Young gun Joe Box’s 355-cube Holden HZ ute

17-year-old Joe Box rescued this farm-find HZ ute and got it running with the help of his dad. It's now running a BG Engines-built Holden 355 V8

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

We bumped into Mudgee lad Joe Box at the Tuff Mounts Holden Drag Nationals, wheeling his farm-fresh, 355ci Holden V8-powered HZ ute deep into the 12s.

Tell us about the ute, Joe.

I bought it back in 2021 off a bloke from Bathurst who had dragged it out of a paddock in Cowra. I saw it on Facebook and decided to make him an offer and managed to buy it. It was a 202/three-on-the-tree car and it was in pretty bad shape; the rear quarters were rusted out and the floors were all gone.

We got the motor running so we could drive it in and out of the shed, then started cutting the rust out of it. I wanted to stay with the rough farm ute look, but at the same time the body had to be solid.

Dad and I put the floors in it, we cut the rust out of the quarters, and Jed from Pro Customs tacked it all up for us. We got it regoed with the 202 for when I was on my L-plates, and I was going to leave it as a six, but by then I’d got addicted!

It’s not a six anymore!

Yeah, I drove it for a bit and then I decided to pull it apart again and put a 355, Turbo 700 and nine-inch in it. Damo at BG Engines built the motor for me; it’s got a tunnel ram and twin carbies and made 480hp on the engine dyno. It ran 12.3 and 12.4s all weekend down at Holden Nats.

Sounds like you did a lot of the work yourself?

It was mostly Dad and I putting it together up in the shed on the weekends. I build trailers for a living, so I’ve learned a lot about welding and fabricating, and I’ve been able to apply a lot of those skills on the ute.

What made you decide to stick with the trusty plastic?

I just wanted to keep it Holden. There’s something about them that I really like; it’s probably the sound. They’re a bit pricey to play around with compared to an LS, but I reckon they’re worth it.

What got you into cars?

I’ve been around cars my whole life, but I started going to events with Dad and really getting into it when I was about eight. I just love being around cars, and I’m really enjoying racing in particular at the moment.

I’ll keep racing the ute for now, but of course I want more power eventually.

Your old man has had some tough Holdens over the years!

He’s racing an HG ute at the moment with an SB2-headed Chev and nitrous. He’s also got an HT Monaro with a 383ci small-block in it, and an old FB pano with a tough Holden six in it.

We do have one Ford – an XY Fairmont, which was Dad’s granddad’s. But I’ve always loved Holdens.

How’d you go at Holden Nationals?

It was good! It was an 11-hour drive down there, but I enjoyed racing at Heathcote; it’s a good track. There were a few Mudgee people down there, so it was good hanging out and racing with the crew.

Tell us about the car scene in Mudgee.

A local bloke, Jed Coghlan, has this Midwest No Prep drag racing thing going. There’s a crown, and the winner gets the crown ’til the next meet. Everyone puts in $50 at the start of the day and the winner takes the pot home. They run at Bodangora and out at Gunnedah, and they’re a lot of fun; it has a bit of a street racing, cash days feel.

There’s a local club that runs events like Mudgee Motorfest and Can Cruise. Kandos is close too; we took the ute to the Kandos Street Machine & Hot Rod Show this year.

And we did Bathurst Autofest at the start of the year, too; that was good fun. There’s always something going on out this way.

Future plans for the ute?

I want to make sure it can still be registered, but I want to go further with the motor one day and make it faster. We’ll see what happens!

Aged around 21 or younger and have a neat ride? Send some pics and info to: Young Gun, Street Machine, Unit 9/3-5 Gilda Court, Mulgrave, Vic 3170, or email high-resolution images (1mb+) to: [email protected].