Ever heard the saying “Old Holdens Never Die”?
Well, not only do they live on, some grow a turbocharger and programmable engine
Paul Barone’s Holden HR Special wagon is one of
the hottest ol’ Holdens that still manages to remain true to its heritage –
sure, there’s plenty of modern technology under the bonnet but the body and
interior suitably reflect the era. It’s not likely a set of polished 20 inch
wheels and a towering rear wing would suit...
Paul picked up this HR wagon from a friend of the
family – it was the ideal platform with just 100,000 miles on the odometer, neat
presentation and a relatively minor amount of rust. Initially, Paul used the car
as a hack but on one fateful day he stumbled across a turbo kit to suit the
Holden straight-six. Interestingly, the kit carried genuine GMH stamps and was
perhaps intended for use on the limited production turbocharged Toranas of the
late ‘70s. But, amazingly, this particular turbo kit had remained unopened for
around 30 years...
The kit comprised a single side-draught SU
carburettor, Garrett turbocharger, exhaust manifold and a spacer plate to reduce
the compression ratio. Recognising the limits of the increasingly tired 186ci
(3050cc) engine, Paul elected to rebuild ‘er with an O-ringed block, forged
pistons, heavy-duty rods, a 12-port Yella Terra head with larger valves and a
mild camshaft. A five-core radiator was also fitted for peace of mind. With the
turbo kit attached, the engine made good torque but all attempts to run a decent
amount of boost were unsuccessful. There simply wasn’t enough tuning flexibility
in the draw-through turbo set-up.
At this point, Paul approached Silverwater
Automotive Services (SAS) and decision was made to update the entire induction
and fuelling system. The carby arrangement was ditched to make way for a VK
Commodore EFI intake manifold combined with an Autronic management system. The
Autronic controls a set of six Bosch injectors and a high-pressure fuel system
(complete with surge tank) is installed. The ignition is a single coil
arrangement teamed with a modified distributor.
With more boost on the agenda, a new T3/T4 turbo
was mounted on a custom tubular exhaust manifold and a PWR water-to-air
intercooler was included. An atmospherically venting blow-off valve is installed
between the ‘cooler and throttle body. The turbocharger now draws air through an
under-bonnet pod filter and a 3 inch mandrel bent exhaust lets the boosted six
blow out its spent gases.
Backing the turbo engine is a high rpm Dominator
stall converter teamed with a tricked Powerglide transmission. A heavy-duty
tailshaft sends torque to a Holden VL Turbo diff which has been shortened to
suit the HR. And is it tubbed, you ask? Amazingly not. Those 265mm rear tyres
are as big as will fit without needing panel mods.
After experimenting with the VL Turbo rear disc
brakes and experiencing bias problems, Paul installed a pair of Holden HQ rear
drums (which are substantially bigger than standard) along with a Torana disc
front-end. The suspension has been renewed with Pedders lowered springs and
dampers. The steering is the standard HR arrangement.
While all this was going on, Paul gave
the body and interior the revamp that it deserved.
The panels were striped to bare metal, all rust
was cut out and a new coat of the standard paint was applied. The white-on-green
scheme is how this particular vehicle left the factory. The bumpers are
brand-spankers new and much of the other external trim has been re-chromed – but
there’s one pesky part left to go... Despite his exhaustive searching, Paul has had
no luck finding a tailgate window surround in mint condition. Damn! Wheels are
suitably styled 15 inch Convo Pros.
Given the relatively low number of miles
travelled, Paul hasn’t had to perform a major interior rejuvenation. Instead,
all he’s had to do is replace the dash pad, roof lining and the base of the
front bench seat. The door trims and everything else remains in unbelievably
good condition – there’s even the original radio (which is fully functional)!
Paul has also replaced the factory gauges with new AutoMeter items displaying
speed, rpm, boost pressure, coolant temperature, fuel level, oil and fuel
pressure. The gauges are well suited to the late ‘60s styling of the HR.
Paul says he’s now pretty happy with the way the
HR presents and runs. Unfortunately, there is some rust beginning to re-emerge and
that will need to be taken care of before it takes hold. Oh, and that missing
tailgate trim is enough to drive a bloke insane – if you know the whereabouts of
this part, please contact Paul via email@example.com
It’d be nice to finally add that finishing
Silverwater Automotive Services
02 9748 1300