WINNING hearts in the Super Street class at Northern Nats 5 drags, Graham Hilton in his stunning 1975 HJ Holden wagon narrowly lost in the final after winning all their heats.
“How many wagons do you see down the drag strip running high nines and still fully street registered?” said the Mt Isa racer, who uses his gold old-school family transport for shopping trips as much as the drag strip.
Boasting an LS3 with Magnuson supercharger, Turbo 400 and nine-inch diff, it makes a solid 750-800hp at the tyres and is fully road legal and mod plated for everything done. Still with standard suspension – sway bars on the front and heavy duty Pedders shockers in the back – it runs through mufflers down the drag strip. Inside, the front bench seat remains, albeit with harnesses and a little headrest for safety.
There are venetians for the back windows; an old-school sun visor is normally found on the front when it’s not racing, and there’s no need to tub it for the 15×8 rims out back, with 15x4s up front.
Graham has owned the rapid wagon for three years, bought already with the LS motor installed. He’s used ASG Motorsport on the Gold Coast to do a lot of the engine work, tuning and fitting the rollcage. “It’s a really good, reliable car, basically plug-n-play and just go,” he said.
Back home, Graham has an HQ Monaro GTS as his show car, and his wife’s EH wagon is currently in the build, which means the HJ is very much the plaything. On the strip at Springmount Raceway, Graham said he enjoyed a decent view of Far North Queensland’s rich blue skies as the front end lifted spectacularly on each launch.
“The first few times I did it I got a little scared; it gets up pretty high sometimes on a good track on a good day,” he explained. “The left wheel’s been close to a metre in the air, so you have to back off a bit otherwise you’re going to end up destroying the car, twisting and bending things. I don’t want to do that to it.”
Graham said he’s pulled a bit of tune out of it so it’s now not lifting quite as high. “It’s running a bit slower, but it’s consistent,” he said.
Clearly there’s a lot left in this HJ, but there’s much to be said for keeping costs down and enjoying it for what it is right now. “Where do you stop?” Graham said. “Where it is, it’s safe, good, and still runs on pump fuel, not methanol. It can run on either 85 or pump 98.”
Until his wife’s EH wagon is completed, she’s happy to do the weekly groceries in this very special HJ. Sure, it could go even quicker, but why bother when right now it enjoys life as the wildest shopping cart in Woolies car park?