A Life In Cars

The life story of Dickie Sutherland


Holden HR Station Wagon 1967

HR Holden Station Sedan, the only new car; the Family cars and work horse; the Classic car for all occations, three generation; A Family Car.

My Dad’s one and only new car.  Dad passed away suddenly leaving Mum with the HR family car however, Mum had her driver’s license only for ID purposes.  Mum offered the HR to me, I was the go-to man for maintaining the HR, a replacement for the Datsun 200B, freeing some money for other family expenses, and we traded the Golf for the Mitshubishi L300 Mini Bus.  The HR served Dad well and went on to serve me and the family just as well. More to the HR story. Our first task for the HR with a trailer attached, help us move from Lockleys to West Lakes.


First Christmas day with the HR, driving along Adam Street Hindmarsh approaching Manton street corner the HR’s engine dies, roll around the corner stopped, try the starter, but the engine does not fire into life, fuel gauge indicated ¼ of a tank, hmmm!  Quite by coincidence my niece Maryanne and her husband Trevor were passing by, spotted the HR (Marry Anne’s grandfather’s car), and stopped to help.  Trevor drove me back to Lockleys I quite by coincidence had a can of petrol, Lawn mower fuel, in the shed, back to the HR put in the fuel, and we all continued on to my Mum’s house for Christmas Dinner.  Who would believe it  Maryanne and Trevor live well away from  Adams Street, I had no idea why they would be there at that time, but they were, thanks, Dad!

Photo below:  Maryanne, Paul, Barbara, Colin and Dad standing in Maryanne’s front yard.

Lesson Learned

The HR did put my knowledge to the test one morning. I started the engine, it idled into life then died, almost, then revved back into life and died, this cycle repeated again and again.  I deduced the problem was electrics, removing the distributor cap I noted the wire into the condenser would pull out of the condenser when the engine revved up as the condenser place rotated stretching the wire and disconnecting the electrical circuit.  How did I deduce that I wondered? 

Fortunately, that lesson stayed in my memory, then years later driving a Triumph TR4A up through the hills, it began to surge and die, surge and die, pulling up then lifting the bonnet and inspecting the engine.  This distributor had electronic ignition, no point no condenser.  Hmm what could it be, then touching the low tension leads into the Coil, the positive lead snapped off at the push on the terminal, thus when the wire shook enough the lead was lifted off the terminal within its ‘plastic boot’ causing the engine to die.  Yes, phone a friend Trevor asking him to bring ‘crimp on connector’ and Bob’s you Aunty, lessons learned many years ago with the HR, and applied.

In the years with the HR family car, I did many modifications, trying to gain more economy and improve the ride.  I added Gas shock absorbers and a stronger front sway bar. The one most effective modification an electronic distributor by a workmate. By removing the original distributor (which had Points) and placing the Electronic distributor then checking the timing, the engine ran so much smoother. When cranking to start, with the original distributor it would crank over for a few seconds before firing up. With the Electonic distributor and Coil to match it would start up immediately. Latter the improved performance was reflected in the miles per gallon of fuel. From 19 to 20 around town to 23 miles per gallon.

The 3-speed no Synchro one first gearbox was a pain to drive after cars with 3-speed all Syncro gearboxes. I managed to find a 3-speed all-synchro box out of a Torana, the latter Australian box, complete with a Speco addon floor change. I needed a tail shaft from the wrecker out of an HR automatic to complete the changeover. The latter model 3-speed all synchro had a much higher first gear, permitting a faster off-the-mark and would take the HR to 50 ar 60 Kmh before needing to change to second. Quite unlike the old box that was out of revs and needs a change up at about 15Kph.

