Colin Riley’s HQ was once an ageing, unloved icon of the ’70s, now it’s admired wherever it goes.
What makes a classic car? Is there an age limit that must be reached, or is it not that simple? In our scene, there seems to be no clear definition. Apparently, it isn’t purely based on age, nor on popularity; as someone recently said to me with great conviction, “You just know”.
Perhaps a memo is sent out without my knowledge when a model pulls itself out of that deep, dark middle age, or no man’s land as I like to refer to it. This is the period where a car is no longer new enough to be considered modern, but also not old enough to be considered ‘old-school cool’ or a classic. Over the last few years there seems to have been a changing of the guard, as popular ’70s machines have clawed their way out of this depressing middle age and straight into the hands of collectors and enthusiasts, where they gain a new lease on life.
The Holden HQ is a prime example of such a car, and seems no longer to be viewed as the bombed out piece of shit your mate Big Steve used to drive to work every day because he was too poor to buy anything else. Yes, the HQ has well and truly left behind the VC Commys and XF Falcons in the pit-o’-shame, and resurfaced out the other side as a tough, shapely and somehow inexplicably cool classic.
Colin Riley’s 1973 HQ is a prime example of such a transformation. A blood-red, rumbling ground-scraper, REDHQ is a pure work of art, and one that has taken a good few years to perfect. Having been on the V8 scene for a good few years now (six in fact), this car will be well known to many of you from its appearances at car shows all over the country, where it regularly picks up trophies like People’s Choice, Best Holden, Best HQ and many more. Let’s take a closer look at just what makes this 1970s show pony work.
Colin originally bought the car 10 years ago as a rolling shell, which, as he explains, was never really the intention: “It was just a case of right place, right time. I was actually looking for a daily driver for my wife Fran when the HQ popped up. It was just too good an offer to let go, so I snapped it up. Actually, we are still looking for a daily driver if anyone has a good deal¦”
The HQ had been sitting in a shed gathering dust for five long years, but on the upside, all the body work was already done. This means the blood red paint seen on the car today is a good decade old, and still in perfect condition. Whoever originally painted the car, if you are reading this, give yourself a quiet pat on the back.
With the shell in his possession, Colin slowly began building up the car as his budget allowed.
Under the bonnet sits a very tidy injected 5.0-litre V8, borrowed from a 1996 Commodore VS.
This has been very neatly transplanted with great precision into the newly de-loomed and detailed engine bay. The motor rumbles away nicely thanks to a set of aftermarket headers direct from Castle Auto Enterprises across the ditch. These consist of 1-5/8-inch primaries dumping into a single 2.5-inch exhaust heading out to the rear of the car, fabricated, like much of the vehicle, by Colin himself. On the intake side, the 304 breathes freely thanks to a custom polished intake system, which, when combined with an aggressive Come Racing cam and Come Racing chipped computer, makes for a nice, punchy street package. This is backed up by a four-speed auto trans, which feeds power out to the deep-dished 20-inch Intro Pentia rims. The 8.5-inch-wide rollers are wrapped in Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres, and are shredded via a 10-bolt Salisbury diff, complete with 3.55 gears.
Behind those rims a set of powerful brakes can be found in the form of 330mm rotors up front and 315mm rotors out back, all cross-drilled and slotted. These use BA Falcon callipers in the front and factory clampers in the rear. Colin was able to get those very tasty rims and brakes in more recent times, as he shut up shop at his Cambridge B&B and decided to open a Magwarehouse.com store right in the heart of Hamilton city.
As you can imagine, this opened a few new doors for REDHQ, and was especially useful when Colin had had enough of the Holden constantly crawling along on its belly. This thing was so low, Colin couldn’t even get over the smallest speed humps, a situation not helped by the huge polished stainless drop tank hanging under the arse of the car.
The decision was made to invest in a quality air ride system from Chassistech. Colin installed the system himself in the workshop, and took the time to run all the half-inch air lines through the chassis rails for a clean look and tidier install. These lines run between large half-inch valves that allow the four bags to inflate and deflate very quickly, making for an impressive spectacle should someone go crazy on the 10-switch switch box inside the cabin. A single chrome six-gallon tank sits in the boot and stores air to be distributed around the system, fed by a single large compressor hidden behind a false wall. Besides the switch box, the cabin is also home to a pair of XU1 GTR Torana seats and modern retractable seat belts. Colin keeps an eye on the health of his car thanks to a host of high quality Pro Comp gauges from Auto Meter. Although the dash seen behind the XU1 GTR Torana steering wheel looks factory HQ, it is not. “With the VS transmission in the car, it meant the standard dash speedo wouldn’t work with the more modern electronic-style sender (as opposed to the old cable style),” Colin explains. “I didn’t want to ruin the clean look, so I replaced all the old HQ dash internals with newer VS gear.”
The interior has also been given the full sound system treatment from market leader Alpine. An MP3 head unit now sends signal to a very clean and clear system comprising 6-inch components in the front, 6 x 9-inch speakers in the back and a pair of 12-inch subwoofers in the boot, all powered by a pair of meaty V12 amplifiers. One of the best HQs we have ever seen here at NZV8 magazine, Colin Riley’s awesome REDHQ is a prime example of what can be done with newly classic Kiwi icon vehicles. Perhaps it’s time to beat the rush and buy yourself something from the dark ages (the ’80s) to hold on to for a few years. How long can it be before those ungainly, boxy Commys and Falcons become pretty again?
1973 HQ Holden – Colin Riley
Occupation: Director at Magwarehouse.com, Hamilton
Previously owned Cars: A few HQs, Datsun 1200, 308-powered Bedford van
Build time: Six years
Length of ownership: 10 years
Colin Thanks : His wife Fran and all the team at Magwarehouse.com, Hamilton
Engine: 5.0-litre injected V8 (VS Commodore), Come Racing cam, Come Racing ECU chip, custom-made intake, Castle Auto Enterprises headers, custom stainless mufflers, custom surge tank, custom drop tank, Aussie Desert Cooler radiator, de-loomed engine bay, Gilmore belt drive
Driveline: 4l60E four-speed auto, 10-bolt Salisbury diff
Brakes: Hopper Stopper kit, 330mm front cross-drilled/slotted discs with BA Falcon callipers, 315mm rear cross drilled/slotted discs with factory callipers
Suspension: Chassistech air ride system, half-inch lines, half-inch fittings, 6-gallon chrome tank, 10-way switch box, six-position digital sensor gauge, two 550cc compressors, 2-inch drop spindles, factory four-link rear end with adjustable links
Wheels/Tyres: 20×8.5-inch Intro Pentia rims, 235/30R20 Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres
Exterior: Red respray, polished drop tank
Interior: GTR XU1 Torana seats, GTR XU1 steering wheel, B&M Hardcore Street Bandit shifter, Auto Meter Pro comp oil temp, oil pressure and volt gauges, Auto Meter Sport Comp tachometer, VS Commodore speedo internals, late model seatbelts, Alpine MP3 head unit, Alpine six-inch DD drive components, Alpine 6 x 9-inch rear DD drive speakers, two Alpine 12-inch subwoofers, two Alpine V12 amplifiers
Words: Peter Kelly Photos: Quinn Hamill