Living Legend: HQFORU

Given away by Street Machine in 1986, the iconic 'HQFORU' has been living a charmed life with its saviours Rodney and Judith Menso

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

STREET Machine has built a number of awesome project cars over the past 40 years, but not many can hold a candle to the popularity and longevity of our sixth build, the HQFORU Monaro.

First published in the September 2021 issue of Street Machine

Maybe it’s because it was our first project to be given away to a reader. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to beat the iconic shape of an HQ Monaro. Or perhaps it’s just because HQFORU was tougher than Japanese maths. Whatever the reasons, this car has lived long in our collective memory. Fortunately, it’s also lived long in the garage of street machining power couple Rodney and Judith Menso.

Late in 1985, I was one of the many starry-eyed SM tragics who dutifully cut out the entry coupons, checked and rechecked the postal address and double-licked the stamp as I sent in my entry in the hope of winning HQFORU. At 12 years of age, I had formulated a plan to win the Monaro, drive it straight to The Gap State High School and drop a massive Christou-spec burnout in the parade ground. The chance of expulsion or my lack of a driver’s licence never even factored into it.

Ironically, in 1986 I did see HQFORU throwing smoky hoops in the car park at the Albany Creek Tavern, and I felt kind of gutted that it wasn’t me in the driver’s seat. But I do digress.

So just how did HQFORU become such a legend? After all, Street Machine project cars weren’t a new concept. Between 1981 and 1985, we had a stack of ’em. There was a banana-yellow Mitsubishi L200 mini-truck and a Mazda 323 café racer – hey, it had twin carbs! There was scribe John Wright’s ‘Cheap Thrills’ Charger, art director Lindsay Hannington’s V8 Jag project, and founding editor Geoff Paradise’s ’57 Chevy sedan, ‘Heaven’. The difference with the HQFORU build was that some lucky bastard was going to win it!

It was the brainchild of then-editor Phil Scott, who believed a giveaway car was a sure thing to drive up sales. Phil entrusted the project management to motor racing legend and KB’s Workshop tech guru Kevin Bartlett. An HQ Monaro LS was sourced through a relative of a mag employee. The car was tired but straight, its faded green paint and black vinyl roof pretty much standard fare for a then-14-year-old daily basher, which had dutifully ferried its bank manager owner around for a number of years.

In May 1985, the old Quey was famously single-pegged into the workshop to be stripped down for an intense makeover, emerging just in time to be shot for the cover of our December 1985 issue.

In that five-month stint, the vinyl roof was given the flick and all four guards expertly pumped in steel – necessary to house fat 10- and 12-inch-wide Compomotive three-piece wheels. To tie in with the build’s staunch, Sports Sedan-esque theme, front and rear spoilers were added, along with HK GTS flutes.

After ensuring the shell was perfect, Phil Travers aced the iconic Porsche Guards Red hue by flowing on layers of Acran, including colour-coding the bumpers and the Gemini mirrors. It was here that things nearly went pear-shaped. Thieves broke into the panel shop, but thankfully they left the freshly painted HQ shell well enough alone.

KB and the good folks at Lynx Performance screwed together a stout 350 Chev package, running era-perfect double-hump ‘fuellie’ heads and all the good stuff to make it honk, while a shift-kitted Turbo 400 trans and nine-inch conversion rounded out the driveline upgrades.

Inside the cabin, a swathe of black and anthracite trim was wrapped over all surfaces, including the König front buckets, complemented by NOS GTS dash componentry, a Kenwood stereo and a suede-wrapped Momo sports wheel.

Forty-thousand entries later, the winner of HQFORU was announced in our March 1986 issue. Dale Cooper from Brisbane was the aforementioned lucky bastard, and the HQ began its new life in Queensland, the state where it still resides today.

Dale didn’t hang onto the car for long before unloading it to a car yard in Brissie, and from there it made its way to the small town of Richmond in North Queensland. By 1991, the HQ had been left baking under a tarp in Townsville for a few years before being spotted for sale in the local rag by Jeff Granshaw – Judith Menso’s brother – who rebuilt the 350 and tidied the car up a little.

