Chris Dicker’s 1980s pro street-inspired HQ

A childhood fascination for massive tubs and wild graphics inspired Chris Dicker to build this tough-as-nails HQ

Photographers: Jordan Leist

Chris Dicker is a serial offender when it comes to getting his cars featured in Street Machine. The first was an HQ Monaro coupe (SM, Aug ’07) which was silver with orange stripes; then ‘Sandbarra’ (SM, Nov ’18), the polarising Barra-powered HZ Sandman tribute, also with orange stripes. There was also a VS ute that made the cover of Custom Utes & Vans and was – you guessed it – silver and orange, this time in a two-tone scheme.

First published in the August 2022 issue of Street Machine

Chris’s latest creation is this HQ Kingswood, a throwback to the wild 80s pro street monsters he drooled over as a teenager. It carries on that silver/orange theme but incorporates it into 80s-inspired graphics.

It all started when Chris had a hankering to build some kind of events car – he wasn’t sure what – and spotted an ad for an HQ that might fit the bill.

“It had a turn-key LS and auto, the floors were stuffed, it had a heap of parts and the guy wanted $7K, so I went for a look,” Chris says. “I actually should have walked away, but I asked him what would take it home, and he replied ‘$4000’, so I grabbed it. I’d no sooner got the car in the shop when my son’s mate grabbed the LS set-up for $4000.”

As luck would have it, a ladder-bar rear end came up for sale with a set of 15×15 wheels – “and I had my way forward laid before me,” says Chris. “I immediately thought of Howard Astill’s XA, Brian Willis’s HK and Bam-Bam Martin’s HQ with their big rubber.

It also brought back memories of my first job in the early 80s unpacking newspapers; the owner would pay me in US and occasionally Aussie car mags with the top of the cover ripped off. The cars were all pro street – big rubber with wild paintjobs and motors.”

Chris decided to do the chassis himself, and asked his mate Kosty of Moteck Racing, who’d built many full tube-chassis cars, for guidance. “I got the box-tube chassis all tied in, always remembering to tack-weld first and then think about what other functions that bar or brace could perform before final welding,” Chris says. That’s some good advice that can even be applied to more sedate street machine builds.

Wanting to stay pretty true to the theme in the engine bay, Chris pulled out a 350 block with splayed mains that he had lying around, and it came up perfect with a 30thou overbore. The next piece of the puzzle was a steel 327 crank that had survived since 1968, for a total capacity of 331 cubes. There’s also a set of Eagle 5.7 rods and TRW 12.5:1 pistons.

A more modern touch is the Aeroflow 212cc ally heads with raised exhaust ports, which Chris admits are a bit much for the capacity of the engine, but with the Weiand tunnel ram and twin 600cfm Holley HP E85 carbs, it seems to work okay. To finish off, Chris slotted in a Crane solid cam with 272 degrees of duration and 620thou lift.

A bit of a surprise in the driveline is the TKO five-speed. Why? Chris is glad you asked. “Because I had it from a previous HQ and it never got used, plus it’s just cooler than an auto!” It also means that with the combination of 33-inch tyres, 6.0:1 diff gears – yes, you read that right – and the overdrive fifth gear, Chris can cruise at around 3200rpm at 100km/h. The short gears also help out with driveability, which the tunnel ram and giant cam aren’t really renowned for.

One of the many talking points is the front-exiting exhaust. Chris didn’t want to compromise the strength of the chassis by running the exhaust through it, and he definitely didn’t want it hanging underneath for the world to see. Besides, with the way the car sits, there’s no room anyway! The solution was to mount a set of lakes-style hot-rod headers backwards and then fit a couple of sizeable Flowmaster mufflers and a balance pipe, and have them exit just in front of the tyres.

This necessitated the relocation of the radiator to the rear of the car and a rather large bill for coolant hoses and fittings. To help with cooling, Chris fitted some louvres to the bootlid: “They came about after seeing a Camaro bonnet with louvres in it for $100 on Marketplace,” he says. Chris snapped it up and grafted those louvres to the HZ bootlid to aid with airflow to the radiator. Why an HZ bootlid? “The car came with it.”

Another obvious modification is the HJ front end, but what you might not notice is that it’s not your normal HJ front. Chris has filled in the park/indicator lights and then moved the headlights outboard to balance out the design. “We tried moving the headlights right out to the edge like an HQ, but it didn’t look right, so we centred them in the space between the grille and guards,” he says.

The boys at Chris’s business, Dicker’s Speed Shoppe, fitted the tubs, and Cagetec built the rollcage to ANDRA specs but without the door X-bars so Chris can get in and out easier. By the way, those tubs are big enough to swallow 32×15 slicks with ease, just in case Chris wants to race it one day.

There were lots of late nights spent by Karl O’Regan at O’Regan Race & Restoration doing the paint, which included the underside as well as blacking out the chassis and inside the boot before painting the interior and tinwork flat silver. The exterior is gloss silver, and those graphics are based on a design penned by Chris’s 21-year-old son, James. “He scribbled down a design, which was refined to what’s on the car after I sent a few images of US pro street cars to my graphics guy James at Walker Signs,” Chris says.

The total build time was eight-and-a-half months from rolling the car into the shop to driving it through the gates at Motorvation 36. Once Chris had passed scrutineering, he knew he’d made it – bleary-eyed and completely knackered, but absolutely stoked. “The bonus was being able to chuck some laps in it with good mates and to drop the clutch a few times with my son James on board,” he says.

Maybe it’s time big tubs and graphics from the 80s made a comeback. After all, mullets are more popular than ever, so why not?


Paint: Bloody Silver again
Type: Chevrolet 331ci V8
Inlet: Weiand tunnel ram
Carb: Twin 600cfm Holley HP
Heads: Aeroflow 212cc, raised exhaust port
Valves: 2.08in (in), 1.60in (ex)
Cam: Crane solid, [email protected], .620 lift
Pistons: TRW 12.5:1
Crank: Steel 327
Conrods: Eagle 5.7
Radiator: HQ, boot-mounted
Exhaust: Hot rod headers, Flowmaster mufflers
Ignition: MSD
Gearbox: TKO600 five-speed
Clutch: McLeod
Diff: 9in, 6.0:1 gears, full spool
Front: United Speed Shop, 2in-dropped spindles
Rear: Ladder bar Shocks: QA1 coil-overs (f & r)
Steering: Standard
Brakes: Discs (f & r)
Wheels: Center Line Auto Drag; 15×3.5 (f), 15×15 (r)
Rubber: 165/80/15 (f), 33×18.5×15 (r)

Nick at ANF Automotive Trimming for the interior; Phil at Cagetec for the rollcage; Greg at Carby Tuning Techniques; the staff at Dicker’s Speed Shoppe; Kirky at Kirky’s Customs for wiring; O’Regan Race & Restoration for the panel and paint; Walker Signs for the graphics; Shane Kosteszyn at Moteck Racing for chassis advice; Phil and Todd; Vanessa, James, Thomas and Jorja