Holden goes upmarket - Market Watch

By: UC Staff, Photography by: Prime Creative Media, HSV, General Motors - Holden


In 1948 when Holden launched Australia’s Own Car into a post-War world, any product that was basic in all respects was admired for its austerity.

Holden goes upmarket - Market Watch
Holden EH Premier

In 1948 when Holden launched Australia’s Own Car into a post-War world, any product that was basic in all respects was admired for its austerity.

People who wanted something more luxurious from their GM-H dealer could spend extra on a Vauxhall, or lash out on an imported Pontiac, and not until the 1960s did that attitude change.

Swelling the EJ range in 1962 was Holden’s Premier sedan, with metallic paint, a heater/demister and automatic transmission all standard. The front seats were separated by a console and the interior trimmed in leather. Whitewall tyres and flashy wheel covers completed the package, but nothing could be done to improve Holden’s awful old Grey engine.

Eighteen months later came the EH Premier with a brand-new Red motor and power to match its presence. Three-speed automatic was still the preferred transmission, but a manual option helped turn Holden’s show pony in to a 155km/h galloper. 

Next came the HK range with its V8 engine option, spawning an elongated Brougham with trim lifted straight out of a Cadillac. The ploy bought Holden the time needed to design its Statesman; effectively a Cadillac in miniature, with which to pummel Ford’s seemingly invincible Fairlane.

The 1980s saw Holden lose its big-car mantra before bouncing back in 1990 with a new Statesman that rode sumptuously on independent rear suspension.

Prestige versions of once common Holdens have become scarce and often expensive. Quality and presentation are more significant (usually) than a car’s age, however, EH Premiers in virtually any condition can cost the same as a good WB Caprice.

Some Holdens of this kind might still be in the keeping of original owners, or at least a member of that owner’s family. Such provenance is impossible to truly value, except to say that the best car to buy is one that can document its journey from Day One.

EH PREMIER

In 1948 when Holden launched Australia’s Own Car into a post-War world, any product that was basic in all respects was admired for its austerity.

People who wanted something more luxurious from their GM-H dealer could spend extra on a Vauxhall, or lash out on an imported Pontiac, and not until the 1960s did that attitude change.

Swelling the EJ range in 1962 was Holden’s Premier sedan, with metallic paint, a heater/demister and automatic transmission all standard. The front seats were separated by a console and the interior trimmed in leather. Whitewall tyres and flashy wheel covers completed the package, but nothing could be done to improve Holden’s awful old Grey engine.

Eighteen months later came the EH Premier with a brand-new Red motor and power to match its presence. Three-speed automatic was still the preferred transmission, but a manual option helped turn Holden’s show pony in to a 155km/h galloper. 

Next came the HK range with its V8 engine option, spawning an elongated Brougham with trim lifted straight out of a Cadillac. The ploy bought Holden the time needed to design its Statesman; effectively a Cadillac in miniature, with which to pummel Ford’s seemingly invincible Fairlane.

The 1980s saw Holden lose its big-car mantra before bouncing back in 1990 with a new Statesman that rode sumptuously on independent rear suspension.

Prestige versions of once common Holdens have become scarce and often expensive. Quality and presentation are more significant (usually) than a car’s age, however, EH Premiers in virtually any condition can cost the same as a good WB Caprice.

Some Holdens of this kind might still be in the keeping of original owners, or at least a member of that owner’s family. Such provenance is impossible to truly value, except to say that the best car to buy is one that can document its journey from Day One.

VALUE RANGE: 
Fair: $25,000
Good: $52,000
Excellent: $65,000

VP SENATOR

hsv_senator_5000i.jpg

This one is HSV badged, but under the skin it is pure Holden and shares engineering basics with the VQ-VP Statesman. Central to the way these big Holdens ride and handle is the independent rear suspension pioneered by Holden’s VQ range. 

