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Holden Engine Blocks: All the Colours of the Rainbow

Pop the bonnet of a six cylinder Holden between the years of 1948 and 1986 and you will notice, amongst many other changes over the years, a change in the colour of the engine block itself. This wasn’t because Holden wanted to pop down to the local hardware store to take advantage of a paint sale. With every change of colour came a change to the engine. Some were significant changes, some weren’t. The first colour used for the first engines produced was grey, just like a Grandfather. Known as the Grey motor, it was built between 1948 and 1962. During that period, the Buick based block changed very little. This is significant because effectively with the Grey motor, it was one colour for one block. In the production period following the Grey, it was many colours for one block. Starting out as a 132 cubic inch (2.1 litre) on the 48-215, or Holden FX, between 1948 and 1953, it remained unchanged through to the FJ Series (1953-1956) and FE Series (1956-1958) until the FC Series (1958-1960). Come 1960 and the start of the Holden FB’s, the 132 leapt to a mighty 138 and stayed this way through to the EK (1961-1962) and finally to the end of the Grey series with the EJ in 1963. By this stage, the development of the Grey had run its course and it was time for an engine that was entirely new. Enter the mighty Red motor. Produced between 1963 and 1980, this was a game changer. Powering the EH Series onwards, it initially came in two variants: the 149 cubic inch (2.4 litre) 100 BHP version and the 179 cubic inch (2.9 litre), putting out 115 BHP. The Red also came in 161 and 173 cubic inch versions. A host of changes occurred throughout the Red motor including displacement changes up to 3.3 litres, better known as the 202. It was used in a host of models. These included: the EH, HD and HR Standard, Special and Premier Models between 1963 and 1968; the HK, HT, HG, HQ, HJ, HX, and HZ Belmont, Kingswood and Premier Models between 1968 and 1980; the legendary LC, LJ, LH, LX and UC Toranas between 1969 and 1979; the CF Bedford between 1971 and 1979 and finally, the VB Commodore between 1978 and 1980….phew! The next colour motor to hit Aussie roads was the Blue motor. Unlike the change from Grey to Red, which was an entirely different engine, the Blue series was more of a refinement of the Red and included: changing from a nine port head to a twelve point head, the addition of a fully counterweighted crank and stronger con-rods. Released as 2.8 and 3.3 litre, it was used in the WB’s (1980-1985) along with the VC (1980-1981) and VH (1981-1984) Commodores. The final instalment of Holden’s programme of coloured engines for its six cylinders (Holden’s V8s were also painted in different colours but that’s for another day) ended with the Black. Introduced in 1984’s VK Commodore, it ran until 1986. Changes from the Blue to the Black included modifications to the ports and valves, however the most significant change to the 3.3 litre power plant was the introduction of an EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) version, the manifold and rocker cover of which was actually painted red. Sadly, due to emission control requirements, in 1986 the VL Commodore’s home grown six cylinder donk was replaced with the Nissan RB30 and RB20E engines from Japan. They say all good things must come to an end, however Holden’s coloured series of engines is yet another fascinating example of the Australian car industry.

History of the Phillip Island Race Track

A couple of hours South East of Melbourne lies the quaint little tourist destination of Phillip Island. Popular with locals and city slickers alike, it’s known for its fishing, surfing, and relaxed way of life and of course, it’s Penguin Parade. But if you’re into motorsport, then you’ll love the ‘Island’ for an entirely different reason. And that’s because Phillip Island is home to one of the best and most exciting race circuits on the planet. Racing on Phillip Island actually began in 1927 in the form of a 200 mile road race for motorcycles. The following year, the ‘100 Miles Road Race’ for cars was run, which would eventually become known as a little race called the Australian Grand Prix. However, back then it was simply a rectangular circuit utilising public roads with a length of 10 kilometres for cars and 16 kilometres for motorcycles. Then in 1935, the racing suddenly stopped for a while. It was the vision of Bernard Denham to build a dedicated motor racing complex and Winston Maguire’s job to make it happen, so in 1951 the two men along with four other local businessmen met to get the ball rolling. The actual design of the track was by Melbourne Consulting Engineer Alan Brown who based it on the Zandvoort Circuit in Holland, which in turn was designed by John Hugenholtz, widely regarded as “one of the finest racing circuit designers in the world”. The first ‘event’ took place in 1954 when a member’s only rally got the chance to drive around the unsealed circuit. On the 15th of December 1956, the first actual race was run on the sealed circuit in front of a lack lustre crowd, with several car clubs each contributing to the running of the event. The winner of that historic race was Lex Davison. That day also saw the soon to be great Jack Brabham compete in the main race, but also sadly saw the track’s first fatality. The first Armstrong 500 was run between 1960 and 1962. After the 1962 race, the track was so badly damaged, the race moved to Mount Panorama which of course morphed into the now famous Bathurst 1000. Unfortunately, funds weren’t available to repair the track at Phillip Island which forced it to close. Then in 1964, Businessman Len Lukey (now you know where Lukey Heights comes from) bought the track for £13,000. 1967 saw it reopen with the Phillip Island 500K endurance race. Rounds of the Australian Manufactures’ Championship and Australian Touring Car Championship were run during the 1970s, but due to escalating maintenance requirements, the complex eventually closed once more and was run as a farm. Then in 1984, it was sold again for $800,000 to an investment group which poured a huge amount of money into the infrastructure of the entire complex. In 1988, the final round of the Swann Insurance International Series for motorcycles was run, ushering in a new dawn and era for the track. The following year, the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix was awarded to Phillip Island. The ‘Island’ was once again back on the international map. The AMGP ran again the next year but moved to Eastern Creek in 1991. 1997 saw the old girl get her revenge though as the series returned to Phillip Island and has been there ever since. 1990 also saw the Superbike World Championship move from Oran Raceway near Sydney to Phillip Island, where it remains. Four wheels also returned to the island in a big way in 1990 with the Australian Touring Car Championship for the first time in thirteen years. Although the ATCC missed the next two years, it returned again in 1993 and stayed until 2004, although by now the series was rebranded to what we know and love as V8 Supercars. From 2005 to 2007, it went on to host the Grand Finale, the final round of the V8 Supercars season. It was around this time in 2004 that the ‘For Sale’ sign went up again for the now world famous race track. Always knowing a good thing when he sees it, billionaire Lindsay Fox’s Linfox Property Group bought it for an unknown amount in 2006. The four wheelers remained in the form of a 500 kilometre race between 2008 and 2011 known as the L&H 500. The Sandown 500 was replaced by the Phillip Island 500 as the annual V8 Supercar 500 kilometre race, which was later reinstated in 2012. Since then it has hosted the Phillip Island Super Sprint. All great champions have their ups and downs. Indeed, it’s in the face of adversity that the qualities of a true champion emerge. The great Muhammad Ali once said “Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” If you could apply this to race tracks, Phillip Island would definitely be a world champion.  

