Holden HZ Kingswood Review

By: Guy Allen

Presented by

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For many families, the Kingswood was the last of the full-size chrome bumper cars

Someone I know has a T-shirt with a picture of her HZ Kingswood on it, with the legend on the back: "The country hasn’t been the same since they stopped making the Kingswood." She has a point.

For many families, it was the last of the full-size chrome bumper cars – the Commodore simply didn’t cut the proverbial mustard for this group – that would grace their shed. And a Statesman, which was to carry on as the WB series for some years? Unthinkable. Too much car and money.

Of course Holden got as far as building a WB Kingswood (you can see it in the Birdwood museum in SA), but it never got past prototype stage.

So, for many the HZ has real significance. The shape isn’t as smooth and elegant as the original HQ, but had by now picked up some American influence with the squared-off panels in the nose and rear.

| Reader resto: Holden HZ Premier

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Anti-pollution controls were in full force, which did the engines and their performance no favours as the initial engineering response was fairly clumsy.

What more than made up for those deficiencies was the Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS) handling package. This was more than just a handy marketing logo, but a rethink on how this series was set up. Gone was the legendary understeer, replaced by a package that stacked up pretty well at the time and (with good bushes and suspension underneath) remains a fairly capable unit. Body roll was minimised and you were dealing with reasonably tenacious grip.

| Buying used: Holden HQ-HZ Premier

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The story of this car is extraordinary. The Valencia Orange is a Holden colour but rarely seen on a Kingswood and current owner Paul Ford (gotta love the surname…) speculates that it may have been ordered as a dealer special to brighten up the showroom at Melville Motors in WA. It was reasonably well kitted out, in SL trim with front bucket seats, a 253 V8 in the nose and Trimatic transmission. In that trim it would have come standard with front discs and drum rears.

In any case it was built in September 1977 and was sold to the Perth Bible Institute (?!) in November that year. Paul swapped a cheque for the keys in 1980 and became the second owner. Over the years, and a couple of hundred thousand kays, he added some GTS bits, such as the wheels, dash and steering wheel. He figures they’re Holden parts and he likes the way it adds a bit of spice to the car’s appearance.

| Our shed: 1979 HZ Kingswood

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Con Raphael, the owner of the Falcon on these pages, is a mechanic who knows this era well and offered some advice on what look for if you’re in the market for an HZ. Rust is an issue in the panel ahead of the windscreen (particularly near the edges), behind the wheel arches and the dogleg panel on the rear, in the bottom of the doors if the drain holes haven’t been kept clear and in the boot. It sounds shocking, but is typical of local cars of the era.

Mechanically they’re very robust, regardless of whether you’re talking of the 202 six, or 253 or 308 V8s. The 308 is the pick and there’s a substantial difference between that and the 253 when it comes to performance. A 202 can be developed to perform well, while a 253 makes for a very nice cruiser. Something to keep in mind is that Trimatics have a mixed reputation – there’s a substantial difference between the units used on the 202 and 253 – and there are people out there who can make them bulletproof. As for the 308, it scored the Turbo 400 till 1979, when the switch was made to a Turbo 350. The latter was more efficient.

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What’s it like to drive? "It’s a big, reliable smooth touring car," says Paul. "I like to open the window and listen to the V8 instead of the radio." They’re simple things to look after and have no problem handling modern traffic, and so they have a practical side as well as making the cut as a club car.

Holden HZ Kingswood value range: $10-30k

 

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