Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The HX represented only minor cosmetic changes over the HJ, so much so that the HJ and HX are arguably the hardest pre-Commodore Holden models to tell apart. In fact, the major reason for the release of the HX was so that Holden could comply with the new Australian Design Rule 27a, a rule designed to lower exhaust
Ford had, wisely, set about meeting the new design rule by performing some major surgery to their engines, most specifically in the re-engineering of the cylinder heads
, a modification that made the engine both faster and cleaner. But the General choose to hastily add some emission control equipment (or extra plumbing) without any re-design of the basic engine - a strategy that would see significant reductions in both fuel efficiency and power output.
But that wasn't the only bad news for Holden fans, in September 1976 the beautiful Monaro Coupe's would be phased out, the remaining body shells being used to create the Holden "LE" (or Limited Edition). The "LE" was, strangely, never referred to by Holden as a Monaro, but most people presumed they were, and we make reference to them throughout this site as the Monaro "LE" for that very reason.
Available only in metallic maroon with gold honeycomb-pattern trims on steel wheels, the "LE" certainly looked very impressive, Holden marketing the car as a "Luxury Sports Coupe". The "LE" featured a vast array of standard equipment, such as the 5.0 litre V8, air-conditioning, eight-track cartridge player, power windows and power steering.
Perhaps the best news was for connisuers of the biggest of the Holden's, the Statesman Caprice and DeVille. Both cars were given a much better grille treatment than had been afforded them on the HJ (in the previous model, when viewing a Statesman from front-on it was very difficult to tell it apart from the Premier). The horizontal pattern of the new grille made the Statesman's look wider than their lesser brethren, and equipment levels were substantially raised.
Standard equipement now included power radio aerials, and on the Caprice extra guages for battery
charge and oil pressure, intermittent wipers, revised door-trims finished in Rosewood, and beautiful crushed velour upholstery was an option. While power central locking was (for the very first time) an option across the Holden range, it was clearly targeted at the Statesman buyers.
But perhaps the most little know feature of the HX was the somewhat primitive anti-lock braking system introduced. The system only operated on the rear wheels, which naturally dimished most of the potential safety benefits such a system would bring.
In January 1976 GM-H appointed Americans Charles (Chuck) Chapman and Joe Whitesell (managing director and chief engineer) to their production team. As soon as these appointments were made, motoring journalists throughout Australia began speculating on the effect these two would have on the products manufactured by GM-H. At the time, the motoring press and public were united in their belief that Holdens could be vastly improved and brought up to date with latest developments. Unfortunately, however, by the time Chapman and Whitesell took up their posts the HX Holden program was almost completely locked-down. So their impact on the HX was minimal - but it was there to some degree.
What Chapman and Whitesell would have noted as they were introduced to the Holden products was just how much time and money Holden had been spent cleaning-up its engines. While it was true that modification was needed to meet ADR 27a, Holden did not release the HX on emission requirements only. The engineers revised the rear shock absorber mountings, made minor alterations to the steering box and added radial tyres
to the range, from Kingswood onward. This tidied-up the Holden's handling remarkably - it still wasn't in the Renault
/Peugeot class, but it is improved - and it showed that the General was taking the handling issue very seriously - and we all know RTS
was only a few years off.
The aforementioned changes, plus new convenience features like the column-mounted multi-function stalk, circular instruments and additional dashboard illumination (ashtray/ cigarette lighter) clearly demonstrated that somebody at Fisherman's Bend cared about the comfort of would-be purchasers. And few who drove the HX could deny that the aging design was finally becoming a more civilised motor car. The revised shock absorber mounts at the back and the new clutch and throttle linkages have reduced mechanical noise, but there's still excessive transmission noise to worry the occupants.
Changes to steering box ratios reduced steering effort at low speeds, but the mods also increased-the turns lock-to-lock and this called for a whole new approach to handling Holdens. An important feature of the new range was that service intervals were doubled (10,000 km/6 months) and this will had an important effect on maintenance costs. However the move to cleaner engines, in the General's case, did not come without disadvantages. Fuel consumption was up by seven percent, and power was down by about four percent. Prices were up, but on Kingswood the rise was only $87, bringing the bread'n'butter car to $5322.