Pat Dwan’s Holden EJ: when Special is all you need
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Pat Dwan’s Holden EJ: when Special is all you need

By DrJohnWright - 05 December 2022

Like your scribe, Pat Dwan clearly remembers his first glimpse of the exciting new EJ Holden. ‘I first saw one at Central Motors in Stanthorpe and was really taken with it, especially the rear end which I thought was really lovely. I had just started my teaching career at Pozieres State School and was driving a 1961 XK Falcon, which I traded in on the EJ. The Falcon, which was a demonstrator, developed squeaks and rattles on the dirt roads. It was beautiful on the bitumen, but I thought this car is never going to last so traded it in.’ Pat got £950 pounds for the Falcon (which was just 10 months old and had covered about 10,000 miles) as a trade in on the Holden which he purchased on 29 November 1962 from Central Motors Stanthorpe for £1095, eight shillings and sixpence. It made a fine present for himself two days before his twenty-first birthday.

It was the elegant rear view of the EJ that Pat found most attractive when he got his first glimpse of the exciting new 1962 Holden.
(Image: Lucas Carberry, Vue Digital)

Pat has owned this lovely EJ Special its entire life. How many one-owner 60-plus year old Holdens are there? Not many surely – and certainly not one-owner cars which have been cared for so well over six decades!

In 1963 or 1964, Pat was transferred to Southbrook just outside Pittsworth about 20 kilometres from Toowoomba. He married Mary Sullivan in December 1966 and they brought their family up in the Darling Downs. (One day, Pat says laughing, when he didn’t have much else to do, he looked up the Brisbane phone book, found one other Dwan and 123 Sullivans!) Pat taught with the Christian Brothers and took advantage of the opportunity to buy cars directly from them at wholesale when the time came to trade up. That’s how he acquired his HQ 253 in 1973 (‘the power was fantastic, it was a really good car, it wouldn’t have been 12 months old!’) Until then, the EJ had been his daily driver. It then moved into the role of second car and, guess what, Pat still finished up driving it most days. In 1982 he bought an XD Falcon from the Christian Brothers. This one had front bucket seats but he used it as a family car until the kids outgrew the back seat.

The EJ’s first role as wedding car was on Boxing Day 1962 for Pat’s brother (Michael) and sister-in-law (Mary) and there have been others since. They drove it to Mackay where it had its first service.

The charismatic combination of Harlequin and Curio Green for the upholstery shows that EJ style was not confined to the up-spec Premier version!
(Image: Lucas Carberry, Vue Digital)

The EJ failed to proceed only twice down that long tunnel of years, once due to a set of points (remember those?) and once when it ran out of fuel, easy enough to do with a small tank and no flashing red light.

Pat’s is not the only EJ Special sedan ever sold in the fetching combination of Loddon Green over Atherton Ivory but it’s quite a rare colour scheme. ‘I actually wanted Euroa Gold,’ says Pat. ‘The EJ was the first Holden to offer metallic paint and that was what I wanted but I was told Euroa Gold was only available on a Premier and I couldn’t afford one of those. I didn’t really want a Premier anyway, just that colour. So I looked at the chart and chose this.’

(When we look back to 1962 and the debut of the EJ Holden, it seems that the launch of the luxury Premier model is what many commentators concentrate on. But the EJ range brought truly modern styling to Holden in much the same way as the FE had done in 1956, making the Special absolutely eye-catching in its own right. And while the Premier was superbly conceived with its Howe leather upholstery, front bucket seats, whitewalls and white wheel, extra equipment and metallic paint, it was available only with Hydra-Matic transmission, which sapped much power from the 138 cubic-inch grey engine. In many respects, then, the EJ Special sedan was a kind of everyday hero of the range, especially when used mainly on the open road.)

In 1962 the EJ Holden was among the most stylish cars on the road, just as the FE had been in 1956 and the HQ would be in 1971.
(Image: Lucas Carberry, Vue Digital)

Pat knows of one other Loddon Green/ Atherton Ivory EJ on the Downs but there were none in Toowoomba or Warwick.

The car was in regular use until 1996 when he removed the plates and put it into storage. There had been a general tidy-up and fresh paint by Johnny Goodenough in 1983 but even then the EJ was still in good shape with no rust in the floor or doors, thanks to the inland climate and Pat’s ministrations. ‘I always looked after the floor and doors with fish oil.’ At this stage it had covered 99,840 miles.

In 2007 Pat bought a second EJ Special sedan. His son Jim reckoned that if he was going to do one up, he’d be better off buying this 24,000-mile car on eBay and doing that up. Jim’s a bit of a Holden enthusiast, too. He has an unrestored 90,000-mile HG Monaro previously owned by Pat’s sister and brother-in-law, which often wins the unrestored class or people’s choice at car shows. Jim entered the EJ eBay fray: ‘he rang me at about midnight and told me I owned it,’ says Pat with a laugh. This is a lovely car, too, in Atherton Ivory over Nepean Grey, but it places second behind the one-owner machine both at shows and in Pat’s affections.

The EJ was tidied up in the US, acquiring its front valance panels, a neater grille and slimmer bumpers.
(Image: Lucas Carberry, Vue Digital)

Then in March 2015 the EJ came out of storage and was given a ground-up rotisserie restoration which took three years. The suspension was removed. The car was sandblasted. Rust was removed from the guards and around the rear windscreen. Both rocker panels and the rear beaver panel were replaced.

The engine has been rebuilt and performs more strongly than ever.
(Image: Lucas Carberry, Vue Digital)

Wes Charles of Muscle Car Mania in Gatton applied the magnificent new paintwork. His work was outstanding – even the insides of the doors and the underbody (with any dents or imperfections repaired first) were sprayed in two-pack: no EJ Holden was ever painted in the factory like this! Everything except one mirror – destined for imminent replacement at $40! – is like brand new. All the original bolts were zinc-plated. Even the screws were polished! The interior has been redone in the original materials and is really special.

No EJ Holden underbody ever looked so pristine!
(Image: Lucas Carberry, Vue Digital)

Precise colour matching for the interior to replicate the charismatic original combination of Harlequin and Curio Green was done by Greg and Heather Voll of Uticolor in Toowoomba. The upholstery was handled by R & R Upholsterers, while Evan’s Trim Shop took care of the headlining.

In every aspect of style, the EJ made its EK predecessor look like yesterday’s car.
(Image: Lucas Carberry, Vue Digital)

Andrew Elson from the Toowoomba Engine Centre performed the mechanical work.

The only modification this absolutely magnificent car has received is a power booster for the brakes.

The registration lapsed in 1996 and on 4 March 2019, the EJ was re-registered with its original NPO-698 but, as you’ve probably guessed, Pat still has the old plates!

While both his EJ Holdens are award-winners, this car is the grand champion. Besides winning the Australian category of the Shannons Club Show and Shine Competition, it was Grand Champion EJ Holden at the EJ-EH Nationals in Bathurst in 2019.

No detail has been spared in this ground-up restoration of one of the most loved Holden models.
(Image: Lucas Carberry, Vue Digital)

‘I love the look of them,’ says Pat. ‘It’s the sentimental value of the thing I suppose. Not too many people bought new cars in the day. I paid cash which was a bit unusual. Because I lived rent-free on the family farm, I was able to save some money.’

Pat taught in the Darling Downs until the age of 70, so he and his EJ Special were both pretty well known in the region. As a young bloke he played football, so he got around. ‘I was at an all-Holden day recently when someone I’d taught – he was 64 years of age by this time! – remembered the car.’ That would have been quite a Special feeling.

The back seat looks too good to be sat in.
(Image: Lucas Carberry, Vue Digital)

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