1971 Holden HQ Premier: Vinyl Classics Pt.1

By: Guy Allen, Photography by: Nathan Jacobs

Holden HQ Premier still Holden HQ Premier still
Holden HQ Premier front side left studio Holden HQ Premier front side left studio
Holden HQ Premier front side right studio Holden HQ Premier front side right studio
Holden HQ Premier headlight Holden HQ Premier headlight
Holden HQ Premier rear right studio Holden HQ Premier rear right studio
Holden HQ Premier rear studio Holden HQ Premier rear studio
Holden HQ Premier taillight Holden HQ Premier taillight
Holden HQ Premier wheel Holden HQ Premier wheel
Holden HQ Premier v8 badge Holden HQ Premier v8 badge
Holden HQ Premier wheel detail Holden HQ Premier wheel detail

The prices of collectable cars are steadily climbing, but you can still get a nice up-spec Seventies sedan like a V8 Ford Falcon XB Fairmont or Holden HQ Premier for around the $20k mark


XB Fairmont vs HQ Premier Vinyl Classics Part 1:

Holden HQ Premier

Widely regarded as the most significant Holden car since the original 48-215, the HQ was a clean-sheet design that was manufactured in staggering numbers: think 485,650 sedans!

In a piece written to celebrate the HQ’s 40th anniversary, author and UC contributor John Wright wrote: "The HQ Holden must be seen as one of the most important cars in the history of the Australian automotive industry. Despite being overshadowed in the public memory by the Bathurst glory machines (most notably the Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III), it was the 1971 Holden that compellingly showcased the potential of the industry which really began during World War I (when the danger to shipping led to the local manufacture of car bodies) but came of age on 29 November 1948 when the original 48-215 ‘FX’ Holden was introduced to the clamouring public.

Holden -HQ-Premier -front -onroad

"The HQ exemplified the brilliant ingenuity of the local industry. It was entirely Australian (as was the LH Torana which was released in 1974). From the one platform, the product planners developed a range of sedans and coupes, a coupe utility and related panel van, a One-Tonner, the long-wheelbase wagon and luxury cars. Here were formidable economies of scale and considerably more than half a million HQs were produced, including 485,650 Belmont, Kingswood and Premier sedans. Imagine if the HQ range had also been built in left-hand drive!

"It was perhaps the most beautiful series of cars ever developed in Australia. Even as a Belmont Silver Top, the HQ offered an eloquent statement of style.

In Monaro GTS coupe guise it was nothing short of gorgeous. And the long-wheelbase Statesman De Ville made its Fairlane rival look almost gawky."

Holden -HQ-Premier -front -onroad

That doesn’t mean the HQ was beyond criticism – far from it. While the exterior styling was almost universally applauded, the dynamics copped a roasting.

The issue was the handling, credited to (or blamed on) chief engineer George Roberts. An American, he was accused of introducing Cadillac-influenced ride and handling, which was undeniably plush but vague and suffering from serious understeer when pressed. Some within the corporate structure preferred to see his is a safety feature, where the car’s front tyres would squeal loudly long before the machine’s cornering limits were reached.

It took until the HZ of 1977-80 and the fitting of RTS (radial tuned suspension) for the handling of the series to be sorted, though there are plenty of retro-fit upgrades available.

Typically for the period, the buyer was confronted with myriad choices as they sat down to order a car. You could have packages starting with the Belmont, working through to the Kingswood, the ritzy Premier or the sporty GTS. Engines came in 173 or 202-cube sixes, plus three V8s: 253, 308 and 350. Neither of the sixes really impressed the critics in this large car, though the 202 did go on to power an entire races series. HQ racing remains one of the most entertaining categories on the planet.

Holden -HQ-Premier -front -studio

The Premier on these pages is a little unusual in its spec. While the 253 ‘baby’ V8 was a popular choice and fairly economical on the highway, this car has a bench front seat and three-speed manual column shift transmission. In addition to the motor, the other big luxury was the integrated air-conditioning.

Normally you’d also expect to see bucket seats and a Trimatic auto plus, very likely, the power steering option box ticked as well. If you had any sense, you’d then go for the optional ventilated front disc brakes, which by all reports worked well.

With the more usual spec, what you had was an upmarket family car, driven by the mid-level company exec or business person who was starting to experience a bit of success. The distinctive dual lamps up front clearly announced this was not just another Holden, while the vinyl roof spelled luxury cruiser rather than sports car.

Holden -HQ-Premier -engine -detail

Fans of the HQ series reckon a combination of a 253 with manual four-speed and bucket seats is the combination to have if you want a car that’s fun to drive though we can see heaps of appeal in a Premier with a more stately intent.

Holden Premier HQ 253 V8 (1971-74) Buyers' Checklist

The HQ ranks as the most visually exciting Holden of all time yet delivered minimal mechanical or chassis engineering advancement.

The smaller, cheaper ‘253’ V8 offered a useful marketing tool for dealers; combining decent economy with the attraction of some V8 rumble for not much extra money. Almost all of these 136kW V8 Premiers came with Tri-Matic auto transmission so a factory three or four-speed manual may interest collectors.

Holden -HQ-Premier -interior -drivers -side

Even when new, you could almost hear the sound of rust bubbling beneath the paint-work or ubiquitous vinyl roof covering. A lot succumbed early to corrosion and the first priority when considering any HQ is close inspection of the body structure followed by floors and panels.

Prices for worn and/or non-original cars begin below $5000 but anything worthwhile will be priced at $12,000 and above. The values of a modified Premier depend on how any changes might impact the character of the car. An exceptional one will climb over $20k.


FAIR $5500
GOOD $14,500

Jacobs _160318_3835-Edit

Holden HQ Owner: Geoff Sarkies

It’s a 253 V8 sedan, three on the column manual with no power steering unfortunately. The car was ordered new by my late uncle with a bench seat and integrated air-conditioning.

All the cars he’d had before were three-on-the-tree and it wasn’t until a few years ago he bought his first automatic and discovered what he’d been missing all these years! I understand the manuals with the V8s in the Premiers are quite a rare car.

Holden -hq -geoff -sarkies

Without power steering it’s quite heavy to get off the mark, but once you’re actually rolling it’s a very nice cruising car. It’ll never blow anything off the road, but it’s a lovely car just to cruise down the road in.

It’s good in modern day traffic. It can keep pace with modern cars and you don’t have to worry much about the braking side of it – this one has the disc brakes on the front.

I did have another when I was about 21 – it was a wagon. It wasn’t all that old at the time and it was a bit of a lemon. That was enough to turn me off them for all these years. It wasn’t until my uncle passed on that this came down the family and I took the opportunity to buy it. This was a real eye-opener compared to the wagon and showed what a really nice car it is.


1971 Holden HQ Premier

NUMBERS BUILT 220,765 (XB series)
BODY 4-door sedan
POWER 138kW @ 4400
TORQUE 355Nm @2400
TRANSMISSION 3-speed manual
SUSPENSION Front: independent with coils, tele shocks. Rear: live axle with four-link arms, coil springs and telescopic shocks
BRAKES discs front, drum rear wheels 14x5 (standard)
PRICE when new $3700

- Read part 2: Ford XB Fairmont V8 here


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