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Weekly Motor Fix: Holden EJ panel van

30 April 2015


Every few weeks, we take more of an in-depth look at a car we’ve found — be it at an event, at the racetrack, or on the side of the road — in a feature we call ‘The Weekly Motor Fix’. Our favourite Motor Fix from the last month is Barry Wood’s Holden EJ panel van, which we came across at the GM Enthusiasts Club’s 2015 Holden Nationals.

Barry has owned the panelvan for 10 years, though it didn’t look a thing like this when he got it. The shell was so rusty that most rational people would have chucked it in the ‘too hard’ basket, but not Barry — working one night a week and four Sundays over a two year period, Barry restored the EJ to better-than-factory condition.

The front end was so far gone that Barry sourced a donor car with a good front end, cut it off — from the nosecone through the A-pillars and sills — and grafted it into the panelvan. Likewise, the sills, roof, rear quarters, and innumerable other areas were also slowly cured of their rust affliction. 

Under the bonnet, Barry has built a tough Holden 202ci straight-six, with Chev pistons, a stroker crankshaft, Yella Terra heads, straight-cut timing gears, and a two-barrel carb from a Holden 253 V8. It is backed by a Toyota Celica five-speed manual gearbox, with a 3.80:1 ratio 9-inch diff out the back. 

The cruiser ratio hasn’t impaired the car on the strip, where it’s run a 13.6-second quarter mile — with over 300hp in a car this small, it’s no slouch. The 13-second pass is an improvement over the 15s Barry used to run with his old 179ci straight-six motor and cruise–friendly 2.79:1 final drive ratio. 

Underneath, the front end from an Holden HR has been used — its suspension set-up is superior to the EJ’s — with HQ discs and calipers providing a significant upgrade from the EJ’s standard front drums. 

On the outside, you’d struggle to find evidence that the paintwork is eight years old, especially considering how much Barry drives the car. It’s been done right, and Barry treats it with MER car care products from the USA — he swears by them, and you can’t blame him, with how slick his car looks. The signwriting adorning the sides helps promote Barry’s business, but one of the coolest little features is the front spoiler. Almost never seen on EH–EJ’s in New Zealand, Barry found it in Australia, where it had probably seen a fair bit of use in the ‘80s. 

The seats from a Mitsubishi GTO and centre console from a Mazda 323 have worked their way inside the cabin, providing for a more comfortable environment than standard. The inside of the tailgate is the only ‘banged up’ part of the car, and is the result of Barry’s using the panelvan for its intended purpose — “Driven, not hidden,” is his motto when it comes to using his cars. 

It might not be V8–powered, but we’re big fans of Barry’s little panelvan. It’s a well built, honest car reminiscent of the ‘80s Australian show scene, and one that Barry’s not afraid to put his foot into. We could all learn a bit from Barry’s approach to cars — it doesn’t matter how much time or money is poured into your car, you’ve got to enjoy it. And, sometimes, the best way to enjoy your car is to drive the shit out of it.