383-cube 1970 HT Holden Kingswood

Reece Pagel's stunning HT Holden proves the apple never falls far from the tree

Photographers: Nathan Duff

Young gun Reece Pagel mixes family heritage with individual expression to create one hell of a tough and tidy Holden HT sedan

This article on Reece’s HT was originally published in the June 2017 issue of Street Machine

HOW many people can lay claim to both of their parents having had cars featured in magazines? I can think of maybe two or three candidates tops, and Brisbane’s Reece Pagel is definitely one of them.

“I had no choice but to be into cars,” Reece says. “I was around them from the start, especially HK, HT and HG Holdens. My dad, Wayne, built the GAS69 HT Monaro back in the 80s [SM, Jun ’86] and my mum Sandy still owns her QIK68 HK Premier [SM, Jul/Aug ’92].”

With genes like that, it was virtually a given that Reece would follow suit, and it wasn’t long before an HK/T/G project started brewing. “I had an HK sedan as a daily driver that I was trying to do up but keep on the road at the same time. It made the whole build a slow process, and as a landscaper, a sedan is a less-than-ideal work vehicle.”

Reece’s dad is none other than Wayne Pagel, a legendary figure in our sport since the mid-1980s thanks to his iconic GAS69 HT Monaro, among many other stellar rides

So Reece found a ute for daily bashing instead and the HK was parked up and readied for a full rebuild. “It was at that time that an HT shell came up for sale on Facebook at a tempting price,” he explains. “A family friend owned it and it’d already been repaired and prepped. It seemed like a better starting point and looked to be a good, clean, straight shell.”

A sandblast was still on the cards – more for peace of mind and the certainty that there would be no long-term hidden surprises – and thankfully it only revealed a few gremlins. Any body repairs and mods were a joint effort by Josh Cardeno of Swains Motor Body Repairs and Craig Walpole from Extreme Custom Engineering. Josh then donned the paint suit and laid down the custom-mix Driftwood beige.

Hubcaps with whitewalls have been a Brisbane calling card for 20-odd years, helping to disguise toughies in a state with a regime of archaic modification rules hammered home with strict enforcement. There was even an unofficial ‘quickest whitewall’ list knuckled out on the streets and at Willowbank test ’n’ tunes back in the day

“The factory colours were white with a teal interior, and although the subtle influence was high on the agenda, white was just too plain,” Reece says. “The beige keeps it in the sleeper zone but stamps an identity for the car too.”

But the chances of the ’T packing a 161 and Stromberg are pretty much blown once you spy the engine hardware poking through the bonnet. That Holden stroker donk is actually the second engine to fill the pin-neat ’bay in as many years.

“I’ll keep it short and sweet, as it’s a disheartening tale,” Reece sighs. “I paid a fair bit for a running 355-cuber that lasted about 30km. We busted our arses to get the car finished for Summernats 29, and on the last day in Canberra I gave it a bit of stick, showing off to Dad. It snapped the crank, so that was it. It took me about four hours of sustained silence to calm down!”

Down but not out, Reece soon developed a plan B: Wes from Wes Race Engines built a fresh donk, filling it with some of COME Racing’s proven Aussie plastic-fantastic goodies including a cast 383-cube stroker crank and H-beam rods, with Probe pistons and Total Seal rings rounding out the short combo. A Crane solid-roller camshaft and lifter kit operate Comp springs and Ferrea valves housed in COME 590 alloy heads.

The 308 now measures in at 383 cubes thanks to a plethora of COME internals, topped with same-brand alloy heads and that hornbag Bliss billet tunnel-ram. Black detailing was chosen for the normally shiny ancillaries to create a cool negative effect against the alloy and HPC-coated surfaces

That delicious tunnel-ram is the handiwork of Andrew and Megan from Bliss Custom Machining, and is topped with twin 750cfm Pro System carbs that just peek through the HT’s bonnet.

Extreme Custom Engineering sorted the pipes, which consist of custom 17/8-inch primary headers mated to a twin three-inch stainless V-band exhaust system with dual MagnaFlow mufflers. Extreme was also responsible for the alloy radiator that helps the HT remain calm during a Queensland summer, ably assisted by a 16-inch SPAL fan.

An MSD 6AL-2 ignition and 8.5mm leads work in conjunction with a Crane distributor, while a MagnaFuel 300 pump keeps ample 98-octane at the ready.

