Daniel Szabolics’s twin-turbo big-block HQ Monaro

Daniel Szabolics's twin-turbo big-block HQ Monaro packs six-second potential and doorslammer-level power

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

DIVERSITY is a key part of what keeps the car scene interesting. Some people like Flash Harry show cars; others like the streeters seen at local car-park meets. Then there are the sleeper fans who dig cars that hide their 200mph potential. What makes Daniel Szabolics’s HQ Monaro such an unbelievable piece of work is that it walks all those paths.

This article was first published in the December 2019 issue of Street Machine

While HQs could be ordered in wild hues like Purr-Pull magenta or Barbados Green, Daniel wanted something more low-key. “I wanted a colour that didn’t date and would be subtle,” he says. “I’m a white and a silver person; I much prefer plain colours”

“The whole idea behind the build was that I didn’t want it to look like a race car,” explains Daniel. “I wanted it to look like a tough streeter. It has original carpet, roof lining and door cards, and the rear end hasn’t been hacked up on it.”

“The car weighs around 3850lb, as the only non-Holden steel on it is the bonnet,” says Daniel. “There are no secrets on this car; I’d rather tell people what we did so they don’t waste their money”

While it may look mild, the spice the Monaro packs is Carolina Reaper-hot thanks to a Dandy Engines-built, twin-turbo 632ci big-block packing 4000hp potential. However, focussing just on power figures sells this car’s true worth short.

Built at home in his shed with mates, Daniel and the boys spent nearly a decade thinking about how to make this seven-second weapon work just as reliably as a new car. And it all started with the purchase of a crusty, kicked-in shell.

“It was a car that had been sitting around for a long time, completely stripped,” Daniel sighs. “I think it was an LS originally, and only 50 per cent of it was there, so I had to source lots of other bits and pieces over time.

“Brian Jarrott, Dean Soderblom and I spent a lot of time cutting and fixing the shell. One quarter was completely caved in. I put two or three floorpans in it, plus a sill and the boot floor. She was a big job, but I didn’t pay much for the car and they’re hard to find, so I didn’t mind spending the time fixing it.”

Once the three amigos had the shell straight, it was into primer and off for the first round of fabrication to suit a different combo that Daniel initially had in mind.

Pump fuel is provided by an Aeromotive pump in the 75L boot-mounted tank, while methanol is controlled by a Bosch 044 primer pump and sent by a Waterman belt-driven pump. “We have 25-30L of methanol, and I don’t tow it anywhere, so we use about 20L to go from the pits to the track and back to the pits,” says Daniel

“Originally the car was going to have an F3 ProCharged big-block and small slick tyre, so RC Metalcraft set the suspension up to suit that combo and did a ’cage as well,” Daniel explains.

Once the HQ was done at RC, it was time for duco. As the song goes, everybody needs good neighbours, and one of Daniel’s, Rodney Spinks, handled final paint prep before squirting the smooth Sikkens metallic silver on. Daniel then dragged the coupe home and started the fit-up in his shed, where he ran into some problems.

“We’re not running an engine plate; they’re standard-bolt-pattern engine mounts we made at home,” Daniel says. The big-banger combo is managed by a FuelTech FT600 ECU, with CO2 control on the wastegates and FuelTech ignition coils mounted low in the engine bay

“As the build went on, we discovered it was hard to fit the ProCharger,” Daniel says. “I didn’t want bulges in the bonnet and there was no room in the front, plus it made it all cluttered, which I hate.

“My background is in earthmoving, where we make or modify things to make our processes easier. I hate when cars aren’t serviceable to work on, so the boys and I were always looking at the HQ, thinking about how to mount parts and collaborating on ideas to make it easier to work on – and we also did a few things twice,” he laughs.

Daniel called up Dandy Engines to have a chat to Frank Marchese, which is when the HQ’s build took a quick right turn away from the crank-driven pump and small slick tyre towards turbos and 275 radials.

