1971 Holden HG Panelvan - Reader Ride

By: Mike Casey with Guy Allen - words & photos

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It may have started life as a workhorse but this old van is now all about having fun

Yes, there is a bit of an HG thing going on. I own a beautiful HG Monaro (our cover car a couple of years ago, in issue 434 – Ed). Some time ago, I was in the market for a second car and bought an HG Belmont ute even though I really wanted a van.

Unfortunately vans are few and far between, and there was nothing good available at the time. So I did up the ute and drove it for a couple of years, then decided to have another go at getting a van. The ute was sold, but there are no regrets.

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This popped up – an HG Belmont windowless van, so the most basic thing in the range back in the day and very much a working vehicle. When we got it, it was painted, had an engine and was registered but it needed more time put into it to get right. It had leaks and a lot of detail on the body needed finishing off.

It was also a column shift and the lack of clearance for the shifter wasn’t ideal. I wanted my wife to be happy with driving it, so we went to work.

| Reader Resto: 1979 Holden TE Gemini Gypsy

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We took the seats out and the carpet out, cleaned it all, cut a hole in the floor and put a B&M shifter in it. We got all that working nicely and now it’s quite a fun car to drive.

Where the Monaro was a full restoration, this took 16 weekends.

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It’s running a Vortec 350 Chev V8 with a Turbo 350 transmission, with a shortened VN limited slip diff in the rear.

It’s got four-wheel disc brakes, which makes a big difference to how it drives and makes it safer.

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I was driving around in cars like this when I was 17. They were cheap ex-commercial vehicles, and then we saw things like the Sandman come along. It’s surprising how few of the old commercial vans have survived, they got worn out and crushed.

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As some people may know, Holden developed these from the station wagon floor pan and, to get a flat floor, they simply fitted a cover across the rear footwell. The previous owner actually reversed that and fitted a second row of seats, which folds down when we’re not using it. The front buckets (out of a Monaro) tilt forward for access. We’ve tidied it all up – it’s a bit of a novelty and it’s really for kids as it doesn’t have the long doors of a coupe for easier access. It doesn’t get used all that much, normally there’s a mattress across the floor.

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It’s our caravan. We’ve done a few trips up the coast with it. With a gazebo out the back, it works well and you couldn’t get a better motel room! It’s funny sometimes seeing these retirees hauling their $90,000 caravans, and they’ll sometimes stop, take a look and say "that’s the way to go".

I think this windowless body shape is beautiful and it’s become our get-away machine. We’re not looking at any more projects – we’re pretty content with this and the Monaro.

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From Unique Cars #448, January 2021

 

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