Finding Speed In The Most Unusual Places

As a final instalment in our Targa Tasmania 2015 coverage I wanted to showcase some Australiana from the event as a counterpoint to the European and Japanese machinery that does tend to dominate the entry list.


Crouching in the roadside foliage on Day 1 of the six-day road race, I heard the telltale flat upshift of a sequential gearbox punctuate the roar of an approaching naturally-aspirated beast. The sound reminded me of a V8 Supercar (Australia’s premier touring car series), so when I saw the bulbous nose of this Holden 48-215 round the corner, I was a little surprised. It disappeared as quickly and dramatically as it had arrived, but I made a mental note to take a closer look if the opportunity arose.


Thankfully, access to the cars is quite good post-race and I had a chance to further inspect this wolf in sheep’s clothing under the bright lights of the Launceston Silverdome.


The first 48-215 rolled off the GM-Holden production line in 1948 powered by a 60hp 2.2-litre inline-six connected to a 3-speed manual. Even with a kerb weight of just over 1000kg, the 0-100km/h sprint would be more an indication of patience than performance. This model was actually the first to leave the factory bearing the Holden name so is a quite a significant vehicle in Australia’s car manufacturing history.


Despite external appearances hinting otherwise, the car has been extremely modified in order to be competitive in the Classic Outright class that can be contested by cars as recent as 1985 (in other words, 37 years younger than the Holden). Under the hood, the original inline six has been treated to a performance head from J-Zed, dry sump, steel crank, 48 Webers and internals that apparently have their roots in NASCAR – combining to create a reliable 370hp. Apologies for no engine bay shots, but the leather straps looked too delicate to mess with!


With roughly six times the power output of an original car, clearly a lot of supporting modifications were required to offer some level of drivability. Peering inside, this is visible from the full rollcage, custom steering and digital dash instrumentation. Under the skin is custom and fully adjustable suspension and brake setups that ensure this antique-on-wheels can carry insane amounts of speed through corners. The sequential transmission was supplied by Holinger – an Australian company who also provides units for the V8 Supercar series.


The level of development in this 48-215 helped the duo of Freestone & Freestone to place 5th in Classic Outright and a podium 2nd in the Early Classic class.


It no doubt would have been much easier to pick a performance car 30 years younger as a starting point, but off-the-wall builds like this add a ton of flavour and intrigue to events like Targa Tasmania, and it’s something I think we should all be extremely grateful for!

Want more? Hit play above to see and hear the Holden in action at another tarmac rally event last year.

Blake Jones
Instagram: blaketjones



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Looks and sounds awesome, very unique.


A 2.2L motor from the 40s is making 370hp naturally aspirated?!  How in the hell


"Holinger – an Australian company who also provides units for the V8 Supercar series"
No, Albins provide the transaxles these days.


Wow did we really do that!! Thank you for the editorial it was fun reliving "the mine shaft"


zziro Its strayan m8

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

I've been around Holden sixes all my life, Dad being a hardcore fan. Now 370hp is impressive, but I can't help but think it's from the 2nd gen Holden 6 "Red motor" not the original "Grey motor" of the 48-215 Holden sedans.
I'm going to get a little ranty but bare with me. Holden has had a bunch of different cubes in mainly 2 different types of block. The original 6 was a 138ci "Gray" easily identified by oval intake ports, that lasted a while until the "Red motor" came along with 149ci which now had square ports. That grew to 161ci then 179ci (which was one of the first great performance motors Holden produced). Then was the great 186ci and then grew to 202ci. After this they made a "Blue motor" and then the "Black motor". The main difference was a counter weighted crank and 12 port head. The black motor getting fuel injection later on its production, but stayed at 202ci.
The J-Zed head is a modern day copy of a 'Phil Irving' alloy head which was produced in the 60's for speedway motors but found its way into a few lucky street and drag cars. The horsepower gains back then were huge, with 100 bolt on horsepower on a motor which made factory 100hp.
Now when somebody says 370hp from a grey holden, it's a little bit 'I don't think so'. If it is indeed a red, then 370hp is much more believable. With J-Zed head, 48mm webbers and all the gear, these motors have gone past 400hp but life is measured in minutes, not kms. Historic race cars with modern gear have regularly put out numbers around 330hp atw from 202ci motors but regulations make the alloy heads illegal, so this power is made on factory iron heads.
When it comes to Aussie engines, I just need to vent. Long live the aussie six!


Chris 'Haffy' Hafner J-zed's are a red motor head, just confirmed with the old man who has a genuine repco grey head that has just been rebuilt ready for a new bottom end.  which he is hoping for the mid 200's in.


Chris 'Haffy' Hafner Wow, awesome stuff.  I've never been to Australia so I don't know much about it.  To me reading Holden lore is like reading fairy tales from exotic faraway lands hahaha


Chris 'Haffy' Hafner That was a truly awesome post man! Thank you for informing of a piece of automotive history I would have never known otherwise.


You jokers have a dedicated race class for these things right? I'm sure I've seen footage somewhere of a whole field of "FX's" and FJ's being given a hiding on a circuit. What a rad little car however.


Love it!


I bet I am not the only bloke who would love to see what kind of front and rear ends are under this FX to get it to handle, corner and steer so well. Is it a HR front end or some type of hybrid?. What kind of diff is it running? Blokes like me who are building FX/FJ's would love to know. OR is it not meant to be for public knowledge as it is a competition car?.


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