An output of 633hp@6850rpm is more than sufficient to obliterate the treads and a happy starting point for Reece, with more to come once the combination is further refined.

To get that power to the treads, an Al’s Race Glides Turbo 400 transmission was chosen running a full-manual, reverse-pattern valvebody and fronted by a TCE 5200rpm converter. The original banjo diff is still in hiding, so a nine-inch was chosen to round out the drivetrain and is filled with a Truetrac centre, 3.89:1 gears and 31-spline Tom’s axles.

The Red Wine vinyl trim was stitched together by Archerfield Auto & Marine Upholsterers, and innovative Reece chose to mix the red with Buckskin-coloured carpet. And doesn’t it look the goods!

HQ disc and drum brakes are activated by a Wilwood master cylinder, and the standard HT steering and suspension remain, albeit receiving a full recondition and healthy four-inch drop front and rear. Sumitomo whitewalls in 185 and 195 sizes are considered a pro street combination in the sleeper scene, and those 195 rears struggle terribly to provide anything resembling satisfactory traction.

The colour-coded ‘cage and racing harnesses are not only all business but hark back to childhood memories for Reece: “I clearly remember as a kid being strapped into the harnesses of Dad’s XY ute, and I loved the rollcage in Mum’s HK, so they both had a cool factor for me too”

People have been building H/K/T/Gs for nearly 50 years, so it can be difficult to create a fresh and innovative interior, especially if you retain the standard fixings; Reece has broken through that barrier thanks to clever colour choices and an eye for detail. “I was keen to use red vinyl so it would pop against the beige exterior, but didn’t want it to be one big solid blob of colour when you opened the doors,” he explains. “I took a gamble and chose to fit buckskin carpet instead of red – when I pictured it in my mind I was confident it would work – and I think it provides the perfect balance of contrast without clashing.”

We couldn’t agree more, and the use of black instead of chrome for the scuff plates complements the seatbelts and the selective use of black detailing featured throughout the HT. The super-neat rollcage is more handiwork from Extreme Custom Engineering, which along with the stock twirler was colour-coded to suit.

At just 22, Reece has accomplished more than many twice his age, and it’s the result of a massive amount of his own hard work plus help from his family and friends: “I work the landscaping gig full-time and have my own part-time business as a personal trainer, so I pretty much work all day, every day. But I know what I want, so sometimes you just do what it takes to afford these sorts of toys.

“The HT came home as a painted bare shell on 12 Dec 2015, so we only had 21 days to assemble it first time ’round for Summernats 29. It was a crazy build. Our mate Keven came down from Maryborough and stayed for two weeks to help, while another friend Joe gave up plenty of his spare time to pitch in too. It was trimmed and had a custom exhaust made in that time also!

The two-year build took just long enough to get 22-year-old Reece through to his open licence and able to legally to enjoy V8 power. “Now that I’ve made it through all of that rigmarole, my better half Eden and I drive the hell out of it. She’s no shrinking violet behind the wheel either!

“I have to thank my mum and especially my dad. He busted his arse to help me get the HT finished, but I think it inspired him a little too and gave him a bit of the bug back for his own projects. He has an HT Premier in the build and it’s going to be killer; you just wait until you see that thing finished!”


Colour: Driftwood

Engine: Holden 383ci
Block: Factory cast
Intake: Bliss Custom Machining billet tunnel-ram
Carbs: Twin 750 Pro Systems
Heads: COME 590 alloy
Crank: COME cast stroker
Rods: COME H-beam Pistons: Probe
Cam: Crane solid-roller, 261/[email protected], .692in lift
Ignition: Crane distributor, MSD leads
Exhaust: Custom 17/8in four-into-one headers, twin 3in V-band system, MagnaFlow mufflers

Transmission: Al’s Race Glides T400, full-manual, reverse-pattern valvebody
Converter: TCE 5200 stall
Tailshaft: Hardy Spicer 3.5in mild steel
Diff: 9in, Truetrac centre, 3.89 gears, 31-spline axles

Front: Kings Ultra Low coils
Rear: 4in-lowered leaf springs
Shocks: Koni adjustable (f & r)
Brakes: Wilwood master cylinder; HQ discs & PBR calipers (f), HQ drums (r)

Rims: HQ 14×5.5 (f & r)
Tyres: Sumitomo 185/75 (f), 195/75 (r)