(Our copy courtesy of the author) Reviewed by Peter Robinson
This truly is a must-have book for anyone who owns or, especially, is restoring any model from Holden’s 1968-1971 HK-HT-HG range. Dr Norm Darwin’s latest Holden tome ($65) includes (almost) everything you could conceivably want to know about the models.
The book tells the story of the HK’s development, using many rarely seen design proposals, and includes an official Holden “forward model program” document that details planning for the entire Holden range from 1965 to 1972. The circumstances behind the stop-gap HG’s arrival – the HQ was program was running late – are fully explained.
Until I read the book, I was not aware of how close the Monaro 327 came to miss the 1968 Bathurst 500, which it won. The race regulations insisted that 200 identical cars be built, but in the month before the race Holden realised it had produced half the 327s with 3.08 final drive ratio and the other 50percent using 3.36 diffs. Once the glitch was recognised Holden produced a further batch of identical cars to satisfy the rules. Darwin, who is president of Automotive Historians Australia, provides a convincing rational behind the HG’s use of two different 350 CID V8s: the Tonawanda and later McKinnon engines. Secrets that were kept from the motoring press at the time and only revealed in a NASCO service Bulletin.
The book contains virtually all the brochures for all three models, reproduced in full to provide a complete breakdown of the model ranges. Darwin duplicates Holden’s colour and trim ranges, all the model build/assembly classifications and detailed (if occasionally wrong) mechanical full specifications. I was reminded that, astonishingly, the HK couldn’t be built with A/C and disc brakes, you could only have one or the other; nor could the Monaro combine A/C and the console-mounted tacho.
HK designer John Schinella’s foreword provides a wonderful insight into the Holden of the mid-1960s. When 24-year-old John arrived at Fishmen’s Bend in 1965 to work with design boss Joe Schemansky, “it became apparent that Holden Motors was being led by a very complacent senior management.” John could only be referring to MD (since 1962) David Hegland and chief engineer Wayne Brown who arrived in 1957. Both men were to be replaced within 18-months by the more dynamic Max Wilson and Bill Steinhagen.
But the book is far from perfect; the text is often clumsy and awkward, and so poorly written that sections are almost incomprehensible. Tenses are confused, the first letters of words are capped when there is no reason to do so. I’ve also no doubt most readers will want access to all of the engineering documents displayed on pages four and five, but the overlapping layout makes this impossible.
Examples of the difficult wording (and there are many more):
Page 10. The fourth paragraph contains 81 words with four commas but is so long it is largely impenetrable. On page 255 another overly complicated sentence, at the beginning of the third paragraph, runs to 98 words.
Page 16, second paragraph: “The GTS steering wheel design was the same as the Chevrolet Corvette although it differed slightly.”
Page 39: “Following the initial press releases a lull occurred while the auto magazine lead times ran.”
Page 248 (caption) “The car did prove design weaknesses which were then fixed.”
And there are mistakes: On page one Darwin claims the EH Holden retained the grey engine that dated back to the 48-215. The EH introduced the Red motor as used in the HK-HG. Darwin gets it right on page 10. The caption on page 48 claims the car photographed is an HK GTS 350 when there was no such model, and the press photograph is of a 327 Monaro.
If you believe the book, upon seeing the 1966 American Falcon (Australia’s XR) design boss Joe Schemansky, “immediately insisted stylists adding sheet metal to the front fenders to match the Falcon’s overall length.” Surely such a fundamental alteration would also involve both senior management and engineering? Subjectively, I would also ask why the front and rear covers carry a deep-etched photograph of the unfortunate Brougham, the least successful of all the HK-HT-HG models?
The Holden L6 specifications chart (page 274) for the six different sized six-cylinder engines, but lists just three metric engine capacities when there should be six. There are also errors in the transmission ratio chart (duplication) and nothing to explain that the gearbox detail applies only to the HK and, in some cases, not the HT and HG.
The AMHF’s resident Holden expert, John O’Farrell, also wants me to point out that the Darwin family HK Kingswood feature in the book’s introduction wears a Belmont grille and not the Kingswood’s version with its significant blackout treatment.
Yes, the book remains a must-read for enthusiasts of the HK-HT-HG, but it would have been much improved (and deserves) by the employment of a good editor.