Bruce Newtown is a motoring writer and co-author of Kings of the Road: 50 Cars That Drove Australia. Here he recalls a motoring epiphany one night in 1971 … aged eight.
It was Friday night in Geelong and, being the greedy eight-year old I was, I’d wolfed down the traditional family fish and chip dinner.
But instead of getting the chance to go back for seconds Dad told me to put on dressing gown and slippers. The two of us were going out.
Really? I was agog. What could be going on?
Out to the HK Holden in the driveway of our brick veneer home and into the front bench seat. Seatbelt laws were just introduced in Victoria and our car didn’t have them. Young kids weren’t required to wear them anyway.
It wasn’t a long drive down the highway to where we were going on this early July evening. I could see the bright lights and crowds as we got close: Winter & Taylor, our nearest Holden dealer.
We were here to have our first look at the most eagerly anticipated new car of 1971 – the HQ Holden.
Streamers hung from the roof, posters on the glass walls. Hungry-looking salesman patrolled the floor like sharks eyeing Bondi swimmers.
There were different examples of different models spread about, from the entry-level Belmont all the way through to the Premier with its four headlights, chrome trim and shiny hub caps.
There was even an example tipped on its side so we could examine the mysterious mechanical bits never normally seen.
Gosh it was beautiful, the most beautiful car I had ever seen. Gloriously rounded where its predecessor was a square box. It had stick-thin A-pillars and a gorgeous, simple crease line that ran from front to rear.
You might think it laughable that I’d fall in love with a Holden. But these were different days. Holden ruled the roads and tariff walls limited the amount of funny foreign stuff on the roads. The Japanese were just starting to make inroads.
In the next three years Holden would sell 500,000 HQs! Crazy numbers in a country of just 13 million people.
My Dad and I always connected over cars. He sold Holdens and Fords for many years, they were always in our driveway. It’s a big reason I became an automotive journalist and why I always had more interest in cars designed, developed and built here.
Dad is in his 80s now and has never owned anything other than a local car. Nowadays it’s a Ford Territory. We haven’t talked about what he’ll drive next now there’s no local cars to buy.
My memories of that night came flooding back when I wrote about the HQ for Kings of the Road, a new book I co-authored with my friend and fellow automotive journalist Toby Hagon.
Sweet memories, a little painful too. And I know I am not alone, there were plenty of other young lads in pyjamas with their Dads at Winter & Taylor that night.
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Kings of the Road: 50 Cars That Drove Australia, Pan Macmillan, RRP $50