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Golden Holden Oldies - Stars of the Seventies

26 October, 1998

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Watergate and the women's movement, flared trousers and platform shoes, David Bowie, Saturday Night Fever and Number 96 - all were hallmarks of the 'swinging seventies'. Meanwhile, on the streets of Australia, the HQ Holden became the national automotive icon of the decade.

Boasting a huge selection of distinct model variants - 18 in all, plus a number of limited edition specials - the HQ was the biggest-selling Holden ever. Over a three-year production period, total sales of the much-loved model reached nearly half a million, ensuring that Holden's title as Australia's number one car manufacturer of the period remained beyond challenge, despite encroaching Japanese imports.

The all-new HQ was a smoother, safer, more elegant car than any previous Holden. Praised for its advanced features and individual styling, it represented a more sophisticated design direction while delivering the rugged durability and family-size roominess expected by Holden buyers.

Monocoque construction and all-new four-wheel coil spring suspension provided superior ride and handling. Power was delivered through a choice of six and eight cylinder engines. Carried over from the previous model Holden (the HG), HQ's six-cylinder powerplants were given a longer stroke, increasing respective capacities to 2.84 litres and 3.3 litres. Two versions of the locally-built V8 were offered - a 4.2 litre '253' and a 5 litre '308' - in addition to an imported 5.74 litre '350' Chevrolet engine.

Industry-leading initiatives in automotive safety - a major focus of today's Holden range - featured in the HQ. Forward vision was increased considerably, courtesy of thinner front pillars, thick padding was incorporated into the dashboard, door curvature and design gave increased side impact protection, rear seats were reinforced and the fuel tank was mounted ahead of the rear axle.

For the first time, the Holden model range included a long wheelbase derivative. The original Holden Statesman, with a 26-centimetre length advantage over other HQ sedans, featured a plush, roomy interior and two trim levels: Custom and DeVille. Also new to the range was the sporty 'SS', a four door V8 with four-speed, console-mounted manual transmission, power front disc brakes, bucket seats, GTS instruments, steering wheel and steel sports wheels. This boy racer HQ was a precursor to the hugely popular four-door HQ Monaro GTS sedan, released in 1973.

The HQ range marked the debut of Holden's first cab/chassis truck. Dubbed the 'One Tonner' for its payload capacity, it could be fitted with a number of factory or after market tray-backs, tip-backs or camper bodies. Rounding out the range were the Belmont, Kingswood and Premier sedans and wagons; Monaro Coupe, GTS Coupe and LS Coupe; utility and panelvan commercials. Special limited edition models included a Vacationer sedan and a Silver Anniversary Holden Premier.


VB COMMODORE (1978-1980)

By coincidence, it was just as Motown band The Commodores began serenading Australians with their hit Three Times A Lady that Holden redefined the local passenger car market with the entry of its entirely new Commodore nameplate.

The all-new VB model signified a major change in direction. The popularity of smaller Japanese imports and the fuel crises of the 1970s influenced Holden's decision to market a car that was significantly smaller and lighter than its predecessors. The VB Commodore benefited from an investment of more than $110 million in development and combined modern German body design with an Australian engine and local mechanical components.

The newcomer drew rave reviews from the motoring press, endorsing claims that the VB Commodore was the finest car ever to be manufactured in Australia.

"Okay world, here's Holden's new Commodore and it's the beginning of a shining new era in Australian cars," trumpeted an early article in Wheels magazine. "The Commodore is a car we can be proud of, a car to compare with any (and we mean any) from Europe. Meet a new and very different Holden "it's the General's finest hour."

Such public votes of confidence were reinforced when the VB Commodore was awarded the coveted Wheels 'Car of the Year' award in 1978.

Significant aspects of the Commodore's design included MacPherson strut front suspension modified to cope with harsh Australian road conditions, the use of rack and pinion steering, a four-speed manual gearbox as standard and generous equipment levels, beginning with the base model.

