Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
This HQ Holden was arguably a high point of GMH
styling, and an Australian classic. They still proliferate the Australian landscape (an icon of cars that were "built to last") in their various configurations of body styles and engine combinations. Even in the seventies, a new Holden was a major Aussie event, that drew a lot of excitement. The HQ series represented the most significant redesign of the Holden since the forties.
Many newspapers ran entire supplements on the HQ. Modern Motor magazine included a free long-playing record detailing the new range! New features at the time included flow-through ventilation, front sub-frame, coil-suspension
all round on the non-commercial vehicles, four-link rear end on passenger models, newer safety equipment and standards, such as slim windscreen pillars; designed to meet projected safety legislation which didn't eventuate.
Several "specials" and model variations were put out to continue the interest in the HQ range, such as; "Vacationer", the "SS", "GTS", "LS", even a 1973 special silver Premier
for the 25th anniversary of the Holden car. The HQ was introduced with all the fan-fare, and it deserved it as it was to turn out to be the most popular Holden ever. In fact, 1973
remains the record year for GMH
exports to this day!
The Perimeter Frame Chassis
Technical innovations in the HQ Holden’s ranged from the chassis and suspension through to relocation of the handbrake and spare-wheel. Inclusion of a perimeter frame chassis for the first time in a Holden was one of the most significant developments in the Australian car industry. The perimeter frame chassis was a strong steel frame that started from just behind the front bumper bar and widened out behind the front wheels to run inside the sills through to the rear wheels.
This gave the Holden much greater torsional rigidity than with the HG, while increasing protection in the event of a side on collision. The front suspension was hung from the frame. Switching away from the traditional semi-elliptic leaf spring-mounted beam axle, the HQ had a Torana-style four-link rear suspension with coil springs. This was adopted for better axle location to cope with the extra power of the new engines.
A major feature of the all-new body styling was the accent on forward and side visibility. The A-pillars were the thinnest-ever on a local car, and the bonnet dropped down at the front to give the driver a better view of the road for more accurate placement. Another feature of the new bodies was flow-through ventilation, which again helped with visibility, while allowing the designers to do away with the quarter vents to create a cleaner line.
The then new 173 cid engine was developed by boring the old 161 from 3.375 in. to 3.5 in. The 202 gained it's extra capacity from a stroking job on the 186 engine. The stroke went from 3.00 in. to 3.25 in. with the bore remaining the same at 3.625 in. which meant the 202 and 253 V8
used the same pistons. Unfortunately the 186S engine was not been replaced by a warm 'S' version of the 202 engine – that role now left entirely to the 253
which, along with the 308
, remained unchanged. But the fully imported 350 V8 was down on power thanks to the extra plumbing required to meet pollution standards.
With transmissions, GM-H
was for the first time using all local parts in their four-speed gearboxes – except for those mated to the 350 V8
. Previously, these parts were sourced from Opel
in Germany. The 350 Monaro was instead fitted with the American "Muncie" box. There was a big change in the automatic 350 Monaro, it now being fitted with the three-speed Chevy Turbo-Hydramatic in place of the two-speed Powerglide used on the HG. The optional power steering was integrated with the steering box and included for the first time on any local car an excellent variable ratio system – finally an Aussie car that had a good feel on the straight-ahead.
Inside the HQs, the handbrake was moved to a position beside the driver's seat, much like the VH Valiant set-up – we were never a fan, even after many years of ownership, but it was better than the under-dash type used on the HG. The heater controls were shifted to a new spot on the right hand side of the dashboard. The HQ introduced a new model to the Monaro line-up - the LS (for Luxury Sports). It was a Premier-type version of the Monaro with four headlights instead of the normal two. The disc brakes
were now ventilated, however they were only standard on the V8s and LS Monaro. The Statesman was likewise very different from the HG Brougham
that it replaced, being some 6 inches longer. It even out-stretched the Fairlaine
by 2 inches. The flagship De Ville was fitted with the 308 V8 with Trimatic transmission as standard and the basic Statesman had the 202 six with three-speed manual gearbox.
