THIS article on Shane Harvey's GRUNTA HZ Holden ute was originally published in the March 2015 issue of Street Machine magazine.
AFTER a five-year build, Shane Harvey’s mega-tough HZ ute, GRUNTA, stunned the crowd with its pin-sharp panels and traditional stance when it was unveiled at Street Machine Summernats 28. “I really like old-school cars,” Shane says. “I love my 10x14s; I’ve had these same mags for more than 25 years. I’m not into the bigger wheels – 22-inch rims remind me of the prams we had in the 50s.”
It’s not only the wheels and fat tyres that hark back to the 1970s and 80s. The grille is a tribute to the show van era; the vintage SAAS tiller is a perfect match for the GTS dash; the engine runs a tunnel ram and two sets of points; the extractors dump into hot dog mufflers; there are three pedals on the floor instead of the usual two. On the other hand, there’s nothing old-fashioned about the subtly sharpened swage lines and panel edges, remote-operated suicide doors, adjustable airbag suspension and big-dollar Top 20 finish.
The ute started life in 1978 as a light blue 253 V8 auto with bucket seats and a GTS dash, and that’s how Shane bought it, bog stock and rust-free, out of the Trading Post 10 years ago. He paid $1200, prompting mirth from his mates who said he’d spent too much. If only they knew what was to come! The dash is still stock, but not much else.
Shane was already no stranger to car building and the Elite Hall, with his radical 4WD Valiant ute winning Top Exhibition at Summernats 9 and 11. Over the next three years, he turned the thong-slapping HZ into a proper 308-powered street machine, its flared guards sitting low over Shane’s trademark American Racing Indy 10x14-inch jellybean mags. He slotted a four-speed Top Loader manual gearbox behind a Dellow bellhousing and upgraded the interior with SS Commodore buckets.
Finished in dark blue metallic acrylic – so he could paint it at home – with light blue ghost flames, ROK308 was a well-known street-class show car before Shane bit the bullet five years ago “to take it to the next level”. This time around, the car was largely built in the Kingpins Kustom Paint workshop in Newcastle, NSW, owned by Shane’s stepson Daniel Slater. Shane’s other son Luke Harvey also works there.
Though the body might look standard, it is anything but. “All the front panels – the nosecone, inner and outer guards, the wiper grille – are welded up, with the guards welded to the pillars,” Shane says. “It’s all one piece.” The tailgate has also been permanently closed and the fuel filler to the 120-litre drop tank relocated behind the hinged rear numberplate. Peter Lamb was responsible for much of the bodywork, including sharpening the edges along the swage lines and at the tops and bottoms of the panels. The flares were redone to accommodate a ride height 1.5 inches lower due to the airbags, and the side sills lowered 30mm to hide chassis rails normally visible on this model and to make the ute look even lower.
The suicide doors are Daniel’s handiwork, using modified Commodore latches and operated remotely or via a small flush button near each side mirror, while three stock bonnets were sacrificed in building the frameless double-skinned hood rising on Ringbrothers billet hinges. Daniel spread the high-gloss PPG Lexus Kustom Red jam on the outer panels, with a contrasting satin finish added underneath and in the smoothed lightly tubbed tray. A subtle orange pinstripe separates the two paints. Luke painted the engine, gearbox, diff and other underbody components to match.
Shane is particularly proud of the grille. “It took me 116 hours to make,” he says. “I was inspired by Steve Ellis’s XX308, my favourite panel van of the 70s. Vanrat was the same; they were awesome cars back then. The bottom is a Statesman with two Statesman top sections, filed and glued together. A bloke at Summernats thought it was made from billet alloy!”
By contrast, the interior is relatively sedate. The SS Commodore seats from the earlier build were re-upholstered in black leather with red stitching by Todd at Eastside Kustom Trim, who continued the theme on the door trims, console and crash pad. A few people suggested building a custom one-off dash, but Shane wasn’t having a bar of that, any more than he’d consider billet for the steering wheel and column.
The car sits low at rest – just 20mm off the ground – on airbags and stainless-steel control arms supplied as a kit by James at Tubular Suspension and fitted by Kingpins, but rides at a road-legal 100mm. It can be raised as high as 150mm for getting on and off trailers during its short life as an elite show car, after which it will resume street duties.
The ’bagged and highly detailed four-link rear is all Kingpins’ work. Leyland P76 rotors from Hoppers Stoppers gripped by WB calipers reduce the track up front by 16mm each side; with 10-inch-wide rims, you need all the help you can get tucking those massive 265 hoops under the guards. The nine-inch diff was upgraded to allow discs at all four corners.
Shane resisted the temptation to fit a small-block Chev crate motor as so many others do, preferring to give his old 308 a birthday with a spruce-up and COME 355 stroker kit bought from a mate. A Redline tunnel ram was found on eBay and is topped by a pair of 600cfm Holleys. “It starts easy,” Shane says. “They’re Holleys; you never have any trouble if you buy them new and they’re so cheap, why would you fix the old ones? The distributor is a dual-points Mallory; I’ve run them on all my cars and never had a hassle. I’m not into the electronic thing.”
Unusually for an elite car, Shane’s ute also runs the stock factory heater, which explains the two extra braided lines running from the water pump back to the heater box, which has been welded and smoothed as part of the firewall.
Cars like this don’t come cheap, even with family help. “There’s over $20,000 in chrome alone,” Shane says. He also admits to a total build cost of around “half a house”.
With Summernats 28 looming, there was still much to be done and it looked as if the deadline was about to be missed. Shane’s father Reg was very unwell in hospital in the weeks before Christmas but was determined to live long enough to see the ute finally painted, or at least photos of it on a computer screen. “He just wanted to see it finished,” Shane says. “He waited two days to see it painted, then 10 minutes after that he stopped breathing.
“Luke had promised him we’d have it at Summernats and that pushed us to finish it. We might not have made it otherwise. For the last week, the lights were never turned off at Kingpins, and Todd installed the trim on New Year’s Eve, the day before we left for Canberra.
“Getting a car unveiled in the Elite Hall was the dream, so winning Top Ute and making the Top 20 was a big bonus. And making the front cover of Street Machine – I’ve got every issue – is awesome.”