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Proper Parenting: Holden VH SL/E and HQ Kingswood father-son combo

26 March 2019



Some parents make their kids catch the bus, others get them a cheap, reliable runaround, then there’s parenting done the right way …

The problem with youth is that it’s wasted on the young. Youngsters generally have no idea that, while they feel like life is a struggle, they’re only in for a rude awakening as they get older, and, in reality, they may well be enjoying the best days of their lives. One youngster who doesn’t fall into that category and is aware that life is pretty damn good is VH Commodore–driving 17-year-old Cameron North. That’s right, just 17 — almost as if he fell out of the womb yesterday.

Then again, with parents like Peter and Keri North, there was never any chance that the lad would be driving anything other than a V8-powered GM product. Don’t think for one moment that this is a spoilt brat born with a silver spoon in his mouth, though — far from it; he’s just been lucky enough to have the guidance and assistance that many of us wish we’d had from such a young age.

As a previous VH Commodore owner himself (see NZV8 Issue No. 32), Pete knew that an early Commy was just the thing for Cam’s first car. This wasn’t only because he knew how to pull a Commodore apart and what makes them look good, but also because they’re still, in the grand scheme of things, readily available and affordable. Of course, there was no way the young fella was simply going to be handed a car.

“We bought the VH two years ago, and Dad only let me drive it once before making me pull it apart. I’d have liked to drive it for longer, but he said ‘No, you can learn how to build it up, then you’ll respect it more’!” Cam recounts.

That one piece of advice has no doubt paved the way for many years of happy car ownership to come, not to mention been a great bonding experience for the father and son, as difficult as it may have been to accept at the time. Of course, it also meant that the car took over much of the family’s garage for the duration of the project, and the only way to get it done more quickly was for Pete to help out with funding, a debt which Cameron will pay off within the next year or so, all going to plan.

The car was a locally purchased, original 308-powered SL/E with good bones, but, in this family, there was never any chance that it would stay stock — just look at Pete’s HQ as an example of the family’s taste.

“I had no idea how many parts there were to a car!” laughs Cam. “There were parts in the garage, parts in my room, and parts in Mum and Dad’s dining room. I just hoped Dad would know where they all went!”

With the engine out of the car, a set of 304 heads was sourced, along with a 304 crank and rods. A trip to Performance Parts in Takanini saw a single-plane manifold and plenty of ICE Ignition components added to the collection, while a stop-off at STA Parts gained a 650cfm Proform carb. Doug from Doug’s Engineering Services was responsible for screwing the new combo together, with the goal being for outright reliability as much as an increase in power.

While the motor was out, the engine bay saw plenty of love, with holes filled, bumps removed, and the battery relocated to the boot. The car was then dropped in to Paddy and his team at Independent Truck Spray (ITS) to be coated in layers of PPG Medium Cabernet Red paint — an ironic name, considering Cam is not yet old enough to enjoy a glass of Cabernet legally.

“Once the motor was built, we put it on a stand, and I spent many hours just looking at it while the car was still at the painters,” says Cam — understandably so, as the engine’s a fine-looking piece.

When the freshly painted car was returned, the project was away again. Cam says he drove his dad nuts, keeping on at him to help him put it back together. “I think he hated the shed by the time we were finished!” he laughs.

One of the finishing touches was the custom exhaust set-up. It was a system that required the stock fuel tank to be removed and a custom alloy fuel cell constructed, but Cam couldn’t be happier with it. It kicks off with Hurricane headers, leading into twin 2½-inch pipes, and ends with RPS dump pipes peering through the rear valance.

To ensure the finished car would look as respectable as the engine bay, the pair dropped in a set of King Springs coils, along with Monroe shocks, while the choice of iconic HDT Aero wheels was a given; well, for now at least — once he’s paid his parents back what he owes, Cam may change that, but for now, it’s a great look.

As the interior of the car was in amazing condition when purchased, the plan was to leave it alone, simply adding a few aftermarket gauges to keep an eye on the freshly built motor. The remainder of the driveline wasn’t so simple, though, with the Trimatic trans getting a decent overhaul from Otahuhu Automatic Transmission Services and the diff getting a four-spider LSD centre thanks to Diffs R Us.

The result of the two-year father-and-son bonding exercise is a car that petrolheads would love to own at any age, let alone to be in possession of when so young. Cam still lists his dream car as a blown HQ, though, and it’s not hard to see where he got that aspiration.

While all the action in the garage was dedicated to the VH, Pete’s HQ managed to sit unloved; however, even now, after it’s been on the road in its current guise for a few years, it’s still a tough package.

The build started more than a decade ago, when Pete bought the car off a mate as a stock 253-powered queuey. It wasn’t long before he was bored with it, and when he came across a 308 V8-powered Premier, fitting the running gear out of it into the tidy shell was just the solution. A new coat of orange paint and a set of shiny wheels saw the car ready for its first of many Beach Hops, but, again, Pete soon got bored.

After seeing all the superchargers around, Pete knew that that was the way to go. Before long, a 308 was in the build, to which the coveted blower could be fitted. For the next few years, petrol was consumed and tyres destroyed as the car and the family took part in events such as Powercruise, among others.

After a few blown engines, it was once again time to step the game up. Of course, Pete being Pete, he wasn’t satisfied with just changing the 308 combo for something Chev based; instead, he set about repainting the whole car at the same time.

Good friend Paddy from ITS was called on for the task, coating the car in PPG Charcoal Grey metallic paint, while Pete replaced the tired light lenses and accessories with brand-new items.

