LS3-swapped HQ Monaro

More than 30 years after buying it, Dave Barnard has finally pieced together the quick-and-angry Monaro he always wanted

Photographers: Mitch Hemming

MOST people don’t get to hang on to their first car. Fewer still manage to transform it into a trophy-hauler beyond their teenage dreams. Dave Barnard is one of those few to have done exactly that with his Monaro, but this build is far more than a new set of rings and a quick blow-over in the factory colour. No, my friend, this HQ is all about the details.

First published in the February 2022 issue of Street Machine

His uncle is the one who first kindled Dave’s fire for Munros. “My uncle had a purple HQ GTS,” he says. “One day he dropped me off at school in it, and that’s when I started really liking Monaros.”

When Dave was a second-year apprentice, he managed to scrape together enough folding stuff to purchase a Monaro of his own – this one. “I bought it in 1988, drove it around for a couple of years and then pulled it apart. I thought I’d do it all up, but it just didn’t happen, so it sat in pieces.”

While the Monaro hibernated in various garages over the next three decades, Dave built himself a neat HQ more-door with which to menace the streets. The sedan wasn’t an ugly slug, either, making its way into a few magazines and running a 9.9@132mph with a long-suffering, nitrous-huffing 350 Chev. Just when Dave was ruminating on plans to revive the Monaro, someone offered him the right money for the sedan. A deal was done, the four-door was moved on, and Dave got busy.

“Originally it was a 308/Trimatic car, but it dropped a valve and destroyed the engine the second week I owned it!” Dave says. “I’d put a 350 Chev, TH350 and drum-brake nine-inch in it, but all that running gear went into the four-door.”

In need of a new driveline, Dave’s first port of call was good mate Aaron Gregory of ASG Motorsports. The donk chosen for the job was an ex-Maloo LS3, but Aaron refreshed the bottom end, threw in a nice custom cam and gave the ports a little CNC love. Neil Maxwell from Precise Automatics whipped up a tough manualised Turbo 400 to slot behind the LS with a 4500rpm Dominator converter and a transbrake for when Dave gets bitten by the racing bug again. To round out the driveline, Ray Bernard at Western Suburbs Diffs put together a sheet-metal nine-inch with a Strange alloy carrier, 3.7:1 gears, spool and 35-spline axles. ASG also wired in a Haltech Elite.

“We put the whole car together, made sure it all worked and ran properly, then we turned it off and stripped it again!” Dave laughs. This wasn’t simply masochism on Dave’s part; he wanted to make sure he didn’t have to wave a grinder anywhere near the finished paintjob.

Speaking of which, the Monaro next headed over to Geoff Luck at GC Restoration for a date with the hammer and dolly. “It wasn’t in bad condition, though there were a few hits that had to be massaged out,” Dave says. “My mate Dave Ennion repaired the rust for me, and then I worked on the car at GC Resto every single day for more than a year while we did the bodywork. I was really picky; the boys are probably ready to kill me!”

A lot of time and effort was put into straightening and accentuating the Monaro’s lines and making sure all the gaps were millimetre-perfect. Dave and Geoff brewed up the custom Standox colour they call ‘Just Red’, and the paint is so bright that it looks fluorescent when the sun hits it.

It wasn’t just the outside of the Monaro that received all the attention; Dave spent six months hammering the underside into shape as well. While most of the factory swage lines are still present, every one is dead straight and ripple-free. “Everyone thinks I’m nuts for painting the underside body colour, but I’ve driven it to a few car shows and it’s held up a lot better than I expected,” says Dave.

Inside the cab, Dave decided to skip the crazy custom stuff and stick with the ridgey-didge GTS flavour – no sense in messing with the classic houndstooth fabric and black vinyl combo. The only additions that hint at the Monaro’s ’roided-up driveline are the B&M shifter tucked into the console and the Haltech IQ3 dash.

Dave has already started filling the trophy cabinet with awards for things like mods and paint, and wants to lay his paws on a few more at the Monaro Nationals in Toowoomba this year. He’s also got plans to hit the track once there’s a few more miles on the clock. “It made 450hp at the hubs, so we know it’ll do a 10,” he says.

The HQ isn’t finished, though. Dave has further plans, which include air con, power steering and a pair of hairdryers. A turbocharged QIK HQ will see it truly live up to its name!


Paint: Custom Standox red
Block: GM LS3
Heads: Ported LS3
Cam: Custom
Lifters: LS7
Pushrods: Trend
Valve springs: Manley
Intake: Plazmaman
ECU: Haltech Elite 2500
Oil pump: Melling
Headers: CRS
Fuel pump: Aeromotive A1000
Cooling: PWR
Sump: Holley
Exhaust: Twin 3.5in
Gearbox: T400
Shifter: B&M Pro Ratchet Converter: Dominator 4500rpm 
Diff: 9in, Strange alloy centre, 35-spline axles, 3.7:1 gears
Springs: Viking coil-overs (f), LH Torana (r)
Shocks: Viking (f & r)
Brakes: Wilwood discs (f & r)
Rims: Center Line Auto Drag; 15×3.5 (f), 15×8.5 (r)
Rubber: M/T Sportsman 26×6 R15 (f), Nankang 255/60/15 (r)

Aaron Gregory at ASG Motorsport; Geoff Luck at GC Restoration; Laura Luck for the drive and encouragement to finish the car; Brendan at Bill Payne Motor Trimming; Warwick at Instant Auto Electrical; Carl Mills Stainless Steel Repairs; Wayne Keeley for the boot installation; Jamie Allen; Troy Skyring; Dave Ennion; Luke Lambert