Blown big-block 1973 Holden HQ ute

Old show cars like Bob Gallo's WB-fronted '73 HQ ute never die, they just improve with age

Photographers: Tony Rabbitte

You’ve seen Bob Gallo’s Trophy-winning WB Statesman-fronted HQ ute before and you’ll probably see it again. Old show cars never die, they just improve with age

This article on Bob’s ute was originally published in the March 2012 issue of Street Machine

THE rather fierce-looking HQ ute you see before you is steeped in Aussie street machining history. In three different guises under three different owners it has collected its fair share of accolades across three different decades.

Scott Marshall debuted the car as MADNES at Street Machine Summernats 12 in 1999 (SM featured it in Dec ’99) when the trend was for Pro Street-styled cars built to an elite level. With its wild blown and injected big-block powerplant, tube-frame chassis, massive Perspex tubs and huge Center Line Convo Pros, MADNES ticked all the right boxes and combined them with a level of innovation, build quality and raw visual appeal that had it firmly entrenched in the Summernats Top 10.

Holden -wb -ute -bonnet -up -2Scott sold the ute to Goulburn’s Garry Malone who updated it, doing away with the Perspex inner guards in favour of a panelled sheet-metal cargo area. He also revised the induction system, fitted larger diameter wheels, resprayed it in the same striking violet hue and fitted KRIMNL plates. The Summernats judges rewarded Garry’s efforts with another Top 10 berth. He then stripped it for a fresh build and there it sat, in primer on a mattress in his shed, until he decided to move it on.

Among the crowds drooling over MADNES in the Summernats Elite Hall was a bloke named Bob Gallo. When he heard the ute was for sale, he became intent on adding his touch to the beast. But it’s a big ask, to rebuild a car that earned Top 10 plates for two previous builds.

Holden -hq -ute -blower“It was obviously a very good car to begin with, so the basis was already there,” Bob says. “The big thing for me was to make sure it complied with the wishes of my engineer, who we worked with throughout the build. Things like the steering and crossmembers had to be changed to satisfy him. Also, because it was a show car there were little things like interior door handles that never worked. I wanted to make the car more functional, so that it could be used as well as compete at shows.”

Holden -hq -ute -blower -2The car arrived as a roller in primer, with box after box of bits and pieces to fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. While the car’s blown big-block and gearbox were long gone, the body mods such as the suicide doors, smoothed undercarriage, shaved handles, WB Statesman front end and smoothed rear pan were intact, as was the two-inch roof chop. It all looks resplendent now, drenched in Bob’s choice of paint, the beautifully businesslike PPG Black.

Holden -hq -ute -engine -detailSorting out all the parts that came with the car and putting it back together was a real challenge, so first it went to NM Autobody Repairs, where it was stripped while Kon Michaloudakis at Wollongong Automotive Services bolted together a 6/71-blown, 468ci rat motor, with Dart Pro-1 alloy heads, Diamond pistons, Scat rods and a steel crank. Bob opted for a set of 850cfm Mighty Demon blower carbs over the injection favoured by both previous owners, and the combo has proven handy for 850hp on the engine dyno.

Torque-spewing supercharged big-blocks have a nasty habit of lunching driveline components. Not here — a full-house Pro Trans Turbo 400 transmission and nine-inch rear with ultra-tough 40-spline Summer Bros axles prevent any such woes. The diff is mounted in a four-link with coil-over shocks on display through the viewing window in the finely sculpted tray.

Billet Specialties Psycho wheels fill the voids in tubs big enough to have their own postcodes; measuring in at 15×15 inches, these rims wear Hoosier Quick Time 33×22½ slicks.

Holden -hq -ute -under -2At the pointy end, a MacPherson strut configuration with coil-overs looks far sexier than any standard HQ front end ever did, while the wheels are much taller and skinnier 18x7s. For the steering, a billet column and Gemini power steering rack and pinion set-up look and work an absolute treat.

Holden -hq -ute -frontThe interior — sporting a VN Commodore dash, Mazda RX-2 seats, flat floors and purple tweed trim — was cutting edge in its day and won Top Interior at Summernats 2000. But 10 years on it was looking a little dated, so Bob opted to modernise the existing layout with a retrim in mocha-coloured leather by Peter Quinlan Auto Upholstery. Just how contemporary the cabin now looks with nought but a fresh layer of cowskin is a credit to the original builder — most impressive is the way the rollcage was seamlessly integrated, rendering it almost invisible.

With the car complete and TUB454 plates screwed in place, Bob fronted up at Summernats and was thrilled with the response.

“It was really rewarding to make the Top 20 with the car and be appointed a PPG Supreme Finalist after all the hard work,” he says.

Holden -hq -ute -interior -seatsBut building cars is often more about the journey than the destination, and the ute already has a new home in Cairns in Far North Queensland. If the beast’s tradition of rebuilds continues, we can’t wait to see what the new owner has planned.