Engine Numbers and How to Read Them

by Ken McLean

The grey motor ran from 1948 through until 1963 and in that time it powered the much loved FE and FC Holdens. Over the years a number of changes occurred, the most significant being the upgrade from 133 cubic inches to 138 cubic inches with the FB. However, a number of changes took place during the FE/FC model run including:- new oil drain holes in the front main bearing support to try and stop oil leaking past the timing gear seal, new stronger design valve rocker shaft supports, timing gear oil slinger introduced (because oil was still leaking from the timing gear seal), and a solid disc type timing gear introduced after many spoke type timing gears were broken. The fibre timing gear continues to be a liability to the grey motor right up to the present day.


Firstly the engine prefix should be an "L". Up to the introduction of the FE, GMH did not put a letter before the engine number so all 48s and FJs have 6 digit engine numbers only, with no letter before the numbers. FJ utes and vans made after the FE sedans were introduced have a "U" prefix, and then when the FE vans and utes were introduced, they took on the "L" prefix in line with the sedans. FBs and EKs have a "B" prefix, while EJs have a "J" prefix. The table below shows the approximate engine number against registration date which, providing you have the original number plates or know the original registration date, will allow you to check the engine as original or not. Please note that due to some cars sitting in dealers' showrooms longer than others (e.g. cars sent to country dealerships), your engine number may be a month either side of that shown below. Further analysis of your car's body and chassis numbers will enable a more accurate date to be established.
Month Engine No Month Engine No
1st FE Engine L283373 1st FC Engine L439507
July 1956 L290000 May 1958 L455000
August 1956 L294000 June 1958 L467000
September 1956 L298000 July 1958 L479000
October 1956 L301000 August 1958 L487000
November 1956 L307000 September 1958 L494000
December 1956 L313000 October 1958 L503000
January 1957 L321000 November 1958 L512000
February 1957 L325000 December 1958 L522000
March 1957 L330000 January 1959 L530000
April 1957 L339000 February 1959 L537000
May 1957 L346000 March 1959 L548000
June 1957 L354000 April 1959 L558000
July 1957 L361000 May 1959 L567000
August 1957 L370000 June 1959 L573000
September 1957 L378000 July 1959 L580000
October 1957 L388000 August 1959 L590000
November 1957 L394000 September 1959 L600000
December 1957 L409000 October 1959 L615000
January 1958 L415000 November 1959 L634000
February 1958 L420000 December 1959 L640000
March 1958 L431000    
April 1958 L441000    

This article was written and researched by Ken McLean of the FE-FC Holden Car Club of Victoria, and has been published in their newsletter, as well as the NSW Club's magazine Sideplate.
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