Holden HG Project Part 1 – Introduction

By: Greg Leech, Photography by: Ellen Dewar

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Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction
Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction
Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction
Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction
Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction
Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction
Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction
Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction
Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction
Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction
Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction Project HG Part 1 – Introduction

Unique Cars magazine gets stuck into a nice back-to-basics restoration project...

Holden HG Project Part 1 – Introduction
Project HG Part 1 – Introduction

 

Introducting our HG Premier restoration project…

Welcome to the first offering in our series based around a full restoration of the Unique Cars Holden HG Premier. Over the next few months, we’ll take you through the entire process of restoring this affordable Aussie classic, giving you advice on how much to spend, where to get parts and how to get the work done. It’s easier than you might think, and hopefully will inspire a few first-timers on tight budgets to tackle similar projects…


CLASSIC DILEMMA

Why are we using a pretty run-of-the-mill vehicle for this resto project? Good question. When we were looking for a car to restore that offered broad appeal to readers, we looked at a range of options. Should it be a top-end machine? E-Type? 911? XU-1 perhaps?

In the end, we went for a car that was easily accessible, relatively simple to work on and for which parts were readily available and wouldn’t break the budget. Maseratis are nice, but who can afford one? And who has the expertise to really pull one apart?

So, we had a plan. A local car, slightly above the garden variety bog stock offering. Hmmm... it was always going to be a Ford or a Holden based on those parameters. I had seen the HG Prem parked down a sideway near where I live. It had been there quite a while, was unregistered and looked pretty straight. After leaving a note in the letterbox asking if the car was for sale, the owner rang and declined to sell it.

But, as can happen, a few months went by and the phone rang again. Were we still interested? The very reasonable sum of $3500 changed hands (about the same as it cost new!) and we had our starter car. Yep, it’s still worth dropping a letter in a letterbox or leaving your number under the wiper blade of a car you fancy. You just never know.


AIN'T NO ORPHAN

The car is a 1971 example and relatively straight and rust free. Under the bonnet is the ubiquitous 186ci (3.05-litre) six-cylinder which produced 130bhp (97kw) at 4400rpm. This red motor first made its debut in the HR and finished with the HG. Holden upsized to 3.3-litres for the HQ (although a 173 variant was available in the Q-ball as well).

With over 500,000 examples (155,787 of which were HGs) built over the period, bits are not exactly like diamonds to find, which is great for those looking to do up a car such as this relatively cheaply.

It has the three-on-the-tree M15 gearbox (which strangely was a special order, as most HG Prems featured the then new Trimatic three-speed auto).
It also has 254mm drum brakes all round, when the power-assisted disc brake front-end was all the rage, so it appears the original owner went to great lengths to keep the car as simple as possible when ordering in the showroom. No bad thing when you’re looking to restore. Of course, we have plans for much uprated stoppers in the near future.

The body is in great condition for its age: there’s some very light surface rust that I’d describe as non-invasive (although you wouldn’t want to leave it much longer without attention), a few light dings here and there and a crease at the base of the right front quarter panel where the bumper meets it.

The spare wheel well is rusted through (you’ll be flat-out finding one that’s not), the rear bumper has rust on the underside (but should take a rechroming without a problem), and the screen sealant is starting to give at both ends.

Underneath, the car is relatively rust-free, the leaf springs have had the Richard and the shocks are tired.

The engine is cactus: it’s already been bored once, and the crank has had it. The gearbox seems to be in good condition, the brakes are seized (but we have big plans there anyway) and the diff seems whine-free.

We’ll replace ball-joints and bushes as a matter of course and recommend that this be done regardless.

Brightwork needs attention but is all restorable, the interior ditto (needs carpets and vinyl welding) and everything works on the electrical front. It appears never to have had a big hit and is pretty much all original.

Now for the fun part – what we hope to make of it…


THE PLAN

The idea is to take you through the restoration, phase by phase, explain how much things will cost and introduce you to some of the talented people that carry out the work along the way.

We have decided that just restoring the car to standard specs would show you how to do it, but we’d end up with a pretty mundane vehicle at the end of it all. This is Unique Cars and that simply won’t do. Add in the fact that we’re a bunch of horsepower hounds in here and you’ll see why we arrived at the decision to hot this thing up a tad. Not so it becomes a bit of a pig to drive, more ‘warmed over’.

First port of call is to have the engine pulled out by Romsey, Victoria based engine guru Keith Davidson. He’ll apply his magic to arrive at a well-built, reliable but semi-hot powerplant.

Next issue we’ll will run through what he’s done, how he went about it and how such similar work will set you back. We’ll fit a nice set of performance headers and exhaust to give the beast that nice timbre for which Holden red sixes are known.

We’ll try to retain the M15 three-speed ’box to keep costs at a reasonable level, though we may opt for an M20 ‘box later on, depending on horsepower figures.

Next up will be suspension: new springs and shocks, ball joints, bushes etc. We’ll lower the car, enough that it looks sexy but remains legal.

Following that will be brakes. We haven’t quite decided on the plan there, but we want the car to stop like a modern vehicle. The standard 254mm drums are simply not up to the job of stopping the machine in heavy traffic. So, a late model Commodore set-up might get the nod there.

We’re aiming to give the car a period look on the wheel front and either Minilites or Hustlers were the go for race cars of that era. We’ll decide as we go.

After that a high quality (but reasonably priced) paint job will be carried out, probably in Sebring Orange (it’s currently Silver Mist).

We’re going to fit a GTS dash and bonnet (both attainable on eBay), then the interior trim will get a tidy up with the slightly torn seats repaired and new carpets.

Hopefully, we’ll present you with a car that is neat, and won’t have cost a bomb to achieve (total budget is $15K). And then you can set about getting the money for yours through the ‘Kitchen Senate’…


FAST FACTS

1971Holden HG Premier Project Car

 

Production: 1970-71 (155,787 – all HGs)

Body: four-door sedan

Engine: 3.05-litre (186ci), inline six-cylinder

Power: 97kW @ 4400rpm

Drivetrain: front eng, RWD

Transmission: three-speed manual

Performance (when new): 0-97km/h – 12.7secs; 0-400m – 18secs. Top speed – 164km/h

Estimated total cost: $15,000, including $3500 purchase price

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