The HQ SS
The HQ Holden SS V8 was special version of the Holden Kingswood. It was released to coincide with the 1972
Sydney Motor Show to give it maximim impact. At release it confused many, not a four door Monaro, but instead a cross-bred Kingswood/Monaro trim, 253 V8
bolted-up to a four-speed manual all-syncro gearbox and a low-ratio differential, plus handling mods like standard radial tyres, front stabliser bar, and firm suspension. On the outside the exterior trim included steel sport wheels, a bold black grille and headlight bezels, vented front fenders and special SS decals and stripes front and rear. At first the middle-of-the-road Holden SS stirred little interest in any quarters - but thats not to say it is not collectable today.
The harsh truth for Holden fans, however, was that there was nothing on the Holden SS that the General's opposition had been pumping into the options lists for years. The big difference was, the General didn't offer the mods as optional equipment. There was only one model, with a choice of colors. That was a little strange, given that Ford had been packing the options lists with GT sedans, GS packs and Rallye packs and reaping in a healthy whack of bonus profits in the process.
GMH expanded their range in 1973
to ensure they maintained their image of making the all-Australian car, suited to the all-Australian motorist. And it could be argued that the HQ Vacationer sedan and station wagon were the most integrated model of the lot. Development of the Vacationer was a walk in the park for Holden – more a marketing exercise – you simply took a stock Kingswood, didn't delete any standard items and added more than A$400 worth of goodies, in the process “almost” creating a new model.
Of course to create exclusivity, they needed to be produced in limited quantity – but then again enough had to roll off the production line to make the whole exercise worth the trouble. It was easy for GMH to build the car up in such a popular form. All the company did was to look through the order lists for Kingswood sedans and station wagons and find out what the most popular options were. Basically, the Kingswood Vacationer was a Kingswood 173 which had the following options: 202 engine ($62). Front disc brakes
($65). Tri-Matic transmission ($243). Floor carpets ($22). Wheel trim rings ($26). Two tone paint ($21). It also came with a centre fold-down armrest on the front bench seat – this was not offered as an option by GMH so we are unable to quote a cost – but we figure it would have been at least $20, which meant the additions added up to a substantial $439.
At the time the base price of the Kingswood 173 was $2985. If you added these options to a normal Kingsvvood 173, it would cost $3424. However, GMH offers the Kingswood Vacationer for $3255 or, a saving of $189. And there wasn't any paring of standard equipment – it was all still there, the cigarette lighter, the door arm-rests, courtesy lights, etc. The aesthetic options - carpets, trim rings and two-tone paint added a lot to the Kingswood and made a good looking car even better, inside and out.
The Kingswood Vacationer station wagon came with the same extras, but also with a power tailgate ($40). Base price of a Kingswood 173 station wagon was $3205. Add $479 worth of options and the price was $3695. But GMH offered the Vacationer station wagon for $3495 - a saving of $209. The marketability of the Vacationer was clearly up to scratch, given these “special runs” would continue on later models. Of course none of the options were orientated towards the performance conscious buyer, although you could argue that the 202 engine and front disc brakes
were "power" extras.
But, to be realistic, the Vacationer was advertised as the ideal car for the person taking their family on a holiday. And that meant considerable weight, given it would be loaded up with two adults, two, three or four children, their luggage and, perhaps, the family dog . With that sort of weight in the car, the 202 was a must, as were the disc brakes. The carpet was similar to that used on the Statesman, so it was obvious that GMH hadn't slapped just anything on the Vacationers. It was all quality stuff, even if it was being sold below cost.
1973 - A Record Year
There would hardly be a household in Australasia that has not had a HQ parked in the drive at some stage. In fact, 1973
remains the record year for GMH
exports to this day, with a total of 41,181 cars shipped! The huge model range included: Belmont Sedan, Belmont Station Wagon, Belmont Panel Van, Belmont Utility, Kingswood Sedan, Kingswood Station Wagon, Kingswood Utility, SS Sedan, Premier Sedan, Premier Station Wagon, Holden Chassis and Cab, Monaro Coupe, Monaro GTS Coupe, Monaro GTS 350 Coupe, Monaro LS ('Luxury Sports') Coupe, Monaro GTS Sedan, Statesman Sedan and Statesman De-Ville Sedan.