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EH Holden RB20DET Project

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    EH Holden RB20DET Project

    I thought it would be good to put together something to record the build of my EH RB20DET project. This started years ago but I have only just started to get back into it after approx 3 yr layoff. Basically the car hasn't been touched since we bought a house in mid 2005. Our original garage was shitty as, so I just parked it and closed the doors. Now though, I am set up in my new 6.5 x 7.5 garage and my fiancťe started saying how much wedding cars were to hire, so that has kicked things off again.

    Some history on the car....I have owned it for 7-8 years after I bought from a young guy in Goulburn who had done a number of nasty backyard repairs/mods. The wiring was in a terrible mess but surprisingly most things worked, interior was a mess and had a few mechanical issues but compared with a lot of the other EH's for sale in that price range it was pretty good. Did not appear to have any real rust issues (I have since found out it does have some nasty spots) and kind of straight, both of which are attributable to the previous owner who had the car blasted and repainted. Not the best bodywork but like I say, pretty good compared with some of the other shitheaps out there. Original spec was 202 red from a an early (VB) Commodore, WW Stromberg carby, aussie 4 speed, HR disc front end, corolla bucket seats. Some of the mods done by previous owners were pretty ordinary, the 4 speed conversion was rough as, for some reason they gas axed big bits out of the tunnel and nastily migged it back together, shifter poked up through an ugly melted hole, and the gearbox cross member was also a hand cut gas axe mess. So on my very limited uni student budget I cleaned up what I could, fixed the most significant issues and drove it around for a bit.

    Not too many photos from this time Ė back in the days before digital cameras were affordable.
    A few mods in the next years included early commodore diff after my old diff shit itself (also included disc brakes all around), CRS drop spindles and VN V8 brakes, supra 5 speed, freshly rebuilt 202 with triple SU's. After all this it was quite driveable, but some things not quite happy with.

    Then I got the bug that I wanted something a bit more interesting engine wise.

    For some reason I decided that I didn't want to go the Holden V8 route and the V6 conversions were starting to gain popularity however their reputation as being a fairly ordinary motor put me off. So then I started looking at import motors. At the time there didn't seem like may options. RB26 was hideously expensive. RB25 hard to get in a manual and exxy, JZ motors were a bit of an unknown (probably not to the Toyota crowd tho), 1UZ existed but once again a bit unknown, RB30 twin cam hybrids were in their early stages (plus not considered legal by my local engineer). So it seemed to come down to either 1GGTE or RB20DET. After a bit of thinking I choose the latter based on the availability of RB30 to EH conversion gear from CRS.

    In hindsight was this a good decision? Probably not. The RB series are a bit big in the engine bay (i.e. long, manifold clearances) and the amount of work and money required to get everything to fit well really outweighs the perceived advantages that I thought I was getting. If given the chance to choose again I would pick a late model Holden 5L V8. Yes it has been done to death but this also means everything has been worked out by others. The Jap import motors are still appealing tho, however the issues of dealing with sumps, manifolds, intercoolers kind of turns me off. I donít really want to hear the various debates over what engine I should have picked because the reality is that I am already too far committed to change, so like it or not, RB20 it is.

    Before the layoff I had the engine fitted using a modified GQ Patrol sump, HR front end with rear mount Rods Racks conversion, custom Aussie Desert Cooler radiator, car rewired, VR4 intercooler, custom exhaust manifold, JDCustom inlet manifold, fuel system installed, GTR seats, plus a fair bit of resto work getting various old bits and pieces to open and close and work properly. But there were issues.

    First off the rear rack wasn't really working for me. The RB20 block appears to be a little wider than the red motor which the conversion was designed to suit, which means there is insufficient clearance to connect the intermediate shaft. It looked like I could get around this by raising the engine 20mm and using a fabricated shaft with a slim pinion adaptor which I found at a hot rod place. However, there were wider issues with the rack and the sump. To gain adequate clearances the sump capacity was getting less and less and it was a massive PITA to modify and refit the sump. Because everything was so tight due to the manual tunnel, a sump trial fit involved putting the car up on stands, drop the engine and cross member, remove gearbox from under the car, unbolt engine mounts and lift engine out, fit modified sump and then get it all back together and hope something didnít hit. Approx half a day each time. Tiresome.

    Another issue was the JDCustom plenum. Ok, it looked nice but some of the bolt holes were half a bolt diameter or so off, making it very difficult to fit. Then it had issues fitting around the RB20's steel coolant piping, needed mods to the fuel rail, issues with firewall and clutch master clearances. And then the XF throttle body required some fiddling to work with the RB20 electrics as it opens the opposite way (i.e. TPS issues). I kind of got it all working but not to my satisfaction.

