ABOUT 240km across the creek to the south of Melbourne is the often overlooked island of Tasmania.
The Apple Isle is famous for many things but our southernmost state hasn’t been a regular source of top-shelf show cars. Ricky Absolom’s sweet EH is making up for that. A retrotech masterpiece, the EH is a beautifully engineered machine that boasts far more involved mods than any quick inspection could ever reveal.
The car is not only 100 per cent made in Tassie but it never left the Classic Auto Metal workshop until it was finished. Everything — body, interior, engineering — was done in-house.
Ricky was only chasing “a quick paint-job” when he rolled his EH into the shop. Clearly the resto changed significantly along the way. So much so that Ricky abandoned the original shell when he and Dean at Classic Auto Metal discovered that it wasn’t up to standard.
“It was a few weeks into the job that I decided I wanted to build a show car,” Ricky says. “The car went onto a rotisserie and every nut and bolt was removed. But after stripping, we found that the floor had sheets of tin pop-riveted in and it had been hit up the back and filled with bog. Dean said: ‘Go find another one and we’ll start again,’ so that’s what I did.”
Miraculously, he managed to find a rust-free original EH for the second build.
The extent of the engineering and custom body mods might be obvious to EH aficionados but to the untrained eye they’re extremely subtle, which is testament to how skilfully they’ve been carried out. If you reckon the car’s unusually low, you’re onto something. But rather than taking an angle grinder to the coils, the Classic Auto Metal team lowered the car the hard way.
The floorpan was cut out and replaced with a hand-fabricated floor and enlarged transmission tunnel, which was welded into the body two inches lower than standard. That required extensive chassis and sheet-metal mods, with the sills cut out and lowered to match the floor, and the doors and wheelarches extended downwards.
The front and rear stone trays were also extended, with Mustang driving lights up front and a VT ClubSport rear bar section. Dean says it was especially tricky to stop the squared corners on the bottom edges of the doors fouling on the pillars when hanging the doors.
A custom box chassis incorporating a four-link rear was fabricated to suit the vertically extended body, so the EH could rest two inches closer to terra firma without compromising suspension travel. It’s the hard way to lower a car but dropping the floor gave plenty of extra cabin space to fit a complete VY SS Commodore interior.
The dash was cut and shut dramatically, while the door trims were remanufactured in fibreglass to fit the EH doors and retain the VY interior locks and handles. It took four VY trims to create the EH version and Ricky reckons it was one of the most challenging aspects of the whole build.
The stock Commodore seats would have looked totally out of proportion with the smaller EH cabin so they were resized and reshaped before being trimmed in sumptuous leather. The boys even managed to integrate the VY centre console and steering column, with all controls such as the electric window switches and indicator stalk completely functional. To sit in, the car’s a VY Commodore, except for the telltale curves in the EH A-pillars.
The engine and gearbox are Commodore too, though modified to Ricky’s tastes. In standard trim, the 5.7-litre LS1 pumps out more grunt than any old 179ci red. But a Crow cam and valve springs, ACL Race Series slugs, shaved and ported heads and that gorgeous eight-throttle Harrop induction system really up the ante. The engine hasn’t been dynoed but Ricky’s estimate of 400–450hp seems reasonable.
The engine bay is every bit as tasty, with a remote-mounted booster and master cylinder set-up, and smoothed inner guards and firewall. The fully polished Tremec six-speed ’box runs an RPM Performance clutch, while a nine-inch LSD brings up the rear.
Even though the car was built at a workshop, Ricky was very hands-on in the process, especially during the final months when he was often there from 8am ’til 3am! The EH took five years to build, with a dedicated and highly skilled team of two or three guys working on it pretty much full time. It really is a case of ‘the more you look, the more you see’ with this car, and the level of craftsmanship exhibited in every aspect is absolutely second to none.
“Summernats was the car’s first show, and I was pretty wound up after all the dramas we’d had getting the car to Canberra. You always doubt your own car and I wasn’t sure how it’d be received. I’d kept it pretty quiet because I didn’t know if I was going to have it finished, so I just rocked up with it in the trailer.
“When I got the car out, everyone was crawling all over it! I’m just rapt with the response we’ve been getting at shows.”
CANBERRA OR BUST
“CHRISTMAS Eve and the car was finally ready. Dad and I had built an enclosed trailer but when I hooked it up to go get the car, I nearly lost it at 60km/h — we’d put the wheels too far back.
On Boxing Day we put a third axle under it. “The day before I left, I had the car in for a wheel alignment. When we tried to get the car off the trailer, the brakes had locked and we couldn’t move it. It had built up pressure in the booster and we couldn’t release it, so we had to pull parts of the dash out to get to the booster.
“I got the car home to clean up some water that had fallen on it from the trailer but it was sap from a tree the trailer was parked under. With four hours to get to the boat, I had to polish the whole car. With the car back in the trailer I tried to drive onto the ferry but my towbar was too low and got caught on the ramp — we ended up using a truck to load the trailer.
“We arrived in Melbourne at 10:30pm and 80km into the drive to Canberra the transmission in my Chevy truck blew, so it was second gear and 50km/h for 13 hours straight!”
EH HOLDEN SPECIAL
Colour: Seduce Red
Inlet: Harrop cross ram EFI
Cam: Crow roller
Pistons: ACL Race Series
Valves Springs: Crow
Exhaust: Custom extractors, 2.25in stainless twin system
Box: Tremec six-speed
Clutch: RPM Performance
Tailshaft: Modified VY
Diff: Nine-inch LSD
Front: Reinforced HR crossmember,
Rear: Four link, coil-overs
Steering: LX rack, VY column
Brakes: VS callipers, XD rotors (f), HQ rotors (r)
Rims: American Racing
16×7 (f), 16×8 (r)
205/50 (f), 225/50 (r)
Classic Auto Metal, Steve McMahon, Steve Lowe, Jono Bellinger, Mark Wheatley, Tim Pouwer, Ben Bourne