The Holden Grey motor is often referred to as the Holden side plate. The engine earned its name as they were painted grey from the factory. They came in 2 sizes, 138ci and 132ci. More engineering and after market modifications have gone into this engine than any other engine in Australian automotive history.

September 10, 2014

Ellis French - The Grey Racer

10:17 Posted by GreyFC No comments
There’s nothing like the old Humpies ( FX and FJ ) and Ellis is a bloke who knows them well with a history in racing dating back to 1965 his knowledge is undisputable, when asked Why the grey “I like the sound ( don’t we all ), there fragile but tough, high maintenance and your never really finished working on them and fiddling with them” that’s all part of the fun, and with more experience than most of us he would know.

Symmons Plains 2009
"I started  in 1963 or 64  in Go Karting and  even won a few Tassie State titles,  I worked on my best mates Mick McIvor ‘s car from 1964 till 1968 but it wasn’t until 2008/9 that I got my  own race 
It was after we found an old race car for Mick in 2008 as he had got the urge again that another one turned up about 3 months later and I bought it from Victoria. Mine was built in ACT in early 90’s and  raced in NSW mainly before being sold minus engine to WA where it was raced  and run in Regularity by 2 different owners before coming back to Victoria. It was owned in Vic by the person who runs the Peter Brock Foundation and had a property next to Brocky.

The car when I got it was a logbooked Grp Nb car and still is. It is fitted with an alloy full roll cage as permitted in the period in which is was built." say Ellis

Drive Line:

The engine in it was ran as was for 5 or 6 meetings and then I broke a crankshaft at Baskerville in about 2010. Up till then I didn’t know what was in the engine as there were conflicting reports from previous owners.  When pulled down it was a 3 3/16 flattop. The valve seats were not good and most of the cam followers were pitted badly.

Ellis finished his own pistons.
I had an older engine with 2nd hand Weslite hi tops which was fitted as  an interim measure so I could run the car. This engine with a slightly worked head produced 137 hp on the dyno.

I built a complete new engine …block..crank ..head etc etc , buying a  milling machine to do my new JP hi top pistons. They are 3 1/8 + 60 th which is near enuff to 3 3/16”

The head  was ported and planed and 179 valves fitted with valve springs same as used by the HQ boys. The crank was dynamically balanced and standard rods shot peened etc and weighed. I already had a lightened flywheel and this was checked and balanced.

I wanted reliability so kept the compression ratio at around 10.8 and so far it has been ultra reliable having done 13 race meetings without  a hiccup although its due for a re ring and check after the Baskerville Historics in Oct 2014 , its next meeting.
  • Carbies are SU x 3 x 1.5” . I have  as set  of 1 ¾ “ that are with the complete spare engine which is a flattop 3 3 /16”  
  • The Distributor is  Holden and still has points but with altered advance curve.
  • Camshaft is from Clives Cams in Vic. with alloy timing gear.
  • This engine produced 150 hp on the dyno.
  • Gearbox is stock except for welding synchro circlips which generally gives no troubles.
  • Diff housing is standard with FE/FC axles and either  a 3.5  or 3.9 LSD run.
  • Front stubs and uprights are FB / EK.  We have to run 15” x 6”  wheels in Grp Na /Nb so wheels have 2 sets of studs with strengthening plate. In Regularity I run 15 x 7 rims as there are no limiting rules in that class.
"The green one is old weslite engine referred to and red is new JP...the blip on the red graph was caused by choke lever partly on on N01, carby...did another run but never saved it but at 6K was  about 155 from memory" - Ellis Tells us

Pic is Mikes car at Longford in 1965 alongside my Valiant tow car.

In 2009 I finally got to race along side my best mate Mike McIvor” who sadly passed away on Xmas day  2013.  Mike was a legend in the Humpy racing scene in Tassie.  I worked  on  Mike.s  car from 1964-1968 when he retired to build a house.  His was a top Humpy in Tas especially n the last 2 years, Mike ( with Ellis help ) won against all comers at Hume Weir in 1968.  Mike left his last Humpy to Ellis who does it proud bring it out to the track and keeps it running great ( remember they need constant fiddling”

Doe it run in the family?  The love of motor sport?

"My son Jason has a drive of the Humpies which makes me happy...bugger is about 1 ( 0.09 to be precise ) sec a lap quicker at baskerville as well.

Jason (son) was Tassie Trials A grade Champ 3 years in a row till he hurt his back early 90's  ( right )
Mikes last race car which I now look after - Ellis
Pic is Mike McIvor at Symmons Plains in 1967…yes it came back down

Ellis has had a number of cars and is not a Holden purist

"Had an old paddock Humpy very early days on the farm then in 1963 I got a brand new Mini . This was upgraded to Mini Coopers  over the years then got a Valiant , an EH or 2  then a brand new HK GTS Monaro when they came out.  An VW Fastback then an XW Falcon followed by a string of  Falcons and currently a Landcruiser, a campervan and a  2000 and something-or-other Fairmont."

