Gareth Lougher’s 1967 HR Holden Premier

West Aussie Gareth Lougher turns a Holden HR Premier built in the early 90s into a real jewel

Photographers: Jordan Leist

THE day WA’s Gareth Lougher bought this HR, he and his wife Alison were leaving to take her showstopping LH Torana, 6APEAL (SM, Apr ’13), to MotorEx Sydney in 2012.

This article was first published in the October 2019 issue of Street Machine

“The HR was a good solid car that was built in the late 80s and licensed with the 350 Chev,” Gareth recalls. “That was a huge bonus, as it’s very difficult to get this type of conversion to pass rego now in WA.”

Gareth’s a pretty handy fabricator – handy enough to have had a hand in some of the fabrication on XBOSS (that’s a lot of hands). But after all that high-end show car stuff, he wanted to build something a bit more street-friendly, and had a long-held desire to own an HD or HR Holden.

The rear springs may settle a little, but I’m digging the ‘door wedge’ rake the car has

“I always loved them,” Gareth says. “It’s just one of those cars that I loved the shape of. A car that I fell in love with was Greg Miskiewicz’s HD, NERVOUS [SM, Jul-Aug ’95]. The stance it had and everything about it was just so far ahead of its time.”

So it had taken a while, but Gareth finally had an HR with a small-block in his driveway. Admittedly, it was six shades of white, had a brown velour interior, and proudly showed its early-90s heritage with pink and blue graphics and the words ‘Hard Revving 67’ painted on the dash. Personally, I think Gareth should have kept that piece of history alive, but he had other plans.

The HR was originally built in Bunbury and regoed with the small-block in it in ’92. Gareth still has the original hand-written approval letter, which is laminated and kept in the car

“I gave the car a quick clean-up and got rid of some of the 80s, and we drove it around for a couple of years. It came off the road in 2014 to fix a leaky rear main and I figured while the engine was out I’d give the engine bay a tidy-up. It kind of got a bit out of hand after that,” Gareth admits.

The stainless trim pieces in the fully upholstered boot are factory door pieces that Gareth had to shorten, which really tested his welding and polishing skills, as they’re only 0.3mm thick!

To his credit, Gareth could have let the build get a lot more out of hand, but essentially, the HR hasn’t changed a great deal; he’s just pulled the entire car to bits and detailed everything to perfection. Even the original Castlemaine Rod Shop chassis connectors were kept, but now they’re smooth as a baby’s bum and painted gloss black. It’s definitely more of a street-elite build, with painted sound deadener under the car and anything that unbolts given the smooth gloss black treatment.

Gareth fabricated the massive fuel tank that sits behind the disc brake-equipped 9in

The major change to the car was the fitment of a fabricated front end with tubular A-arms, coil-overs, rack-and-pinion steering and Wilwood brakes. With dropped spindles up front and lowered leaves out back, the HR does keep a bit of an 80s vibe with a pretty heavy rake, especially when you view it in profile. Mark Cook from Allbrite Panel & Paint took care of the bodywork and paint and was also a major helping hand on the car. “Together we came up with all of the ideas in the build,” says Gareth.

All clean and tidy under here too. Notice how low Gareth has mounted the alternator, which sits partially below the chassis rail

Tony Ierace from Ierace Automotive built the motor and tuned it on the engine dyno. The dyno also came in handy when Gareth wanted to check whether his custom-built block-hugger headers killed much power: “We ran a set of four-into-one headers on the dyno and then ran mine, and it dropped 9hp,” he says. “The thing I really love about them is with most V8 conversions it’s always a nightmare to get the plugs out. I can change mine in and out in a few minutes and don’t need any custom-made spanners.”

The HR’s engine bay is clinically clean. The block and intake have all been hand-smoothed, with the intake powdercoated and then painted. Gareth fabricated his own block-hugger headers, which tuck neatly inside the chassis rails and go out to a twin 2.5in fully polished stainless exhaust system fabricated by Gareth and good mate Leigh Fallon

The engine got a bit of a freshen-up with a set of Dart Iron Eagle heads and Crow Cams roller cam, and to really drag it out of the 80s, Gareth fitted a Holley Sniper EFI system. It’s one of those self-contained, self-learning units that essentially replaces a four-barrel carburettor. Looking in the engine bay, you don’t even know it’s there. The controller is mounted neatly in the glovebox, which has been truncated somewhat to make room for the MSD 6AL box and electrics mounted under the dash.

