The Holden Kingswood was a full-size car manufactured between 1968 and 1984; it was built to replace the aging Holden Special and in turn saw the popular Holden Commodore take its place. It formed the mid–range car that included the Belmont and Premier cars. All three came in a sedan or station wagon format and could also be acquired as commercial, ute, and coupe utility versions.
The first generation was produced up until 1971. These were big, bulky cars, stylistically of their era, with chrome grille, round light casings, chrome wrap-around bumpers, and large boots.
The second generation brought out the HQ model in 1971, and it lasted until 1984. It was slightly more adventurous with the car’s design, with bold, grilles and strong D-pillars, although they were still very much in the folded and bent metal panel school of design. Minor alterations came to the HJ model and the HX range in the mid-1970s with bigger engines and slight trim variations, such as two tone paintwork, a radio, and carpeting.
The Holden’s American muscle car style had lost much of its appeal by the end of the 1970s, and people turned to smaller cars like the Commodore. A facelift was given to the Kingswood in 1980, but it was only to last another four years before being withdrawn from circulation. The HZ models had new headlights, tail lights, and grille, and the engines were downsized, but the changes were unable to halt the model’s declining sales. The Kingswood name was kept in production as the WB ute, but the last of these rolled off the production line in 1984.
The 1960s’ Holden Kingswoods were powered by a 6-cylinder engine, but later models saw an updated, larger V8 fitted. The same V8 installed into the 1969 HT models could also receive a Trimatic Automatic gearbox. By 1970, the HG model was either equipped with an automatic or 4-speed manual transmission.
The early 1970s saw engines go metric, and the Kingswood’s powertrains were either a Holden 2.8L, 3.3L, 4.1L, or 5.0L. They also came supplied with the large Chevy V8 and 5.7L engine. The designers wanted the Kingswood to have a smooth ride, and their suspension design was meant to emulate the comfortable ride of the Cadillac. Although not successful initially, the Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS), which was introduced in 1977, did give a more enjoyable ride.
Typically, the 4.0L V8 engine could produce 138kW of power and had a torque level at 2400rpm at 355Nm.
In most cars of this period, standard and additional equipment options were not great selling points. The interiors were often stylishly finished with simple and dramatic décor, as was the way in the 1970s. Features included articulating wipers, dual circuit brakes, reversing lights, and safety features, such as a lap seatbelt and energy-absorbing steering column. Imitation-style leather vinyl seat covers and foam stuffing replaced the leather upholstery and feather down filling of previous years to provide comfort, and backlight dashboard dials provided safe reading of the instruments at night.
The company released a Limited edition in 1972. Its extras package included an instrument sports steering wheel, bucket seats, and rally road wheels. Additional equipment levels that drivers could buy included power steering, automatic gearboxes, and air-conditioning. The HQ model featured the vent-through system, and its additional equipment included radio/cassette, power antenna, and internally adjustable door mirrors.
Other refined trim levels came with the Kingswood de Lux in 1975. It had a central console, bucket seats, full carpeting throughout, push-button radio, additional dashboard instrumentation, wider wheels, tinted windscreen, radial tyres, and the Trimatic Auto as options.
The Holden Kingswood faced competition from the Ford Falcon and Chrysler Valiant, with the three vehicles making up the big car market in the 1970s. By the late 1970s, the Holden Commodore was setting the pace and putting its own model under increasing pressure.
An iconic car that formed an essential part of the culture of the time, classic Kingswood cars are still very much sought-after cars, and they still attract considerable attention at auction. They are, however, expensive cars to run these days, as the big, old engines of the past do not run economically. Like any classic vehicle, these machines are a labour of love rather than a cheap family run around. If you are looking for a ute from yesteryear, the Kingswood commercials are solid workhorses. Just be careful, as these old cars can become an expensive obsession.