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.

June 04, 2015

Worlds Fastest Holden

08:31 Posted by GreyFC No comments

LIKE, most of the sport-minded motoring "bods" of Sydney Village, I had long admired both the enthusiastic driving skill and mechanical wizardry of Jack Myers, Kingsford garage proprietor and racing driver, in making normally fleet Holdens go even "fleeter."
However, one must draw the line somewhere, and when Jack casually mentioned in passing (a couple of weeks before the February Orange race meeting) that he would extract 115 b.h.p. from his Holden sedan and confidently expected to meander down the straight at, or over, 105 m.p.h., I firmly drew the line —raised eyebrow, disbelieving leer, withering glance and all. 

A Fine Fiacre

After all, everyone will tell you that, although a Holden makes a fine fiacre, not to say a bonny little family barouche, it's just not in the event when it comes to racing —particularly against really fast voiturettes from overseas.
Too light in the tail—needs bags of sand in the boot—too much body flex—rolls over on corners—inferior road-holding 'n' all that . . . Any-way, you just can't do over the ton in an H—it isn't done, y'know.
Feeling that perhaps it would be best to humour Jack until reinforcements arrived, I let him ramble on about extra hot camshafts, high compression ratios, pots bored out so far you can see bulges going up and down the block exterior, carburettors festooned all over the noisy department, and double downdraught twin overhead plug leads. 

Guesswork Is Out
At least, that's what it sounded like for a while until I caught the general drift, after which it slowly dawned that here was no mechanical experimenter who blindly performs some haphazard engine modification in the hope that it will induce more revs, but an efficient mechanical engineer who carefully plans a modification or development to the last minute detail on paper, checks and double-checks all the factors, and knows the exact result of the modification before lifting a tool to begin the actual work. 

Proof of the Pudding

Orange Race Day duly arrived, and as an assistant in the ¼ mile electrical timing outfit I was in an ideal position to check on certain claims made about certain machinery. Well, fellers, to put it briefly —he dunnit! 105 m.p.h. — won the race against formidable opposition —confounded all and sundry—and made me eat my best straw boater. In fact, J.M. claims the Holden actually improved on this speed by another 5 m.p.h. or so after it had passed through the timing traps, on the downhill run to Windsock Corner. He bases this claim on the fact that his speedo, which registered a fraction over 105 on the timed quarter, rose to 110 a few seconds later. To find out what gives Myers' Holden such astonishing performance, the Editor asked me to road-test the "atomic bomb" and obtain the good (technical) oil from its owner, so that you, too, may convert your little old Holden into a low-flying supersonic rocket-ship in one easy lesson.

Just an Ordinary Holden
Taking action station behind the tiller, I mentally compared the vehicle with my own standard model and noted a non-standard six-inch speedometer graduated to 100 m.p.h. above the radio dial space, a small gauge combining oil-pressure and water-temperature indicators beside the steering column, a manual ignition control knob tinder the dash, a fire Extinguisher, and a safety belt. Otherwise it looked a very ordinary cream taxi—er, sorry—Holden. The motor star easily at first touch of the button and ticked over at a fast idle with only slight tin-steadiness. From this point on any similarity between this and any other Holden existing or wrecked is purely coincidental.

It Hit Me
Pressing the loud pedal down the normal amount for take-off in a standard model and engaging the clutch produced a noise like a Ferrari at full chat—also an exceedingly smart blow in the back and wide-eyed astonishment from those fortunate enough to be in the vicinity and witnessing this extraordinary phenomenon. It took a few minutes to get the feel of the car, during which period I found that throttle pressure  somewhat jerky due to one of the carburettor butterflies sticking slightly; but by the time we had reached the centre of the city, where we picked up the photographer, this little foible had ceased to be a worry. Low oil pressure, down to about 9 p.s.i. at a fast idle, was viewed with some apprehension until Jack reminded me that this was due to the loose hearing fit of racing tolerances. 

