What better way could there be to take your mind off cancer, than to build a kick-arse drag car?
Tough times don’t last but tough people do. It’s an old adage but one that definitely applies to Gavin Green and his life-changing Monaro. Gavin started out as so many of us do, a hard-working bloke with a passion for cars and most things mechanical.
Starting with a humble Viva, Gavin progressed to a hot small block HQ which he raced with success in the early meetings at Hood Aerodrome, winning his class at his first eighth-mile meeting there.
Gavin did what many of us have done, sold his toys and embarked on his big OE, starting in Australia, then a short stint in Canada. While working there his boss gave him an unexpected bonus, the use of his credit card to buy whatever he wanted from Mopac Engine Supplies.
Having been to the US Winter Nationals and having his love for drag racing rekindled, Gavin decided another hot Chev was the go. A 350 small block, Z60 Isky cam, Dart heads, Edelbrock performer intake and hypereutectic pistons were supplied. Everything Gavin needed to build a tough street motor which he would find the right car for in the future. When Gavin eventually moved back to Australia the engine came back with him.
The next five years in Australia were good ones for Gavin, and when he moved back to New Zealand in 2001 he brought with him his wife Jenelle, a ’68 HK Monaro with 327 and 4-speed, and his Canadian motor, which was still in its crate.
His move home to the Wairarapa also found a home for the Canadian 350. Good friends Kev and Kim Bargh had another HK Monaro rotting outside and, while in a sorry state with no floor and other major rust problems, the plans of a street/strip Monaro were formed. The car was dragged into Kev and Kim’s shed (as Gavin and Jenelle didn’t have a shed of their own) and Gavin began to teach himself to weld and the art of panelwork.
Many nights were spent cutting, grinding and welding, and the Monaro began to take shape. Then, in September 2002, the wheels really fell off for Gavin. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and he needed many months of chemotherapy. During this tough time the Monaro took on another purpose, its rebuild became his focus through this terrible time, and helped take his mind off what was in front of him – in a way the rebuild of the car was mirroring the rebuilding of his health.
Fast forward to 2007, Gavin is well and the car is finally straight. Gavin has been busy with the plasma cutter and Mig removing all the damaged areas and has fitted new floor panels from Rare Spares. The transmission tunnel was a cut–down 44-gallon drum, so a tunnel from a donor car was fitted, as was the boot area to replace a missing section of the Monaro. The plastic flares were removed from the rear-wheel arches and the arches modified and lengthened using a section of the arches from another donor car so the wheels can be taken on and off easily. The rear rails were removed and replaced with 3×2-inch rear frame rails from McDonald Bros racing in Melbourne and a heavy eight-point cage was also fitted during the rebuild.
Safety and strength is important, but so is weight when racing, so the rest of the car was put on a diet. Fibreglass front and rear bumpers, front guards, doors, bonnet and boot lid were fitted, resulting in huge weight savings. More weight was removed from the front end by ditching the inner guards, and replacing them with chromoly braces. Sectioning the front cross-member removed metal and weight, and also makes sump removal easier.
Alloy tubs and door panels were also used to keep weight down and as a result the Monaro now weighs just 1200kg ready to race, compared with 1450kg for a stocker. With the body prep finished, Rion from Supreme Automotive Refinishers in Masterton applied the purple PPG paint and Matt Bain airbrushed the subtle ghost flames down the sides and scoop.
With the Canadian 350 installed, Gavin debuted at Masterton Motoplex, just five years from Flintstones car to Super Street. A great first season, with a bit of fine tuning and a 100hp shot of nitrous, it was running in the 11’s. Now it was time to sort out the motorvation.
Gavin’s original engine-build plan while in Canada was fine for a street motor but the Monaro now needed a bit more horsepower, quite a bit more in fact. The old Canadian engine was taken over to Warren Hale in Foxton where a new plan was formed for a high horsepower heartbeat. The old engine was stripped and only the block and rods retained. The 4-bolt block was two-thirds filled with Moroso block filler, making the perfect foundation for some serious horsepower. The rods were kept as they were early series Eagle 6-inch items made in the USA not in China, and were coupled to forged JE 12.5:1 pistons with ARP rod bolts to secure them to the Eagle 4340 steel crank. ARP main studs were also used on the bottom end.
The top end is all new too, with Edelbrock Victor JR 64cc heads, fitted with 2.08 and 1.6-inch Ferrara stainless valves and held down with ARP head studs. ARP also supplied the rocker studs but the roller rockers are mixed, with 1.6 pro magnums on the intake and 1.5 Harland Sharps on the exhaust, all held in place with a stud girdle. Heads are topped off with an Edelbrock Super Victor intake, 1-inch four hole spacer and a Pro Systems (Florida) custom-built 860cfm double-pumper carb on top.
Nitrous was always planned for this motor so Gavin had Otaihanga Speed Shop build a dual-shot system capable of an additional 500hp. Cam choice is critical, so Warren worked with Kelford Cams to develop a custom camshaft to make the most of the combination. What they have come up with obviously works as the dyno testing on C14 fuel showed the little 357 putting out a massive 595hp at 6370rpm at the wheels.
