Bluey Hill’s blown Holden 308-powered HJ One-Tonner – flashback

We look back on Bluey Hill's famous step-side One-Tonner

Photographers: Mark Bean

BLUEY Hill had just fired up the L34-engined One-Tonner when the flywheel exploded. A storm cloud of angry steel shaved the master cylinder and booster clean off the firewall and blew the bonnet off its hinges. Still more metal took out the side of the car. Bluey was lucky – he still had both his legs. But the faithful One Tonner was in a sorry state.

This article on Bluey’s HJ Tonner was first published in the September 1988 issue of Street Machine

Even as the last fragments of the clutch tinkled onto the ground, Bluey began thinking of the rebuild. He’d had this rig for more than eight years, turning a stock workhorse into a tough street machine in the process. Now it was time for the ultimate, no-holds-barred rebuild.

After its ordeal the wounded One-Tonner was towed home and stripped immediately. The rolling chassis was sent to Narellan Smash Repairs while Bluey paid a visit to drag racer Dave Missenden to talk engine specs.

Bluey wanted a 308 – “everyone’s running a Chev 350 these days” – and he wanted it mean. Fuel injection and a blower were at the top of the list.

Missenden had intended to build the engine himself, but fate intervened in the form of an horrific race crash at Heathcote, where his Pro-Street Cortina rolled 10 times and left him in a coma. Bluey turned the engine rebuild over to Steve Handbridge.

Stepside mods and interior are all first rate

It took 17 months to screw that 308 together, mainly because Bluey and Steve wanted only the best. They scoured wrecking yards to find the L34-spec block, and waited months for trick bits to arrive from the States.

The block was cleaned and given a 30-thou overbore. Then the boys started bolting in the good bits, starting with a Harrop crank, Carrillo rods and Speed Pro pistons. Bearing in mind the gas pressures involved with a blower, Childs and Albert gapless rings were chosen to wrap around the Speed Pro slugs.

Bluey and Steve also went to Harrop for the 310-degree duration, 590-lift roller cam. Harrop-modified solid lifters were also fitted to keep the Manley pushrods jumpin’ on time. To look after this rock-solid bottom end the boys also fitted a reworked JT oil pump.

At the top end Bluey and Steve aimed high and scored a pair of HDT V5H-spec heads. These were sent to Superflo for a mega-massage that included porting, polishing, O-rings, new guides and a quick run across the milling machine to take 60 thou off the bottom. Reassembly involved bolting on goodies like Dak roller rockers and Isky springs, plus Manley Pro-Flow valves.

On top of all this came a GM 6/71 blower with drive pulleys by Newby, and Hilborn fuel injection. To make sure the go-juice reached that big Jimmy, the boys backed up the Hilborn PA 150 fuel pump with a tank-mounted Electric Blue unit, and a Vertex magneto was bolted on to supply the sparks. The exhaust gases would exit via a set of Jock McLeod’s handcrafted headers.

Everything that could be chromed and polished was chromed and polished by Steve Polisher – yep, that’s what it says on his invoices – and a swag of Earls braided hose completed the engine bay.

While all this was happening, the team at Narellan Smash took Bluey’s ride back to bare metal and started all over again. The shell-shocked HJ front end was replaced with trick-looking HZ panels and the rear tray top was flicked in favour of a tough-looking stepside ute body.

The stepside kit had been lurking around Bluey’s shed for about six years – he’d bought it after seeing similar units in the movie Chain Reaction. Unfortunately when he bolted it on, the effect was lost behind the wide, wide HJ cab – it was simply too narrow.

But Bluey wanted something different from all the trick Tonners prowling around Picton, so he took the old stepside kit down to Narellan Smash, where four inches went in down the middle to get the proportions right. Check the pics and you’ll agree it was worthwhile – this ute looks tough.

A blown and injected 308, backed by a Doug Nash 5-speed? Doesn’t get much tougher than that!

And super-clean, too. But then it spent four months in the paint shop getting that all over shine – and 15 coats of Saddletan metallic, a VB/VC Commodore colour.

The interior is as clean as the sheetmetal. N’n’J Upholstery of Camden retrimmed the electrically adjustable Recaro seats – which were originally bone-coloured – door trims and headlining in black velour from Recaro. An HZ GTS dash went in and was left stock, but for the tacho, which was converted to cable drive, and the stock steering wheel, which was junked for a tiny 10-inch Saas number. Safety items included the alloy roll cage and four-point harnesses.

Attention to detail like this helped Bluey to a couple of show awards before the engine was finished. With a dummy 253 block sitting in the bay it won Best Ute at Geelong.

But this ute ain’t just for show, it’s a goer too. Just check the driveline spec – funnelling those angry horses earthwards is a top-of-the-line Doug Nash five-speed racing tranny, ET clutch, shortened, balanced prop shaft and a Powerlok diff. Oh, and the flywheel’s steel…

The suspension looks stock up front, but the K-Mac racing springs have been clipped by 50mm and KYB gas shocks keep the wheels in contact with the road. A massive 50mm stabiliser bar makes sure the ute stays trim, taut and terrific through the twisty bits.

At the rear is a four-link set-up, with Spax coil-over shocks handling the damping and springing chores. The suspension mods didn’t stop there, either – all the bushes have been replaced with super-stiff polyurethane-nylon units. And keeping it all in contact with terra firma is a set of trick Pirelli P7 tyres, 225/50-15 up front and a massive 345/35 at the rear. They run this sort of rubber on Lamborghinis, and at $500 a throw for the rear bags, Bluey reckons he might have to lay off the burnouts for a little while…

Bluey not only likes his car to go and turn corners – he likes ’em to stop, too. That’s why you’ll find discs all round with HZ calipers for squeezing power. Originally Bluey wanted to fit full-race four-spots all round, but the boys in blue nixed the idea on the grounds that if a seal blew in one, the whole hydraulic system would go out to lunch, leaving the rig brakeless. Not a nice thought…

It’s taken two years and $30k to get Bluey’s ute on the road. It’s called Meeen and Grumpy because that’s exactly what it’s like on the street. Bluey is the first to admit the blown 308 wouldn’t be happy rumbling around city streets, but on the open roads around Picton it idles along just fine. And when you put the hammer down…

You’d think after two years in the workshop Bluey Hill would be looking to take things a little easy for a while. Not so. Out back there’s the farm hack HQ ute which is about to get the old L34 308 and Doug Nash tranny just as soon as they’re rebuilt, And Bluey’s brother has an Escort that’s in line for the full Pro-Street treatment, including ladder-frame and a blown 460. There’s just no stopping some blokes.


Colour: Saddletan metallic

Type: Holden 308
Crank: Harrop
Cam: Harrop
Heads: HDT V5H-spec
Blower: GM 6/71
Injection: Hilborn
Exhaust: Jock McLeod

Shocks: KYB, K-Mac springs (f), coil-overs (r)

Wheels: Simmons 15×8 (f), 15×15 (r)
Tyres: Pirelli P7 225/50 (f), 345/35 (r)