With his stunning classic-meets-modern wagon, Troy Stapleton takes the little-loved HD Holden from laughing stock to top of the class

Photographers: Mitch Hemming

Do you remember the awkward chick at school who blossomed into a supermodel? Or the nerdy guy that was bullied by the ‘in’ crowd but is now the buff billionaire signing their pay cheques?

This article on Troy Stapleton’s 1965 Holden HD Wagon was originally published in the March 2017 issue of Street Machine

Well a similar ‘time to shine’ has come for many formerly forgotten Aussie classics, as evidenced by the variety our modern-day car scene is offering up as eye candy. Sure, the cornerstone Monaros, Toranas, Falcons and Chargers will always have their place – and rightly so – but with raw project fodder getting harder to find, folks are exploring different options and spinning gold from less common bodystyles and models, be they of Aussie, American, British or Japanese descent.

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1965 Holden HD WagonThe HD Holden has been modified in reasonable numbers over the years, including a few standout builds, but they’ve long been perceived as the third wheel jammed between the immensely popular EH and HR. Let’s be honest, it was a tough gig for the HD: Being the model to replace the lauded EH was always going to suck, while the HR rectified the perceived shortcomings of the model the media dubbed ‘Highly Dangerous’, and thus earned all the plaudits.

But Troy Stapleton had no qualms when offered this HD wagon six years ago, grasping the opportunity without delay. That netted him a pretty honest old jigger, stock inside and out save for a set of 13-inch Dragways. But the paint was pretty sad and bound to hide its fair share of body gremlins.

“It had spent a few years in a number of different hands, but never progressed. I had an HR sedan as a young fella and was initially keen for an EH or HR to do up – you know, to relive my youth,” the now 49-year-old Troy laughs. “But we could see potential in the HD.”

1965 Holden HD WagonThe ‘we’ is Troy and his brother Dale, who is a car guy to the core and the driving force behind this build; Dale not only found the wagon and gave it to Troy, but guided the direction of the project and was a huge help with the actual hands-on work.

The brothers began by stripping the 50-year-old wagon bare and held their collective breath when removing the crusty layers of paint, bracing themselves for what sins were sure to lie beneath.

“It was nearly mint!” Troy marvels. “There was a small patch of rust in one guard and a few minor dings here and there, but the HD was in better nick after removing the paint, which is definitely not how the cookie usually crumbles. The old layers masked how good it really was, which was a nice change!”

With the body soon tweaked and sorted, Troy got down to brass tacks choosing a colour. He found this often-arduous task to be fairly straightforward due to having a sea of options laid out for him by default. “I’m a truck driver, so I spend my working week looking at cars – thousands of ’em. I just took note of what colours caught my eye and whittled it down from there.”

1965 Holden HD WagonAn early front-runner was Breeze from the BF Falcon charts, a turquoise metallic hue that made the cut specifically because of how it popped in the afternoon sun, and you have to agree that it suits Troy’s HD perfectly. An unexpected bonus that was never evident in BF Falcon guise is how amazing the shade looks partnered with old-school chrome and stainless. Troy had Kevin Harnell weave his magic with the brightware to ensure maximum visual stimulation when the HD hits the streets.

Troy wasn’t comfortable risking that neat body and paint by relying on factory underpinnings, so he and Dale swapped out the standard drums for HQ front discs and Commodore discs at the rear, the latter proving advantageous when replacing the banjo diff with a 3.23-geared VR BorgWarner unit. The suspension received fresh bushes throughout, along with lowered King heavy-duty coils and springs, while UC Torana rack-and-pinion steering replaced the conventional HD recirculating-ball assembly.

It was at this time that Dale’s true intentions came to light: “I was happy to upgrade the steering, suspension and brakes regardless, but Dale dropped the old: ‘Well you might as well drop a V8 in her now,’ and that was that!” Troy laughs.

1965 Holden HD WagonTroy was keen to incorporate some old-school influences into the build, and decided that a carbied 308 was the go, quickly sourcing a donor engine and Trimatic transmission to keep the project’s momentum going. The red 308 was rebuilt to mainly factory specs, ensuring reliability and driveability, but performance has been livened up via a Crane 286 cam, a generous bump in compression and an Edelbrock intake topped with a Holley 750.

Dale-built extractors tuck in snugly around the running gear, while the Hooker-mufflered twin system and custom single-exit tailpipe are the handiwork of Spot On Performance. The Trimatic transmission was shift-kitted and fronted with a TCE 3000 stall converter.

Coys 17-inch five-spoke rims were inspired by and pay homage to the original Dragways, but measure in at seven- and eight-inch widths and are shod in 215/55 and 255/50 Nitto rubber respectively.

 Wagons by design require far more thought and planning when it comes to interior options, and the inside of Troy’s HD strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and impact. He likes the concept of mixing dark exteriors with light interiors and vice-versa, so he had Dean McHugh stitch the seats and surrounding trim in cream vinyl.

All metal surfaces and the steering wheel were painted to match, while buckskin carpet and factory-style chrome and black detailing help create one of the most appealing and fresh street interiors I have seen in years. A Hurst shifter and a pair of accessory gauges nestle between the HD Premier buckets, and were included as modern concessions to complement the upgraded drivetrain and running gear.

With the hard work behind them, Troy is more than stoked with the end result, and has no future plans other than to clock up plenty of miles. “I can’t wait to get out and drive it and have some fun at the local cruises and shows,” he says. “It’s the Sunday driver I was always hoping for.”

Paint: Breeze Turquoise

Make: Holden 308
Block: Factory cast
Crank: Stock
Camshaft: Crane hydraulic
Heads: Yella Terra
Intake: Edelbrock
Carb: 750cfm Holley
Ignition: Holden electronic
Exhaust: Custom extractors, Hooker mufflers

Gearbox: Trimatic, shift-kitted
Converter: TCE 3000 stall
Diff: BorgWarner, 3.23 gears

Front: 2in-lowered King Springs
Rear: 2in-lowered King leaf springs
Shocks: Boge (f & r)
Brakes: HQ discs & calipers (f), Commodore discs & calipers (r) Steering: UC Torana rack-and-pinion

Rims: Coys; 17×7 (f), 17×8 (r)
Tyres: Nitto; 215/55 (f), 255/50 (r)

Kevin Harnell, chrome and stainless repair; Dean McHugh, interior; Dave Hillman, diff and front end; Steve at Awesome Auto Electrics; Spot On Performance, exhaust; TCB Coatings; Kevin Schuurs for the shed space; my brother Dale for all his help – it would not have been possible without him.