Traffic Tractability
Several times top-gear speed was deliberately dropped to as low as 10 m.p.h. in city traffic, but the power available is such that it is possible to pick up from this speed without undue strain on the motor. In fact, it is hard to believe that the car is not powered by a 5-litre "Dynaflash Fireball Eight" — the feeling of sheer power is so acute. First-gear engagement caused a slight grating at times because of the fast idle, but otherwise the car's manners were so good it could have been handled in city traffic by the proverbial old lady. Braking was good, but tyres (with 211b. pressure all round) squealed on corners even at relatively slow speeds.
Steering felt nicely balanced, with no excess movement or drag. A hands-off braking test failed to move the steering wheel from its centralised position. An indication of how meek and mild this racing sedan can he in city traffic is given by Mrs. Myers, who frequently uses the car as a shop-ping vehicle.. However, there are times when she cannot resist the temptation to take a taxi-driver by .surprise at the traffic lights. 

Action Photography - the Hard Way 

Our photographic interlude star-ted with quiet little shots of the secret "power bulges" of the machinery and progressed to frightening situations where, with Jack Myers now at the wheel, the car rocketed around a right-angle corner in a mighty power slide, apparently aimed directly at the hap-less photographer. Things were not as they seemed, however, for Jack had the car well tinder control and the photographer was in no danger (although we never quite convinced him of this).

On the Road
With Mount Druitt and acceleration tests in mind, we threaded our way through the Saturday afternoon traffic, along Parramatta Road and up the Great Western Highway. Water temperature on this run remained below 180 degrees—down to 160 at times---due to the absence of a fan, which Myers regards as a coolant retarder rather than a help in this particular Holden. The car handled well on corners and seemed much firmer than a standard model, although this could be due to a sway bar under the front end and shock absorbers that are always kept right up to the mark.

An unfortunate circumstance that persisted throughout the remainder of this run was the heavy traffic, which prevented anything interesting in the way of really high speeds. However, on reaching Mt. Druitt the car was given a couple of warming-up runs, during which 91 m.p.h. was recorded before it was necessary to cut out and brake hard for the bottom turn. It. later became evident that the comparatively short straights were not long enough to acquire a "full head of steam" for a maximum speed run. But more of this anon. I should point out at this juncture that the car was being tested on standard pump fuel instead of its usual racing fodder of 85 to 100 octane, and was fully road-equipped with spare wheel, exhaust muffler, box of tools, divers bags and bods, etc., all of which arc unhelpful factors in obtaining the absolute maxi-mum in speed.

Performance Tests

On the acceleration tests with driver and one passenger, we felt the full thrust of Myers' modified motor. Full figures are given in the data panel, so there's no point in repeating them all here. Suffice it to say that, working through the gear-box, we went from 0 to 30 m.p.h. in 3.8 seconds, 0 to 60 in 12 and 0 to 80 in 24—on pump fuel. There wasn't enough airstrip length available to log higher figures safely, but it's interesting to note that the hot Holden's time for 0 to 60 was .2 of a second faster than that of the highly regarded Triumph TR2 (as established in a recent road test by the American magazine "Road and Track"). And she took only 1.7 seconds longer than the 1'R2 to reach 80. Maximum speeds in gears, with the power-pack revving at 6000, were 40 m.p.h. in first, 73 in second. At 20 m.p.h. per 1000 revs., maxi-mum top-gear speed could be 120 m.p.h. Could be, I said. It seldom works out that way. Jack tells me his usual shift-points when racing are first — 30 m.p.h., second — 65 m.p.h.
Owing to the aforementioned reasons, it was not possible to flatten the car like a Sao biscuit during the afternoon. On the return journey it was found that 80 m.p.h. could be easily and quickly attained, 92-3 showed up a couple of times, and on one occasion 96 m.p.h. was reached before the anchors were hastily applied to avoid heavy pressure on the back of a bun truck. On this occasion the needle was still climbing—if a little slowly. Bearing in mind that this was pump fuel, etc., 1 was not disappointed in the performance. We gave those anchors a good stiff test, too, on dry bitumen. Taking the best of two runs in each case, they stopped us in 31 feet from 30 m.p.h., and in 159 feet from 60. The handbrake held her efficiently on a 1-in-5 gradient. Two items in this test were pleasantly surprising—the unusually good stopping distance from 30 m.p.h. and the holding power of the hand, brake. This, I felt, was due to the owner's attention rather than any inherent qualities of the car. No special checks of fuel consumption were taken at set speeds; the. figure of 22 m.p.g. was obtained in the overall road-test and includes tromping hard in various cogs, high-speed runs, odd idling, and such. Amazingly good, all things considered—and Jack swears he gets 25 m.p.g. out of her on normal running, despite all the souping. The engine did not run on when switched off, although the water boiled at one stage immediately after the rather exhausting acceleration tests—but soon cooled down once we returned to a steady road speed.

