SMOOTH CRIMINAL: Chad Darke’s Smooth 336ci EH Holden Ute

18 Jun

Chad Darke's EH Holden Ute

SMOOTH CRIMINAL

A long list of subtle refinements makes Chad Darke’s inky blue EH stroker one slippery character
Story and Pics by Ben Hosking

Chad Darke's EH Holden UteBesides the 48-215 and FJ, there’s no more an iconic Holden model than the EH. Even today, almost 50 years since the introduction of the EH range, they remain as popular as the 260,000 they manufactured between 1963 and early 1965.

It’s no wonder then that Holden lover Chad Darke scoured the country for the right basis for his next automotive project back in 2005. “I rang my mate to see if he’d come with me to check out a car,” the 37-year-old electrician from Sydney relates. “I didn’t mention it was in Tasmania! We flew down there the next morning and started haggling.”

Once Chad had settled on a price, it was time to get the ute home and instead of throwing it onto a transporter and taking the easy route home, Chad and friend jumped in and headed north. “I asked the seller about fuel economy,” Chad says. “He said it was good for 10km/L and it was supposed to have a 100L tank, so I filled it up in Victoria and we set off for home. Somewhere between Yass and Goulburn the car started to splutter… out of fuel in the middle of nowhere!”

“Here I am waving my Jerry can around furiously trying to hitch a ride when a guy that resembled Ivan Milat picks me up. He took me to the nearest town and after a tense trip I got some fuel and found my way back to the car safe and sound.”Chad Darke's EH Holden Ute

With that fateful trip home behind him, Chad could breathe a sigh of relief and get stuck into the build up. Over the course of the next five years, the old EH would be transformed into a sleek, modern interpretation of the classic Holden, but not without the odd headache.

“Dealing with panel beaters and relying on other people’s conversion kits that didn’t fit were probably some of the hardest parts of the build,” Chad explains. “I ended up finding a good panel guy though.”

He’s not lying either – the finish on Chad’s EH is pristine and includes some choice body mods that really smooth the old girl out. For starters, the door handles and locks were shaved off. Given that Australian rules require a mechanical method of opening front doors, Chad replaced the handles with short metal rods poking up out of the top of each door. However, whereas most similar conversions work by being pushed down or lifted up, the mechanism on Chad’s doors works by gently pulling the rods toward you. We gave them a go and they worked effortlessly.

Chad Darke's EH Holden UteAnother huge visual improvement came via the deletion of the front quarter windows. With full one-piece glass inserted into the doors, it looks far more modern and further simplifies the exterior aesthetic. With an aviation-style fuel filler replacing the factory door, the modern iteration of the EH is almost complete – perhaps finished off most notably by the venerable Simmons FR18s.

Having a nice-looking ute is one thing, but without the proper mechanical motivation it’s little more than BBQ rice: all show and no go. Surely the old six-banger was never going to cut the mustard and Chad swapped it out for a Holden 5L.

Based around a Kingswood pre-EFI block, Alan Bruni built up a nice offset-ground 336ci stroker motor that is updated with a pair of VN EFI cast heads. It’s a relatively mild affair with an HSV hydraulic cam’, unported heads and a 650cfm Holley on top. While power is untested, the combo has pushed the ute to a 13.8sec ET in full street trim; and as they say, a 14sec street car is nothing to sneeze at.Chad Darke's EH Holden Ute

Chad shifts gears through a T5 5-speed and there are more Commodore parts to be found out back, with a VN Borg Warner running 3.45:1 gears and an LSD centre. Check each corner and you’ll find VT-spec’ discs on the nose and VN discs in the rear.

The sweet combination of old and new continues inside where the cabin has been decked out with timeless black leather and suede. Premier buckets provide an iota of more lateral support than a bench, but it’s the Autometer dash, Sony stereo and Momo wheel that helps bring the old girl into the present day.

With a ute as cool and contemporary as this in the shed, many would be happy to rest on their laurels and take a break, but Chad has more plans under way. “I’ll probably end up putting a bigger stroker kit into it,” Chad starts. “It’ll also cop a bigger stainless fuel tank,”

Bring it on!

Owner: Chad Darke
Model: 1963 EH Holden
Colour: PPG Midnight blue
Bodykit: Aviation-style fuel filler, deleted door handles and locks, deleted quarter windows
Engine Type: Holden V8
Engine Mods: Offset-ground 336ci stroker conversion, 5.7in small-journal Chevrolet rods, ACL Larry Perkins pistons and rings (10:1-comp’), ACL bearings, VN cast heads, polished rocker covers, HSV hydraulic cam’, Yella Terra roller rockers, double-row timing chain, high-volume oil pump, High Energy sump, Davies Craig thermo fan, 80A alternator, PWR alloy radiator, 650cfm Holley DP carb’, ceramic coated Torque Power intake manifold, adjustable FPR, K&N air filter, Bosch HEI distributor, Bosch EA Falcon coil, wiring hidden, Carter fuel pump, braided lines, custom bonnet hinges
Power: Untested, 13.8sec @ 98mph
Exhaust: Custom stainless headers, twin 2.5in into single system, single stainless muffler
Gearbox: T5, heavy-duty 10in single-plate clutch
Diff: Narrowed VN Commodore Borg Warner, 3.45:1 final drive, LSD, Cortina tail shaft
Brakes: 300mm VT-spec’ rotors and calipers, 278mm rear discs, VN calipers, front braided brake lines, VN master cylinder, VN V8 booster
Wheels and tyres: 18in Simmons FR rims (7in front, 8in rear)
Suspension: HR front end, King front springs, Pedders shocks, reset rear leaf springs, custom sway bars, LH Torana rack and pinion conversion, modified EH column
Interior: Momo steering wheel, EH Premier buckets, black leather retrim, custom Autometer instrument cluster, custom door skins, black carpets, black suede roof lining
Other Mods: Battery relocated
Stereo: Sony head unit and speakers
Build Period: 5 years
Cost: $44,000
Thanks: Pioneer Plating, M&S Johnson, “Tony Wellington for the timber tray; Jeffrey Smith for the machine work; Terry Edwards for engine balancing; Ray and Warren for the great panel and paint and my wife for putting up with us.”

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