Mini Cooper 997 in 1965

Classic Cars still owned include:  
- 1929 Model A Ford,
- 1929 Austin 7 Meteor,
- 1935 Austin 6
 and of course the 2 Humpies.
Also in the shed is an
-  XR GT Falcon,
- 66 K Code Mustang along with a
- 70 Boss 302 Mustang

HK GTS Monaro

Ellis has a supporting partner Marilyn who on the rare occasion even allows Ellis to photograph an engine part or two right on the kitchen bench:  "My Missus says ... that car your are playing with...arn't you sick of it yet" - Ellis,    ( Never! )

Both Ellis cars run Triple SUs

A head turning setup.

 “Baskerville, 20 minutes from Hobart CBD.  The track was built in 1958, I first went in 1960, Its in a natural amphitheatre so good viewing of whole circuit, real drivers circuit, described as mini Bathurst! originally on leased land but progressed from Club owned to Syndicate owned to Motorsport Tasmania owned who also own Symmons Plains.  Survived the ups and downs of Motorsport popularity and now the resurgence of Historic racing has given a new lease of life with the formation of the Baskerville Foundation who are successfully fundraisng towards $600,000 for improvemnts to structures and track surface.” Says Ellis

Baskerville Raceway is a 2.01 km (1.26 mi) permanent motor racing circuit located at 473 Baskerville Rd, Old Beach- a northern suburb of Hobart, Tasmania,  Baskerville's official website suggested that it is the oldest continuously operating circuit in Australia, although Mount Panorama is older.

Baskerville historic is on this year in October 4th to 5th.  It's a fantastic event with many Historic vehicle present and almost a full field of grey powered vehicles, might even see a few Repco High Powered heads as aswell.

Ellis tuning some triple SU’s

Ellis’s best mate Mike McIvor  Symmons Plains 1965…. What a time to live, what a car.

Just cause he Races a Humpie dosn't mean he cant enjoy a Ford.

Longford 1965

Baskerville Info




156 Argyle St
Hobart TAS 7000


6231 3536


6234 3700



Dick Caplice






Baskerville Raceway was opened in February 1958 by the Hobart Sporting Car Club and has been operating continuously ever since, making it the oldest continuously operating circuit in Australia.
Baskerville Raceway has been a pioneer in motor racing in Australia on many occasions. In December 1977 at the Winfield 25 s Touring Car challenge, a nationally televised single lap qualifying was used for the first time in Australia. Nearly 12 months later this system was used at Bathurst for the first time.
The mega popular HQ Holden class was devised in Tasmania and competed for the first time in October 1988 before spreading all over Australia.
Over the years Baskerville spectators have been treated to watching all the great names of Australian motor sport including;
Allan Moffat, Peter Brock, Alan Jones, Jim Richards, Dick Johnson, Glenn Seton, Allan Grice, Peter Fitzgerald, Alfredo Costanzo, Garry Rogers, Murray Carter, John Harvey and Colin Bond.
Plus many of Australia s great drivers are Tasmanian and their early motor racing was done around Baskerville, - John McCormack, Tony Edmondson, John Bowe, Kerry Baily, Greg Crick, Paul Stokell, Gene Cook and Mark McLaughlin.
Major Dates in History
* 9/75 The first "Tasmanian Ten Thousand" Sports Sedan super race, which was one of first victories for Jim Richards in Australia in his famous Sidchrome Mustang.
* 3/77 The second "Tasmanian Ten Thousand" again won by Jim Richards
* 12/77 The first Winfield 25's Touring car challenge
* 11/78 Second Winfield 25's
* 2/79 21st Anniversary meeting
* 4/79 First ever round of an Australian Championship, The Australian Sports Car Champ rd 1
* 10/79 The Australian Sports Sedan Championship Round 8
* 12/79 Third Winfield 25's
* 3/80 Australian Drivers Championship for the Gold Star rd 2 for Formula 5000 cars
* 4/80 Australian Sports Car Championship rd 2
* 10/80 Australian Sports Sedan Championship rd 9
* 4/81 Australian Sports Car Champ rd 2
* 10/81 Australian Sports Sedan Championship rd 9
* 10/82 Australian Sports Sedan & GT Championship featuring Alan Jones & Peter Brock
* 2/83 25th Anniversary meeting
* 10/83 Formula Vee Nationals
* 11/84 The last of the Big Bangers meeting - the final race for Group C Touring Cars in Australia
* 5/85 Australian Formula 2 championship rd 6
* 3/86 Australian Formula 2 championship rd 2
* 2/88 30th Anniversary meeting
* 10/88 HQ Holden class debut
* 4/91 Australia v New Zealand Truck racing Challenge
* 2/92 Mobil Truck racing Challenge
* 5/93 National Sports Sedan Challenge
* 3/95 Sports Sedan Challenge
* Annual round of the Australian Road Racing Championship for Motorcycles to 1999