Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
Following on from the HX
was the last of the line for the traditional large Holden
sedans, the wonderful HZ. There was plenty to celebrate with the new model, and the new Radial Tuned Suspension
(RTS) created a revolution in Aussie big car design.
Until the HZ, Australian motorists had become used to grappling with understeer on every country drive, but the Radial Tuned Suspension system tamed the large Aussie sedan, endowing it with precise and predictable handling. The fact that all other local car manufacturers were forced to rush handling
modifications into their cars proved just how right GMH
From the exterior, again there was little to identify the car over the HJ
models. Thicker body protection strips ran the length of the car, and the handsome raised boot design (previously reserved for Premier models) was now fitted to all cars across the range.
The "Kingswood" name would live on in the HZ, but the "Belmont" was dropped, and a more upmarket "Kingswood SL" introduced. In standard guise, the base Kingswood was still very much a utalitarian vehicle, fitted with bench seats and without radio or clock. The Kingswood SL offered a much higher luxury level to previous Kingswood's, and GMH
were able to keep the price increase relatively modest.
Most purchasers now choose the "SL", which offered reclining bucket seats, a centre console with padded armrest, loop-pile carpet, push-button radio and a tinted-band laminated windscreen. The Premier added the Tri-Matic auto, tinted side glass, pinstriping and the now familiar quad-headlight configuration.
The HZ Monaro GTS was standard with the 308 5 litre V8, dual exhaust
, four-speed manual transmission
, tinted glass, full instrumentation, front and rear spoilers and four-wheel disc brakes. While none carried the familar "Monaro" badge, the did use a Premier nosecone, complete with blacked out quad-headlights. In November 1977
the HZ Statesman was released, now with Radial Tuned Suspension
and four-wheel disc brakes.
Minor changes to the grille made it look more "up market", and an SL/E edition was introduced in 1979. Most interestingly, the HZ range would continue to be sold alongside the new VB Commodore at its release in 1978
, and would continue to sell well.
Holden HZ Vacationer
The thinking behind the Vactioner was very simple. By offering a series of options, some popular, some not so, in a value-for-money pack, GMH was thus able to rid themselves of some option stock and at the same time, capture a portion of the holiday-cum-Christmas market. The name "Vactioner" implied summer motoring and holidays, and the option packages were designed around that theme. In previous year both Kingswood sedan and wagons were used as the bases for Vactioner packs, but for the 1979 HZ it was limited to just the Kingswood SL wagon.
This Vactioner was priced at $7759 – and that was a $460 saving over a similarly optioned HZ Kingswood SL wagon. For $7759 you got the base Kingswood SL wagon fitted with a 4.2 litre V8 engine, trimatic automatic and power steering. There were tinted windows all round, a power operated tailgate window, dual exterior sports mirrors, front bumper over-riders and a great looking roof-rack. There were only a few colour schemes available, these being in a pleasant 2 tone style that was not too over the top. The interior was colour keyed.
The HZ Wagons handling was good. GMH's famous RTS system took care of that. If you drove a Commodore, and then jumped back into a HZ, you would notice the ride was much stiffer than the Commodore's. There was less body roll and float than the Commodore too. These changes were made, according to Holden, after feedback from the public, who felt that the HZ's ride was perhaps a little too hard. Of course, while the Commodore may have slightly more body roll and float than the HZ series, it also had superior roadholding.
There was no question that the Vactioner represented good value for money. At $7759 it was within reach of its market - the family. There was plenty of room for the kids, dogs, bikes and whatever else you might have wanted to carry. The V8 offered plenty of power for towing the boat or caravan too. The options fitted were useful ones, twin mirrors for better vision, front bumper overriders, power operated tailgate window etc. and the whole package was completed by a tasteful paint and trims combination. Holden only built 2500 Vactioners – and today they would make for an affordable classic likely to increase in value.
