1974 Year In Review

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Holden HJ
The tail lights were no longer in the bumper, but was that enough reason to trade in a HQ?

Holden HQ Sandman
Holden recognised a niche market with the outdoor surfing culture of young Australians, and responded by converting their "Tradesman's Van" into a high performance and highly desirable Sandman "Shaggin Wagon" in 1974.

Mazda Roadpacer
Fit a Wankel Rotary Engine to a HJ Premier body and what have you got? The Top-Of-The-Line Mazda "Roadpacer".

Ford Gran Torino
The 1974 Ford Gran Torino, still thought of fondly today by those that remember the show "Starsky & Hutch".

Vanden Plas Princess 1500
Arguably the ugliest car of the decade, the Vanden Plas Princess 1500.

The Cars the Ate Paris
The premise for Peter Weirs 1974 film "The Cars that Ate Paris" was a good one, pity the movie was such a dog.

The Streaker
In April 1974, Michael O'Brien introduced the world to 'Streaking', a phenomenon that had, until then, been the domain of US College Campuses.

The HJ Holden



The facelifted HJ Holden was an improved and updated version of the long running and very successful HQ Holden. It was distinguished by different grilles, wraparound front and rear lights, larger bumper bars and slight revisions to the front-end sheet metal. Interior changes included full-foam seats, a new instrument panel, a revised ventilation system and upgraded equipment levels.

The biggest-selling variant, the Kingswood, now boaster a larger capacity engine and power-assisted disc brakes as standard equipment. The Kingswood "Deluxe" package included the most commonly specified options while keeping the total price under $5000. Later in the year, the HJ version of the Statesman was announced. The De Ville became the base Statesman, and an even more upmarket “Caprice” version was announced. This boasted more luxury equipment that any car GMH had previously produced.

Sandman versions of the panel van and utility were strongly marketed to increase Holden's presence in the fast expanding recreational market (a small number of HQ Sandmans had been built earlier in 1974 but the variant was not produced in large volumes until the HJ series). On the engine front, the HJ was the first model line-up since the HK not to offer the '350' V8 as a option. In an interesting move, HJ Premier bodyshells were exported to Mazda in Japan where they were fitted with 13B Wankel rotary engines. This hybrid became Mazda's top-of-the-line domestic model, known as the “Roadpacer”.

The Cars That Ate Paris



1974 saw the release Peter Weir's new film "The Cars That Ate Paris". Set in a fictional small Australian town of Paris, the townsfolk deliberately caused car accidents, then sold or salvaged all the valuables from the wrecks as a means of sustaining their local economy. If you have not seen the film, we suggest you don't bother - not everything old is golden...

The car that was undoubtedly the star of that year was the 1974 Ford Torino, made popular in the Starsky & Hutch TV show. A recent survey of the USA's favourite cars from TV shows had this ranked at number 6, although the 2003 film re-make may have reminded many of the cars existence.

The divide between Australian and British carmakers became very evident when you compared the youthful HQ Sandman to the Vanden Plas Princess 1500. The latter was a strange brew, obviously very Austin (Allegro) but with typical Vanden Plas touches such as leather and wood interior, picnic tables et al. But the nose treatment was, to be kind, bizarre. The Princess never went on sale in Australia, and we are not sure how many were to be sold in the UK, but think this could well be a very collectable car in years to come, if only for its sheer quirkiness.

John Goss and Kevin Bartlett Conquer Mount Panorama



In other motoring news, John Goss and Kevin Bartlett took out the 1974 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 at Bathurst in a Falcon; Emerson Fittipaldi's fourth place in the US Grand Prix was enough to clinch him the World Drivers Championship; The Toyota Corona station wagon was released at the Melbourne Motor Show; New Zealand's World Formula One Champion Dennis Hulme, 38, announced his retirement from motor racing. the ailing Leyland Australia company appeals for government aid after its market share drops to 4.8 per cent.