    The solution I have come up with over the last couple of years is to ditch both. I have taken it in the arse big time selling off these parts. I guess sometimes you just have to cut your losses rather than keep digging the hole deeper.
    The new steering setup I am using is a Rods Racks front mount conversion that uses a shortened Torana rack. It fits great. Well out of the way of the other engine bits. Rod even suggested he likes the front mount more than the rear setup, even though not technically as good a solution, it just makes things so much easier from the sump perspective. Only problem is that the pinion shaft looks like it is pointing right towards the centre of the oil filter but a remote mount filter isn't a big deal.
    The new front end I have built up still has the cross member mounts in the HR position (approx 88mm further forward then the EH mounts). To get around this I considered modifying VL mounts, fitting the VL cross member mounts to the HR front end and using the entire VL system or making up some sort of spacer to suit my existing mounts. None of these were going to be particularly attractive and/or workable so I cut up some CRS mounts and rewelded them to suit the HR cross member. At the moment they are just tacked in case I need some fine tuning, but it all looks promising. The engine is now sitting at 'CRS height', which helps with clearance around the trans tunnel, but doesn't help with things like the sump (GQ sump is short but deep).

    On the issue of the plenum, I have selected the RIPS setup. Much easier to mount. Some firewall work is required, but that is not a biggie (however the firewall is starting to look a little like swiss cheese from all the holes in it). It mounts nice and low so I have plenty of room around clutch and brake setup. I was initially worried about clearance between throttle body and radiator but a 45 degree hose fits nicely.

    My next job is to get the springs in, after a couple of days of searching I have to found the plastic insulator discs that I put *somewhere safe* where I knew I wouldnít lose them. Hard to keep track of things when they have been packed away for a couple of years.

    When the springs are in I am going to put the car on the ground. Measure the relevant ground clearances and then pull the engine and subframe off as one assembly and set it up on stands as per my measurements. This will allow me better access to for things like sump Rev2 and the relevant plumbing that I still have to do. Hopefully with careful measuring I should be able to bolt it straight back on and everything should line up. Hopefully. I have had the front off like this before and decided it was much easier than my previous way of removing engine and box (only 12 bolts hold body to subframe). The subframe will eventually need to come off anyway to fix rust, blast and paint.

    With the body separated I can strip it out and make use of my recently completed body rotator. This was something I started about 5 years ago but got sidetracked and never finished. You don't really need something like this, but I figured the steel is all there cut to size so I might as well use it. Itís a design based on plans from a hot rod mag I found posted on the net, with a few tweaks by me. It should help out a lot when I start trying to pull all the dents out of my floor members. Damn it has taken some big hits underneath in itís time. I canít imagine what someone has hit (tree stumps maybe?).

    I havenít gone into too much detail about things like radiator etc but intend to cover these as I go through the car and tidy everything up.

    If anyone is particularly interested in a bit more info on anything just ask.
    Put that in your pipe and smoke it

    EH Holden RB20 Build

    Damn that sounds like a real PITA. Should be good though. Gotta love something different!

    '90 2jz-gte 929
    '02 twin-locked TD42 GU Patrol


      Got the springs in and brakes fitted.

      Not convinced the CRS drop stubs are a good idea any more and have ditched them for HR disc stubs.

      Lovells lowered springs. Hoppers Stoppers brake kit.

      I already know there are issues with my Walkinshaw rims and the brakes. The casting of the spokes protrude approx 15mm back past the hub, the callipers sit pretty much flush with the hub.

      Dunno what to do. Maybe try to work out some sort of thin hub centric spacer. Problem is that I canít really afford much of an increase in track width. Iíve decided this is one of those things to think about but deal with later.
      Put that in your pipe and smoke it

      EH Holden RB20 Build


        I do hope you get it finished as it will definitely be very cool. I saw an RB26 in one at the EH all state run. Tight fit is an understatement!
        Rods racks do great work, I wish I went to him for my conversion originally. I'm running a CRS rear mount rack, I got Rod to make the steering column though. Not a fan of the dropped stubs either. The 2" dropped stubs lowered the car 3". It fucked up all the front end geometry and had to run 1 " raised springs to clear the guards with the wheels.

        I like the brown with blck chasers. Are you planning on keeping that? If I ever respray mine it's going matte black.
        Originally posted by My mate Nathan
        "Boob is almost as good as cunt"


          The colour is actually some sort of metallic purple-grey!

