Holden straight-six motor

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The Holden straight-six motor is a series of straight-six engine that were produced by General Motors–Holden's in Australia between 1948 and 1986. Initially the Grey motor so dubbed because of the colour of the cylinder block, later motors came in the form of a Red, Blue, Black and the four-cylinder Starfire engine. These engines were fitted to all Australian-designed Holdens of the same years, and the four-cylinder Starfire notably found its way into the Toyota Corona (XT130). The grey motor is a different engine from the others. The Red, Blue, Black and even the Starfire are all inter-related with many common parts and castings.

Grey[edit]

132.5 cubic inches (2.2 L) Grey motor in a 1948–1953 48-215

The Grey motor built between 1948 and 1962, earned its name as the engine block was painted grey. This overhead valve engine was first fitted to the Holden 48-215 and mated to a three-speed column change gearbox. A three-speed GM Roto-Hydramatic 240 automatic transmission was an option fitted in the latter EK and EJ series. The engine was based on a Buick pre-World War II design, and saw only minor changes throughout its 15-year life.

It displaced 132.5 cubic inches (2.2 L) in its original form, and was bored out to 138 cubic inches (2.3 L) when the FB series was introduced and the automatic transmission. It developed 60 brake horsepower (45 kW) at 5000 rpm, providing superior performance to the competing four-cylinder Austin, Morris, Vauxhall and Ford of Britain vehicles. The grey motor featured a compression ratio (7.5:1, low stress design with a view to high reliability. Due to sheer ubiquity, they were popular for racing, and were fitted to many open-wheelers, as well as racing Holdens. With the engine's low-end torque, they also found their way into boats and machinery such as forklift trucks.

This engine ran a seven-port non-crossflow cast-iron cylinder head. There were three siamese (shared) inlet ports for cylinders 1–2, 3–4 and 5–6, two individual exhaust ports for cylinders 1 and 6, and two siamese exhaust ports for cylinders 2–3 and 4–5 in a layout on one side of the head casting. The inlets were fed by a single barrel Stromberg carburettor in common and fitted with a traditional Kettering ignition by coil and distributor. The electric system was six volts in the 48-215 and FJ.. The earliest grey motors (approximately 100,000) were fitted with Delco-Remy accessories, although Lucas and Bosch equivalents throughout the motor’s lifetime replaced these.

The very first production grey motor (1948) was number 1001, and they continued in a single sequence until July 1956, when the prefix "L" was introduced.[1] The change affected all engines numbered L283373 and above, signifying the 12 volt negative earth engines as fitted to the all new FE model.[citation needed] The prefix "U" was introduced for motors with the original electricals as fitted to the FJ utility and panel van models, which ended in February and May 1957 respectively. The change was effective from engine U283384.[1] The prefix "B" was introduced and the number sequence reset with the introduction of the 138 cubic inches (2.3 L) displacement engine, and ultimately this was replaced by a "J" prefix for motors fitted to EJ vehicles in 1962.

Applications[edit]

Red[edit]

Red engine
Overview
Production 1963–1980
Combustion chamber
Configuration Straight-six
Displacement 130 cubic inches (2,130 cc)
138 cubic inches (2,262 cc)
149 cubic inches (2,447 cc)
161 cubic inches (2,639 cc)
173 cubic inches (2,835 cc)
179 cubic inches (2,940 cc)
186 cubic inches (3,049 cc)
202 cubic inches (3,298 cc)
Cylinder bore 3.125 in (79.4 mm)
3.375 in (85.7 mm)
3.500 in (88.9 mm)
3.563 in (90.5 mm)
3.625 in (92.1 mm)
Piston stroke 3.000 in (76.2 mm)
3.250 in (82.6 mm)
Valvetrain OHV
Combustion
Cooling system Water-cooled
Holden Red motor (1971–1974 HQ series)
Engine Displacement Compression Power Torque
bhp kW ft·lb N·m
173 cu in Red I6 2.8 litres (2,835 cc) Low 112 84 160 220
High 118 88 168 228
202 cu in Red I6 3.3 litres (3,298 cc) Low 129 96 190 260
High 135 101 194 263

Superseding the Grey motor, the Red motor was manufactured between 1963 and 1980. This was a completely new engine and in no way a further development of the grey motor. It featured a seven-bearing crankshaft, full flow oil filter and hydraulic valve lifters. Denoted by the cylinder block painted red, the engine made its debut in the Holden EH in capacities of 149 cubic inches (2,447 cc) and 179 cubic inches (2.93 L) (or HP) producing 100 brake horsepower (75 kW) and 115 brake horsepower (86 kW) respectively. This was a power increase of 33 per cent and 53 per cent over the grey motor.[2]