In England, and armed man confronted Princess Ann in an attempted kidnap and extortion plot. 26 year old Ian Ball, later diagnosed to have mental health problems, was certainly not the smartest bloke on the block, and even admitted to police his attempt was "not bloody likely to work". Ball had asked the Princess Royal to "come with me for a day or two" because he wanted £2m. Papers released under the 30-year rule show the spirited Princess told him "not bloody likely, and I haven't got £2m". Unfortunately 4 people were injured in the incident.

Melbourne International Motor Show



1974 was the year of the 40th Melbourne International Motor Show, then billed as the biggest and best yet. The major drawcard was of course the then new LH Torana range, about the most important big volume release in the car manufacturers' 1974 calendar. Nissan released their Datsun 1200 replacement, the 120Y - basically a new body on old mechanicals - but you can read our detailed review of that in the car review section. Regardless, the 120Y was a pretty significant release. The 1200 had helped Datsun achieve heavy penetration of the light market in the previous three years so the replacement needed to be as good or better. History would prove that it was.

Volvo, which by 1974 had penetrated the Australian luxury car market beyond even that company's expectations, released a whole new range of face-lifted cars. The hatchback SAAB made its Australian debut as well. Lancia also chose the Melbourne International Motor Show for the national release of their Lancia Beta and 2000 models. Germany was represented in the new model line-up when the Bill Patterson-Grand Prix Motors organisation staged the national release of the BMW 525 on show opening day. Toyota released the new Corona, with 2-litre four cylinder engine - the 1974 Corona was a departure from usual design practice of making small cars bigger and the company decided not to enlarge the car. However, it did sport a new body and was really a new car from the suspension up.

First Australian showings were the 1974 Jensen Interceptor, the Aston Martin V8, Ferrari Boxer, Lamborghini Urraco, Maserati Merak, 1974 Morgan Plus-8 and Datsun 260Z. The specials included the Nissan Datsun ESV, the Toyota EX7, the Mazda RX510 and the Renault Alpine. Cars that had already been released, but were still considered very new, included the VW Passat, Audi 80, Mercedes 'S' and Compact ranges, and (cough) the Leyland Marina Six. Also on show was the futuristic Toyota EX7, which was valued in 1974 Aussie dollars at almost $1 million.

The EX7 had been a star attraction at the Tokyo Motor Show, and it featured a turbo-charged, five-litre, twin overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder engine, developing a massive 800 bhp (DIN) at 8000 rpm. It had a five-speed gearbox and was built to explore the high speed inter-metropolitan transportation then anticipated in 10 years time. History would prove them to be dreaming. The EX7 had four-wheel disc brakes, hydraulically opening doors, seats which rose up when the doors opened to make access easier, a digital "read-out" on speedo and rev counter and transistorised ignition.

The Mazda RX510 was an attempt by Mazda to apply ESV lessons to a normal road car - in this case, an RX3 Savannah. It was described in some circles as an RX3 with an ESV nose, but it contained more than that. The Nissan-Datsun ESV was another look into the future. About the size of a 180B, the ESV was crammed with safety bits including safety bumper, periscope rear vision mirror, special safety seats, air bags, energy absorbing doors, safety tyres and special safety suspension.

Also on display was an Alpine-Renault 1600S Berlinetta, with a top speed of more than 140 mph - the Alpine on show was one of winning 1973 World Rally Championship team cars. The power unit, mounted over the rear wheels for superb traction was an enlarged Renault 16 TS engine of 1800cc capacity, producing 175 DIN bhp, equivalent to a rally-prepared Torana XU-1. The amazing thing about the Alpine was that its all-up weight was just over 1500 lbs, little more than a racing Mini. The power-to-weight ratio was outstanding. The Alpine was freighted over by a UTA DC10 and, rumour had it, the car was shipped to Australia upside down so that it could fit better into the space left on the plane.

