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.

February 23, 2016

The BMH Special - The Comic Book Grey

08:01 Posted by GreyFC No comments

Created in 1952 as Australia's First Holden powered racing car, built and built by the managers at Badger Motors Holden, the Holden dealer of the Northern district of Western Australia the BMC special is an iconic piece of Australian racing history.

Now proudly owned, restored and raced by Thomas Benson it once again shows off the grey holden engine and is easily recognizable among the largest starting lineup.

BMH Special - The Comic Book

When asked about the name name Thomas begins to tell the story: " Was never officially named the Comic Book, Always the BMH Special, that is until 1957 AGP when very rapidly it was reported as the BM Holden, an assumption by a journalist one must presume and that’s what went into the program, was often referred to as the Badgers Motors Holden which again is an assumption by people believing the name came from the dealership where it was built, but that’s way off the mark, is simply an acronym of the names of those involved, B for Badger (dealer principal of Badgers Motors) M for Mariner the Body builder at Badgers, and H for Hammond, the vehicle builder and workshop manager at Badgers, now the Comic Book tag is a curious story,  Aub Badger being a bombastic Character was oblivious to the tag applied to the vehicle as it to many resembled a cartoon characters car! Upon learning of the joke which he assumed was at his expense he commissioned Mariner to cut the body back to more resemble race cars of the late 1950’s." 

"The nose was changed several times as was the wing and the bonnet, the mainframe and configuration remained pretty much the same throughout its life except that fairly early on they learned the gearbox wasn’t up to speed and went down the 4 speed GM sourced route as was common in period for GM powered cars, these guys were a bit maverick and had the resources of the GM parts division as they were Chevrolet dealers as well as Holden, they quick smart worked out the Corvette box would fit the Holden engine and that the Vauxhall was the same bolt pattern so they weren’t adverse to doing a warranty claim on a fictitious serial number and obtain a few bits! Even had the mechanics at the Vauxhall dealer doing their dirty work for carburetors."

When did you purchase the car? 

"Well I didn’t, I was chasing the history of an earlier car owned by one AV Badger and every time I followed up a lead, it took me to another piece of information or part of this car, in the end I just had to recreate the car using the knowledge and the few remains that I had been given or found. Did eventually end up with two cars for the price of one!"

And the condition of the few parts you were able to bring together?

"I had an engine block with a ventilation hole in it, the front frame minus the suspension, a back axle, driveshaft, water injection system and manifold with 2 carburettors, what was reputed to be the radiator, but I doubt it unless it was of an early incarnation of the car, I did eventually track down one of the engines used and still have it, it was a later engine block, 3 3/16” bore"
What can you tell me about the engine(s)?

"We run two engines, both 3 5/16” one with flat tops and the one with ski ramps, one at 145hp and the other is 185hp."

What issues, if any have you had as we know the cranks are a weak point in the grey?

Minced a crankshaft in the low HP engine and had to ditch the crank as the clutch fried the thrust washers that’s about the only drama I have had. 

What about some specs on the beast?

"There a three sorts of secrets, Top Secret, Bottom secret and middle secret and what’s in there fits none of those categories, however, it is a J block, and it is out to 3 5/16” the pistons are of my own design and manufacture. The carburettors are SU with 1 ¾ chokes and the Camshaft is a commercially available one but best of luck trying to guess as it’s a most unusual combination. Apart from that it’s all Holden except for the home made manifold and exhaust, and no I don’t use anything above 6000 rpm, contrary to popular belief.

Yes! Enough said on that front, its radically different from what most others use, it does have a fantastic amount of torque for what is a low speed engine. Gear ratio is same as GTR Torana  and rear axle is 3.99 anything else on a grey motor never works."

Do you have any track times to share? 

"MMMMM -VVF? Very Very fast, for me that is, it did crack 100mph at Longford, can do a lap of 2.08 of Phillip Island, about a 1.14 of Wanneroo and holds the lap record for the class at Collie in 54 seconds or there about"

Do you wife and kids like it?  What do they say about it and the time invested in the car? 

"Will sidestep that one! The kids will no doubt fight over it when I’m gone! May the best man or woman win! I have an inkling that one may have the right temperament to drive it, but I not going to get drawn into which one!"

How often do you take it out? 

"It gets a run about 6 times a year."

Have you ever had offers of the car?  Would you ever consider parting with it? 

You ask that of a guy who still owns the car he learned to drive in! Oh dear, this is embarrassing,  I can say that I did once sell a car that I owned and do I regret it, yep so I stopped doing it. So slowly the garage fills with a new toy once in a while, the challenge is keeping them all going. I have sold a few that I didn’t like that is about it, its pretty much a one way street at my house.

What other cars do you have and how did you come to have a passion for older race cars?

"I didn’t start out as a collector of race cars, I started out restoring a 1936 Chevrolet Sports, just because it looked like my sort of car, I collected heaps of them all shapes and sizes, then I got the remains of the Badger Chevrolet and restored that to its former glory, then I had hung onto a 1971 Honda Coupe 7 that I have owned for eons. Love racing that it’s the best fun. Have the 1929 Whippet I learned to drive in, 1925 Chevrolet Tourer which is a restored car but is the chassis of the Atkinson car that set the endurance records in WA in 1925, so that’s like the wolf in sheep’s clothing, I have always had a soft spot for rear engine Renaults, R8 in particular. Have several other Hondas. All 1300 air cooled ones. I have the Ex Kellerberrin Circus 1925 superior M truck, it’s very special and very rare, have an underslung 1927 Chevrolet with 216 running gear, what else do I have? Several wooden boats, all of my build, all have the same name theme, we have a flat punt called POINTLESS, a 10” dingy called WRECKLESS, thinking the next one might be FRUITLESS! Maybe HOPELESS?"

Is the grey motor special to you of this just “happens” to be grey powered. 

That it’s the first Holden to race is special, that we can understand them pretty well these days helps, its has a satisfaction that we can take what is an 80hp engine and wind 180+ out of it without too much bother is testament to the design, and we must remember that effectively this is a pre war design by GM. 

Thanks for your time Thomas, I'm sure many will enjoy the read and the history.  TGM Admin.