Red six-cylinder engines manufactured after October 1964 had the cubic inch capacity of the engine cast in raised numbers on the side of the block behind the generator/alternator location. Red engines manufactured prior to October 1964 had either no numbers cast (meaning that it was a 149-cubic-inch engine) or the letters "HP" cast (meaning that it was a 179-cubic-inch engine). Only "Red" engines with the "HP" on the side of the block which appeared in the EH only had steel crankshafts, all others had cast cranks, many people 50 years later have believed a myth about all motors having steel but it isn't true. This author reconditioned motors from the early 1960's and only the "HP" blocks had steel cranks the rest had cast. The steel cranks were much sort after and as the years past and large reconditioners like Repco back then didn't keep internal parts with the blocks when they were reconditioned ads to the fantasy of steel cranks in other motors.

Capacities
  • 130 – South Africa, et al. HQ export
  • 138 – LC Torana
  • 149
  • 161
  • 173
  • 179
  • 186
  • 202

Applications[edit]

Holden Standard, Special, Premier (1963–1968)[edit]

Holden Belmont, Kingswood, Premier (1968–1980)[edit]

Holden Commodore (1978–1980)[edit]

Holden Torana (1969–1979)[edit]

Bedford (1971–1979)[edit]

  • 1971–1979 Bedford CF (Australasian models only)

Blue[edit]

3.3-litre Blue motor in a 1981–1984 VH Commodore

The Blue specification debuted in the 1980 VC Commodore.[3]

The blue motor was a development of the earlier red engine, and incorporated several improvements. The biggest of these changes was the complete redesign of the cylinder head; this was now a 12 port design with individual ports for each cylinder. The crankshaft for the 3.3-litre engine now had counterweights on each throw, and stronger connecting rods were used. A two-barrel Varajet carburettor was standard, as was a dual outlet exhaust manifold and a Bosch HEI distributor. It was made in 3.3- and 2.85-litre versions.

Applications[edit]

Black[edit]

The Black specification was introduced in the 1984 VK Commodore.[citation needed] The black engine was produced in 3.3-litre form in carbureted versions. The carbureted engine was almost identical to the previous blue engine, the main difference being in the use of computer controlled spark timing (EST) taking its timing pick-up from the flywheel area. The ports were slightly wider spaced, meaning the manifolds will not simply interchange. The Bosch-injected version used a long-runner intake manifold and a conventional HEI ignition. It also had slightly different cylinder head intake ports for improved breathing.This engine was painted Red, slightly redder than the earlier "red" motors which looked orange compared to the VK FI motor.

In the 1986 VL Commodore, Holden replaced the Australian-made and designed six-cylinder engines with the Nissan RB30 and RB20E engines. Pending emission standards and the requirement for unleaded fuel made it difficult to re-engineer the Australian engine.[4]

Applications[edit]

Starfire[edit]

1.9-litre Starfire motor in a 1976 LX Sunbird

This 1.9-litre (1,892 cc) powerplant, known as the Starfire engine, was effectively Holden's existing 2.85-litre 173 cu in straight-six with two cylinders removed.[3] Designed and built in Australia to satisfy local content rules, it first appeared in 1978 during the UC Sunbird's production run, replacing the Opel 1.9L cam-in-head unit used in LH, LX and earlier UC Torana/Sunbird 4-cylinder models.

Peak power output for the Starfire was 58 kilowatts (78 hp), with a 17.5 second acceleration time from 0–100 kilometres (0–62 mi) in the VC Commodore.[5] This variant's performance meant the need to push the engine hard leading to fuel consumption similar to the straight-sixes. Due to this, it was often nicknamed as Misfire or Backfire. This engine was replaced in the Australian market by the Camira's OHC Camtech unit, however it continued until 1986 in New Zealand, where it was used to power 4-cylinder versions of the VK Commodore.

Applications[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Loffler (2006), p. 284
  2. ^ "Holden 6 Cylinder Red Motor". Unique Cars and Parts. Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  3. ^ a b "Holden Commodore VC". Unique Cars and Parts. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  4. ^ Robinson (2006), p. 25
  5. ^ "Holden Commodore VC Technical Specifications". Unique Cars and Parts. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 

References[edit]