Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
Another year, another facelift. which followed the policy first adopted by GMH
with the introduction of the EH
series in 1963
. The obligatory revisions to the grille and tail lights were completed, but Holden needed to advertise that there were some 65 major improvements over the previous HK model for the buying public to take notice.
The most noteable change was the dumping of the all metal grille, Holden opting to use an ABS plastic one on lower end models. Less noticeable was the squared off boot lid, borrowed from the HK Brougham. The 6 cylinder engine lineup remained unchanged, but Holden dumped the imported 5 litre 307 in favour of its two locally manufactured V8's, the 253
. The Chev 350 was retained for the GTS350.
Initially the 308
was only fitted to the Brougham
, while supplies of the imported 5 litre 307 were used up in the sedans. Once these were used, the 308 V8s
were then made available as an option on all models. Ride quality and NVH was improved on the HT with the introduction of neoprene rubber inner front suspension
bushes which replaced the steel bushings used in the HK
And at long last Holden standardised the manual transmission
incorporating a fully synchromesh
3 speed column shift
rather than the earlier "find and grind" type
used in earlier models. To boost the small impact of minor body and mechanical changes GMH had always - since the 149 and 179 days - managed to pull a new engine out of the hat at the right time. For 1969
that engine was a wholly Australian-built 253
cubic inch V8, lighter in weight than any other V8 unit currently available and - only because it was available with manual three speed transmission - cheaper to buy than GMH's imported 307 cubic inch unit.
Price of the 253
engine over the basic 161 was $260 at launch, which brought V8 power within reach of most family motorists. It was the same power unit as that used in GMH's experimental Hurricane, naturally enough detuned for use on the road. It produced 185 bhp at 4400 rpm and 262 ft./lb. of torque at 2400 rpm. At 460 lb., it was only about 80 lb. heavier than the six cylinder 186 "S" engine and less than 40 lb. heavier than Ford's 3.6 litre six cylinder unit.
This engine was the basis of also new 240 bhp 308
cubic inch V8 featured in the HT series Brougham
. Intended as a mid-way engine between the 186S and 307 V8 units, the new 253
, it was hoped by GMH
, would help the company towards a larger share of the V8 market. The HT was in all respects a better car than the HK, but some points of criticism remained. The most obvious was the poor rear - vision, improved slightly by enlarging the rear window by nearly three inches in width and two inches in depth, but still well below what it class standards.
HT Styling Changes
Whether or not styling was improved by modification of the rear hip-line was essentially a matter of personal taste – we prefer the HK partly because it looks older, it represents the first of that body style and the rear tail lights, while less clean and more fussy than the HT’s, to our mind look fantastic. But there are as many reasons why others may prefer the subtle changes in the HT. For example, the new grille, fitting into the same slot as on the HK
, was bolder and more attractive and provided ready recognition. At the time there was plenty of fuss about the new wrap around tail lights – but to our mind these did not represent any major breakthrough as the HK had them too. Speaking in a practical sense the only forward step in styling was the larger rear window - and this was in reality only making up some of the ground lost when the HK
was first released. The HR series had better rearward vision than either the HK
The profile of the Kingswood was enhanced by the use of wheel arch mouldings similar to those used on the previous Premier and Monaro GTS models. The HT Premier was identifiable by a new fine-mesh grille with the familiar quad headlamp system and an extended rear roofline. All models were now fitted with a pantograph type right hand windscreen wiper designed to eliminate the blind spot left by most wipers. Inside the HT, new, rather garish upholstery was used, and the dash featured round Torana-style recessed instruments comprising speedometer and fuel gauge - all other information was conveyed by warning lights.
Apart from the instrument binnacle the dashboard was identical to the HK, with centrally located heater controls and knobs for operation of windscreen wipers, choke and lights fitted to the right and left of the steering column within easy reach of the driver. The handbrake was still mounted under the dash but the warning light that was fitted to the HK series had disappeared. As if to compensate, there were small illuminated strips above each control to prevent confusion at night.
By day, the new instruments were so deeply recessed that they could be difficult to read in poor light conditions. The three spoke oval steering wheel featured a wider, padded centre and the driver was no longer constantly reminded by prominent lettering of the fact that an energy absorbing column was fitted. The standard bench front seats were located in a compromise position which really didn’t offer much comfort for the taller driver as rearward travel was restricted by the necessity to allow adequate legroom for back seat passengers. Also, the backrest of the front seat was more vertical than it needed to be to clear the knees of those riding in the rear.
On the Road
By virtue of extensive use of rubber bushings in the front suspension
, and rear gearbox mounts located in a better position than previously, the HT was noticeably quieter on the road. Both front and rear track were widened by one inch, the front suspension was re-rated to give a softer ride and new three leaf springs were used at the rear. The overall effect was to soften the ride, but improve handling by a small margin. Body roll was more noticeable, but the car felt more controllable and predictable than did the HK
. Understeer was more pronounced, but the lighter steering that resulted from the re-organized front end meant less muscle-work at the wheel. In fact, the recirculating ball steering was light enough to warrant a slightly higher ratio which have further improved handling by providing quicker response to the wheel and possibly slightly more road feel.
Better handling than the HK
, albeit by a slim margin, one of the best features of the HT was the softer ride and the well controlled rear suspension which coped much better on dirt roads than did the HK. Corrugations, potholes and broken patches of bitumen presented few problems and one of the major criticisms that had been directed at Holden by motoring journalists throughout the country had finally been answered.
The HT 253 V8
The other big feature with the HT was of course optional 253
engine. With the standard all-synchro three-speed manual gearbox, it gave effortless performance and excellent fuel economy in both city and country driving. You could also option a heavy-duty four speed box, that improved performance again – albeit with some added cabin noise. GMH engineers needed to improve the 4 speeder so that the torque rating would cope with the extra power of the V8 engine. But with the standard 3 speed unit performance was still pretty darn good, first gear would nudge 50 mph, while second ran to an incredible 80 mph very, very quickly and without noise or fuss. The standing quarter mile came in at 17.8 seconds and maximum speed was 107 mph. It returned 19 mpg on testing mainly comprised of high speed highway work. And remember, this was a bog standard 1969 Kingswood. Not bad.
Small it may have been in capacity by comparison with most other V8 units around at the time, but the 253
felt every bit as powerful and flexible as its larger brethren - despite the high overall gearing of 3.08:1. It was this engine, and the vast improvements in handling on rough roads, that made the HT Holden such a worthwhile forward step for GMH.