FIFTY years ago, the first HK Holden rolled off the production line. Spawning icons like the Kingswood and the mighty Monaro coupe, the HK (along with the HT and HG iterations that followed) helped truly cement Holden’s place in Australian motoring fans’ hearts.
To celebrate the HK’s 50th birthday, the inaugural HK-HT-HG Holden Nationals took place in Adelaide over the weekend of 19-21 October, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Nationals committee and the HK-HT-HG Owners Car Club of SA, spearheaded by president Paul Kannane.
And what a celebration it was, with punters making the trip from as far away as WA, Queensland and even NZ. Proceedings kicked off on Friday night in Gepps Cross, 10 minutes from the CBD, then headed north on Saturday for the Collingrove Hillclimb; down south to the picturesque McLaren Vale for a Sunday show ’n’ shine, before wrapping up at Gepps Cross drive-in. Getting amongst it all was AFL legend Barry Hall and his angry HG Prem, as well as Summernats founder Chic Henry, who also did a spot of judging.
Approaching the Croatian Sports Centre venue on Friday night, it was exciting to see the many HK/T/G models along the road as they filtered in, and I felt a twinge of pride that the first Nationals was being held in my hometown. Upon entering, I spotted Shane ‘Tappy’ Tapscott’s HT Monaro body atop a Nissan Patrol GQ 4WD chassis, towering above the other rooflines. I figured he’d cop a bit of stink-eye for what would be deemed sacrilegious by the purists, but rather than pass judgement, most people were intrigued to learn more.
Stepping past that behemoth, I cast my eye across the car park, and was pleasantly surprised to see every model and body type represented with an array of colours, mods and finishes. Some proudly sported their 70s and 80s mods, including era-correct mag choices of jellybeans, Hotwires and Hustlers. Survivors, concours builds and full-blown drag cars rounded out the display.
“We were going to be happy with anything over 100 entries,” said Paul Kannane. “We ended up capping it at just over 250!”
And while the Friday night offering was great to salivate over, I reckon the heart-thumping thrill of seeing the 47- to 50-year-old rides pound up the Collingrove Hillclimb on Saturday was the cat’s pyjamas. The picturesque track is well laid out and offered easy access for everyone to watch proceedings. Around 40 drivers put their rides through their paces, snaking their way up the track. The runs grew faster and cleaner as punters got a feel for the corners – and for how much they could push their large-bodied and often drum-braked and manually steered Holdens.
I was lucky enough to get a couple of passenger-seat punts around the track with Brett Unsworth in his HT Monaro GTS. Twisting through the undulating track gave me a whole new appreciation for what Brocky handled at Bathurst all those years ago! The track was so much narrower and steeper than I’d imagined, yet no one binned it in a bad way. In fact, the runs were very respectable.
After the hillclimb fun, everyone filed out for a cruise to the defunct Holden plant in Elizabeth to mark the 12-month anniversary of its closure. The factory visit was a highlight for many, as it’ll soon lose its iconic signage due to the decommissioning process for the new owner.
Come Sunday, a bright sky greeted us for the show ’n’ shine at Leconfield Winery in McLaren Vale. “We wanted a venue that wasn’t a sports oval,” Paul explained. “Leconfield is a beautiful location with a lush lawn area and the most stunning backdrop you could ask for.”
As punters gathered into their body-style groupings, a handful of fearless tandem skydivers landed in the paddock only metres from the shiny and rather expensive machinery. The venue’s tight confines kept everyone together, adding to the friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Once the judges had picked their top rides, the trophies were handed out before everyone headed back to Gepps Cross to watch Christine and Mad Max at the drive-in for the event finale.
As a spectator, I wish I had been an entrant. With so much on offer, to be part of it all in your cruiser would’ve been a blast. Even the goodie bag was full of cool keepsakes, all for the early entry cost of $100.
“The sponsors were great; they helped to keep the costs down, which meant more people could enter and also make it free to spectate,” Paul said. “We planned a family-friendly event with a relaxed atmosphere that catered for all HK/T/G models in any condition, which included a driving event, and the hillclimb was the best value for money. The Nats will be in Queensland next year, but we’ll have it back in SA in 2023, so hopefully by then The Bend Motorsport Park is affordable for us to race at.”
We’d sure like to see that.
1. Barry Hall’s ferocious 572-powered HG Prem made an impressive entrance to every portion of the Nats, garnering keen onlookers every time. “I loved the event,” said Barry. “It was a push to get my car there. I had it dynoed only two nights before leaving and put in a new Castlemaine Rod Shop front end on the day we left!”
2. Vanessa Kannane co-piloted her yellow 350-powered ’68 HK Kingswood wagon with hubby and club president Paul. “My goal is to be the fastest woman out here,” she said, having caught the hillclimb bug with her first run only a month prior. “I’m loving it; now I want a full CAMS licence to race here more often.” She headed home with Queen Of The Hill honours.
3. While the STK186 plates suggest a stocker, Tony Golding’s burnout did not. Under the bonnet of the HG Prem is a stout 333ci that easily smokes the rears. He proved no slouch in the show too, taking home Runner-up Modified HG Prem Sedan.
4. Shane ‘Tappy’ Tapscott drove his 4WD HT Monaro from Sydney to Adelaide with barely an issue on its maiden road trip. He’s mated the once-rough coupe body to a Nissan Patrol GQ chassis and popped an injected Holden V8 under the bonnet. Why? Because he needed a tow vehicle and was more than happy to ruffle a few feathers!
5. Crowd Favourite of the hillclimb went to Rick Jurlina and his Convo-shod 383-powered HT Premier sedan, PROPREM, which also went home with the Runner-up HK Prem Sedan Modified trophy.
