by Ken McLean

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All HR (and some HD) Holdens had a far superior front crossmember than the FE/FC in a number of areas. It is stronger, it has ball joints instead of kingpins, and it has the option of disc brakes to aid stopping performance. Add to this that it is dimensionally similar to the FE/FC crossmember and it becomes apparent why it has always been popular as a good update for this model..

1. Preparation.

    It is important to understand that the HR uses a different size front wheel cylinder to the FE/FC regardless of whether you will be installing drum or disc brakes with the HR front crossmember unit. As such, thought must be given to either installing a proportioning valve to adjust brake balance, or to installing a complete HR rear end assembly to ensure brake performance is as it should be. Note that the rear wheel cylinder size for the HR drum brake front is different to the rear wheel cylinder size for the HR disc brake front, and the two should not be interchanged.

    Before fitting any second hand component to your vehicle, ensure that any worn parts are replaced. In this case look at ball joints, springs, inner wishbone bushes, brake linings and wheel cylinders. Also carefully inspect the crossmember for cracks or other defects which may make the installation unsafe.

    It is assumed in this article that the vehicle will be running an engine other than the original "grey" motor, and as such, it will be assumed that the engine has been removed from the vehicle prior to the following work being undertaken.

    Note that extreme care must be exercised if the crossmember is removed from a vehicle with the engine still in place. This practice is not recommended.

2. Removing the FE/FC crossmember.

    Remove the motor from the vehicle.

    Raise the front of the vehicle and support the body on stands under the chassis. Make sure that the car is level and the stands are firmly in place.

    Remove the front road wheels and disconnect the brake lines where they are connected to the flexible hoses. Remove the clips that hold the flexible hoses to the subframe.

    Remove the splash trays and anti-sway bar from the vehicle.

    Remove the drag links from the steering arms using a suitable puller.

    Place a pair of trolley jacks underneath the crossmember, raise the jacks until they just take a slight amount of load on the front crossmember, and then remove the front outrigger retaining bracket and the four bolts holding the crossmember to the subframe.

    Slowly lower the jacks and draw the crossmember out from below the vehicle.

3. Adapting the HR crossmember.

    At this stage either a changeover crossmember must be procured from any of the various retailers, or a competent welder may prepare his own.

    First the outrigger must be carefully removed and replaced with one suitable for the FE/FC. An EJ/EH outrigger has been found to be ideally suited for this application. The outrigger must be securely attached to the crossmember.

4. Fitting the HR crossmember.

    Place the crossmember on the two trolley jacks, slide it under the vehicle and raise until it just touches the subframe and lines up with the rubber insulators. It is best to use new rubber insulators for the job. Fit the bolts, washers and nuts being careful to use the metal spacers from the FE/FC which are the correct lengths. It is not necessary to use the very bottom rubber insulator as used on the FE/FC since the HR crossmember does not use one. Refit the outrigger retaining bracket with new rubber insulators, and tighten all bolts as specified in the workshop manual.

5. Steering.

    FE/FC steering drag links are made up of ball and cup fittings which are very prone to wear. Whilst the crossmember conversion is being done, it is recommended that the HR ball joint type steering linkages are fitted. The pitman arm and idler arm from the HR can be bolted directly onto the FE/FC.

6. Finishing Off.

    Refit the brake lines and bleed the system. The HR brakes use different size pipe to FE/FC. I have found it best to fit an entire pipe system from an FB/EK Holden to the FE/FC since it is the same diameter pipe as the HR but bent to the shape of an FE/FC. Otherwise all new pipe will be required, as rebending old pipe is not recommended. Another solution is to fit adapters to the brake lines.

    Another problem exists with the sway bar. The HR sway bar is shorter than the FE/FC unit but it will not fit the FE/FC. Solution is once again to use FB/EK sway bar which is the correct length and will fit properly. Otherwise fit a new heavy duty sway bar, made to suit the application. Do not heat and bend sway bars or any other suspension parts.

    The HR rims should be used instead of the FE/FC rims, as it is possible that the FE/FC rims can touch the HR brakes under certain circumstances. Once the road wheels have been fitted, lower the vehicle to the ground.

This is the second in a series of articles covering technical info that is not found in the Workshop Manual, or covers common methods of modifying an FE or FC. Many thanks to Ken McLean for taking the time to document this procedure.

Important Note: This document is intended as a guide for those persons interested in repairing or modifying their vehicle. The FE-FC Holden Car Clubs of Australia take no responsibility and accept no liability for the information contained herein. You must ensure that all work carried out and/or modifications made to your vehicle are legal in your state, and we recommend you contact an engineer or your local Traffic Authority for further information.

Another article on fitting disc brakes (which includes info on fitting rear discs and some pictures of the procedure) can be found at "The Holden Garage", a website managed by Mike Long.
If you have a technical question about repairs or maintenance on your FE or FC, please post a question on our chat-page.

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