Darren’s HD Holden Premier: 355cid 12-sec streeter with 'Atomic' impact!
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Darren’s HD Holden Premier: 355cid 12-sec streeter with 'Atomic' impact!

By MarkOastler - 18 March 2024
Image: Chris Thorogood Photography tapd.com.au

Shannons Club member and skilled paint and panel man Darren Young knows that colour is a critical factor in a car’s visual appeal, particularly a modified one like his stunning 1965 HD Holden. He knew the eye-popping effect he wanted for his home-built creation and found it with a dazzling green called Atomic. It’s an appropriate name, because it has explosive visual power.

“It’s actually a VE Commodore colour (Atomic Mica Metallic 609R) but I reckon it looks even better on the HD,” Darren says. It’s hard to argue with that judgement, given how hard this colour punches. And its appeal is more than skin-deep, as his tungsten-tough V8 Holden can run low-12s on the strip.

Darren's decision to go green was planted in the early 2000s when he bought the 1965 Premmie, equipped with 202 Red six and Trimatic, for the princely sum of $2400. Although there had been some work done in the 1980s, its faded gold paint needed renewal so Darren put his talents as a qualified panel beater/spray painter (he also teaches these skills at TAFE) to good use.

Darren’s reimagined Premier is engineer-approved and fully street-legal.
Image: Chris Thorogood Photography tapd.com.au

“When I started sanding it down, I was wearing a green T-shirt and when I saw that colour on the car (after draping his shirt over the bodywork in a few places) I thought it would look pretty good, so I painted it in a solid shade of green.” The ‘Atomic’ effect you see in these pics would come later.

Combined with lowered suspension and polished alloys, Darren’s HD looked so nice his wife bought him some personalised number plates to match - ENVYHD. “I liked the ‘green with envy’ theme, so it was hard to steer away from green after I put those plates on it!” he quips.

However, Darren did not face the same restrictions when it came to squeezing more performance from the Premier’s retro-fitted 202 Red motor.

It’s clean, mean and oh-so-green!
Image: Chris Thorogood Photography tapd.com.a

With his typical hands-on approach, the inline six was soon being force-fed by a compact SC14 Toyota supercharger, which in turn was replaced by an AR70 turbocharger. Both delivered strong performance gains, but given their different drive characteristics Darren figured the ideal solution would be a combination of the two.

So, after some skilled engine bay plumbing, the six became “twin-charged” with the turbo force-feeding the carburettor mounted on the supercharger! Although this set-up produced prodigious power, trying to stuff that amount of fuel and air into the lungs of an engine never designed for such brutal treatment led to numerous head gasket failures.

Darren’s best time at the drags with this complex set-up was a mid-eight on the eighth-mile, which equated to a low-13 on the quarter. Although a commendable example of homegrown ingenuity and dogged persistence, by 2011 Darren had grown tired of the inline six’s fragility.

Prominent Torana A9X-style power bulge with rear intake hints at the beast that lurks within.
Image: Chris Thorogood Photography tapd.com.au

The solution was to follow the tried and tested path to ample and reliable performance by switching to naturally-aspirated V8 power.

By that stage, there were also ominous signs of rust emerging in the HD’s ageing architecture, so Darren committed to the full ground-up rebuild he had long planned for it.

Fortunately, the body was in good shape overall, but after more than four decades of road duty some corrosion had taken hold in the usual moisture-traps like the floor-pans and windscreen surrounds. Darren ensured its original integrity was restored, with fresh sheet-metal where required.

Engine bay has a bead-rolled firewall and outstanding attention to detail.
Image: Chris Thorogood Photography tapd.com.au

He also added a prominent power bulge to the bonnet and made sure the engine bay was a worthy backdrop for the V8 that was headed its way, with a new bead-rolled firewall, seamless smoothing of the inner guards/radiator support panel and the battery moved to the boot. Then the whole lot was given the Atomic treatment.

