Castlemaine Rod Shop Holden HJ Kingswood LS conversion

Castlemaine Rod Shop has everything for your HQ-WB Holden - and stuffed most of it into this HJ Kingswood

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

IF YOU’RE the proud owner of an HQ-WB Holden but you’re not so proud of its road manners, then you might want to check out what Castlemaine Rod Shop has on the shelves that will drag the old girl kicking and screaming into the 21st century. For proof of concept and to test out product development, CRS always uses a running car, and that’s what this rather mundane-looking HJ Kingswood is.

I had a chat to Heath from CRS to find out a bit more about what went into the car. “We got this one off a young bloke in Shepparton who bought it off the original owner,” he said. “It had a big sound system and big amp, but we ripped all that out. It still had the original owner’s manual and jack in the boot. We tried to get a real original car so that people can’t argue that it’s modified or chopped up.”

The best thing about this conversion is that the whole lot is bolt-in, from the rack-and-pinion power steering up front to the coil-over nine-inch out back. It even allows you to run a Turbo-Hydramatic gearbox so you don’t have to go cutting up transmission tunnels to fit late-model overdrive autos. All up, it took two blokes less than two days to strip the driveline and then put all the new stuff in. Of course, it helps if you have a hoist and a fully equipped workshop, but it’s definitely achievable in the shed at home.

With double-adjustable coil-overs and disc brakes on all four corners, vastly improved steering and a blown LS1 under the bonnet, you can bet that this old girl can keep up with most modern traffic on the twisty stuff and easily blow them away on the straights, thanks to around 460hp at the wheels. Maybe not on the cheese-cutter tyres she’s wearing in the photos, but you get my drift.


LS swap in HJ Kingswood

1. The Rod Shop team start by removing the HJ’s tired old red six and accompanying transmission.

LS swap in HJ Kingswood

2. Rear upper coil-over mounts are a bolt-in proposition. Considering the leap forward in technology, the kit is surprisingly straightforward to fit.

LS swap in HJ Kingswood

3. Tubular trailing arms use factory pick-up points – just unbolt the stockers and bolt these in. The rear end is adjustable via the coil-overs and the different mounting holes in the lower coil-over bracket.

4. Just like in the rear end, the front suspension arms are of tubular construction and are a direct bolt-on fit, using the standard pick-up points.

5. The tubular suspension arms not only reduce unsprung weight, but they look a hell of a lot nicer too. The swaybar also gets replaced with a larger 25mm version.

6. The front coil-over shocks from the Rod Shop are far more contemporary pieces than the OEM spring and shock. Adjustable damping and ride height allow you to dial the car in to suit your needs.

7. The only modification needed is removing some metal from the top spring mount so that the top coilover bracket can be fitted.

8. HQ-WB Holdens tend to be a bit vague steering-wise on account of flogged-out steering boxes. Contemporary power rackand-pinion steering is a far better option.

9. The triple uni-jointed steering shaft gives plenty of room for the pipes. Stainlesssteel unis and shafts look pretty flash too.

10. The front end complete with rackand-pinion conversion, tubular arms, adjustable coil-over shocks and four-pot Wilwood discs. Pretty flash!

11. The Wilwood master cylinder not only looks much neater, but creates much-needed space in the engine bay after that brake booster gets chucked in the bin.

12. If you’re keeping the EFI, you’ll need an in-tank fuel pump, and CRS can supply this kit that comes with a weld-in ring and quick-release fuel fittings. Due to the very shallow HJ tank, CRS had to also fabricate a raised section that comes up through the boot floor. You could drop the fuel tank down, but due to the slammed stance that’s not such a great idea.

13. CRS offers a flexplate that will adapt the LS to earlier GM transmissions such as Turbo 350/400 and Powerglide, and makes swapping from a 5.0L a piece of cake; you can even keep your original converter. It will set you back $295.

14. In goes the LS1, with Rod Shop HP Engine Mounts already fitted.

15. If you think the engine in the HJ looks vaguely familiar, it might be because you recognise it from SM, Jun ’14, when it was installed in a VL Commodore. That VL now sports a triple-blown LSA!


Apart from a lower stance, it doesn’t look like much has been done. Overall, the suspension changes have lowered the car 2.5in and make it handle even better than Radial Tuned Suspension!


This is everything that went into the HJ and is made up of eight different kits, but it’s not even close to all the stuff CRS offers. If you added everything up in the photo it would put a $16,158 hole in your bank account (including GST).


So that the stock 14in wheels could still be used, CRS fitted the smallest 280mm crossdrilled and ventilated discbrake package from Wilwood.

You can also get them in 320mm for the same price (but you’ll need at least 15in wheels), and 355mm diameter with four- or six-piston calipers, but the price jumps up considerably to $2800


The power steering kit is an improved version of a Blacks Rack, which we did a review on in SM, Feb ’08. CRS bought the company, and the design hasn’t changed at all but it is now made of all-new parts, including the billet-steel steering arms that CRS developed


The tubular front arms are a fully engineered solution that allows you to use your stock stub axles, brakes and steering arms, but due to the upsweep of the lower arm, the car is effectively lowered 2in. The double-adjustable Viking coil-overs allow you to lower the car even further without any compromise to ride quality, and have bushed mounts top and bottom


This neat little solution from Wilwood allows you to adjust the brake pressures front and rear via a small knob to get the balance just right. There’s also a simple bracket that mounts the valve next to the master cylinder – easily accessible, but still tucked out of the way


You don’t see brake boosters on race cars and you don’t always need them on the street either, especially when big cams render them pretty useless anyway. The CRS kit comes with a billet aluminium firewall adapter and a pushrod-to-pedal adapter that increases the pedal ratio. Combined with the smaller bore in the master cylinder, you get plenty of hydraulic pressure to the brake calipers


Everything you need to bolt your LS engine into your HQ-WB, including those awesome stainless 4-into-1 headers, which have 1 7/8in primaries and a 3.5in outlet. The HP engine mounts have a poly bush, are TIG-welded and powdercoated, and come with a lifetime warranty. The gearbox crossmember has also been redesigned to sit tighter to the floorpan so you can fit a 3.5in exhaust all the way through


The high-torque starter motor isn’t a necessity, but for around $300 you get a smaller, fully adjustable starter that will give you more clearance and crank your engine over faster


Each wiring harness is custommade, as no two cars are exactly the same. This is no show piece; it’s a fully exposed but very neatly designed harness that will get you up and running with everything working. The listed price is for an LS1, but the price goes up to $1300 for LS2 and LS3 engines due to fly-by-wire throttle control and other complexities


CRS will also reprogram an exchange ECU to suit the specific needs of your car. You need to give the team info such as engine type, gearbox, diff ratio, tyre size and number of thermo fans. This will get the tune pretty close, but CRS highly recommends – and expects – that you will get the car dyno-tuned once it’s on the road


It’s the biggest-ticket item, but look at all the stuff you get: a brand new 9in, 31-spline axles, Truetrac or full-spool centre with any ratio, Wilwood disc brakes, tubular control arms and Viking double-adjustable coil-overs. The best thing is, the whole lot bolts in – all you need to do is drill six holes for the upper coil-over mount, which has several mounting holes so you can fine-tune the ride height to your exact preference – in other words, dropped on its guts!