From burnt out wreck to tyre-frying streeter, this genuine GTS Monaro has come a long way
Black cars always catch your eye. They stand out for many reasons but black cars either look bloody fantastic or decidedly average, and the difference is usually in the preparation stages before paint. If the panels aren’t 100 per cent perfect, every little imperfection stands out like dogs’ balls. This genuine Holden Monaro HQ GTS is one of the stunners.
The HQ is, and always will be, a sought-after Holden model, let alone the top shelf GTS variant. I can remember lusting after one when I was first getting into cars as a late teenager. There used to be a gold four-door I saw frequently in Upper Hutt. It looked cool with the then period Trident mags, louvres on the rear screen and the typical 350 Chev with turbo 350 and Ford nine-inch diff. Couple all that with bench seats front and rear and you had a cool street cruiser that had a good level of performance and room for all your mates. And that was just the base model, not a two-door GTS with factory 350 Chev already in place.
A Good Base
Given the popularity of the HQ series of racing, many a car was gobbled up to build and repair race cars. As a result there aren’t that many good examples seen on the roads any more. Mind you, a slight rust problem didn’t do the model any favours either, and if and when you do see one on the street it tends to stand out. If you couple that rarity with the sparkling black paint on this example, it’s a recipe for a cool car that will definitely get noticed and admired by all who see it.
Des Pollington of Lower Hutt got his hands on this car around seven years ago and set about a 12-month rebuild. I had heard of it without ever actually seeing it, but people others spoke very highly of the HQ. They had peered underneath and were impressed by how it was mint in every regard.
A few weeks later I got to see the car for the first time. It looked just as described: a mint original car that had been lovingly repaired and was now a knockout in an understated way.
While living in New Plymouth Des had always wanted an HQ, and saw an ad for a genuine GTS ” with the paperwork to prove it ” for sale in Auckland. Not wanting to miss out, he raced up to find, yes, a genuine HQ GTS with all the right pedigree documents. But¦
There’s always a but, it’s just the size of the but that changes, ask any guy. We are always asked to comment on the size of butts. So how big was the but? Think Jennifer Lopez; she has plenty of junk in her trunk.
A Flaming Mess
The car as Des viewed it had been bur-not out, the front had been bastardised by the attachment of HZ panels and the interior was pretty much poked. Thankfully the price was right, as one would expect of a basket case with papers.
After the burnt-out shell had been sent to New Plymouth, Des started the rebuild. The process began with the car being stripped down to the bare bones to see how bad it really was. Let’s face it, you have to start from scratch if black paint is to be used. Well, that and a car that’s been burnt out usually means a full strip-down and disassembly is in order.
But wait, there’s more. No, not a free set of Ginsu knives, but a phone call from Des’s sister. She knew of the HQ and that it was to be rebuilt as a minter and she wanted to use it as a wedding car. No problem. Except that the wedding date was only 10 months away. You can’t keep a girl waiting at the altar, let alone waiting for the car to get her to the church on time, so Des had to burn a little midnight oil in the garage to ensure he didn’t miss the
Among all this Des moved down to the Hutt Valley, so the HQ was dropped off to Classic Auto Restoration Services in Upper Hutt to have the body straightened out and restored to better than it was 35 years ago. With the HZ front clip removed, the rest of the dings the years had inflicted were fixed before an HQ Premier front was fitted. It was then that painter Basil laid on the coats of beautiful black paint. That black shows the quality of workmanship in the prep and repair stages, and the paint job is outstanding. Very subtle, not over the top but clean, understated and worthy of more than just a passing glance.
Rare Spares in Christchurch sourced a number of replacement panels and parts, so many that the car looks new again, as if it has just rolled off the assembly line at the General Motors plant. All the lenses, chrome and fittings are perfect. This isn’t some half-arsed, close-enough-is-good-enough level of finish.
Underneath, the chassis is standard, But it’s all been cleaned up and detailed so the underside of the car doesn’t look out of place. There’s nothing worse than a great-looking car that looks like a pile of crap when it’s up on a hoist.
