Holden 6 Cylinder Red Motor

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Holden 6 Cylinder Red Motor

179 Red Engine

Holden Red Engine

Holden HR Red Motor
If we could turn back time, to a place where women would be impressed with gold-painted air cleaners and Holden Red Engines...
In 1963, two versions of a totally new "Red"' 6-cylinder engine were born. They were over-square in design with lower piston speeds, with capacities of '149' and '179' cubic inches respectively. The 149 Red Engine produced 100 bhp, while the 179 was good for 115 bhp, an increase of 33% and 53% over their predecessors. The all-new "Red" engines featured a shorter stroke, larger bore, greater displacement, increased compression ratios (8.8:1), seven-bearing cranks and hydraulic valve lifters.

The Red engine quickly garnished a wonderful reputation amoungst the Australian population, many considering them simply indestructable. It would continue in production for many years and in many models, finally making its last appearance in 1980 VB Commodore. Subsequent Commodore's were fitted with the "Blue" motor, from the VC through VH and VK until again being dropped in favour of a Nissan sourced 3 litre engine for the VL model.

The Blue engine was, however, very much the same Red motor that had been introduced back in 1963, although with many modifications and improvements along the way. In fact, the Red engine was modified for just about every new model Holden, particularly in capacity, and the biggest changes of all were reserved for its last outing in the VK Commodore.

Few mechanics from 1963 would be able to recognise the old girl, it now being fitted with (amoung other things) electronic fuel-injection and a computerised engine management system designed to improve the performance of the engine without loss of fuel economy. At this last stage of its development, the engine developed 106 kW (DIN) and 266 Nm - not too bad for a 21 year old 3.3- litre six!

The Answer is EH – What is the Question?

The obvious one is “What was the first Holden to be fitted with the Red Motor?”, but an equally correct question could be “What is the best remembered old Holden”. Our money would be on 9 out of 10 people claiming the EH as the most memorable Holden of the pre-Commodore era. But why, when there was very little to differentiate it from the (these days much lesser known) EJ Holden? To answer that question we need to turn back the clock to 1948.

When the 48/215 Holden was first produced its performance was the standard by which all cars of that period were judged. However, as the years and models went by that performance failed to keep step with the times. In fact, by the time the EJ went out of production it was being well and truly trounced by 1500cc British cars that were once considered anaemic in comparison. And that meant Holden's competitors were gradually winning more sales.

When you put an EJ manual and an EH manual (the 149, not the much-better 179) side by side for a standing quarter-mile run, people were soon realising just what a big difference there was between the two models – or, more to the point, the different engines fitted to both. From the moment you dropped the clutch in an EH it would literally streak ahead while the EJ would fall progressively further behind. There was a significant 2 second difference in times recorded by the EH and EJ.

In achieving the extra performance, General Motors' engineers were careful not to sacrifice any of the factors so dear to Holden owners' hearts. The EH was silky smooth right through the rev range. It felt comparable with the EJ at very low road speeds and was definitely smoother at high speeds. Whereas the EJ was obviously working hard at a steady 80 m.p.h., the EH delivered its power with a willingness that gave you confidence behind the wheel. There was not a great deal of difference between the top speeds of the cars, but the red engine provided good upper range acceleration, particularly in the 70 to 85 m.p.h. section of the speedometer.

Powering out of fast corners and climbing long gradients was never been the forte of the EJ, but the EH revelled in them. In both cars, top gear is all that was needed for open road motoring. The torque characteristics were such that there was little advantage in holding second beyond 45 m.p.h. unless it was a measure to maintain speed on an incline just a shade too steep for top. But uphill and the grey motor in the EJ would be begging for a lower gear, while the EH would power through. The 149 engine as fitted to the EH developed 100 b.h.p. and it could accelerate in top gear at about the same rate as the EJ did in second.

However, the added vigour of the 149 engine was not without vice. For instance, wheel-spin on wet roads can very easily be induced in first gear and indiscreet use of the throttle could hang the tail out when negotiating suburban corners in second cog. Not that this was likely to occur once you got used to the car – but if you had hopped straight out of a EJ and into an EH it was possible. The EJ simply lacked the power for this kind of thing. Not that the EJ was a bad car, rather it was a leisurely kind of car which, even when miss-driven to the point of madness, was a fairly harmless car. However, the EH could be a handful if the driver wanted to abuse it in the same manner as the EJ.

On twisty dirt roads it was easy to send the tail sliding in second if the throttle was opened when exiting from a corner. The milder EJ did not exhibit these tendencies. The extra power from the red motor, going through the back-end, was inclined to wind up the EH's springs, especially on uneven surfaces - but it was nowhere near as bad as some of its rivals. While the clutch and driveline in the EH was up to the extra power of the red engine, regrettably the brakes were not. The increased performance and the additional temptation to make regular use of it could overtax the paltry 95 sq. in. of lining area. But around town, where you would not be carrying too much speed, the brakes were ideal. The pedal pressure was light and there was never a doubt that the brakes would do their job well. But spirited driving along twisting roads would quickly bring them undone.

The lift from those extra power of the red engine could bring you into corners 15 or 20 mph faster than the EJ ever could. That extra speed had to be disposed of through the brakes, which failed to dissipate the heat quickly enough and road testers and owners alike told of having rock-hard pedal and no stopping power outside the gearbox. The days of drums with so little friction area trying to stop an 85 m.p.h. car weighing 25cwt. were thankfully drawing to a close – but on the EH that was what you got – and many considered it the worst point of an otherwise brilliant car.