6. AFL star Barry Hall was continuously flanked by revheads and footy fans alike. “We were pleased that Barry accepted our invitation to attend; he’s very friendly and approachable,” said Paul Kannane, pictured here with Barry and Paul’s wife Vanessa.
7. Since we featured Sadie, Dan McAuley’s 383-cube ’68 HK Kingswood wagon, back in SM, Nov ’17, she’s gone into sleeper mode, with factory hubcapped widened steelies replacing the 18in Showwheels Streeters.
8. Brett Unsworth barrels up the hillclimb four times a year in his 350ci HT GTS coupe. “I started racing hillclimbs after the 2014 Monaro Nationals, and as I couldn’t afford an old Escort, I just started racing this,” he said. “It’s a standard 350ci with four-speed on four street slicks. I slide a little on the seat, so I’m forever repositioning myself for the next corner.”
9. Hannah and Shaun Bailey, along with their girls, chilled out in the back of their HT Pano. “It was my first car, I’ve had it 12 years,” said Hannah of the family truckster, complete with rear wagon seat. Running a 173ci and fourspeed manual, the rebuild was finished a year ago.
10. Only recently regoed (with original plates) and engineered, Vanessa and Daryl Canning’s HT Monaro GTS sports a 6/71 BDS-blown 400ci SBC, twin 650 Quick Fuel carbs, Powerglide and 9in. The crisp-looking hue is Yellow Dolly and was laid on 27 years ago, yet was still good enough to take out Top HT Coupe Modified.
11. Taking top honours in Iron Maiden and Modified HK-HT-HG Brougham was Ellisha Staples and her HT Brougham, HER BRO. Finished only 12 months ago, the car has a long history with the Staples family, with a child apparently conceived in the back seat!
12. Peter Furlanetto’s pro street HG ute was a crowd favourite at Sunday’s show. Featuring a methanol-fed 372ci sprintcar motor, TH400 with transbrake and 5500 stall, the Silver Mink specimen is backed by a toughened 9in pumping out 800rwhp. “It’s good for 8.80s on the quarter,” said Peter. “So far I’ve only raced three or four times, and I’ve also taken it to Oz Nats in Adelaide and Red CentreNATS.”
13. Part of the show-and-go contingent was Patrick O’Brien’s ’70 HG GTS coupe. The 350ci under the bonnet sure helped get it off the mark and up the steep Collingrove track, yet Patrick had it detailed to perfection Sunday morning with mirrors showing off the undercarriage, his efforts garnering him Runner-up HG Coupe Modified.
14. Queenslander Darren Shelton is this ’71 HG Prem’s second owner, having bought it from an ex-speedway driver, who’d bought the shell new from Holden then built it himself! Darren’s added a 6/71- blown 350ci with TH350 and 9in, and he drives it everywhere. “I’ve recently added the blower, but before that I towed my matchingcoloured Viscount caravan from Brisbane to Airlie Beach and to Coffs Harbour,” he said.
15. Adrian Peacock has kitted up his low-brow HK Belmont ute in matte black with red scallops, featuring a Mexican blanket trim, tin signs for door trims and nudie ladies as rooflining. With a camper on the back, 327ci under the bonnet, a CB radio, and rear venetian to keep the sun off his neck, it would’ve been a fun drive from the Sunshine State and back.
16. David Smith brought two cars across the border for the Nats, yet shared the driving with his son Kyle Waller and his partner Cherie Baird. Cherie fanged the 400ci-powered HK Monaro coupe at the hillclimb, while David piloted his HT Belmont 308ci pano, which took home the Top Original Unrestored Panel Van trophy.
17. Brendan Liddle’s HG Monaro GTS got a bit squirrely as he pushed it on the hillclimb. Having a worked 383ci Chev in the engine bay helped to get the back end into the grass.
18. “We included the Holden factory cruise as it marked a significant date in the history of the Elizabeth Plant,” said Paul. “Being the 12-month anniversary of its closure, it was quite an emotional time; it was something special.”
19. The club invited Summernats founder Chic Henry to be part of the Nationals, providing judging expertise for the show ’n’ shine. “I don’t think you could find a bigger car enthusiast than Chic; he is a real hero to many of the entrants,” said Paul Kannane. “He’s very down to earth and enjoyed a yarn with the entrants.” Here he is chatting with Lindsay Kennedy about his blown HT Kinger.
20. Andrew Middleton’s HK Monaro coupe epitomises the current Adelaide Aussie muscle car scene. Featuring a show finish of Silver Mink and a striking red factory interior, it’s finished off with a stonker 434ci Motown-blocked Chev full of go-fast parts, while rolling on Center Line Auto Drag fats ’n’ skinnies.
21. David Clark whipped out the tightest and cleanest runs on Saturday to take home King Of The Hill and Most Consistent V8 in his 350-powered HG Kingswood. Complete with racing seat, harness, tacho and race rubber, the sedan is a regular at Collingrove with consistent 39-second runs. He backed it up on Sunday with a Modified HG Kingswood win.
HILLCLIMB RESULTS KING OF THE HILL
David Clark – HG Kingswood sedan
QUEEN OF THE HILL
Vanessa Kannane – HK Kingswood wagon
MOST CONSISTENT V8
David Clark – HG Kingswood sedan
MOST CONSISTENT 6
Jack Broad – HK Premier sedan
Rick Jurlina – HT Premier sedan
BEST PERFORMANCE UNDER CAMS REGULATIONS
Steve Wicks; Grant Follett; Barry Mitchell; Tim Playfair; Robyn Broad