This year sees the 55th anniversary of the EH Holden.
To kick off the festivities Cars4Starters has snuck into GM’s vast storeroom of photographic images and uncovered once-secret pictures of the clay prototype of the EH.
What they demonstrate is that GM designers had the iconic EH shape well and truly fixed right from late 1961.
The EH Holden is arguably Australia’s most loved classic Holden, and maybe the most admired car this country has produced.
For an automobile that was styled in Detroit and given to local management in a box it has endured through the years as the quintessential representative of 1960s Australiana.
But let’s face it, the EH was no engineering innovator.
It was a simple design with a six cylinder motor, leaf springs at the rear and drum brakes all around.
The dashboard, in a passing glance to passenger safety, had a small soft crash pad.
The rest of it was hard steel with nice pointy control knobs conveniently located at knee height.
That said, it was really the styling that captured consumers.
Maybe it was the way the sunlight glinted off the closely spaced, thin, elegant stainless steel bars which stretched horizontally across the V-shaped grille.
Maybe it was the squared off rear fenders, which lengthen the appearance of the car without adding to its actual length.
May be it was vertical tail lights with the reflectors inserted into special bezel.
Or maybe it was the formal shape of the roof line, which imitated the just released Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Riviera, which added a glamorous air to the whole package.
Whatever it was, the EH flew out dealership doors.
One quarter of a million were built during its 18-month model run, averaging 14,000+ units each month.
No Holden has come close to that number ever since.
The basic shape of the EH was set two years before it was released.
The photos of the clay prototypes, taken in late 1961 and early 1962, at GM’s design studios in Detroit, show that GM stylists were playing around with side trim, rear tail light and grille ideas, but the basic design theme was well and truly fixed.
By January 1962 the US stylists had developed a full size fibreglass model which they put it in a crate and shipped to Australia with instructions to “make it like that”.
Well, maybe not exactly those words, but close enough.
And Detroit then took the opportunity to style the HD Holden as well.
But that’s a whole other story.
David Burrell is the editor of retroautos.com.au
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