DIY HERO: Don Mills’ Epic 355ci HD Holden Premier Home Build

12 Jun

Don Mills' 1965 HD Holden Premier

DIY HERO

Don Mills proves it’s possible to build an incredible, trophy-winning HD at home in the shed
Story and Pics by hoskingindustries.com.au

Don Mills' 1965 HD Holden PremierThere’s no denying it: labour costs on an extensive vehicle project can easily amount to more than half the total expense. Yet despite this staggering fact, many of us are either unwilling or unable to get in there and perform more of the spanner twirling ourselves. This might be through a lack of spare time, a lack of space or a perceived lack of skill.

Then, there are guys like 57-year-old Don Mills from western Sydney. A retired computer technician, he didn’t spend his working life working on cars, yet he’s spent the last few decades turning trash into treasure in his garage, mostly learning as he went along.

A devout Holden fanatic, Don has owned a long line of cars wearing the Lion badge. “I currently own an HD wagon, HR ute, HR van and this HD Premier,” Don says. “But since 1973 I’ve had an EH wagon, FB sedan, FE ute, EH sedan, HR van, LC XU1, FC sedan, HR sedan, LJ GT-R, HR Premier, LC GT-R, HT Monaro, VK Calais, another LJ two-door, FB ute, another VK Calais and a VR Senator.”

Don forgot to mention that his current daily is an HSV V2 LE Coupe.

So, it goes without saying that after almost four decades of Holden ownership, he knows his way around the quirks and eccentricities of just about every model Holden built. It could be fair to say that this pristine and classy HD Premier is the culmination of everything he’s learned thus far – and what a result.

Originally purchased way back in 1980, there isn’t much left of that original car today. “The body shell is actually a replacement,” Don says. “The original shell had some rear end damage that was just too hard to fix. It’s actually been rebuilt five times over the years.”Don Mills' 1965 HD Holden Premier

As you’ll read numerous times during this article, Don completed the bodywork himself in his double car garage at home – this included the prep’ work and the paintwork. While he says he’s not entirely happy with the final result, the Sea Mist Jade metallic looked great during our photo shoot and complemented the two-tone tan and chocolate interior inside.

“The paint and panel was probably the hardest part of the build for me,” Don says. “Mainly because I don’t think I’m very good at it. It’s painstaking hard labour and I’m lazy and impatient!”

Despite Don’s own misgivings, you’ll find more of his paint work inside the cabin, including the dash that Don filled and smoothed before adding a slew of carbon-faced Autometer gauges and Vintage Air vents and control unit. Let your eyes wander downward and you’ll see the neat custom centre console Don fabricated himself. It houses a sunken switch panel and the shifter that’s connected to the T56 6spd ‘box below.

Everywhere else you’ll find tan and chocolate coloured vinyl trim that was one of the few things not completed by Don. Hy-Tone in Riverstone put together a nice package that covers a set of VK front buckets and the original Premier rear bench as well as some custom door trims, the roof lining and dash pad. Pop the boot lid and you’ll see the theme extends out back, too.

Don Mills' 1965 HD Holden PremierThere’s no stereo in Don’s HD and that’s because he’d prefer to listen to the tunes emanating from the twin 2.5in exhaust connected to the 355ci stroker Holden up front. Yep, you guessed it: Don did all this himself too, save for the initial machining process.

Based on an HX 308ci Holden 2-bolt block, Don built himself a tough combination that uses a lot of Pro Comp parts for the rotating assembly and a pair of their alloy heads that Don tells us are straight out of the box. The top end is just as tasty, boasting a venerable VL Group A SS twin throttle intake that’s been ceramic coated for greater thermal efficiency and sheer good looks.

“It fired up as soon as it had fuel pressure,” Don says. “Going for that first drive down my street with no body panels on the car was pretty memorable. It had no interior, so I had to sit on a milk crate.”

Even though power and ETs are yet to be put to the test, Don has been enjoying getting the car out to local shows, like the NSW All Holden Day, which is where we first laid eyes on a number of his Holdens all lined up in a row. Don is understandably proud of his achievements, but from what he tells us, we’re pretty sure next time we see the car it’ll be wearing a fresh coat of paint.

What a DIY hero.

Owner: Don Mills
Colour: Sea Mist Jade metallic
Bodywork: Deleted door and boot locks
Engine Type: HX 308ci
Engine Mods: Pro Comp 3.48in stroker crank (355ci), Pro Comp 5.7in rods, Pro Comp pistons (10:1-comp’), King bearings, Pro Comp alloy heads, Camtech hydraulic cam’ (0.511in lift, 230˚ duration, 110˚ LSA), Camtech pushrods, Yella Terra Platinum-series 1.65:1 rockers, Rollmaster timing chain, high-volume oil pump, Aussie Desert Cooler alloy radiator, twin 14in thermo fans, 100A alternator, billet alternator bracket, VL Group A SS twin throttle intake setup, 30lb/hr injectors, VN fuel rails, VS Commodore distributor, Haltech E6GMX ECU, Bosch 044 pump, alloy surge tank, VS FPR, RPC alloy fuel cell, alloy intake piping, K&N breathers
Power: Untested
Exhaust: Home built tri-Y headers (1-3/4in primaries), twin 2.5in mild steel system, stainless mufflers
Gearbox: T56 6-speed manual, 11in single-plate clutch
Diff: 9in, 3.5:1 final drive, Detroit Locker, 31-spline Moser axles, Strange alloy centre
Brakes: P76 front rotors, Commodore rear discs, HZ front calipers, firewall-mounted 8in twin-diaphragm booster, 1in-bore master cylinder
Suspension: HD cross member, stainless tubular A-arms, Pedders shocks, Pedders front springs, reset rear leaf springs, 25mm front sway bar, 19mm rear sway bar, UC Torana rack, R31 Skyline steering column
Wheels/Tyres: 15x8in Performance Superlite rims
Other mods: LJ Torana bonnet hinges, relocated battery
Interior: Billet Specialties steering wheel, VK Commodore front seats, tan and chocolate vinyl retrim, tan vinyl roof lining, filled and smoothed dash fascia, custom centre console, Vintage Air A/C setup, carbon-look instrument fascia, Autometer gauges, alloy pedals, tan carpets, custom door trims
Stereo: N/A
Build Period: 2 years
Cost: Undisclosed
Thanks: Windsor Engines, Metropolitan Driveshafts, Competition Warehouse, Hy-Tone – Riverstone, “My neighbours Ian and Adrian for their help and encouragement”

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