BACK in the day …” You hear that a lot from Justin Craig. His old-school 1973 Monaro, which took shape in the family garage with his dad working alongside, is all about respect. Respect for tradition, respect for doing things right and respect for what works.
This article was first published in the July 2011 issue of Street Machine
Cars are a family affair: to get to the Munro, you have to make your way past the custom XP ute, the FB wagon and the ’32 roadster. Up the back, tucked away in its GM shrine, is Justin’s ’73 coupe, still covered in Summernats glory.
“We had a ball and I haven’t touched it since we came back. I might leave the stickers on and the shredded rubber all over the back of it!”
There’s no rush because this car isn’t going anywhere. Justin’s had it since 2003, when he was a 16-year-old apprentice panel beater.
“I always wanted one. I saw my first HQ coupe when I was five. That was it; I just had to have one.”
With panel skills handy — his father, John, is in the trade as well — the body was always going to be flawless. Naturally it’s the result of tried and true techniques: “The whole roof and most of the doors are completely metal finished, which I’m pretty proud of. I learned to oxy weld by replacing most of the scuttle,” he says. “Hammer welding — hammer and dolly,” he adds thoughtfully as he runs his finger down a dead-straight quarter.
Panels were an issue due to the popularity of HQ racing — parts such as the single headlight front end that Justin was so keen on live on the same shelf as hens’ teeth and rocking horse shit. But nothing says ‘hot’ like red paint, so at least choosing the colour was easy.
“You get this out in the sun and it glows almost orange. It’s got an orange basecoat in it. It’s almost straight PPG tinter. We named it Fire Crotch Red,” Justin says.
Seems there are a few ranga jokes going around Justin’s work, or somebody has a thing for the current PM.
Red features on the inside as well, with attention-grabbing inserts and piping. The pearl white underdash area and redesigned door and quarter-panel trims add some custom touches too, while maintaining the look of the era.
The combination of blown small-block Chev and red coupe is a classic. In this case it all started with a few mods to the original thong-clapper 253. One thing led to another and before Justin could say ‘Scat H-beam’, there were drums of methanol in the garage and an Enderle injector hat on top of a machine-polished 6/71 feeding a healthy small-block Chev.
The huffler through the bonnet is what you might call visually arresting. Justin has had his share of ‘frank exchanges’ with local lawnmakers and his plans for the future. Watch this space
“I drove it like that for two years while I had the methanol bug. It smells unreal; they should make it into an aftershave. I just had to have the injector hat; that was always the dream. In the end, though, I just got over breaking things. The problem is that when you break something with that much compression and angry fuel, you break it big time,” he explains.
Under the bonnet these days Justin has some cool pieces of automotive history. The big GM blower came off a spare engine for a Southern 80 boat and the idler pulley is an original 50s Iskenderian item from an Aussie drag car that’s been flipped and redrilled so that the famous name reads the right way up.
Old school lines with custom touches like red inserts and piping update the Munro’s cabin for a clean, crisp and contrasting look
“It was hanging on the wall in a mate’s dad’s shed and I offered to buy it. He said: ‘Just take it.’” As if you’d say no.
Experience is a good teacher and the sensible new set-up is strong and streetworthy. Dart heads, Scat internals and shiny blower remain — the major change is a pair of custom-calibrated 650cfm Bigs Performance carbs, from the States.
“We started the car on the dyno and the air and fuel were spot-on. I gave them all the specs — 12psi boost, gearing, converter. To be that good out of the box was a huge help.”
In keeping with tradition, low is the go and this pillarless piece has the stance nailed thanks to 18in Billet Intros and reset King Springs.
The stance, the shape and the blower form a classic combo, from the best school in town.
1973 HOLDEN HQ MONARO
Colour: PPG custom Fire Crotch Red
Engine: Chev 350
Blower: Fisher 6/71
Carbs: 650cfm Bigs Performance
Intake: Weiand manifold, polished, ported & smoothed
Heads: Dart SS ported
Pistons: SRP forged flat-tops
Crank: Scat 4340 with dual keyways
Rods: Scat H-beam
Cam: Clive solid
Lifters: Isky solid
Valve & springs: Ferrea, K-motion double springs
Ignition: MSD billet dizzy, 6AL, ACL 10.5mm leads
Exhaust: Pacemaker four-into-ones, three-inch system, Hooker mufflers
Cooling: Trickfab custom alloy rad, twin Spal thermos
Box: TH400, slippy 3500rpm TCE stall
Adapter: TH400 truck case
Diff: Nine-inch with tight 3.5:1 LSD
Shaft: Modified HQ
BUMPS & BRAKES
Suspension: King Supa Low (f), King Supa Low ‘squashed’ (r)
Shocks: Koni on all corners, Nolathane bushes throughout
Brakes: HQ discs (f), HQ drums (r)
RIMS & RUBBER
Wheels: Intro Billet, 18×7 (f), 18×8½ (r)
Tyres: 225/40 (f), 235/40 (r)
Mum & Dad; girlfriend Kelly; Stephen Taylor; Shannon; Wally; F&T Mechanical; the crew at Pitstop Performance; Speed Parts; Michael Greenhill (Gator); Joel Sonogon; Adam Foreman; Molly the dog & our good friends at VicRoads