Billy Shelton’s SICKO HQ Monaro

Looking back on Billy Shelton’s former SM cover car, a trophy-winning HQ Monaro

Photographers: Peter Bateman

“Mates — you just can’t do without them,” Billy Shelton says. “You read all these stories in the magazines but you never realise how much goes into building a car like this. And then there’s getting it ready for shows. There’s 20 hours of detailing required for some shows — it’s impossible to do it on your own.”

Billy has a pair of dedicated mates, Bryce and Barry, who have helped him throughout the build and he reckons they’re always ready to lend a hand, even though it’s not their car. He knows what it’s like to be on the other side.

First published in the February 2007 issue of Street Machine

Years ago Billy used to help out another mate, Lyle, who had a Monaro show car. After that experience he vowed to his mates that he was going to build his own show car and he copped a bit of flak at first — they thought he was full of it. He was still a teenager then and it was easy to assume that he wouldn’t have the staying power to see out the build. But despite all the unfinished builds you can find for sale, some young guys do have enough determination to achieve remarkable results such as this.

It all started with an HQ GTS Monaro coupe. “I bought the car in Brisbane from a young guy — well, he was older than me — but it was a piece of crap,” Billy recalls.

The Monaro had plenty of promise, however. It was a genuine 350 Chev, four-speed car — a desirable bit of gear these days.

“I repainted it, added a set of wheels and that was about it. I won my first show and it went from there.”

From the factory the car was delivered in lime green with black-outs but Billy repainted it red. “I’ve painted the car twice now and I haven’t changed colours; red’s the best colour for it.”

Why it was resprayed twice? Well, Billy isn’t afraid to give his car a caning from time to time.

“We were driving down the road and I chucked a skid. The wheel went one way and the car went the other.”

The departing wheel disappeared into a dam never to be seen again but while escaping, it damaged the rear quarter. The real heartbreak set in when they got it back to the panel shop and discovered that the car had been covered in faulty clear-coat. Two different brands had been mixed and they’d reacted badly, the clear peeling off in sheets. Everything had to go back to bare metal.

No-one likes to do the same job twice but the result made all the effort worthwhile: “It gave me a chance to build it exactly how I wanted this time,” Billy says.

Back in the panel shop (which has since closed) the GTS was stripped to the bone, including the removal of the half-chassis, and the shell was hung on a rotisserie. The firewall was sliced out and a flat version welded in, all the edges were smoothed and the little rear indicators were deleted and filled. The door and boot locks were deleted too, and the whole shell was file-finished.

Billy didn’t leave it to the workshop — he was in there, sanding until his hands bled. That’s the price of glory.

The panel and paint took a year but the boys have exceeded themselves and the Monaro has reeled in a fair trophy haul for its shapely lines and sparkling paint.

I found out over the years that the dearest way is the cheapest way

For the driveline, Billy wanted to stand out from the crowd. Yes, it would have been easy to bolt a blown small-block in the front but he wasn’t interested.

“I just like doing something different and blowers are like bellybuttons — everyone’s got one,” he says. “It’s a bit old-school being a tunnel ram but it’s also a bit modern with the sheeted ram.”

It makes plenty of power too, with the 352-cube Chevy producing a claimed 640hp thanks to Gerry Cooper at Advanced Engine Performance. No surprise when you check out the list of gear inside: Wiseco pistons, Lunati crank, Carillo rods and a Crane roller cam topped off with a pair of alloy Kiwi Pro heads.

You could buy cheaper gear than that but it’s seldom the same quality. Billy’s got a theory on that: “I found out over the years that the dearest way is the cheapest way.”

Any experienced car builder will tell you the same thing — the good gear will last you a lifetime, while saving bucks early on just ends up costing you more later.

Power is transferred through a Bob Grant-prepared Turbo 400 to a braced and customised nine-inch diff filled with all the goodies — Billy’s not planning to allow any more wheels to go their own way anytime soon.

During the build, Billy’s dealt with a variety of businesses. Some he wouldn’t want to name but one outfit he can’t praise highly enough is Fireball Custom Fabrications, owned by Andrew and Tracey McConnell.