          I really like the look of the Walky's on EH's, but if they won't fit, the chasers will be back on.
          Put that in your pipe and smoke it

          EH Holden RB20 Build


            excellent stuff mate, good to see this project back on the agenda!
            Turns out, far too much has been written about great men and not nearly enough about morons

            Originally posted by seedyrom
            my neighbours called the cops...... not because of the sound of me working in the garage was too loud, but because i taped a cardboard box to my back, covered my self in vaseline and pretended i was a snail on their lawn


              patience of a saint. and yes to selling bits that don't fit and taking a hit in the wallet rather than spending more time, money and losing hair trying to make them fit.
              Originally posted by Stix Z
              i'm upset i lost that video of that aboriginal woman taking a dump on a train that was on youtube
              Originally posted by Jim
              Sorry, am late to this thread. I have been protesting against whitey oppressors all morning with my people. I shall serenade this thread with my didge until nash comes in and puts it all into perspective.


                Got a good run at it this weekend.

                A little bit of chopping to fit my Ebay intercooler. A couple of notches out of the top of the front apron, removed a leg from the grille support and trimmed back a couple of grille slats.

                Plumbed up to the throttle body. This was my first time welding stainless. It will do but need more practice on SS (still better than the exhaust guy who welded some other stuff for me).

                Because of the RIPS manifold I need to create all the hoses for the AAC valve and cold start valve. To keep it neat I am planning on using Earls/Speedflow -10 hoses so in preparation I welded a 3/8BSP boss onto the IC pipe. Then I decided to check my catalogues to see whether I could actually buy an adaptor in that sizeÖ.nope.

                The radiator I am using is by Aussie Desert Coolers. In a standard EH the radiator is offset over towards the driverís side. I cut the passenger side and rewelded it to be symmetrical, which allowed me a 120mm wider radiator.

                Thermo fans are Davies Craig slimline fitted to a frame I made up. No room for the engine fan.

                Put that in your pipe and smoke it

                EH Holden RB20 Build


                  looking good
                  Originally posted by Einstein
                  The definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result


                    A few bits and pieces.

                    I have finally found some hose clamps I like. Worm drive clamps chew up the hoses a bit and the t-bolt type I had didnít work because they seem way too heavy duty. The heavy duty jobs were pulling everything out of shape and bunching the silicon hose to the extent it wouldnít make contact with the pipe, mostly (I reckon) due to a problem with the design of the fixed bridging piece which would pull the clamp and everything else into an oval when tightened up.

                    I got the clamp in the pic below gtpumps ( or ebay). Basically a much lighter duty t-bolt style clamp. Nice flexible band and they seem to work pretty good. Not as nicely made as the others I have but weíll see how they go.

                    I also rebuilt the engine mounts so it sits 20mm higher. Sump was almost resting on the x-member with the CRS positioning; now we have a little room. Bit of a PITA to remake these as the plates that bolt to the engine are angled, so I couldnít just cut the tacks off and refit. Instead had to make half the mount from new.
                    I tried the stock manifold and the turbo still hits the chassis rail. At about 25-30mm higher it starts to clear. To get a suitable clearance I reckon you would be at around +50mm, which would start to put the engine on a noticeable tilt.

                    For others out there that might be considering this swap, bear this in mind. Maybe you could get away with notching out the chassis rail, but I am a little hesitant to suggest that, as you are messing around with the area where the crossmember bolts on (i.e. pretty important from a structural point of view).

                    Just had a package of Earls fittings turn up from anplumbing in the US. Postage was spendy, but when their prices are about half of what is available locally and the dollar high, it doesnít take long to make this up. Pretty quick service too, had this lot arrive in less than two weeks. Aus prices seem pretty much the same since last time I bought this stuff but the dollar has since moved from 70ish to 90+. You have to wonder how much price gouging is going on in Aus.

                    Put that in your pipe and smoke it

                    EH Holden RB20 Build


                      Wow...that'll be a very nice car indeed when it's done. Sounds like a good find in the first place, even taking into account some of the dodgy work you mentioned.

                      An EH is one of those cars on my "if I ever get a project car..." list, but I'd be one of those guys who would buy today and still have an unfinished car hanging around in 2017.


                        I had a bit of a dig in the other EH thread about people slacking off on project updates so thought I better post something up.

                        This is just some of the bits and pieces Iíve been working on in the background as I get on with some more substantial fabrication (write up on that one to come laterÖ.)

                        The RIPS manifold means that the stock hoses are a no go so I have been replumbing to suit the new layout.

                        Take the stock AAC valve, remove barb, tap 3/8BSPP and screw in 3/8BSPP to JIC 90 degree elbow. We are now ready to take -10 hose fittings.