“This won’t twist like a normal HQ; it is so rigid,” says Daniel. There are chrome-moly bars added under the car, tying into a cross-brace inside that also reinforces the trailing arms and floor bars running under the seats. “The pick-up points are all original, but they have been reinforced with laser-cut brackets to keep it all strong,” Daniel explains. “HQs are renowned for cracking in the front, so we did the same in the front”

“I have been watching the Dandy XW and Steve Bezzina’s XW run on radials, and they are so impressive,” says Daniel. “I had bought all the engine parts years ago and Frank told me to send him the list of parts I had to suss out what we could and couldn’t use. I told him I didn’t care if I had to sell parts to suit what he wanted to do, but what really impressed me was that he told me he didn’t want me spending money if I don’t have to, and he used everything I had.”

Big power needs a healthy fuel supply, so the methanol fuel lines are storm-drain –16 items. “Most of the plumbing under the car is aluminium hard-line,” says Daniel. “We used Brown & Miller hoses and fittings like they do on V8 Supercars to keep it all neat. The breathers out of the rocker covers are also –16, running down to hard-line under the car and then to catch cans mounted in the boot”

Dandy Engines put together a dead-set monster of a mill, based off a 4.6in-bore, tall-deck Dart Big M block. It was stuffed with all the good gear, including a 4.75in-stroke Callies billet crank, Diamond pistons and Oliver rods, while the AFR 385cc heads use Speed Pro 2.4in intake and 1.9in exhaust valves, PAC springs and T&D 1.75-ratio rockers. A Peterson belt-driven R4 oil pump and a Moroso Race sump handle the black gold, while Daniel opted for a Jesel belt drive on the 248/252-duration Bullet cam instead of a timing chain.

A pair of giant 94mm Precision Pro Mod turbos feed boost into a Plazmaman intake manifold that wears two sets of injectors: eight 80lb Siemens squirters are used when cruising the street on pump gas, while eight 700lb Billet Atomizer firehoses are used to force-feed methanol at the track.

So far the HQ has made 2513hp at the hubs running on only one set of injectors and at what Daniel describes as “relatively low boost”.

Universal Upholstery did all the work to re-cover the interior. “Having the ’cage run through the dash was a bit of a nightmare, but they got it done,” says Daniel. “I have the original seats to bolt back in if I want some time away from the track, and I can clip the dash off and use my original gauges. It even has the retractable belts in there. Simon the auto electrician did a killer job making it all work”

“We ran out of injectors on the dyno at 28psi, so the car can make heaps more,” he says. “With the big injectors, eventually I would like to shoot for 40psi.”

Such an epic engine needs a nuclear-grade drivetrain, so an M&M bolt-together converter and TH400 auto live behind the 10-litre donk, while a sheet-metal nine-inch built by RC Metalcraft with full-floater 35-spline axles handles the grip out back, and the rear trailing arms have been swapped to rose-jointed tube items.

With the change in tyre style, Daniel recognised the car’s set-up needed to be altered, so Shane Marshall from Marshall Speed Shop got the nod to modify the six-point rollcage and change the rear suspension. It now runs Santhuff coil-overs out back for more rear travel, along with a Gazzard Brothers anti-roll bar in the boot, while the ’cage now ties into the under-car chrome-moly bracing and suspension pick-up points.

“The car was all painted and built, and then Matt Snell, Simon Borella, Corey Edwards and I mounted the turbos and built the headers and dump pipes in my shed at home,” says Daniel. “It took ages to sort out how to make things work in the ’bay. For instance, when we started making the turbo headers it took us six hours to make one primary that did what we wanted.”

While some people talk a big game, Daniel isn’t a member of Gunna Motorsports. On its first full lap of a track at this year’s Brisbane Jamboree at Willowbank, the fat-hipped coupe set the stands on fire with an epic 7.37@193mph on just 20psi.

“I always wanted to run a high seven, and when I said that to Frank, he laughed and told me he’d do it with a plug lead off,” laughs Daniel. “That was my first trip down a race track. I had the flu and was crook as a dog, but when I pulled the ’chute I was hitting the dash and going off because I knew it was fast. The minute it ran the 7.37 I was happy, but ultimately we haven’t even scratched the surface of what the car can do.”

“I’m not computer literate at all,” Daniel laughs, “but I can switch tunes, erase data or do lots of little jobs on the FuelTech dash display even without a crash course in how to use them. I can look at AFRs, exhaust temps on each primary, and cycle injectors to clean the fuel out of them. I have so many functions that I can make the car liveable”

He and Frank will get a far better idea of the HQ’s potential when they run at Drag Challenge 2019, which will be almost wrapped up by the time this issue hits the stands. They’re in with a real shot of being the event’s first six-second entrant.