This sort of horsepower needs a serious drivetrain and Gavin certainly has that too. Auto Trans built the super-tough Powerglide which they fitted with a Hughes turbo-spline input shaft, TCI trans brake, five clutches, a 1.82 planetary gear set, billet front-mounting plate, steel sprag and 5500 rpm high stall converter with anti-ballooning plate. The custom 3-inch driveshaft with chromoly 3150 series universals leads to the Ford 9-inch built by Gary at American V8 Performance. Fitted with strong back large bearing housing, Moser 35 spline axles, Moser Alloy head and spool with either 4.11:1 or 4.56:1 gears. Weld Pro-Star wheels complete the package, with 15×4’s with M/T skinnies on the front and 15×12’s on the rear fitted with M/T 30-inch tall slicks to put the power to the ground.
The Monaro has been progressively running faster and with the new fuel system and only a single 200hp stage of nitrous ran a best of 9.58 at 142mph at the 2011 NZDRA Nationals. As anyone who has raced knows, drag racing is addictive and like all of us Gavin is always looking for ways to go faster. Gavin’s plans for next season include bringing in the second stage of NOS and a parachute and I have no doubt he will need it. Gavin is a tough guy who has battled the odds to achieve what he has so far and I’m sure he will be going quicker. He is a real champion, and building this car with what he has been through just proves it!
1968 HK Monaro – Specifications
Engine: 357ci small block Chev, 350ci 4-bolt mains block, two-thirds filled with Moroso block filler, 12.5:1 JE
pistons, 6-inch Eagle rods, ARP L19 rod bolts, ARP head studs, high pressure oil pump, bypass port increased to 3/8th-inch, ARP studded bottom end, Eagle 4340 steel crank, Edelbrock Victor Junior 64cc heads, 2.08 and 1.60-inch stainless steel Ferreira valves, Pro Magnum and 1.5 Harland Sharp roller rockers, stud girdle, .575 (intake).585 (exhaust) lift cam, 268intake, 282 exhaust duration, Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold, Pro-Systems custom-built double-pump 860cfm carb, 1-inch 4-hole spacer, BG 400 pump, BG 220 pump for nitrous, BG nitrous bypass regulator, MSD 6AL ignition, MSD timing computer, locked out MSD Distributor, owner-built headers with 1-7/8th–inch primary’s into 3.5-inch collectors, Wieand electric water pump, 2-core alloy radiator
Driveline: GM Powerglide, TCI transbrake, five clutches, Hughes Turbo spline input shaft, 1.82 planetary gear set, 5500rpm stall converter with anti-ballooning plate, billet front-mounting plate, steel sprag, strong back 9-inch diff, Moser 35 spline axels, Moser alloy head, full spool, 4.11:1 – 4.56:1 gears
Suspension: Modified stock front with 6-cylinder HQ springs, 2-inch drop spindles, 90/10 Pedders shocks, 4-link, VB Commodore non power steer rear-mounted rack
Brakes: Front: HQ rotors HZ, alloy single pot callipers, Rear: VR – VS Commodore rotors, VS Commodore master cylinder
Wheels/Tyres: 15×4 and 15×14-inch Weld ProStar rims, 24×4.5×15-and 29.5×13.5×15 Mickey Thomson slicks
Chassis: McDonald Bros Racing 3×2–inch box-frame rails
Exterior: Fibreglass bumpers, bonnet, doors, front guards and boot, lengthened wheel arches, PPG Amerynth paint, ghost flames
Interior: Kirkey seats, B&M ratchet shifter, Sportline steering wheel, Auto Meter liquid-filled gauges, chromoly/mild steel cage
Performance: 595hp (444kw) @ 6370rpm and 1201 ft/lb (1629nm) of torque @ 5900 at the wheels on C14, 9.58 @ 142mph
Gavin Green – Owner Profile
Occupation: Self-employed dairy farmer
Previously owned cars: 1973 HQ, ’68 HK Monaro (current) 2003 HSV coupe (current)
Dream car: 1934 Ford coupe hot rod
Why the Monaro? I spotted it outside my neighbours’ shed and thought I could put my motor from Canada in it. Took the car to his shed (as I didn’t have one at that stage) and started the rebuild
Build time: 5 years from Fred Flintstone paddock bomb to first meeting
Length of ownership: 10 years
People to thank: My wife Jenelle, my crew – Oyster aka Mike, Warren, John and Mike. Rion at Supreme Automotive Refinishers, Matt Bain at The Sign Factory, Wayne and Robin at Otaihanga Speed Shop, Paul at Catt Electrical and Engineering, David Pope, the team at Proparts Palmerston North, Rodney at Roskilda Autos, Ron at Custom Wellsides
Words: Kevin Shaw Photos: John Faulkner
This article is from NZV8 magazine issue 74. Click here to check it out.