“Andrew gives you what you want plus more. He puts his creative mind to the job and the outcome can be seen for itself,” he says. Andrew’s done a fair bit of fabricating on the car — his handiwork includes the polished alloy ’cage, braced diff, engine plate, fuel system, rocker cover and the gearbox crossmember.

“Andrew’s wife, Tracey, is the grand organiser,” Billy says. “She takes full control in organising events, people and sponsors — she goes well beyond the call of duty with it all. Without the McConnells, I’d be in idle mode. Since tagging up with them four years ago, the car has gone further than we all dreamed.”

To keep the punters happy at the shows the boot has been crammed with audio-visual gear mounted in a fibreglass panel that took around 56 hours to fabricate.

Inside, he’s gone with white leather over standard HQ seats but Billy tells us there might be an interior change before the car hits Summernats — for the first time!

“Never been,” he says. “I want to do Summernats and after that we’ll get it out to the track and run a 10.”

While the car has won its fair share of shows, Billy really loves getting in and driving. Running on straight avgas you can’t exactly fill up at the nearest servo but when the tanks are full Billy has a grin from ear to ear and the foot buried to the boards.

“I’m happy to drive out on a country road by myself, in my own comfort zone and cruising somewhere.”


The numberplates say it all. “It’s a sickness; you just can’t stop,” Billy reckons.

There’s more to it than that, however, and Billy’s the first to admit that he can cut a bit sick on the road.

“I’ve lost my license seven times,” he admits.

Probably the scariest brush he’s had with the law would be when the authorities impounded the GTS for 48 hours under Queensland’s anti-hoon legislation.

“One day I hopped in — I was sick and tired of it just sitting in the shed. So I went and saw a mate at a workshop,” he recalls.

One thing led to another and the call went out to ‘do a skid’. Billy was only too happy to oblige, shredding a fresh set of rubber. Trouble was, a cop saw the whole thing and Billy ended up being dragged off to the station in handcuffs.

“When we got to the station the cop told the others: ‘I just saw the biggest skid.’

“It ended up costing me around $3000 all up to get it over and done with. That’s what it costs when you want to smell a bit of rubber and get the adrenaline going.”


Colour:Custom Standox Red
Engine:Chev 352ci
Carbs:Twin 650 Demon
Manifold:Custom sheet-metal tunnel ram
Heads:Kiwi Pro alloy
Pistons:Wiseco 13.5:1 lumpy tops
Cam:Crane roller
Ignition:MSD 7AL
Exhaust:1 7⁄8in primaries, three-inch mandrel-bent twin system with X-pipe
Transmission:Turbo 400, full-manual
Converter:Dominator 5500rpm
Diff:Fabricated nine-inch, 4.11 gears, full spool, Strange 31-spline billet axles
Brakes:Cross-drilled discs (f&r), stock calipers (f), Commodore calipers (r)
Springs:Pedders (f&r)
Shocks:90/10 (f), Koni adjustable (r)
Tiller:Isotta leather
Seats:HQ in white marine leather
Gauges:Auto Meter
Stereo:Eclipse CD, 6.5in Focal splits (f), Eclipse 6in (r), Alpine 1000W & 600W amps, twin Eclipse 12in 600W subs
Cage:Alloy six-point
Shifter:B&M Pro Ratchet
Rims:Intro Indy, 20×7 (f), 20×10 (r)
Rubber:235/35 (f), 275/35 (r)

My girlfriend Michelle; Bryce and Barry; Andrew and Tracey McConnell, Fireball Fabrications; Gav at Shinybits; Chris Morris and the boys, Showwheels; John, Custom Wiring; Steve Pacman and Mal Crompton; Colo’s Tilt Tray Services; Adam, Red Devil Radiators, Lawnton; Craig Hobby, Stewie and Blair, Toxic Image; Robbie, Carl and the boys, Lawnton Autobarn; Jerry Cooper, Advance Engine Performance; Shane Adamson and Lyle Porter.