Keeping It Real
While the body was getting stripped to the bare bones the engine was pulled out and delivered to Rob Low, of Arthur & Low Ltd in New Plymouth. There the factory 350CI four-bolt main block was stripped and given a 60-thou overbore. A set of Badger pistons was put back on the factory 5.7-inch connecting rods and the rotating assembly was slotted in along with a crank from a 307.
In keeping with the original iron theme of the engine so far, next came a pair of 64cc Fuelie heads that received a good match porting job before being fitted with standard-sized stainless valves. The heads also received a set of roller rockers, which are operated by a flat tappet cam.
Sitting on top of the heads is a dual-plane inlet manifold that hosts a Holley 650cfm double pumper carb fed a steady diet by a mechanical pump from the factory fuel tank.
The ignition was given an upgrade in the name of performance and reliability by adding an MSD system, including high-energy 8mm leads. Of course, breathing in is one thing, but you soon fall over if you never exhale. The HQ does that nicely via a set of Pacemaker headers leading into a twin 2.5-inch system. To keep the old girl cool there’s a four-core radiator, and hiding at the opposite end of the engine bay, behind the 350 engine, is a freshened-up Turbo 350 auto trans with a 3000rpm stall converter. The only departure from stock is the fitment of a Ford nine-inch LSD with a set of 3.25:1 gears, which although frowned upon by purists is a sensible, peace of mind upgrade.
The suspension is pretty much taken care of with stock springs and Monroe shocks, and the whole lot has been finished off with the fitment of neoprene bushes all round, which is in keeping with Des’s wish for good handling.
The Centerline rims give the car that old school look while still retaining some period perfection about the whole deal. The mags measure 15×8 inches at the rear and 15×7 at the front.
Again in keeping with the older school modification theme, the tyres are the same as they wore in the ’80s: BF Goodrich TA radials measuring 215/60R15 at the front and 245/60R15 on the back.
The interior has been left standard but with new upholstery, carpets and trim panels, while the factory GTS steering wheel was retained. The dash was unmolested and the only real departure from stock inside is the fitment of the B&M shifter. Okay, I lied: the colour-matched fluffy dice weren’t a factory option back in 1972. Maybe they should have been.
Much to his sister’s delight, Des did manage to get the car finished on time and it drove her to the church as requested. After working flat out on the car for10 months, what more is there to do other than enjoy the fruits of your labour and cruise? Mind you, the GTS has been known to smell a little like smoke now and then. Thankfully, these days it’s all tyre and not fire.
Des Pollington – 1972 Holden Monaro GTS
Age: 40-something and counting
Previously owned Cars: HT Monaro, Ford T Bucket, 1938 Plymouth, various HT and HQ Holdens
Dream car: 1963 Corvette Stingray
Build time: 10 months
Length of ownership: Seven years
DEs Thanks: Basil Gowenlock at Classic Auto Restoration Services in Upper Hutt, Nick Trethewey Mobile Upholstery, Rob Low from Arthur and Low Ltd New Plymouth, the lads at Rare Spares Christchurch, Gary Cawthra at AV8 Performance Centre Lower Hutt
ENGINE: Small block 350ci (5735cc) four-bolt Chevrolet, 307 crank, Badger pistons, iron Chevrolet 64cc Fuelie heads, stainless valves, roller rockers, dual plane manifold, Holley 650cfm double pumper
DRIVELINE: Turbo 350, 3000rpm stall, Ford nine-inch diff, 3.25:1 ratio
BRAKES: Stock disc/drum
SUSPENSION: Monroe shocks, Neoprene bushes
WHEELS/TYRES: 15×7 and 15×8-inch Centerline rims, 215/60R15 and 245/60R15 BF Goodrich T/A radials
EXTERIOR: Gloss black/stock
INTERIOR: B&M shifter, stock GTS
Words: Allan Blithe Photos: Quinn Hamill