1974 HJ Premier: Reader Ride

By: Heather Smith, Photography by: Heather Smith

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Heather Smith's 1974 HJ Premier Heather Smith's 1974 HJ Premier Heather Smith's 1974 HJ Premier
Heather Smith's 1974 HJ Premier Heather Smith's 1974 HJ Premier Heather Smith's 1974 HJ Premier
HJ Premier engine HJ Premier engine HJ Premier engine
HJ Premier interior HJ Premier interior HJ Premier interior

Heather Smith comes from a Holden family and 'Matilda' the trusty HJ Premier has been her mother's trusty workhorse since 1979

 

Heather Smith's 1974 HJ Premier

Growing up, we were always a Holden family – there were a succession of utes, wagons and sedans during our childhood – Mum (Heather) recalls an FC panel van, EH wagon, a Kingswood sedan, and many others. When Dad sold the farm in 1979, he decided to lash out on a HJ Premier for himself and a Hillman ‘town car’ for Mum. Much to his disgust, he found that he didn’t really enjoy driving the HJ, but Mum loved it from the moment she saw it, while the thought of driving the Hillman left her somewhat nonplussed... Enough said!

The adjustment to town life wasn’t an easy transition so when Mum and Dad decided to go their separate ways, the Hillman was sold, Mum got the HJ and Dad promptly went out and bought himself a purple Torana.

Mum’s adventures with the HJ began after that. Her car became a symbol of her independence and willingness to embrace a new life, and she actively developed her driving skills and confidence. First, she did some short trips on all sorts of roads in all sorts of conditions. One trip up Clyde Mountain led to her christening the HJ "Matilda". In dense fog, she summoned up her courage and said to the HJ "Come on Matilda, we can do it!" and the name stuck. Around the same time, a friend suggested a fitting acronym for the number plate – HCD – Heather Can Do....and she did.

Mum did regular long road trips from Wagga to Muswellbrook to visit her family taking the inland route through Temora, West Wyalong, Forbes, Parkes, Peak Hill, Tomingley, Dubbo, Dunedoo and Merriwa. It may have been the long way there (644kms) but the roads were in infinitely better condition than the shorter routes she tried, so she was happy to take the extra time (nine hours with breaks) to do the journey. And economy-wise, Matilda averaged about 700kms on a full tank.

Mum says that Matilda has always been a good, reliable car. Only once does she recall there being a mechanical hitch on one of her long trips. She had just called into Dunedoo for a break, when suddenly Matilda blew her water hoses! Luckily Mum had parked right outside the NRMA agent, who quickly rectified the situation and she was on her way again. Mum says she was thankful that she didn’t pull up earlier at Elong Elong, as there were no services there and in those days there were no mobile phones to call anyone if you broke down.

Mum has had some great road trips in Matilda and lists Tamworth, Melbourne, Muswellbrook, Cooma, Goulburn, Braidwood, Batemans Bay, Brown Mountain and the South coast among her travel destinations. She also recalls driving in some pretty hairy weather, dodging storms, fog and hail so thick it sat in the trees like snow. She also toured all around the bendy roads of Tasmania in a hire car, which she enjoyed, but it just wasn’t Matilda!

Matilda has always been a head turner. Lots of people over the years have commented to Mum that they would love to buy her, but up till now it has always been a firm ‘No’. However, Mum has moved on to the next stage of her life and has handed in her driver’s licence, which she has held for 50 years with an unblemished record, so Matilda is looking for her third owner. Not just anyone, but someone who will look after her and appreciate her finer qualities. She has never been driven hard, has been regularly serviced, and the only modification has been the addition of power steering.

Mum describes Matilda as perfect – her best car ever, a dream car to drive – no troubles, no worries.

 

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