A Japanese Six in the All Australian?

Aside from featuring a completely new front-end appearance, the controversial VL Commodore was powered by an imported Nissan 6-cylinder engine. The new model, released in February 1986, was heavily criticised with many thinking it sacrilege to give Australia's own car a Japanese powerplant. After driving the VL, however, most critics realised that Holden had given its buyers the best 'six' yet seen in an Australian-built car. While Ford had made the compulsory switch to unleaded fuel (in February 1986) by fitting the Falcon with a modified version of its old engine, Holden had a considerably better Commodore. Power was up 33 per cent and fuel economy was 15 per cent better.

Among the features in the state-of-the-art engine was a self- -diagnostic module designed to detect and memorise mechanical faults. But the best was yet to come, because in the second half of 1986, a turbocharger was introduced as an option across the range. The standard Commodore was quick off the mark but the 150 kW turbo Commodore could accelerate to 100 kph in eight seconds and reach a top speed of 220 kph. Later in the year, the locally made 4.9-litre V8 (now modified for unleaded fuel) was re-released as an option on the VL.

When the replacement VN was in the planning stage, the aim was to use a modified version of the imported Nissan straight six (rebored to 3.3-litres) plus the V8 with fuel injection, if it could be ready in time. Other alternatives considered, including reboring and rejigging the faithful 3.3 Holden-engine, and slicing the last two cylinders off the V8 to make a 3.8-litre V6. There were even thoughts of welding a couple of extra pots on to the Family II 4-cylinder engine or even producing the Nissan engine locally. The route eventually taken, however, was to locally assemble the 3.8-litre V6 used by Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac.

The American V6 had evolved from a 1962 design but was being completely redesigned by the Americans for a 1988 relaunch. Although still slightly primitive in mechanical specification, this pushrod donk performed well and had bags of torque. In the US it was only being built for front-wheel drive and for use with an automatic, so the GM-H engineers had to turn the east-west donk north-south and adapt it for the two transmissions planned for local use: the M78 5-speed and the MD8 Turbohydramatic slushbox. One of the improvements the Americans had instigated for the 1988 V6 included the use of a balancing shaft for smoother running.

When the American modifications were combined with the locally adapted fuel injection and engine management systems, the result was a powerplant which stacked up very well indeed. Aussie motorists took to the new six enthusiastically but, once again, the best was yet to see the light of day. Although the fuel-injected V6 made the Commodore so quick that some preferred it to the carburetored V8, Holden engineers were busy working on a port fuel-injected (PFI) V8 which was better again. With 165 kW at 4400 rpm and 385 Nm at 3600 rpm, this V8 turned the VN Commodore into what was possibly the world's fastest family car. Even the off-the-shelf base model was 10 per cent quicker than the Turbo VL or the carburetored VL Group A. And it was quiet, smooth and flexible to boot. Owners discovered it would smoothly accelerate from 30 km/h to 220km/h without a gear change.

Although an evolution of the Aussie-built 90 degree ohv V8 launched by Holden in 1969, the 1988 motor had redesigned cylinder heads, new inlet and exhaust manifolds, new camshaft, a stiffened block, revised crankshaft and the same conrods as the VL Group A. Surprisingly, fuel-injection had been on the drawing boards since 1965, shortly after work began on the development of the Aussie V8, but for cost reasons it did not reach fruition until the 1980s. The fuel-injected V8 was first introduced in a limited run of 750 Group A Commodores in 1988. This was a dual-throttle bodied EFI system, but the standard VN used a single throttle body system and was tuned for more flexibility Soon Holden Special Vehicles were getting in excess of 200 kW out of the engine without compromising its emissions or tractability.

Holden Six Cylinder Engine:

Holden Six Introduction
Holden Six Cylinder Identification
Holden Six Cylinder Engine Numbers
Holden Six Cylinder Timeline: 48/215 to EJ Holden
Holden Six Cylinder Timeline: EH Holden to HZ Holden
Holden Six Cylinder Timeline: VB Commodore to VX Commodore

Holden V8:

The Holden V8
The All Australian 253 V8

Holden Technical Specifications:

Holden EH Specifications
Holden HD Specifications
Holden HR Specifications
Holden HK Specifications
Holden HT Specifications
Holden HG Specifications
Holden HQ Specifications
Holden HJ Specifications
Holden HX Specifications
Holden HZ Specifications
Holden WB Specifications

Torana Technical Specifications:

Holden Torana LC Specifications

Holden Torana LJ Specifications
Holden Torana LH Specifications
Holden Torana LX Specifications
Holden Torana UC Specifications

Commodore Technical Specifications:

Holden Commodore VB Specifications
Holden Commodore VC Specifications
Holden Commodore VH Specifications
Holden Commodore VK Specifications

Also see:

Holden 6 Cylinder Timeline
Holden Red Motor Engine Codes
Holden 253 V8 - The First Mass Produced All Aussie V8
Holden Starfire 4 - Australia's First Locally Designed and Built 4 Cylinder Engine
Holden History
Holden Heritage
All Holden Day
Holden Car Commercials
Nasco Holden Accessories Commercials
1964 Holden EH 179
1984 Fuel Injected Red Engine
1984 Fuel Injected Red Engine
20 years after the red motor found its way under the hood of the EH Holden, Electronic Injection would be added to the mix to squeeze every last ounce of performance.
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