When Jeff decided it was time to move the HQ on, he didn’t have to look far for new owners. Rodney and Judith took the reins in 1996, and Jeff, along with Rodney’s brother Trevor, chipped in to help the couple as they embarked on a bare-metal respray. It helped that Rodney is in the paint and panel game in their hometown of Ayr in North Queensland.

The HQ was finished in time to hit the road for Summernats 12 at the end of 1998. They drove the HQ 4500km during that trip – yep, not trailered – and returned home with the trophy for Top Mild To Wild Custom. The pair then spent the next decade enjoying plenty of local shows and even some Townsville drag strip action, where the Monaro clocked a credible 12.65@105mph best.

The HQ was pulled down again in 2010 for a full body-off-chassis respray, at which point the original 350 Chev was replaced with a 6/71-blown small-block combo that belonged to Jeff. This, along with a heap of detail refinements and a more modern retrim in a combination of red vinyl and black cloth, reinvigorated the Monaro – HQFORU 2.0, if you will.

“We’ve been determined custodians of the car; I think that’s the best way to describe it,” Rodney says. “I’m a car guy and still wanted to put my stamp on it while keeping it as a bit of a time capsule and tribute to the skill and workmanship of the people involved in the original build.”

While the blower and extra neddies it offered were cool, Rodney and Judith missed the freedom of being able to drive it without the worry of any unwanted attention, so have since refitted the original aspirated 350 and made the bonnet a little more modest by covering the supercharger cut-out with a reverse-cowl scoop.

The engine is due to come out to for a freshen-up and to tidy some oil leaks – it has been 25 years after all – but between the build of Judith’s HER LX Torana (see full feature on p. 60), which debuted at Rockynats this year, and plans to take the hatch to both MotorEx and Summernats, it will have to wait its turn.

There is also an EK sedan in the wings that is begging to be built, along with Rodney’s great-grandfather’s 1928 Rugby truck that was used on the family sugarcane farm, which he’s keen to do up for its 100th birthday.

“I’d love to build a TX Gemini sedan, too. I had one as a first car, which was a real piece of crap, so it’s more just a sentimental thing. I think I can hear Judith sighing,” Rodney laughs.

One thing is for certain: HQFORU will not be leaving the Menso shed any time soon.

“When you’ve had a car for so long, it becomes part of your family, and I really love having that connection with the HQ,” Rodney says. “It may not have twin turbos, 3000hp or 40-inch wheels, but it’s all about the memories. We’ve had so many great times with HQFORU and met so many amazing people because of it.

Isn’t that what being car people is all about?”


Colour: Guards Red 
Make: Chevrolet 350ci
Block: Factory cast
Camshaft: Cam Dynamics 
Pistons: Hypereutectic 
Heads: Cast iron double-hump ‘fuellies’ 
Intake: Edelbrock Victor Jr
Carb: Quick Fuel 650 double-pumper
Exhaust: Pacemaker tri-Y extractors, twin 3in system
Ignition: Mallory electronic distributor, Eagle leads
Cooling: HQ radiator modified to five-core 
Transmission: Turbo 400, shift-kitted
Converter: 3000rpm stall
Diff: Ford 9in, 3.25:1 gears
Front: Lowered King Springs, Monroe shocks
Rear: Lowered King Springs, Monroe shocks
Brakes: HQ discs (f), Ford discs (r) 
Master cylinder: HQ 
Rims: Compomotive three-piece; 15×10 (f), 15×12 (r)
Tyres: Nankang 255/60 (f), BFG 295/50 (r)

Judith; Jeff; Trevor; Phil Jones (devoted fan); Mick ‘Grizzly’ Adams (equally devoted fan); everyone who was involved with the original build back in 1985; everyone that’s ever seen us at a show and came up to say hi!