-free example already refinished in blazing orange paintwork was a no-brainer. From there it should be too easy. Or so you’d think.

Adam is now 25 and the EH is finally finished. But, boy, does the result reflect the time and the effort.

On one level, the Special is textbook retrotech stuff: classic looks unspoilt by the classy 17-inch Billet Specialties wheels, while from the radiator to the diff housing, the use of V8 Commodore hardware and engineering drags the old girl four decades into the future.

The EH perfectly balances old and new schools. The interior’s a case in point. Slide in, and it’s obvious that Adam hasn’t slain the Special’s 60s soul with overkill modernisation. Prem buckets and custom door trims are refinished in two-tone vinyl — “super-soft synthetic stuff, almost better than leather,” Adam says — with original instrumentation and switchgear, and a trusty tri-spoke SAAS tiller.

The audio-visual system, though, is clearly more up-to-date, and features a custom MDF centre console to house the eight-inch (front) and six-inch (rear) DLS monitors. There’s a matching two-pack finish on the lower door trims. All the interior custom work, plus the Rockford Fosgate/Kicker audio trickery in the boot area, was carried out by Petro and Pat from Super Audio Installations, and is a measure of the car’s level of craftsmanship.

At the business end, the EH is just as impressive.

“The engine bay itself took six months to get right,” Adam says. “There was a lot of smoothing and welding.” It’s all his own handiwork, and what he describes as the project’s hardest yakka.

This isn’t your average five-litre Holden bent-eight. Rather than mess around with reconditioning, Adam bought a new 304 short motor.

“It’s from the last run of [VT-generation, high-comp] iron five-litre motors,” he explains. And it’s clearly not stock, either.

Up top is one of MoTeC’s trick twin-throttlebody cross-ram intakes, which allows more airflow and breathing potential than the factory ‘bunch of bananas’ induction.

“I also flowed the heads — they’re good for more than 580 horsepower — and installed roller rockers and a few other goodies.”

Controlled by a Microtech ECU, it’s an ideal hard-revving street combination that’s clearly got good horsepower potential.

“I haven’t dynoed it yet but the engine’s got heaps of top-end,” Adam smiles.

Keen eyes might notice the discreet extractor set-up. Unlike the EH tradition of feeding extractor piping through the inner guards, these run past the chassis rails more conventionally and cleanly.

“They’re custom-made and we had to recess the chassis and firewall for clearance but it’s much neater looking this way.”

So no dramas fitting the V8 but there was still lots of fiddly work. It runs an HR front crossmember and a modified HQ sump, with the rear half of the pan shortened to fit. The 304 bolts in neatly, using a mounting kit from Taree’s V6 Conversions which also supplied the hardware necessary for the EH’s rack and pinion steering set-up.

“The rack is rear-mounted [it sits behind the front axle line], which caused a few dramas with the position of the column’s uni-joint,” Adam says. “But we got it sorted.”

The 304 is backed by a T700 four-speed auto, and getting that to fit the EH tunnel was like shoving a sheep into a letterbox. The floor had to be cut so a larger, squarer-sectioned tunnel could be welded into place. The rear of the floor was notched to provide tailshaft clearance towards the VN Commodore rear diff. So far, so sweet.

Lovells springs and Koni shocks provide a 1½-inch drop up front. Even with the 7in-wide rims, there was no nasty guard-rubbing or biting on steering lock. But once the bum was dragged 2½ inches closer to the blacktop, using re-rated leaves and lowering blocks, parts of the rear VN disc brake assembly kept knocking on the chassis, requiring more clearance modification.

That’s the thing about the EH; it’s one thing to shove more modern running gear inside, it’s another to ensure it works perfectly, and without compromises, on the street.

Getting the brake system sorted required a real mishmash of Commodore parts: big VT discs and calipers up front, VN rears, and a combination of VS master cylinder and VC booster.

“I wanted big stopping power but the EH also needed the smallest diameter single-frame booster to clear the rocker cover once it was mounted to the firewall,” Adam says. It’s a complicated solution but with a simply beaut result.

Even the colour threw Adam a curveball: “Y’see, I was told it was Aviation Orange and, well, I thought it was just a Torana colour. Turned out it was from Europe but from what make and model, I don’t know. Looks great though.”

His mates Graham and Adam T resprayed the engine bay, as well as colour-coding the engine and numerous other parts.

Although Adam had chipped away at the project for eight years — “All the chrome was re-dipped here and there” — the car was off the road for 2½ years to get the engine and driveline conversion right. But the experience the mechanic earned while honing his trade has been priceless.

And while it is finished, Adam reckons it’s not quite complete. Next up is a 355 stroker crank and cam to start pushing up the neddies. Not that it needs it.

“You drive the EH now, and it’s so different,” he says. “And better. You wouldn’t believe it’s the same car I started with.”

Deep breathing

How does the twin-throttle system work? Underneath the large plenum cover is a MoTeC inlet manifold, with two rows of four short inlet runners arranged cross-ram style — a design featured on the old Group A manifolds and first homologated for racing in the HSV VL Group A. Its added airflow potential comes from using the original throttlebody (a VN V8 item), with throttle-position and idle sensors on one side, and an extra throttlebody on the other, operated via a mechanical link. And, of course, more air equals more power potential.

“This one’s a MoTeC,” says Adam, “but they’re now made by Flowmaster.”


Colour:Aviation Orange
Engine:Holden 304ci EFI V8
Induction:Twin-throttle cross-ram MoTeC inlet
Exhaust:Custom headers and dual 2.5-inch into single three-inch stainless steel rear system with single outlet
Gearbox:T700 four-speed auto, Stage 2 shift kit, 2000rpm converter, custom one-piece tailshaft
Diff:VN Commodore Borg Warner LSD, 3.99:1
Brakes:VT Commodore disc (f), VN Commodore disc (r), VS Commodore master cylinder, VC Commodore brake booster
Seats:EH buckets retrimmed in sandy beige vinyl
Stereo:Kenwood CD/MP3 head unit, Rockford Fosgate amps, Kicker speakers, eight-inch (f) and six-inch (r) DLS monitors
Suspension:Lovells lowered coil (f) and leaf (r) springs, Koni shocks
Steering:Rear-mounted rack and pinion conversion
Wheels:Billet Specialties GTX02 alloys 17×7 (f), 17×8 (r)
Tyres:Falken 215/45 (f), 235/45 (r)

Petro and Pat, Super Audio Installations; Frank, Classic Upholstery; Johnno, Tuggeranong Tyres; Adam and Graham for spraying the engine bay and other parts.