The new, now more permanent, engine combo was built up by mate Doug from Doug’s Engineering Services around a brand-new 350ci short block. With a Scat crank, rods, and pistons, along with ARP bolts and studs, the engine’s been built to last. For heads, Pete turned to the Pro-Filer Performance Products catalogue, from which he selected a pair of alloy items filled with roller rockers and all the fruit. While the car’s never been on a dyno, with a 6-71 supercharger, twin 650cfm carbs, and MSD ignition components, it’d be fair to say that it’s got the potential to make some decent numbers. It’s enough that Pete’s at least not become bored with it.

Backing up the combo is a shift-kit, manual valve–bodied TH350 trans with 3000rpm stall screwed together by the good folk at Otahuhu Automatic Transmission Services. The Truetrac and nine-inch diff with 28-spline axles was also built in Otahuhu, just around the corner at Diffs R Us, and both items have proven more than capable of taking the punishment they’ve received.

As with Cameron’s car, most of the build was done in the family garage, with only jobs that couldn’t be done, such as the full custom interior retrim, being outsourced. Being a truck-body builder by trade, Pete did all the fabrication himself, including the custom twin three-inch exhaust set-up.


To help slow the heavy machine from the speeds it’s now capable of reaching, Pete slotted a set of Bendix race pads into the stock front calipers and fitted the rear end with Commodore discs and calipers. On the suspension side, the theme of spending enough to make things work without going overboard has continued. This has seen a set of Dobi springs replace the originals and KYB adjustable shocks and a Whiteline front sway bar added. It’s a set-up that makes the car great to drive on the road, be it locally or on long journeys, and gives plenty of control for when the car hits the track or is tearing up tyres.

While the Kingswood has continued to evolve since hitting the road, progress slowed down in the last few years, for obvious reasons. However, now that the Commodore is completed, it sounds as if Pete’s got that itch again, mentioning that a set of mini tubs and new wheels wouldn’t go amiss.

As the car’s been in the family so long, chances are that it won’t be getting sold any time soon; with it having progressed from a 253, to a 308, to a blown 308, to the Chev-based combo, there’s far too much history there to part with.

Meanwhile, Cam’s just starting on the journey with his car, and, at time of writing, is impatiently waiting for summer to roll around so that he can get out cruising and making the most of it. Maybe, just maybe, in this instance, youth isn’t wasted on the young after all.

Peter North
Age: 43
Occupation: Business owner
Previously owned cars: VH–VE Commodores, six HQs, GT Falcon, two T-buckets, Trans Am, Toranas, ’67 Camaro, ’64 Impala, and more
Dream car: Something I don’t have to work on
Why the HQ? Always loved the shape
Build time: Ongoing
Length of ownership: More than 10 years

Peter thanks: Doug at Doug’s Engineering Services; Lee at Diffs R Us; Paddy at ITS; Clive at Advanced Four Wheel Equipment; Rich at Corporate Towing; Deane at STA Parts; my brother-in-law, Suckal; my wife, Keri, and kids, Cam and Bri, for putting up with the late nights and bad language in the garage

Cameron North
Age: 17
Occupation: Building apprentice
Previously owned cars: Mazda 323, Ford Courier
Dream car: Blown HQ
Why the VH? Dad told me to!
Build Time: Two years
Length of ownership: Two years

Cameron thanks: Doug from Doug’s Engineering Services; Paddy from ITS; Deane from STA Parts; Dave from Performance Parts; Lee from Diffs R Us; Suckal from Kingseat; and my dad, for being so great


1972 Holden HQ Kingswood

Engine: 383ci small block Chev, 350 block, Scat crank, Scat rods, forged pistons, ARP fasteners, alloy Pro-Filer Performance Products heads, roller rockers, custom cam, BDS manifold, 650cfm Quick Fuel carbs, BDS billet 6-71 supercharger, Holley fuel pump, JAZ fuel cell, MSD ignition, MSD coil, Taylor leads, Hurricane headers, twin three-inch exhausts, Flowmaster mufflers, RPS dump pipes, Desert Cooler radiator, twin Davies Craig fans

Driveline: GM TH350 transmission, manual valve body, shift kit, 3000rpm B&M Holeshot converter, nine-inch diff, 28-spline axles, Truetrac head, 3.25:1 gears

Suspension: Dobi springs, KYB shocks, Whiteline front sway bar, boxed trailing arms, Nolathane bushes

Brakes: Stock front calipers and discs, Commodore rear calipers and discs

Wheels/tyres: 18×8-inch Showwheels Streeter wheels, 225/40R18 and 265/35R18 tyres

Exterior: PPG Charcoal Grey metallic paint

Interior: Commodore front seats, SAAS steering wheel, Hurst shifter, Auto Meter gauges, custom retrim, Pioneer audio

Performance: Plenty

1984 Holden Commodore VH SL/E

Engine: 308ci Holden V8, 308 block, flat-top pistons, 304 crank, 304 rods, ARP fasteners, ported 304 heads, Franklin Cams cam, single-plane manifold, 650cfm Proform carb, alloy fuel cell, ICE ignition, ICE coil, ICE leads, Hurricane headers, custom exhaust, RPS mufflers, Fenix radiator, Davies Craig electric fan, alloy shroud

Driveline: GM Trimatic transmission, shift kit, 2600rpm stall, 10-bolt diff, four-spider LSD, 28-spline axle

Suspension: King Springs coil springs, Monroe gas shocks, heavy-duty front sway bar

Brakes: Stock calipers and discs

Wheels/tyres: 15×7-inch HDT Aero wheels, 215/60R15 Goodyear tyres

Exterior: PPG Medium Cabernet Red paint, modified rear valance

Interior: SAAS steering wheel, Auto Gauge gauges

Performance: Enough for a 17-year-old