When you first lay eyes on Richard Collins’s beautifully presented 1968 HK Premier, you might assume it’s a highly prized, rarely used show car. But, as we learned, Richard doesn’t really see it like that. “To me, it’s just a fun street car; I built it to use it!” he says.
First published in the December 2023 issue of Street Machine
This particular Prem has actually been featured in these pages before, way back in our October-November 1989 issue of SM (read more, below). Richard bought the car from Queensland sight-unseen in 2015 and had it shipped down to his home in Central Victoria. Amazingly, the HK was pretty much still as it was when it was featured all those years ago – just a bit worse for wear.
“I was basically looking for a weekend cruiser to share with the family and just have a bit of fun,” says Richard. “The poor old girl had seen better days and needed a birthday to bring it up to my personal standard.”
That triggered a rebuild, with Richard entrusting Jarrad from Cre8tive Edge Auto Refinishing in Bacchus Marsh to get the paint and panel back up to scratch. The big Prem was given a nice new lick of PPG Glasurit Blueprint, with a white roof. The GTS flutes remained in the front guards from when they were added in the 80s.
As for power, the HK has been through a few different combos with Richard to get to where it is now, with plenty of headaches along the way. Richard is unashamedly an old-school guy and tried going down the blown V8 path first. “I always wanted a blown engine, as I love the way they sound, but we killed two of them and then I called it quits on that,” he says.
He then got in touch with Wayne Cartledge from Racecomp Motorsports, who talked him into a small-block Chev combo. “I did toy with the idea of an LS, but I’m just old school,” says Richard. “I told Wayne I wanted an eight-second, 1000rwhp package that was presentable and reliable, and he knocked it out of the park.”
Wayne started with a Dart Little M block, into which he hoisted a Callies crank, Oliver rods and Diamond pistons. Comp sits at 10:1, with a Marshall billet hydraulic-roller stick completing the bottom end. CNC-machined Dart-copy heads seal in the package, and it’s topped with an Edelbrock Victor EFI intake manifold. Three Walbro 535 pumps and 2400cc injectors feed the mill with straight corn juice, while a FuelTech FT550 is the brains of the operation.
A single 98mm Garrett 5533 turbo shoves the whole lot with boost, with all the plumbing and turbo fabrication courtesy of Jamie from Full Flight Engineering. On the dyno it made a peak of 1518rwhp at 28psi, but there’s more left in it. “Frank from Dandy Engines and [FuelTech’s] Nathaniel Ardern have been a phenomenal help with the FuelTech and tuning side of things, and he wants to put 35psi in it, so there’s more there,” says Richard. It made that figure through a Paul Rogers Reid-case Powerglide, with a 3500rpm SDE converter. The nine-inch rear end was set up by Full Flight Engineering, and still retains leaf springs.
“I like to build my cars simple, so while we have CalTracs and mono-leaf springs, it’s still basic, and it works,” says Richard. “It drives beautifully on the street and dead straight at the track.”
Dead straight is important when you’re running in the ET territory the HK does, with its current PB a 7.95@174mph. “That was at Heathcote in full street trim, exhaust, [and on] pump ethanol, and we even drove it to the track and back,” Richard says.
It’s becoming pretty clear that Richard loves to use his HK, which explains why he felt more at home taking it on Drag Challenge than he would shoving it in a show hall at Meguiar’s MotorEx or Street Machine Summernats. This year was his first go at the full-fat, five-day event, and it’s fair to say it exceeded his expectations in more ways than one.
“I tell you what, it was a lot more involved than we thought!” Richard laughs. “We thought we’d get to each place with plenty of time to spare, cruise along and have a good time. But it was a hell of a lot harder than that.”
The heat on the road from Mildura down to Heathcote tested the big HK, and the alternator bracket failing between Heathcote and Portland the following day nearly ended Richard’s week. Regardless, he and his team made it through and were all smiles at the end. “It was a bucket-list event, and although it was tough, by god, it’s so much fun!” he enthuses.
Not only did he complete the gruelling week, the full-weight Prem finished sixth in Haltech Radial Blown, seventh overall and went agonisingly close to getting a Seven-Second Club hat, awarded to those who run their first DC seven-second pass and complete the event. On the last day at The Bend, Richard logged an 8.003@170mph, missing out by the narrowest of margins. “I reckon if we had Frank Marchese there, we would’ve got that seven,” he says. “We’ll definitely be back for the next one, because I’m gunning for one of those red hats!”
Preparations are already underway, with the motor coming out straight after DC for a much-needed refresh. “It’s done 15,000 street kilometres, heaps of dyno runs, drag passes, and of course Drag Challenge, so it was well due for it,” Richard says. “We’re going to a solid-roller cam, and Frank wants to put that extra boost in when it’s back up and running, so we’ll play with that, and it should get into the 7.8s on that power.”
Not bad for a street cruiser!
This is the second time we’ve featured this HK Prem, having first appeared in the October-November 1989 issue. It was David Hodgson’s car back then, who’d bought it from the original elderly owner.
At the time of the story, the 307 had made way for a larger, mildly tickled small-block, David had the car repainted in a slick coat of candy apple blue, and, just like Richard, was not afraid of using it regularly.
1968 HK HOLDEN PREMIER
|PPG Glasurit Blueprint body, Toyota Pearl White Metallic roof
|400ci Dart small-block Chev
|Edelbrock Victor EFI
|Garrett 5533, 98mm
|Marshall billet hydraulic-roller
|Diamond, 10:1 comp
|Walbro 535 pumps, 2400cc injectors
|Aussie Desert Cooler radiator
|4in stainless system
|FuelTech coils, MSD leads
|Paul Rogers Reid-case Powerglide
|9in, Strange 35-spline axles, 3.25:1 gears
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES
|Viking shocks, Calvert mono-leaf springs, CalTracs
|Wilwood 280mm discs and calipers (f), Wilwood discs and calipers (r)
|WHEELS & TYRES
|Weld AlumaStar; 15×3.5 (f), 15×8 (r)
|Hankook 165/80R15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street R 275/60R15 (r)
Jamie at Full Flight Engineering; Wayne at Racecomp Motorsports for the engine; Frank Marchese and Nathaniel Ardern at FuelTech Australia; Paul Rogers at Paul Rogers Performance Transmissions; Peter at SDE Converters; Chris at Performance Diff Centre; Fabian at Hotwirez Motorpsort Electrical for the wiring; Danny Bresciani at Initial D Racing; Kevin at The Works Auto Salon; my partner Jan and daughter Ava.