The Holden EK was one of the car manufacturer’s earliest models. It first found its way onto the roads in 1961 and still had many of the classic features of the 1950s Americana cars. These nostalgic cars had large wrap-around windscreens, prominent front wings, slightly flared wheel arches, and sharp tailfins, with rear lights.
The car, which was more of a face-lifted version of the earlier FB model, only had a short run, lasting a little over a year, when it was replaced by the Holden EJ, which was most definitely a departure from the look of the previous decade. In total, there were 150,214 EKs produced until their retirement in July 1962.
The Holden EK was a mid-size car and came in a four-door sedan, five-door station wagon, and two-door commercial models as well as a coupe ute and panel van. There were 2 trim levels to the range: the entry-level Holden Standard and the more upmarket Holden Special.
The main facelift features that the EK took on board were a new grille and different side panels, although it still had chrome wrap-around bumpers, overriders, and large orbital headlights with indicators below. The rest of the changes were mechanical, with the EK being the first Holden fitted with an automatic gearbox.
There was only one engine size fitted to the EK, a 2.3L straight 6, grey motor. This was hooked up to either a 3-speed manual gearbox or the new American Hydramatic 3-speed automatic transmission, although this was only available as an option on the Special model.
The 2.3L engine, with the 56kW of power and 163Nm of torque, could take the EK from 0-100km/h in 23.2 seconds and the automatic manages to cover the same distance in 24.9 seconds. These engines were designed as functional units to get the car from A to B, and it was not until later in the 1960s that Holden considered more powerful V8 performance engines for their cars.
The Hydramatic transmission was considered one of the best gearbox units of its time and publicity at the time said it will ‘effortlessly select the right gear to move gently through heavy traffic, fly over hills on the highway.’
The Standard trim came with very few additions, and the paint colour was the only real choice buyers had. The Holden Special offered a little more in the way of customisation but even this was very basic in comparison to what the American giants like Ford and Chrysler offered as packages. The Special had stainless steel trim, a two-tone colour scheme inside, and better colour selection for the outside, along with a white roof and ‘Special’ badges that marked its difference.
It also came with electric wipers that replaced the older, inefficient vacuum wipers. There was an improved fresh air heating system, air intakes, and a bonnet lock. There was also a massive list of accessories from NASCO that were specifically designed for the Holden car range. Owners could adorn their cars with louder horns, bonnet ornaments, hand pump windscreen washers, venetian blinds, a glovebox light, reversing lights, a parcel shelf, and Holden Air Chief car radio.
The Holden EK was looking its age and the arrival of the new styled Ford Falcon and Chrysler Valiant seriously dented the car manufacturer’s dominance. Adverts proclaiming the new Hydramatic gearbox as ‘the most automatic, automatic transmission of them all,’ did little to bolster sales. The Holden EJ brought about a complete change in the body shapes and left the EK as the last of the magnificent stylish and curvaceous cars, giving way to the flatter, boxier designs that lasted well into the 1980s.
There is no doubt that the Ford and Chrysler cars were better cars mechanically and equipment wise. This shook up Holden's designers and brought about some of the companies most commercially successful cars in the 1960s and 1970s.
When looking at classic cars, there is a certain amount of passion that influence buyers’ choices, and the EK is most definitely a car that is different. It features the gorgeous lines of the Americana car’s heyday with the technical improvements and added equipment levels that came along in the 1960s. The Holden EK gives owners the best of both worlds.