580-cube big-block 1976 Holden HJ Kingswood – MCFRY

Nelson Granger's granddad would never have believed his beloved Holden HJ Kingswood could become this nine-second 580ci brute

Gallery 2
Photographers: Ben Hosking

BACK in the day, it seemed that every town had at least one tough black Kingswood sedan cruising its streets. Normally done up as a GTS replica, they would often also feature a rorty V8 sticking out the bonnet and fat meats under the rear, but they are a rare sight today.

This article on Nelson’s HJ Kingswood was first published in the May 2019 issue of Street Machine

Unless, that is, you live in Newcastle, where you might spy Nelson Granger’s MCFRY. Built entirely at home in the shed, MCFRY is an HJ Kingswood that’s been in Nelson’s family since new, and now runs 9.60s thanks to an unbelievably tough big-block.

“When I stripped the car to bare metal I found it was not very straight, as I had torn the paint off with an angle-grinder when I was younger and that warped most of the panels,” says Nelson. “I had to bring out the big four-litre tin of filler to skim the car straight to avoid using too much high-fill”

“My HJ Kingswood was originally my pa’s car,” Nelson says. “He bought it brand new from Holden in 1976 and the Chamois-coloured sedan originally had a 202 six, three-on-the-tree, bench seat and no radio. Upon retirement my pa handed in his licence due to health issues and gave the car to my dad, who then gave the car to me when I was 16, making it my first car. I painted it a few times, and even went for my P-plates in it.”

The amount of work Nelson has done on MCFRY doesn’t seem to end. “I ended up building the headers and exhaust system myself with mandrel bends,” he says. “I also shortened the 9in diff myself with some large hose clamps and an angle grinder, and did the mini-tubs myself to fit the 10in wheels”

When Nelson moved to Newcastle for work, the HJ languished at his dad’s property three hours away. That was until a trip to Summernats in 2013 lit a fire in Nelson to bring it back.

“I decided to build a tough street car,” he says. “I wanted to build a car that goes fast and could fry the tyres in top gear, but also one that really looked the part, all while having it registered to really enjoy the car.”

Impressively, Nelson has pretty much built the entire car himself, in a home garage. This includes the mini-tubbed rear, cut-down nine-inch diff, adjustable four-link control arms, and even the fresh DeBeer Gloss Black paintjob!

“I am a self-taught painter, and my dad has never attempted to paint a car, so I had no idea how to paint the HJ, but I had all the time in the world to learn,” he says. “I went and spoke to local panel beaters to ask questions, plus I also spent plenty of time searching forums and practising with lots of trial-and-error on old Kingswoods we had at the farm. I waited until I had three weeks off work over the Christmas break, as I knew I would need the heat to help with drying the two-pack paint.”

Big-hipped 70s Kingswoods need a set of meats under them, and Nelson doesn’t disappoint on MCFRY, with Weld Magnums running 15×3.5 up front and 15×10 out back. The beadlocked rears also run Mickey Thompson 275/60 Radial Pro rubber

Without an oven, Nelson used good old Aussie ingenuity to ensure he got a solid substrate he could put a killer paintjob over. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and Nelson’s solution to his lack of an oven was a cracker.

Nelson had to use a custom ASR sump to fit it in the HJ’s bay, while a Melling Select pump circulates oil and the Canton Accusump oil accumulator keeps the black gold flowing, even under high-G launches or tip-ins on the skid pad

“I would put the primer and paint on in the shed during the mornings when the temperature was right, then close the shed up, as it was like an oven in the middle of summer, and everything would be ready for sanding the next day,” he explains. “I painted each panel individually, as it’s just the way I find easier to do as I am not a professional painter. I painted the car solid DeBeer Gloss Black, with extra coats, and I concentrated on getting the paint down with no runs. I got the car back to Newcastle a week after painting it and spent a huge amount of time sanding and buffing the car to a near-show-quality finish.”

While Nelson was initially going to run an LS engine, a 572ci rat motor popped up locally at the right price, so it was installed, along with a reverse-pattern transbraked TH400 auto built by Victory Performance Transmissions. This is backed by a Ford nine-inch that Nelson himself shortened and stuffed with a Strange centre, Detroit locker, 35-spline axles and 3.5:1 gears. Unfortunately, this combo didn’t last as long as he’d hoped.

While it came from the factory as a plain old cream six-pot, Nelson’s HJ now rocks a Monaro GTS look right down to the interior. While the GTS seats, door trims, steering wheel and carpet look the way the Fishermans Bend boys intended, he’s filled the carbon-wrapped dash with Auto Meter gauges, while gears are pulled with a B&M Magnum Grip shifter

“I drove the car from Newcastle to Powercruise Sydney and back, but a roller lifter gave way on the drive home,” Nelson says. “So I took the engine to my friend Brad McKie’s place and we decided to do a bit more work to it.”

That work involved stuffing JE pistons plus a Scat crank and rods into a 580ci World Industries Merlin block, running a solid-roller cam and 13:1 compression. With huge AFR 357cc CNC heads and a TRE tunnel ram topped by a pair of 950cfm Pro Systems carbs, it is one hell of a serious combo and makes a ton of snot.

Nelson started his own business, Billet Automotive Buttons, in 2016, supplying custom laser-etched buttons for automotive use, so it should be no surprise he used his own product to dress up MCFRY

“I’m very happy with the car, as after the rebuild the new engine made 761rwhp on the Powercruise dyno, running on pump 98,” Nelson says. “We took the HJ to Sydney Dragway and ran a 9.6 with a 1.5 60-foot off the footbrake, on 98 unleaded. Since then I’ve put the car on E85 and did a 9.44@144mph with a 1.44 60-foot, off the footbrake again!”

We’re sure Nelson’s grandpa would love the fact his grandson is still enjoying the Kingswood he drove off the dealer’s floor in 1976.


Colour: DeBeer Gloss Black

Type: 580ci World Products Merlin big-block Chev
Crank: Scat
Rods: Scat
Pistons: JE
Heads: AFR 357 CNC
Cam: Crower solid-roller
Intake: TRE tunnel ram
Carburettors: Dual 950cfm Pro Systems 4150 four-barrels
Fuel system: MagnaFuel ProStar 500
Cooling: PWR radiator, two Spal thermo fans
Oil system: Custom ASR sump
Ignition system: MSD Digi-7
Exhaust: Custom 2.25in headers, 4in collectors, 3.5in system, QTP cut-outs, four mufflers

’Box: GM TH400 three-speed auto, reverse-pattern, transbrake
Converter: TCE 5000rpm
Diff: Ford 9in, Strange Engineering centre, Detroit locker, 35-spline axles, 3.5:1 final drive

Front: King Springs, Koni adjustable shocks
Rear: Strange coil-overs
Chassis: 32mm sway-bar (f), adjustable rear control arms, mini-tubbed rear
Brakes: Wilwood Dynapro disc brakes (f & r), Wilwood 1in master cylinder

Wheels: Weld Magnum; 15×3.5 (f), 15×10 (r)
Tyres: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R 26×6 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial Pro 275/60 (r)

My late pa for the car; my dad Lindsay for the workshop; my partner Emma and son Max for their endless support; Brad for all the favours and answers to my questions; Norm from Victory Performance Transmission for the gearbox; Blake from Tyreright Glendale for the tyres; Google forums and Facebook groups for the info helping me through the early years of the build; last but not least, all my close friends for their help and support