                        A bit of a rant. From time to time I have tried to buy various fittings and adaptors from a well known hose franchise that sounds like it originated in New Zealand, because they are really close and I can call in on my way to work. But after the last attempt I am finally sick of the fucktard working the counter. If you donít feel like doing counter sales then say so. And donít have a go at me for picking the wrong fitting, when it was your dumb arse hose fitter that gave it to me and tried to tell me that a tapered BSP fitting would seal up just fine against the inverted flare (the same guy who just offered a dumb look when I asked about Earls, see the big fucking sticker on your door that says you sell the shit, *that* fucking Earls).

                        Never got a response from the above on the part I was chasing but Pirtek on the other hand managed to locate, order and supply the part within a day. I know who I will be going back to, even though they arenít quite so close.

                        The guy who sold me the BSP tap also sucks balls. What was someone saying about Ebay being a waste of time? After two weeks a 7/8Ē tap set turned up. So I return it and two weeks later a ľĒ set turns up. More emails and a week later the 3/8 set finally arrivesÖÖ.FFS how hard is it?

                        To connect onto the intercooler pipe welded on a SS JIC fitting ( A bit spendy but neat.

                        Warm up valve had me stumped for a bit, but after some measuring I found the barb was the right size to tap M12x1.5 and then screw in a 90o fitting.

                        Also had to figure out a way to connect the heater lines to the block. Removed the press in spigot and tapped M20x1.5. Hole was already the perfect size for this thread so no need to drill anything. Sounds simple now that itís done, but I was sweating Ďcos I couldnít afford to fuck it up. Screw in M20 to JIC adaptor and we are away.

                        The return line already runs a tapped fitting from the factory (3/4BSPT if anyone cares). Adaptor from Pirtek, easy.

                        Fitted an infill piece to the OEM hole in the firewall to allow -10 bulkheads to be fitted (factory design has the hoses passing through a large oval shaped grommet).

                        Put that in your pipe and smoke it

                        EH Holden RB20 Build


                          My main project lately has been making another exhaust manifold.

                          First thing I did was to CAD it up.

                          Looks familiar? To be honest all I have done is imitate the designs of 6Boost and Extreme Turbo Manifolds.

                          The flanges came from Leigh at ETM. Very nice. Laser cut and actually look like they have had some thought put into them rather than just copying a gasket. Much better than the oxy cut stuff I have seen.

                          I found buttweld fitting prices vary substantially. Recommend anyone else doing this shop around as I found the usual retail type metal places were around double the cost compared to a more trade oriented place.

                          This is how i'm going about itÖ.

                          First part I fabricated was the collector. Tubing was cut in my mitre bandsaw using a simple jig to keep all parts consistent. Once you have worked out the angles this piece is not really all that hard to make.

                          My bandsaw is one of the best purchases I have ever made and it is jobs like this I wonder how I ever did without it. Itís not super accurate but itís clean and quiet and you can load up a piece and set it cutting whilst you mark up the next piece.

                          Next I mocked up the turbo position and welded some temporary rods in place to hold the flanges in the right place. Test fit in car. Yep, it fits.

                          I marked my bends using another simple jig and then carefully cut them using a thin cutoff wheel in my grinder.
                          Straight lengths were cut in the bandsaw. Through trial and error I found it is better to cut these slightly longer and trim to size. The buttweld fittings vary quite a bit and I found I needed another 5-10mm over the model length to compensate.

                          Each runner was fitted and tacked together. Some of the bends needed a little adjustment and my linisher really made this easy. Another tool I wonder what I ever did without.

                          Once it was all tacked together, another test fit with turbo and then take it all apart and prep for welding. In total there are 60 pipe ends that need to be bevelled and cleaned up to shiny metal on both inside and outside (to avoid pulling crap into the weld). Tedious. Really really tedious. I did most of the bevelling using a die grinder and burr then cleaned up on the linisher. The linisher is great at cleaning things up but belts donít last long if you start trying to remove a lot of stock.

                          Finally I was able to weld it together. Order of welding took some thinking. I fully welded all the parts for runners #1 and #2. Similar for #3, except for the last bend. Weld this last bend onto the collector, then weld the rest of the runner on. Weld #2 and then #1 onto the collector.

                          Next will be to do #4, #5, #6 in similar order but this is where Iím up to now.

                          Put that in your pipe and smoke it

                          EH Holden RB20 Build


                            Damn that is some nice work on the manifold!


                              Do yourself a massive favour and bolt that flange onto a thick plate before you weld it up. I made a set once at tafe and didnt bolt it up and it warped like crazy.

                              Btw awsome fab work there mate..
                              Originally posted by Einstein
                              The definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result