If you’re a seasoned street machiner or you’ve been around the scene for a while, this slammed HR Premier might look familiar. Dubbed ‘Premi-air’, (’cos, y’know, it’s ’bagged), this was the first full street machine build undertaken by one of Australia’s greatest fabricators, the late Laurie Starling of The Chop Shop, after he decided to hang up the mini-truck hat.

First published in the January 2022 issue of Street Machine

Following a ground-up build – including a custom chassis, killer fab work and airbag suspension – it was presented in bare metal at MotorEx 2011, before its then-owner took it home to complete. Build progress proved to be slow and the car was sold off a couple of times before coming to the attention of Laurie’s parents, Rob and Julia Starling, in late 2020.

With advice from the likes of Owen Webb, Simon Telford, Aaron Gregory and others, the Laurie Starling Memorial Trust purchased the HR with the intention of finishing it as a key part of Laurie’s legacy. Carmine De Maria of CAD Custom in Melbourne has generously taken on the task of completing the build, while previous winners of the Laurie Starling Memorial Scholarship will be invited to fabricate some components as part of their continued skill development.

Factory headlights have been swapped out for modern LED units with built-in indicators, and the front bar has been smoothed, tucked and recessed into the body. The lower front valance and guards are now one piece

Sadly, the visionary who fabricated and designed the car is no longer with us, but Laurie’s parents have pulled together an awesome team to see the HR to completion. The crew comprises Summernats boss judge Owen Webb; 2020 SMOTY winner Aaron Gregory, who briefly worked with Laurie on this build; Norm Stewart, who was also involved in the project early on; the previously mentioned Carmine De Maria of CAD Custom; and myself, lucky enough to be the 2021 winner of the Laurie Starling Memorial Scholarship.

We began with designing the exterior of the car, which was a fairly simple task as most of the fabrication had already been completed at The Chop Shop. With the exterior remaining largely unmodified, we came up with the idea of making the bumpers one piece, recessing and tucking them into the body for a cleaner look. Vision Hot Rod side mirrors with trimmed stalks sit in place of the standard peep mirrors, and most badges were deleted (the C-pillar badges were retained but were modified to read ‘Premiair’).

All badging and locks have been removed on the rear, and the smoothed bumper, like the front, has been tucked and recessed

In the cabin, we set about designing an interior around the existing sheet-metal dash fabricated by Laurie. Our intent was to create something subtly modernised without losing its DNA and differentiating features. Following the team’s design meeting, I threw down numerous sketches of the cabin and different components, refining the design until I reached a concept that matched the team’s vision.

With a decent idea of what the interior was going to look like, I began by modelling the floorpan, dash, transmission tunnel and inner structure of the car based on build photos and measurements from the team, so what is shown in the rendering is as true as possible to what can be achieved in the real build. I added an under-dash air-conditiong panel, making sure its form flowed from Laurie’s design and accommodated four a/c vents.

The HR sits on Intro Malibu billet wheels, with a monster JHP brake kit on stopping duties

The front seats are based on VW GTI units, with the deep side bolsters cut down to match the boxy shape of the HR. As Aaron said: “Boxy car, boxy seats!” The rear bench seat was then designed from scratch to match the fronts, incorporating a fold-down armrest in the centre.

The upper portion of the door cards are heavily based on the factory design, using horizontal trims and contrasting materials. With distressed leather as the primary material used throughout, I added a similar-coloured suede to break it up in different areas of the cabin. The armrest design is loosely based on the original, but has a smoother, bulkier form, with a neat door pull at its front edge.

The sheet-metal dash and VY instrument cluster remain as they left The Chop Shop, while a custom a/c vent panel will be fabricated to suit, along with a bespoke centre console

The lower portion of the door cards were designed around a custom speaker grille, with a suede insert flowing from it, all bordered by a polished trim piece to tie it in with the upper portion.

The custom centre console houses a Dakota Digital dual-zone climate control module, the shifter, cup holders and a storage compartment. Our original intention was to make the console flow into the dash, but having contrasting leather-wrapped and painted surfaces against one another didn’t look right, so we set the upper edge of the console behind the front face of the dash, which worked perfectly.

The rear bench seat design matches the modified VW front buckets and incorporates a fold-down armrest in the centre

The HR is currently rendered in a two-tone candy red with white pearl roof, but the final colour will be decided by a public poll as the build progresses. “It’s amazing to see so many ideas come together in a shared vision for the HR nearly 10 years after it first rolled into The Chop Shop,” said Rob Starling. “Exciting times ahead!”

What better way to acknowledge and strengthen Laurie’s already astounding legacy within our industry!

IN DETAIL:

  • Custom chassis
  • Custom interior
  • LS1 conversion
  • Smoothed and tucked bumpers
  • Airbag suspension

Laurie Starling Memorial Trust
1967 Holden HR Premier

ENGINE 
Type:  LS1
Induction:  VCM Performance OTR 
Camshaft:  Custom-grind 
Fuel system:  Commodore drop-in tank pump/sender unit 
Cooling:  VX Commodore radiator 
Exhaust:  Custom stainless 
TRANSMISSION 
Gearbox:  4L60E, shift-kitted 
Diff:  VY R8 IRS, narrowed 
SUSPENSION & BRAKES 
Airbags:  Slam Specialties 
Brakes:  JHP; six-piston (f), four-piston (r) 
Suspension:  Custom IFS (f), VY R8 IRS, narrowed (r) 
WHEELS 
Rims:  Intro Malibu; 18×8.5 (f), 18×10 (r) 

THANKS
Rob and Julia Starling; Laurie Starling; Owen Webb; Aaron Gregory; Carmine De Maria; Norm Stewart

Got a cool idea for a build that you’d like to see brought to life in Expression Session? Email us at streetmachine@wheelsmedia.com.au with a detailed explanation.

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