When new, the Senator at $45,450 wasn’t the most expensive model on HSV’s list of offerings. However, with 217 cars produced from April-June 1992 they are easier to find than the more expensive 5000i. Senators delivered 180kW from the standard HSV V8, with automatic or five-speed manual transmission. Sports seats were trimmed in partial or full leather, and standard features include climate control air-con, a trip computer, and electric windows and mirrors. A multi-stack CD system was optional at undisclosed cost.  

Despite scarcity, the VP Senator isn’t particularly expensive and typically cheaper than the less opulent VP GTS. 

Senators that have travelled just 8000 kilometres annually but need some attention to paint and trim, sell at $30-35,000. Outstanding examples have been advertised at more than $60,000, but nailing down buyers at that level can prove difficult.


VALUE RANGE:
Fair: $15,000
Good: $35,000
Excellent: $55,000

WB CAPRICE

WB Statesman -002.jpg

Whoever decides the relative values of interesting older cars really has their sums wrong when it comes to pricing the WB Caprice. The same goes for Statesman-based cars made by HDT; the Magnum which is ultra rare and still ridiculously cheap. 

Benefitting from Holden’s Radial Tuned Suspension, the Caprice is a big car that handles like a smaller one. Body roll, providing the shock absorbers remain in good condition, is well-controlled, the all-coil ride is excellent and standard alloy wheels with their ER60 tyres adequately support 1800kg.

Seat trim in a Caprice can be leather or velour and the dash is liberally decorated with simulated veneer. Cars hoping to achieve the Condition 1 prices need to have the interior in close to mint condition. 

Current Caprice values are inexplicably low and look set to remain that way until the numbers of cars in the market dwindles considerably. Lower priced examples will struggle as trim deteriorates and paint fades to justify their survival, but with some owners not especially bothered by appearance, these robust cars might go on almost indefinitely.

VALUE RANGE:
Fair: $14,000
Good: $27,500
Excellent: $38,000

VL CALAIS V8

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In 1986 as the VL Commodore was launched, fears were rife that this could be Holden’s last Australian sourced car.

The company was out of money and almost out of ways to freshen a Commodore that had survived largely unchanged for eight years. 

However, Holden’s stylists knew people in the USA who had been playing for decades with hidden headlamps and happily shared plans for a mechanism that would partly conceal the lights on the Calais for a bit of added mystique.

What started out as a ploy became a fad as people walking past a parked VL would begin humming the Kim Carnes’ hit Bette Davis Eyes.  

VL Calais sedans and the very rare wagon came standard with the Nissan six, but also Holden’s reincarnated 4.9-litre V8 that had learned to drink the new unleaded brew, or the 150kW turbo six. 

Today, when scanning the classifieds for a decent Calais V8, discard any that might have been significantly modified. They are less likely to appreciate more than cars in stock condition and might in decades ahead, even have their use restricted as more stringent rules are applied to Historic vehicles with modifications. 

VALUE RANGE: 
Fair: $24,000
Good: $52,000
Excellent: $72,000

HK-HG Brougham

UNC_344_BRO-03.jpeg

Everyone Panic! Certainly everyone at Holden did when Ford shocked the market with its USA-sourced ZA Fairlane; a car to which Holden in 1967 had absolutely no reply. 

A year later when the HK range emerged, GM-H had craftily extended the rear mudguards to produce a Fairlane rival, however, the market was having none of it. The Brougham, produced in HK, HT and HG series, had a 5.0-litre V8, elaborate seat trim plus a decently sized boot. What it didn’t offer was the Fairlane’s longer wheelbase with extra rear legroom or cabin width and wouldn’t, until replaced in 1971 by the Statesman.

People buying a Brougham needed to spend $3855 against the $3453 for an HK V8 Premier. What they got for their money was that extra bit of boot space, a vinyl roof as standard and seat trim which Holden’s brochure writers described as ‘opulent, nylon blend brocade’.

Broughams in excellent condition generally cost $55-65,000 or somewhat less than a V8 Premier. Just how much less is often determined by how well that trim has resisted wear during its lifetime. Trimming in correct materials is expensive. 

VALUE RANGE:
Fair: $14,000
Good: $45,000
Excellent: $62,500 

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