Over the Ton—and How

Since testing this buggy without getting it over the 100 would have been like visiting Buckingham Palace and not seeing the Queen, we had to give it another go the following weekend. This time we took off the exhaust muffler and fed the old girl some 85-octane petrol instead of standard pump fuel; but she still carried all the paraphernalia we had brought on the first outing. Casting about for a more suitable stretch of terra firma on which to give the ear an even chance of reaching top speed, we remembered a certain wartime airstrip and headed straight for it. A warm-up run showed that this strip, although a vast improvement on Mt. Druitt, was only just long enough and no more—but we had no time to quibble about it. Wheelspin was troublesome in all three gears, and braking—at the very ends of the strip—called for careful manipulation, but on all four runs (two each way) the "ton" was exceeded. Speeds were 101 m.p.h., 104, 102, 104. In each case 93-95 m.p.h. was attained with relative ease, after which the revs built up slowly for the rest of the way. It was felt that the motor still had more "steam" in hand, and, had we not run out of road, top speed figures would have been even higher. She took 36.5 seconds to get from 0 to 100 m.p.h., and did her best standing quarter in 18.4 seconds. No mean effort, considering that few high-priced sports jobs can do better. 

High-speed Handling
Although the car felt safely steady at, and over, 100 mp.h., it must be remembered that the airstrip surface was comparatively smooth and flat, and not cambered, potholed or bumpy, as are so many of our main roads. Driving a Holden with the tremendous power-speed potential of this one on our highways at, or even near, the 100 mark (if it were legally possible to do so) is definitely not recommended for any but experienced racing drivers. There are cars on the road today that will handle better at such speeds —but they are not all family sedans, not all so economical to run, not all so freely available—and they all cost you a heck of a lot more to buy and maintain. Any further comment on performance seems unnecessary: those test figures in the data panel on page 41 speak louder than any guff I could spout. Compare them with the performance figures of a standard Holden, and you will realise just how potent Myers' "atomic bomb" really .is.

The Hot Bits 

Starting from the front of the car, non-standard specifications include a sway bar which is available as an extra for all and sundry, and a full-flow filter and bypass filter fitted on the offside of the motor. Liquid dynamite is blended in three sidedraught S.U. carburettors and fed into pots bored out to 3 3-I6in. by 3 1-8in. stroke via enlarged valves which are prevented from bouncing under 6000 revs by heavier valve springs. Engine cap-achy is 2440 c.c., compression ratio 8.5 to 1. To use Jack's own modest description, the camshaft is ''modified." The bottom end of the motor is standard (except for racing tolerances in the bearings), but has been carefully balanced. An interesting two-gallon capacity sump can be seen under the car, with cooling tubes passing through it fore-and-aft. The tubes are welded to the sump tray at the end; and air rushing through them helps to cool the oil. The engine is capped by a square-edged, finned aluminium rocker cover, with two oil-filler air-scoops instead of the usual one. The electrical department is well cared for by a sports coil, twin-points distributor, and colder plugs. Transmission is standard, but the gearbox occasionally requires attention after a particularly exhausting session of high-speed usage—a not uncommon phenomenon in boxes that are pushed beyond the margins for which they were designed and constructed. 

My Neck's Out

 Having seen what I've seen, I would vote this car the Holden most likely to succeed in 1955, and —provided the engine doesn't dis-integrate in the process — I feel it has every chance of clocking an off-cial 110 m.p.h. down the straight at Bathurst next Easter. What am I saying? Jack Myers' confidence must be contagious!

Article by Bill Daly Modern Motor April 1955


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