Another special on show was the Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer, a two-seater, 180-plus mph sports car (based on the famous 312P championship winning sports racing car). The Boxer was powered by a flat-12 cylinder engine developing 380 bhp at 7700 rpm. Engine capacity is 4390 cc. Other cars of note on display included the Camel Filter Camaro, Bob Jane's Monaro GTS and his D-Type Jaguar and Maserati 300S sports cars. Bolwell displayed the Nagari which was first prize in the Canon-Bolwell motor racing photography contest, too.

The 18 Millionith Volkswagen



In September 1974, the 18 millionth Volkswagen Beetle was constructed at VW's Emden factory near Hannover, this company having already exceeded the previous record total of cars produced held by the Model T Ford. It is fair to say that had it not been for the efforts of the British during the immediate post-war years, and, in particular, a Military Government team led by Major Ivan Hirst of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, there would be no Volkswagens on the road today.

Streaking - It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time



"Streaking" was to become a popular activity in 1974, and even the Academy Awards were not immune from the "craze" when 33 year old Robert Opal dashed across the stage where David Niven and several other celebrities were seated. "Just think," Niven remarked, "probably the only laugh that man will ever get is for stripping and showing his shortcomings." But it was in the UK where Australian Michael O'Brien would take streaking up a notch by running naked at the England vs. France Rugby match at Twickenham in front of 53,000 fans.

Grundy Productions launched its first drama series "Class Of ‘74", a five-night-a-week school drama produced for Channel 7. It became the "Class Of ‘75" the following year before being axed by the network. Most 70's teenagers would still remember the very catchy theme for the show, written and performed by Brian Cadd. Cadd would go on to create the theme for the Alvin Purple movies, and even Johnny Farnham's "Don't You Know It's Magic". The Box, a new nightly series set to create the same controversy as Number 96, premiered on the 0/10 Network. It would finish the year as the second most popular program on Australian TV - behind Number 96. November: Countdown, with "Molly" Meldrum starts a 12-year run on ABC.

Formula One Championship:

Emerson Fittipaldi (Brazil) / McLaren-Ford

1974 Bathurst Winner:

John Goss & Kevin Bartlett / XB Falcon GT

NRL Grand Final:

Eastern Suburbs (19) def. Cantebury (4)

VFL/AFL Grand Final:

Richmond (18.20.128) def. North Melbourne (13.9.87)

Melbourne Cup:

Think Big (H. White)

Wimbledon Women:

Chris Evert d. O. Morozova (6-0 6-4)

Wimbledon Men:

Jimmy Connors d. K. Rosewall (6-1 6-1 6-4)

The Movies:

  • Chinatown
  • The Godfather Part II
  • Day for Night
  • Blazing Saddles
  • The Towering Inferno
  • Gone In 60 Seconds (number #2 in our Top 5 Car Chase Movies)

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture - The Godfather Part II
  • Best Actor - Art Carney (Harry And Tonto)
  • Best Actress - Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore)

Gold Logie:

Graham Kennedy (The Graham Kennedy Show, Nine) and Pat McDonald (Number 96, 0-10)

The Charts:

  1. Farewell Aunty Jack - Grahame Bond
  2. Billy Don't Be A Hero - Paper Lace
  3. Seasons In The Sun - Terry Jacks
  4. Sugar Baby Love - Rubbettes
  5. Evie - Stevie Wright
  6. The Night Chicago Died - Paper Lace
  7. My Little Angel - William Shakespeare
  8. Hey Paula - Ernie Sigley and Denise Drysdale
  9. I Love You, Honestly I Love You - Olivia Newton John
  10. Would You Lay With Me - Judy Stone

Farewells:

  • Bud Abbott (Comedian and straight guy to Lou Costello)
  • Dizzy Dean (Baseballer)
  • Duke Ellington (Jazz musician)
  • Charles Lindbergh (Pioneering aviator)
  • Ed Sullivan (Tonight Show host)
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