Those beautiful ‘Premier’-engraved rocker covers are from Bliss Custom Machining and suit the build perfectly

The engine bay is an absolute pearler and you’d be hard-pressed to find a neater installation. It still has all of the original sheet metal, including the lumps, bumps and divots, but it’s been fully seam-welded and smoothed to perfection. Removing the battery and brake booster goes a long way to tidying it up, but Gareth has also extended the radiator support panel so that it meets the grille, and also removed the bonnet latch cable. That wild-looking air cleaner is a Proflow unit and has been a massive talking point, but my favourite part is the custom-engraved rocker covers from Bliss Custom Machining. The front of the engine is also super clean thanks to the Meziere electric water pump and the super-low mount for the alternator. “I tucked everything down low so that when you looked in there you had a real clean engine look,” Gareth says. “With everything being so tight, we ran Tuff Mounts on the engine and gearbox.”

With the newfangled technology added to the build, Gareth had Sam Morabito from Sav’s Auto Electrics sort everything out, which also had the added benefit of getting the next generation of Loughers involved in the build. “Our son Reece is doing his apprenticeship with Sam, so he also did a bit of work on the car,” says Gareth.

The instrument panel isn’t too far removed from stock except for the addition of a tacho in the middle. The woodgrain was also replaced with a black insert

One thing that definitely wasn’t staying was that aforementioned brown velour interior. Gareth always liked the clean simplicity of a black-and-white combination, so he got master trimmer Phil Wall from Old Skool Custom Trimming to sort out a more contemporary but still classic take on a tuck-and-roll trim job. The front bucket seats are from an early Valiant and they’re split by a custom-made console that houses the B&M shifter. Everything is trimmed in a combination of perforated black leather and slate, a colour from the HJ-HZ Holden range. An HZ column moves a few of the controls to the indicator stalk, which means there’s only a knob for the headlights on the dash. The gauges have been replaced with electronic units from Moon Equipment and they get their signals from the Holley ECU. Even the modern radio doesn’t look out of place.

Gareth made the centre console to closely resemble the factory unit, even utilising the stainless trim. The combination of perforated leather and slate vinyl works beautifully

The final piece of the puzzle was an update in the wheel and tyre department. A classy set of Intro Hammer billets got the nod – nothing too crazy; 17×7 up front and 17×8 out back with 215/45 and 245/40 Kumho rubber rounding it out.

The Holley Sniper controller can also double as a gauge display and sends the signals to the Moon Equipment gauges in the dash

Gareth debuted the car at the 2019 WA Hot Rod & Street Machine Spectacular, where the five years of toil paid off handsomely, with the HR taking out all of the major street machine awards as well as People’s Choice and a Meguiar’s Superstars invite. Gareth is planning on taking the car to Summernats next year so that everyone on the east coast can check it out too!


Paint: Valspar Mopar White

Type: 350 Chev
Inlet: Weiand
Injection: Holley Sniper
Heads: Dart Iron Eagle
Cam: Crow roller
Pistons: Hypereutectic
Crank: Polished, shot-peened and balanced

’Box: Turbo 700
Converter: Allfast 3500rpm stall
Diff: 9in, 3.7:1 gears, LSD

Front end: Tubular IFS
Shocks: QA1 coil-overs (f), gas (r)
Steering: Rack-and-pinion
Brakes: Wilwood 320mm discs (f), VR Commodore discs (r)

Rims: Intro Hammer; 17×7 (f), 17×8 (r)
Rubber: Kumho Ecsta SPT; 215/45ZR17 (f), 245/40ZR17 (r)

Adam at Cronic Customs for all the performance parts; Charlie at Kustom Chrome; Todd at Rare Parts;
Andrew at Bliss Custom Machining for the rocker covers; my incredible wife Alison – I would not have a hope of building any cars without her help and support