“I’d just be happy to get through the week, and it’ll be a bonus if the car runs some quick passes,” says Daniel. “It’s a massive achievement to get through that week and I don’t feel under any pressure, as I just want to have some fun.

“It drives better than some of my other cruisers. It’s quiet and is effortless on the road for what it is. It doesn’t have a sound system, but who needs a stereo when you have that monster up front?”

UPDATE: Dan and the crew not only successfully finished Drag Challenge 2019, but they reset the record books, won the Haltech Radial Blown class and entered the seven-second club. Check out their full story here.


FRANK Marchese from Dandy Engines (SM, Oct ’19) is the man responsible for putting Daniel’s big-inch motor together and tuning it, and working out the rest of the drivetrain package. You know you’ve built an impressive car when Frank sets his own 6sec, 200mph, Drag Challenge-winning XW Falcon to the side so he can crew with you.

“If you want to boil it down to its most basic level, Daniel bought a motor and converter off me and took it home and fitted it,” says Frank. “But this car is a next-level build when you dissect it from start to finish.

“I’d never done a 632 with twin 94s on it before Daniel came to me, but we did it because he had all the parts already,” Frank continues. “The rest of the combo is the same as Steve Athans’s and some of the other big-blocks we’ve done. Steve’s car has nearly run 6.60s in the same-weight car on a bigger tyre.

“When we put the HQ on the dyno we had done what we wanted to do within just a couple of hours. The car works effortlessly because the guys had done such a good job putting it together.

“Turbo cars are the best for events like Drag Challenge as you can treat them like an everyday car. There’s heaps of reasons: tight converters, better diff gears so they cruise nicely – the list goes on and on. But power management is everything: the more power you have, the harder it is to get it to hook up on a 275 radial. We can’t run Daniel’s car without traction control. With the FuelTech, he can make the call on the startline between one of our five tunes and change that over while idling.

“The peak of street machining is when amateur guys build killer cars like this in their shed at home with their mates, even if they don’t do it for a living. That’s what makes this car so impressive to me.”


Paint: Sikkens Metallic Silver

Brand: 632ci Dart Big M big-block Chev
Induction: Plazmaman billet
ECU: FuelTech FT600
Turbo: Twin Precision Pro Mod 94mm
Heads: AFR 385cc
Conrods: Oliver
Pistons: Diamond
Crank: Callies billet
Cam: Bullet solid-roller
Oil pump: Peterson R4 belt-driven pump, Moroso Race sump
Fuel system: Billet Atomizer 700lb injectors (x8), Siemens 80lb injectors (x8), Aeromotive in-tank pump (petrol), Bosch 044 primer pump (methanol), Waterman belt-driven pump (methanol)
Cooling: PWR radiator, Spal fans
Exhaust: Custom stainless
Ignition: FuelTech coil packs

Gearbox: M&M TH400 transbraked
Converter: M&M bolt-together
Diff: Sheet-metal 9in housing, 35-spline Race Products full-floater axles, Strange Engineering centre, 3.23:1 gears

Front: King Springs, Santhuff shocks
Rear: Hypercoils, Santhuff remote-reservoir shocks, heim-jointed links, Gazzard Brothers anti-roll bar
Brakes: Wilwood four-pot discs (f), Wilwood discs (r)
Master cylinder: Under-dash RRS booster

Rims: Weld V-Series; 17in (f), 15×10 double-beadlock (r)
Rubber: Moroso DS2 (f), 275/60 Mickey Thompson (r)

Rodney Spinks, Brian Jarrott and Dean Soderblom; Matt Snell at Snelly’s Custom Fab; Simon Borella at North East Electrical; Shane Marshall at Marshall Speed Shop; Corey Edwards; Rod Chaplin; Marcus Crisp at Speed Pro; Craig at OC Billet; Gazzard Brothers; Jimmy at Fatal Finish; Shaine Benson at Rapid Performance Hose & Fittings; Nathaniel Ardern; Universal Upholstery; Frank Marchese and the Dandy Engines team; my wife Sandy and kids Mila and Harper for many, many long nights and weekends spent in the shed