When the EH was launched in August 1963, it was powered by two versions of a completely new 6-cylinder engine, the '149' and '179' (named after their cubic inch sizes). These were 2.45 and 2.95 litres in capacity. This engine was dubbed the 'Red motor', after the colour of the painted block, to distinguish it from the grey-painted engine used in all previous Holdens. This new unit was over-square in design with lower piston speeds. It was Australian-designed although it owed a lot to other GM powerplants. The financial outlay required for its production was such that the Red engine was designed with maximum development room. It ended up still in use in the Commodore over 20 years later.
The two Red engines were identical to look at. The 149, fitted as standard to all models except the luxury Premier, developed 100 bhp, making it 33 per cent more powerful than the Grey motor. The 179, fitted as standard on the Premier and optional on other models developed 115 bhp, making it 53 per cent more powerful. The engines had shorter stroke, larger bore, greater displacement and increased compression ratios (8.8:1). They had tough bottom-end by virtue of a seven-bearing crankshaft and were, for all intents and purposes, unburstable. The Red engine was fitted with hydraulic valve lifters.
At first there were questions about their reliability but Holden people were able to quickly point out that the same lifters were used in Chevrolets. To a Holden owner in the 1960s, this was the equivalent of saying they were god's own choice. The 179-equipped EH almost effortlessly hit 80 mph and, providing you didn't mind the body and wind noise above that, it would keep on going to about 90 miles per hour (145 km/h). As with the Grey engine, the Red engine continued to be updated with each new model and the capacity was regularly increased.
It was used for the HQ and its derivatives, slotted into various light commercials (such as Bedford vans), lower capacity versions were fitted to the Torana and, to the surprise of many, the Red engine was shoved under the bonnet of the first Commodore in 1978. By 1984 it was coming to the end of the road but it had one last fling under the bonnet of the VK Commodore. This model featured the biggest changes to the engine yet, including electronic fuel-injection and a computerised engine management system. Performance was improved but without loss of fuel economy. The engine developed 106 kW (DIN) and 266 Nm — not too bad for a 21-year-old 3.3-litre six
Introduction: March, 1980
Final Build: September, 1981
101 (76) @ 4400
141 (192) @ 2800 rpm
105 (79) @ 4000
170 (231) @ 2400 rpm
111 (83) @ 4000
170 (231) @ 2400 rpm
The basic block continued in the next VC model but painted blue and fitted with a brand-new 12 port head, a 2bbl Rochester carb, electronic ignition, improved Starfire con-rods and a fully counterweighted crank.