The V8 Darren chose was Holden’s iconic 308cid (5.0-litre), which a previous owner had stretched to 355cid (5.8-litre) with a 'stroker' crankshaft. However, the engine was clearly in need of a rebuild, so Darren also did that himself with help from his good mate Geoff Manley.

The stout 355 is loaded with quality hardware, including TAE stroker crank and H-beam conrods, Sealed Power hypereutectic pistons, JP Performance high-volume oil pump, Crane 288 solid camshaft, early HDT big-valve cylinder heads, 750cfm Holley four-barrel on a Torque-Power single-plane manifold and free-flowing CRS headers with dual 3.0-inch pipes.

355cid stroker V8 is the jewel in this HD’s crown. It looks great and runs hard.
Image: Chris Thorogood Photography tapd.com.au

Fuss-free reliability is assured with quality ancillaries like an HQ four-row aluminium radiator with hand-made shroud and Aeroflow electric fans, along with an MSD billet distributor and leads. Darren estimates this combination is good for around 450-500bhp (335-373kW) on premium 98.

To optimise performance, the three-speed Trimatic was treated to a full-manual shift-kit and Dominator torque converter with 3500rpm stall speed, feeding a circa-1960s Chevy 10-bolt diff running 3.55:1 gears . Not surprisingly, this combination has performance to burn.

“It’s run a pretty lazy 12.20 at 116mph on street radials,” Darren reveals. “There’s definitely room for improvement with a different stall converter and diff-gear change.” With those changes, we reckon an ET starting with 11 would be a formality, which is mighty quick for a street-driven car.

60-litre aluminium fuel tank and boot-mounted battery showcase more fine workmanship.
Image: Chris Thorogood Photography tapd.com.au

Front-end upgrades include CRS 2.0-inch drop spindles, Lovells Springs and VS Commodore discs, steered by a shortened VK Commodore rack paired with a VP column. Under the tail are reset heavier leaf-springs and Pontiac drums, with Monroe shocks all round. Wheels are 15 x 4-inch Centre Line Pro Stocks up front with 155 rubber, while the 15 x 8.5 rears wear fatter 265s.

The bespoke interior, equipped with a SAAS sports steering wheel, AutoMeter gauges and B&M MegaShifter, is trimmed in a tasteful tan vinyl by Kade from Corowa Upholstery and tailored to Darren’s requirements.

You see, the original rear bench has been retained and the front seating pays homage to the Premier’s signature dual-bucket arrangement. However, given that Darren stands 188cm or ‘six-two’ on the old scale, he was too tall for comfort in the originals.

Sumptuous interior is a nice place to be. Note VX Commodore bucket seats.
Image: Chris Thorogood Photography tapd.com.au

So, he replaced them with circa-2000 VX Commodore front seats, mounted on lowered runners to keep his head comfortably clear of the roof-lining. The standard headrests were also removed to retain the HD’s period look.

Apart from the interior trimming, Darren did all the work himself. It took 11 years to complete, at his home in regional Victoria, which was very rewarding and a testament to his fine car-crafting talents.

He’s also proud that all OEM components used in this build are from Holden donors (plus the odd Chev or Pontiac part) so it’s as pure ‘GM’ as you can get in a modified car. Even better, it’s no trailer queen.

Darren built his HD to drive - and he often enjoys doing just that.
Image: Chris Thorogood Photography tapd.com.au

“I drive it all the time,” he says. I’ve actually put about 10,000km on it since the rebuild. It’s a bit cranky because it’s got an aggressive cam in it, but it’s actually pretty good to drive - and it doesn’t go unnoticed.”  You can say that again!

However, such projects are never really finished. They just continue to evolve, as Darren already has plans to replace the leaf-springs with an adjustable four-link rear-end, mini-tubs and a pair of 10-inch Centre Lines for the classic Pro-Street look, which he loves.

No matter how far this car evolves, though, we’re sure its explosive Atomic paint and ENVYHD plates will remain - some things in life just can’t be improved!

View Darren's Shannons Club Garage and Connect with dyoung