Custom EH Holden sedan delivery

Looking back on Richard Bells' classic custom EH tudor wagon

Photographers: Mark Bean

A nicely restored stock EH wagon? Think again!

This article on Richard Bell’s EH delivery was originally published in the April/May 1998 issue of Street Machine

“SORRY mate, but we don’t take entries on the day.” Those few words nearly meant the end of Summernats 11 for Mark Merchant. Basically he’d driven from Orange in central-western New South Wales across to the nation’s capital, only to get the bum’s rush.

“But, but – ahh, stuff it,” growled Mark. “Now I know why Richard didn’t want to come down here.” You see, Richard Bell is the owner and builder of this trick EH Holden wagon, but Richard’s not really keen on big, loud events, so Mark became the man for the job, driving Rich’s car to Canberra for him.

Fortunately, Mark’s arrival had aroused the official’s curiosity, who duly followed the despondent Mark to the gates of EPIC where he spied the object of his refusal. “Ah – hang on mate,” the official said. “I might have gone off a bit half-cocked there. That’s a nice-looking machine.”

Mark’s beaming expression said it all. There is a God after all. And for the next half-hour or so he became the proudest EH driver ever; tingles up the spine and an excited tremble in the guts as a heap of judges and officials pored over the car in admiration. Needless to say, he got his entrant’s sticker.

And what had them all buzzing? Nothing less than a superbly executed two-door wagon that evokes the stock look, yet challenges you to figure out how it was all done. According to Richard it was no big deal, and it’s only after you learn that he’s heavily into rods that you begin to understand his actions.

One night about a year ago, Richard had basically gas-axed one side of the old EH wagon which effectively eliminated the B and C pillars. As proprietor of R+L Classic Auto Restorations in Orange, he’d been toying with the idea of building some sort of customer magnet. Apparently the old EH was pretty rough at the time, in need of a new floorpan and various bits and pieces. Enough, in fact, to consume another EJ wagon and EH ute as donor cars.

The lazy 149 has grown up a little, to 208, since it was installed

Working from the front, Richard knew he’d have to stretch the doors to balance the whole thing visually, as well as giving access to the original rear bench seat via the Austin 1800 front buckets. No problem. An additional 175mm was added to each door, new door skins were fabricated and Gemini scissor-action window regulators adapted, which still operate from the original location.

But what to do with the front-door window frames and the B-pillars? Being a rodder keen on playing around with this sort of caper, Richard couldn’t just leave ’em straight up and down, so he cranked the B-pillar forward, which neatly matched the lean angle of the tailgate pillar. Looks so good you wonder why Holden never did it.

Front seats are Austin 1800, trimmed in grey and apricot vinyl, wood-trimmed wheel boasts a billet horn

With no mods to the roofline and a bit of panel cloning to clean up the inside and fill in the old rear-door openings, he was right on the money. So much so that the engineer who signed off on the mods reckoned he’d gone beyond requirements, with 5mm steel plate added to beef up the bottom of the door pillars.

Richard replaced the original swivelling front quarter windows with fixed glass in the relocated posts. Obviously, all the side glass had to be specially cut to suit (easy – the EH has flat side glass), which left just the front and rear screens as the remaining stock bits of glass.

Everyone seems to like the subdued Hyundai Red acrylic she’s finished in, which also covers the seam-welded bumpers, headlight surrounds and window trim. Actually, it took a couple of goes to get it right. After dropping the idea of using EH green, Richard went for a straight red tint and, oh boy, you couldn’t even see the car through the blinding glow! It didn’t even make it out of the paint shop until the more subdued Hyundai skin you see here was laid on.

Don’t be fooled by the factory-look stickers on the donk.

Underneath that ‘High Compression 149’ label hides a more lively 208ci performer. It sports double valve springs, a 30/70 cam, steel crank and XU-1 rods. Beside it sit a four-barrel Rochester carburettor and X2 headers, all hidden under an original air cleaner.

With original-looking radiator, steering box, distributor and plumbing, the under-bonnet deception is complete, even down to no booster for the LH Torana front brakes.

Apart from Darak Goldie’s neat grey-and-apricot vinyl trim on the Austin buckets, the only other cockpit changes are a billet gearshift and billet horn button on the wood-rimmed tiller.

The 100mm lower overall stance is anything but stock. With drop spindles on shortened springs up front and reversed eyes and lowering blocks for the rear leaves, it’s quite understandable.

Something that stands out immediately is the use of white-walled crossplies. Richard’s a little uncertain about this, but is fairly sure they came from a pile of new/old stock that had been stashed under someone’s house for who knows how long.

Waddya reckon? From a near no-show to wide appreciation is really good, but get this – the machine also won Promoter’s Choice at Summernats! If Chic Henry had’ve seen it at the next Summernats, and been told it had been knocked back for last year’s judging, he would have gone ballistic. And the rest of us would’ve been waiting another year to see this class act.


Colour: Hyundai Red

Type: Holden 208
Crank: Steel, XU-1 rods
Cam: Solid 30/70
Carbs: 4-barrel Rochester
Exhaust: X2 headers, 21/4in exhaust
Trans: Celica five-speed

Shocks & springs: Monroe shocks, lowered springs

New rear quarters, new front doorskins and inner panels. Doors extended 7in