Cop Car Evolution

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you look in the rear view mirror to see those dreaded blue and red flashing lights? Whether it’s genuine shock and surprise accompanied by “I’m sorry officer but I have no idea why you have pulled me over,” or that we know we’ve done something wrong and thought we got away with it, those cars belonging to the boys in blue can strike fear into all of us. But it wasn’t always like this. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, horses and bikes were the only way for police to chase down law breakers. Then in 1915, the first patrol car was introduced and motorcycles the year after. Things got serious in 1925 when the NSW Police Commissioner returned from a field trip of the USA and Europe to drastically increase both cars and motorcycles in the Police Force. What he saw on his travels also led to Australia’s version of a Highway Patrol. Zoom forward and up until 1978, Police Cars weren’t that different from what you or I could buy from a dealer. Any mods that were required were an individual aftermarket arrangement. And the makes and models through the years were numerous and varied to say the least. From the Chrysler Royal V8s, Ford Zephyrs and FJ Holdens from the 1950s, the Ford Anglias and Morris Mini 1100s from the 1960s, to the Chrysler Valiants and Ford Interceptors of the 1970s. Then in 1978, Ford approached the NSW Police and offered to build a ‘Police Special’. In consultation with all the other Australian police forces, a long list of mods was agreed to and production began on the first purpose built Ford Falcon Police Car. GMH also entered the fray in 1981 with the Holden Commodore. The list of modifications for these purpose built vehicles was long but included such things as: upgraded suspension; a revamped electrical system so as not to cause interference to police radios; increased alternator output and a heavy duty battery with couplings to connect to and cope with police specialty items; a specially calibrated speedo to detect speeding offences; a long range fuel tank to allow driving distances of 450 kilometres and an additional automatic transmission oil cooler, just to name a few. Zoom forward once more and the current crop of modern day police cars look more like spaceships compared to days gone by. A shining example of this is what is recognised as Australia’s most advanced and powerful police car. With an earth shattering 800 horsepower or 600 kilowatts, the Ford Falcon GT-F that belongs to the NSW Police Force has 200 more horsepower than a V8 Supercar! Sure, this Dick Johnson tuned monster is a one off, but with that kind of horsepower on tap in addition to the fact it can tell if you’re speeding or unregistered even from a kilometre away, the chances of getting that sinking feeling, in NSW at least, have never been higher.

The FE-HR Owners Club ACT INC. Cooler With Eskies

The FE-HR Owners Club ACT INC. have once again redeemed their Rare Spares Loyalty Club points and been rewarded with two Eskies, sure to come in handy in the summer months and for future club activities.   The FE-HR Holden Owners Club ACT was originally created to cater for Holden enthusiasts that prefer the 1956-67 models. Membership is now open to anyone that has an interest in Holden’s. The club hosts monthly club member activities and participates in local and interstate runs and displays with many of the Holden Car Clubs of Australia. Pist ‘n’ Broke is the name of the club’s regular magazine offered to members and over 250 issues have been produced since the club formed in 1987.   Rewards are what you get by being a part of the Rare Spares Loyalty Club! Registered car clubs receive exclusive discounts and points which can be redeemed for great rewards like marquees, flags and other promotional items, as well as product information specific to the vehicle being represented.   If you are a member of a car club or you would like your car club to be a part of the Rare Spares Loyalty Club, please visit    

A Word From Cam McConville

Normal 0 false false false EN-AU X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0cm; mso-para-margin-right:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0cm; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;} It's been a crazy month since my last post with Rare's but I have finally taken the foot off the gas pedal for a few days. After kicking off the HSV Drive Experience in sunny QLD, I flew to Austria for a FIA Young Driver Academy. This three day driver camp is something that I can now reveal to all of our Rare Spares Facebook fans that I will be running in Australia for CAMS! This was the European version run by former F1 pilot, Alex Wurz and in October I will run the Asia Pacific version in Sydney. The camp focused on driving skills, fitness and sports physiology, all valuable skill sets for a budding race driver. After just three days in Europe (via Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Dusseldorf) to get there it was straight back to Brisbane for the Queensland Raceway V8 Supercars round. Finally on the Sunday night I flew home but only for four hours sleep as our HSV Drive Days kicked in at Sandown on the Monday morning. Bruce (our lucky Rare Spares winner) had a ball and I Iook forward to having more Rare Spares guests along later in the year so stay tuned!! Cheers, Cam.