HZ Statesman De Ville Classic
Faced with clearing the decks of old stock ready for new designs, GMH produced the Statesman De Ville Classic Edition in mid 1979
, a special version of the well known line that offered particularly good value. The De Ville had always been a sort of economy luxury machine slotted in to attract the customer who simply couldn’t justify stumping up $17K large on the Caprice. Roomy on its 2895mm wheelbase, the design had a long, capacious (if ill conceived) boot, and a heavy, American orientated, four headlamp front end. Style wise it certainly looked a cut above the Kingswood. In the Classic Edition GM fitted as standard kit electric windows (normally $218.54 extra), a Chardonnay Champagne paint finish ($105.66 extra), and heavy looking chrome wire wheels ($472.33 extra). Adding a mite more prestige was the fact that only 450 examples of the Classic Edition were built.
Even without these extras, the De Ville had a respectable specification. It had a modified form of RTS of course, as well as four wheel disc brakes. The 308 engine and three speed automatic transmission were standard, along with variable ratio power steering. There was a remote control driver's exterior rear view mirror, push button AM radio with a power antenna and quite a few other luxury (for the time) items that justified the $11,586 asking price. But there was one problem with the HZ Statesman that was not really a fault at all. By the late 1970s Australia was seeing new cars arrive seemingly every week, and the Statesman was getting long in the tooth.
Only a few years earlier, car reviewers thought the Statesman to have a good ride, acceptable handling given the size and roadholding vastly improved thanks to the RTS. But the Commodore had burst onto the scene, and it seemed unavoidable that the luxury long wheel base car be compared to the smaller newcomer. Suddenly the once comfortable seats, finished in a wonderful Buckskin cord cloth, were criticised for being poorly shaped, and some even thought the squabs were too low. The driving position, once praised as giving you the feeling of reclining in a comfortable sofa, was now considered too low and removing you from the driving experience.
There were plenty of punters suggesting the Commodore
, or even the XD Falcon
, was a much better buy. But neither of these cars were able to provide quite the same level of spaciousness, quality and prestige. Whatever you thought, the Statesman was still special. Inside there was a classy instrument panel, although it was very much in the HZ family, along with a console bin, large stowage box and pockets in the front seat backs, all offering useful space for small items. The engine may have been a little underpowered for the size, but it was more than enough to haul the car through traffic on the daily commute, and would always reward when given the opportunity to stretch its legs on the highway.
It was mated to the ever reliable GM auto transmission, a no nonsense affair offering simple performance and having a good kick down feel, and in "D" its changes were clean and smooth. The four wheel disc brakes
worked well, hauling speed off the 1695 kilogram mass quickly and accurately. Better still, they kept on doing it even under plenty of stress, so much so that you would gain confidence the more time you spent behind the wheel. Though handling, steering and road holding on the De Ville Classic Edition were very good indeed, they achieved their excellence at some expense to ride. A Commodore
, because of its later engineering features, did all things pretty well. The fact that the HZ was, by 1979
, not really in the same ball park would become clear with every kilometre covered.
That’s not to say that the ride was bad – rather it was firm – an unusual characteristic for a luxury car, and something the General was forced to introduce to ensure the road-holding remained the equal of its peers. The variable ratio power steering, operating on the recirculating ball system, provided all the usual drawbacks of poor on centre feel, but it worked well enough, even though it did not want to track in a straight line. Thankfully it did manage to absorb road shocks and kick back, providing good assistance at low speeds.
In performance tests, the HZ Statesman would clock zero to 100 km/h in 11.7 seconds, and the standing 400 metres in 17.7. Behind the wheel you would never have believed the car was putting in such respectable times, such was the nature of the sound proofing that allowed the luxury cabin to isolate you from what the V8 was doing. You could drop back to 2nd at anything under 130 km/h, which made passing traffic a breeze. And it was on the highway, at higher speeds, that the firm ride would start to pay dividends, making the Statesman surprisingly stable. In standard or Classic editions, the HZ Statesman De Ville was good value – and provided a better than expected drive.