400-cube 1970 Holden HT Monaro

Plenty of people would have you believe that an HT Monaro is the perfect muscle car. David Galea set out to improve on perfect

Photographers: Ben Hosking

DAVID Galea saw no need to reinvent the wheel when building this gorgeous HT Monaro. And why would he, given that he’s dealing with one of the most stunning and timeless silhouettes in Aussie motoring?

This article was first published in the October 2020 issue of Street Machine

First-generation Monaros are quite simply one of the most visually appealing muscle cars ever built, and with small-block Chevs and Powerglide transmissions riding between the rails from the factory, the mechanical side of the equation ain’t half bad, either.

So David reasoned that there was no sense in modifying the thing to buggery when simply honing, refining and fettling the factory offering could result in a staunch and tasteful street machine.

“70 GTS is not only about what you can see; it’s what you can’t see that makes her so special,” he explains. “Other than the killer stance, the car appears factory, with no holes through the bonnet and GTS stripes.”

HT Monaros are such a tough yet classy shape, and David’s is resplendent in straight silver with full GTS warpaint, applied by Ben Goldie. Weld S71 wheels measure 17×4.75in up front and 15x10in on the rear, wearing beadlocks and 275/50/15 Mickey Thompson ET Streets

Indeed, the car is an exercise in restraint, but that doesn’t mean it’s some boring, rivet-counting factory resto. It still sports a small-block Chev, but it’s a 400-cuber with a Motown block, Brodix heads and a solid-roller cam. It’s good for a healthy 420hp at the treads, but the Edelbrock Super Victor intake has been milled down and the bonnet bracing modified to keep everything under the hood.

The leaf-sprung rear end has been retained, but the rear guards have been mini-tubbed to accommodate 275/50/15 Mickey Thompson ET Streets – big enough to give the car some attitude and help it hook, but not so big that chassis mods, a four-link rear end and stretched guards are required. The interior uses largely factory components and trim, but a select few aftermarket tweaks have been tastefully and discreetly integrated.

It’s still a small-block, but not as small as it used to be. The 400ci Motown donk is good for a very respectable 420hp at the tyres and fits neatly beneath the bonnet. It’s one hell of an engine bay too, with beautifully smoothed sheet metal and billet hardware such as the March Performance drive system and Aeroflow bonnet hinges

You get the picture – everything is done in restomod style, and the modifications are carefully curated so as not to interrupt everything that makes an HT Monaro such a great car in the first place. And we would be remiss not to mention that everything is finished and detailed to the absolute nth degree – after all, it was among the final 10 cars in contention for Grand Champion at Street Machine Summernats 33.

David bought the car sight unseen on eBay – the auction ended smack-bang in the middle of the 2009 NRL grand final. “It was a really clean car in the photos, and it looked good in the flesh until we bare-metalled the rear quarters,” he says. “The previous owner had taken to them with a hammer and just welded another set over the top. We had to remove it all and hand-make new quarters; Dale Murphy did a great job of that.”

Greg ‘Beach’ Ball at Pro Street Restorations did the mini-tubs and bonnet mods, Fonzy’s Kustoms tackled the engine bay and undercarriage, and Ben Goldie laid down the straight silver duco and black HT GTS stripes.

At a glance it looks like an exquisitely restored factory interior, and that’s exactly what David was going for. Stitched Up Custom Trim is responsible for the fit-out here, and with the exception of a custom yet factory-appearing console to house the shifter, gauges and buttons, and a subtly introduced switch panel for the air con, it’s all OEM stuff

The interior was dealt with by Stitched Up Custom Trim on the NSW Central Coast, and it uses standard Monaro seats and door cards in factory-style Twilight Blue vinyl, with a factory GTS tiller. Blink and you’d miss the B&M shifter and Auto Meter Classic gauges, housed in a handmade console that looks stock but ate up 100 hours of labour to create, including the 3D-printed shifter surround and control panel to house the Bluewire Automotive buttons. An HSV-style binnacle has been modifed to position the gauges in a similar spot to that of an HK GTS tacho. The controls for the Vintage Air air-conditioning system look like they could have easily been factory fitment, but actually required two Vintage Air control panels being cut and shut and the system modified to achieve the desired look. There’s also an Autosound audio source unit feeding Hertz speakers and amps too, but good luck spotting them.

Powertrain-wise, the aforementioned 400ci small-block is mated to a suitably toughened Powerglide with an SDE converter, funnelling grunt rearwards to a shortened nine-inch with a 3.7:1-geared Truetrac centre, and 31-spline axles. Brakes are Wilwood discs and calipers front and back, with a Wilwood master supplying hydraulic force. The car sits beautifully with reset factory leaf springs in the rear and Kings Springs coils up front, with Pedders shocks all ’round.

David hopes to fetch a 10-second pass out of the Monaro when racing resumes post-COVID, but the car’s maiden outing at Summernats was encouraging – quite literally! It scored the Encouragement Award, plus a spot in the coveted Elite Top 60, and gave Grand Champion a damn good shake – stellar effort!

“Once I worked out the style of car I wanted the end product to be, the main problem was having the patience to follow through with the concept,” David says. “Sometimes you just want it finished, but the wait was worth it in the end.”

He’s now turning his attention to Street Machine Drag Challenge, but quite rightly reckons the Monaro might be a tad too pretty to subject to our week-long torture test. Fortunately he also has a tough Kingswood in the shed that should be the perfect tool for the job. Sounds like he’s living the dream!


Paint: Glasurit Straight Silver

Brand: 400ci Motown small-block Chev
Induction: Edelbrock Super Victor, 850cfm Demon carb
Heads: Brodix Track 1, CNC-ported
Camshaft: Sure Cam solid-roller
Conrods: Eagle forged H-beam
Pistons: SRP forged
Crank: Eagle
Fuel system: Holley HP150 pump
Cooling: Shaun’s Custom Alloy
Exhaust: Lilford Exhaust mandrel-bent 17/8in headers, twin 3.5in system with X-pipe, Hooker mufflers
Ignition: ICE

Gearbox: Powerglide
Converter: SDE Converters
Diff: Shortened 9in, Truetrac centre, 3.7:1 gears, 31-spline axles

Front: King Springs coils, Pedders shocks
Rear: Reset leaf springs, Pedders shocks
Brakes: Wilwood discs and calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood

Rims: Weld S71 17×4.75 (f), Weld S71 beadlock 15×9 (r)
Rubber: MT Sportsman 26x6x17 (f), MT ET Street 275/50/15 (r)

Allan Ross at Allan Ross Mechanical for assistance all the way through the build;
Shawn O’Brien Auto Electrical for all the wiring and a/c installation; Ben Goldie for laying on the paint