Powered by a 2.85 litre six-cylinder engine, the cheapest variant offered front power-assisted brakes, carpets, front bucket seats, clock, radio and heated rear screen. The more highly specified VB Commodore SL added a 3.3 litre six-cylinder powerplant, T-bar automatic transmission, cloth seat trim, height adjustable driver's seat, rear centre armrest, retractable rear seat belts, intermittent windscreen wipers and left hand remote-operated mirror.

The top-of-the-line SL/E became Holden's showpiece model and created a new benchmark for locally-produced luxury sedans. In 1979, Wheels magazine compared it favourably with a mid-size Mercedes Benz.

Priced at only $10,513, the VB SL/E featured a powerful 4.2 litre V8 teamed with T-bar automatic transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, power steering, 15x6 alloy wheels, integrated air conditioning, AM/FM radio cassette player and a full range of convenience items including headlight wipers and washers.

Wagon versions of the base VB Commodore and VB Commodore SL were introduced in 1979 and featured a large cargo area and easy access one-piece lift-up tailgate.


STARS OF THE SEVENTIES FACTS

HQ HOLDEN :
Base price at introduction:$2370 (Belmont sedan);
$4630 (Monaro V8 '350');
$4660 (Statesman DeVille)
Total number built:485,650
Models:Belmont sedan, station wagon panelvan and utility; Kingswood sedan, station wagon and utility; Sandman panelvan, Sandman utility; SS sedan; Premier sedan and station wagon; cab/chasssis; Monaro coupe, Monaro GTS coupe, Monaro GTS 350 coupe, Monaro LS (Luxury Sports) coupe, Monaro GTS sedan; Statesman sedan, Statesman DeVille sedan.
Engines:2.84 litre six-cylinder '173', 3.3 litre six-cylinder '202', 4.2 litre V8 '253', 5 litre V8 '308' and 5.74 litre V8 '350'.
Transmissions:Three-speed manual, four-speed manual, three-speed Trimatic automatic and three-speed Turbohydramatic 400 automatic (only with '350' V8).
Dimensions (basic sedan):Length - 4762mm
Width - 1880mm Wheelbase - 2819mm
Width - 1880mm Wheelbase - 2819mm

VB COMMODORE:
Base price at introduction:$6,513 (base six-cylinder sedan)
$7,813 (SL six-cylinder sedan)
$10,513 (SL/E six-cylinder sedan)
Total number built:95,906
Models:Commodore sedan and station wagon, Commodore SL sedan and station wagon, Commodore SL/E sedan.
Engines:2.85 litre six-cylinder, 3.3 litre six-cylinder, 4.2 litre V8 and 5 litre V8.
Transmissions:Four-speed manual, three-speed Trimatic automatic, three- speed Turbohydramatic 350/400 automatic.
Dimensions (basic sedan):Length - 4705mm
Width - 1722mm
Wheelbase - 2668mm


ALSO DURING THE 1970s:

  • Peter Brock tastes his first victory in the annual Bathurst enduro, winning the 1972 Hardie-Ferodo 500 in a six-cylinder LJ GTR XU-1 Torana.
  • Holden celebrates the 25th anniversary of Holden car manufacture in Australia (1973).
  • The three millionth Holden (an HQ) is produced (1974)
  • General Motors celebrates its 50th year in Australia (1976).
  • A $300 million Holden expansion program, which includes a new engine plant for Fishermens Bend, is announced (1979)

Popular songs of the 1970s:

Eagle Rock (Daddy Cool), I Feel The Earth Move (Carol King), Father and Son (Cat Stevens), Rainy Days and Mondays (Carpenters), It's Only Rock and Roll (The Rolling Stones), I Shot The Sheriff (Eric Clapton), Howzat (Sherbet), Fernando (Abba), Don't Go Breaking My Heart (Elton John and Kiki Dee), Three Times A Lady (Commodores).


Popular films of the 1970s:

The Exorcist (Linda Blair), The Great Gatsby (Robert Redford, Mia Farrow), The Sting (Robert Redford, Paul Newman), Jaws (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw), One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher), Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire), Saturday Night Fever (John Travolta).

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