Latter the aftermarket Speco gear change had a habit of jamming when changing from first to second. One Saturday morning on the way to the Gym session with the 2 boys the gear shift locked into first and would not move! in a moment of frustration and madness, I turned the engine off, wrenched the gear leaver until it freed itself, started the engine selected first gear and revved the engine to about 3500 revs I dropped the clutch and to the sound, a very loud BANG the diff broke. Buggar! I dashed home arranged for Carolyn to drive me to the HR and tow the car home. I took the boys to Gym and while they were there I found the only Wrecker with an HR diff centre available paid the money without any haggling, (I needed it, must have today), after picking the boys up from Gym and dropping Sam home I drive Nicholas home and then proceeded to change out the old diff centre for the you-beaut new centre.

The silver lining, the ‘new’ centre was a 2.79 ratio out of an automatic, the old centre was a 3.55 ratio (much lower than the replacement), and performance-wise there was little to no change. The HR was nippy of the mark and did not labor in any of the gears. I thought the fuel consumption may change but no noticeable change. The car was better for the change and after repairs and adjustment, the Speco gear change improved.

The HR ‘the family wagon’, the second car, was my car, I would drive Nicholas and his Gym buddy Sam to Ascot Park in the mornings, before work and after work pick them up from Gym and drive home.  It was a bit of a brute to drive and comparatively heavy on fuel. 

On one very notable occasion, I took the boy and brother Donald to Mallala races in the HR.  We were with a group of friends enjoying the motor racing, the boys began collecting drink cans, 5 cents deposit was to be had for each can.  Nicholas and Sam filled the back seat foot wells to the level of the seat, then the boot filled to the height of the back seat squab.  A breathalyzer on the way home failed to stop me for a breath check, I would have been fine but the fumes coming from the car would have put the HR over the .05 limit.  The boys scored $25 each from the BottleO on Monday.

Mallala the innocent enthusiasm of the boys celebrating their heroes of the motor racing.  Getting their heroes to sign memorabilia, waving flags as their heroes raced by, almost ‘taking out’ other spectators standing near them.

Yes, the Moths from the road to Swan Reach. Driving to the Gymnastics training camp weekend Friday night with Nic and his training buddy Sam, the HR suffered a flat tire left-hand rear. No worries we have a spare. Unloaded the boy’s bike to get to the spare wheel only to find the spare wheel was a Mag wheel and I had no Magwheel Nuts! This was a dark night and while attending to the issue at hand, doors open interior light on the interior was invaded by thousands, yes thousand, of white Moths. A bit Spooky!

As the years passed with the HR and sitting outside in the weather, rust repairs were needed.  If I was to keep the car a complete restoration, would be needed. Prior to the restoration I had offered the car to the family, but, alas no takers. 

Nicholas’s interest in the car persuaded me to begin a full restoration including a colour change, all in readiness for Nicholas to take over his Grandfather’s car when he qualified for a driver’s license. 

The 3-speed gearbox was replaced with a Trimatic, (3-speed automatic) that came with a reconditioned 202 engine out of a Torana LH. With an upgraded radiator (including transmission oil cooler) and brake overhaul, the HR was set for another 23 years of service.

Yes! I was so pleased for Nicholas to take the HR as his car, his Grandfather’s car. 

Nicholas was keen to have the HR as his first car. Such was his liking of the HR he asked me to help him return the car to an original six eater by removing the bucket seats I had fitted.

Finding a good front bench seat was a journey in itself.  I got a very good front seat from a sedan with a big tear in the rear cover, I purchased the back seat with the view of using the cover to repair the front seat.  I had the frame repaired and strengthened, however, eventually the renewed tension eventually split the seat. 

Next, I managed to buy a very good rear station wagon seat from a bloke at a swap meet, and another bloke out north of Gawler had a very good sedan interior which I bought the lot. The replacement of the seat rounded out at about $800.

The HR was part of the family, a big part of Nicholas’ life.  Such was his pride in the HR eventually taken to Tasmania he managed to get the ‘same’ Rego number plate REO981 in Tasmania and the HR was the star wedding car in Jenna and Nicholas’ wedding.

Airport pick, family arrival’

Wedding cars

 The HR family car was his car until a move to Norway meant he was to leave the HR in Tasmania.

Farewell to the HR Family car

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