The Holden HR range first hit the streets in 1966 and continued production until January 1968 when they were succeeded by the Holden HK. The Holden HR was a mid-size range of four-door sedan, five-door station wagons, and two-door ute and panel vans all designed to take over from the Holden HD series.
The designers gave the HR a new front grille, a flatter bonnet, and a differently styled roofline. The sedan received a larger rear window, giving better visibility to the driver, while both the sedan and station wagon had a new rear light setup and alterations to the body panels.
The HR range came in 3 trim levels: the HR Standard, the entry-level vehicle; the mid-range HR Special; and the top-of-the-line HR Premier. This had a nicer interior, wood grained trimming and dashboard, and much more. Six months after the car’s release, there was a safety upgrade with the inclusion of front seat safety belts and other equipment features deemed essential to the car.
In a radical departure from the curvaceous and ornate designs of the 1950s, the HD and HR cars were plainer in shape, with flat surfaces and undecorated, functional attachments. The chrome bumpers lacked the overriders of the previous era, and the grilles were less outlandish in design.
By the mid-1960s, Holden had changed engines and was using the straight 6, red engine as found in the HD version. The latest models had an increased capacity and better compression ratio. The HR came equipped with either the 2.6L or the larger 3.0L version, which was a standard on the Holden HR Premier but only as an option on the other cars.
The 3.0L engine was also available with twin Stromberg carbs as the X2 option. This was later changed to the 186S, which had a single 2-barrelled carburettor. These engines were capable of 95kW of power, taking the car from 0-100km/h in 19.2 seconds.
The drivetrain was linked to either the 3-speed manual or a 2-speed ‘Powerglide’ automatic gearbox. After 1967, there was also the choice of a 4-speed, floor shift, Opel manual gearbox. The car also had the options of being equipped with powered disc brakes, positive traction, and powered steering added to produce a smoother driving experience.
The HR versions were differentiated by their paint jobs. The entry-level HR Standard came in a monochrome colour with no additional trim or fittings. The HR Special was a 2-tone coloured car with a white roof and colour of choice below, and the option of a matching 2-tone interior colour scheme. The HR Premier carried over much of the luxury features of the HD range and had a choice of black or white vinyl roof and stainless steel window trims and wheel arches.
The upholstery was advertised in literature of the day as ‘like driving in your favourite armchair’ and featured such colours as Mephisto Red, Copra Fawn, and Opera Green. The interior was also listed as having tailored floor mats, padded armrests, remote door handles, and ventilation system.
The cars also had such safety features as seat belts and a modified windscreen that allowed the driver clear visibility if broken. There was a wider rear window and added hip, leg, and shoulder room. The spare wheel was mounted vertically, so there was extra luggage space and a lower sill that made loading easier.
The Premier model was kitted out in Morrokide leather, with softer, more comfortable bucket seats, wooden trim, and a powered tailgate, which was a low-cost option. Accessories available through Holden included Air Chief radio, Freshair heater, mud flaps, handbrake warning light, sunshade, and retractable antenna. For extra luxury, you could add a passenger seat vanity mirrored visor, high note horn, and a glovebox light.
Classic cars evoke a strange kind of loyalty. Collectors tend not to be interested in the rivals of the day but more the competition between the different series. The HR was preceded by the HD and had the HK follow it. These are more likely to be seen as the rivals these days. However, back in 1966, the big sedan competition against the Holden HR cars included the Chrysler Valiant, Vauxhall Viva, and Ford Cortina.
Choosing a classic car is always a decision of passion. They will cost to restore, source parts, and maintain but that is half the fun. They cannot be compared to modern cars for reliability, economy, or safety as these were not primary concerns when they were built. Old Holdens have good residual values and are a popular classic choice. They are a good buy and a lot easier to repair than some foreign exotics, as the parts are more readily available.