EARLY HOLDEN HEROES

Stepping out of a convoy of high-riding new Holdens, we celebrate some of the mainstay saloons from the ’60s and ’70s.

Over the decades, most Holdens have been workmanlike, many have become much-loved members of the family, and some have been genuinely special cars. After returning from Holden New Zealand’s 65th anniversary bash in the Chatham Islands, we didn’t have to look far to find cars from each camp, including three 1970s saloons that have seen more than their fair share of Kiwi roads...

The striking Patina Gold Premier with its Glacier White top is a treasured South Island survivor. Only recently acquired by Aucklanders Craig and Kris, Goldie has a specification that is as unusual as its superlative condition.
The engine is the stock 202 six-cylinder but the gearbox is a four-speed manual, the brakes are drums all round, and the original upholstery is a fine-weave, black-and-white check Raydo cloth that gently contrasts with almost-white door cards.
This HQ was first registered to WrightCars in Alexandra in December 1972 and soon headed up to Terry Motors, Blenheim. The first private owner was Reg Daken of Picton. In 1976, he sold it to Rob O’Kane of Picton who would own it for the next 40 years, gradually taking the mileage from 23,000 to 103,000 miles. It remains a matching numbers car although it underwent an engine rebuild at the midpoint of O’Kane’s tenure. In 2016, Ted Church became just the third private owner and, as the vehicle was rust-free, he completed a tidy-up rather than a restoration.
Church had known the car since its infancy, having worked at Frank Terry Motors at the time it was owned by them. It stood out as a very low-volume build car with a factory four-speed with floor change, an unusual cloth interior, and drum brakes all round. The disc brakes were in fact removed and power steering was not requested.
New owner Craig admits to being a child of the 1960s. On the subject of assembly, he believes that Holden Premiers were mostly Aussie-assembled and painted matte black on the underside of the bonnet. He understands that Holdens assembled in Wellington featured the body colour instead.
Craig’s parents drove a 1974 Kingswood that was purchased new following the Christchurch Commonwealth Games (which soaked up a sizeable fleet of new Kingswoods). On the other side of the family, his wife Kris drove to high school in an EJ that her grandmother had bought new. A subsequent owner has returned the car to concours condition.
Meanwhile, plans for the Prem are comparatively modest. Craig intends to correct the look of the engine and has sourced enough material from the States to retrim the whole interior should the need arise.

It’s bang-on 40 years since a Tokoroa dealer sold the Jasmine Yellow Sunbird to Mangakino’s Esma Joan Potae in the autumn of 1979, and she happily ran the car for three decades. Young Auckland engineer Kyle Timmermans bought it from the original owner’s nephew, in sunny Napier, two years ago with about 190,000km on the clock.
“I had wanted an older V8 Holden or Ford,” Kyle recalls, “but found genuine, honest 70s cars to be thin on the ground. My initial intention was to fit a 308 and Trimatic, like the original Torana, but instead went for a 304 from a 1990s Commodore.”
Kyle’s father has plenty of history working on Holdens but they both shed plenty of blood, seat and tears getting the installation right in a joint effort.
“With the motor and engine bay looking right, we then had to take the rest of the car apart to get it spot-on.”
What helped save this car is that Ms Potae, the long-term first owner, followed advice to apply touch-up paint to any chips or scratches as soon as they appeared. The car was covered in small dabs of mismatched paint when Kyle collected it.
“And fortunately the interior was great except the carpet was rotten from a leaking heater. We had to source a reproduction floor panel from Australia.”
Further work will probably be limited to minor cosmetics. “I have a new grille ready to fit and also have the original rear window louvre.”

Auckland electrician Lou Baxter regularly sparks discussions with his 1973 HQ Premier. Aside from period Rostyles from an HQ Monaro, it’s virtually free of adornments and is naturally distressed to impress, wearing its menacing shade of rusty chocolate brown like a battle-hardened suit of armour.
The overall look of this locally assembled HQ will raise a few eyebrows but Beach Hop regular Baxter says he still particularly likes the sharpness of the lines.
The 253 has made way for a 5.0-litre V8 with L34 specs, from 1977. It features electronic ignition, an aftermarket carb and manifold. The HQ is also lowered and has a prominent twin-system exhaust.
The original registration card lists Clarence William Boyd of Taupo as the first owner, from February 1973. Two changes of ownership saw the car move north to Auckland via Katikati, and Baxter bought it from an older couple in Northcote Point, in 1997. He recalls it being mostly immaculate, having only covered 130,000km at the time. “They were very reluctant vendors.”
Baxter has had an interest in Holdens, and Aussie muscle cars, since his mid-teens. “With the large influx of classic Americans in recent years, I think more people are appreciating the classic Aussies and their relevance to our market.”
At first glance, it might seem hard to believe, but Baxter says he started to “tidy it up a bit” 10 years ago, removing minor trim and the vinyl roof. With cars like this becoming rarer, he says the HQ has simultaneously become a labour of love and a valued part of a car community. Couldn’t agree more, mate...

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