427-cube 1973 HQ Monaro GTS

Since John Simunovich was a teenager, it's been all about GTS Monaros - an obsession culminating in this tough, 540hp HQ

Photographers: Jordan Leist

Back in 1990, Perth’s John Simunovich was just starting high school. One of his first metalworking projects was to create a brass keyring with some lettering stamped into it. While many other students most likely stamped their names, John’s keyring spelt out ‘GTS MONARO’– and yes, he does still have it. Holden’s Monaro had captured young John’s imagination, and, as you can see from these photos, it still hasn’t let go 32 years on.

First published in the June 2022 issue of Street Machine

When teenage John began the search for his first car, he was adamant it had to be an HQ Monaro GTS. “My dad said, ‘Well, if you want a V8, I’m not helping you pay for anything,’ which was kind of good, but kind of shit,” John laughs. “We went looking for HQ coupes, and I found a good one, but they wanted $2000 a year for insurance! Back in ’94, that was a heavy blow – in fact, it still is now.”

John’s entire world came crashing down, but after being a sook for a few weeks – his words, not mine – he adjusted his expectations and ended up with a custom-painted HX with a 308 and all the Monaro features a young bloke could hope for.

It was a pretty nice car for the time, and John held on to it for a few years before getting into some later-model Holdens. “After the HX, I had a VL that went through a couple of different colour schemes, and then a VS ute. After my first child was born in ’04, the cars had to go – for a while.”

John’s version of “a while” is a bit shorter than my interpretation, as two years later, he bought the model he’d wanted from the very beginning – the HQ Monaro GTS you see here.

“I spotted the car on eBay and agreed with the owner to go and see it in Melbourne,” John says. “I caught the red-eye flight, bought the car and was back in Perth by 3pm the same day.”

But with John having a young family to look after, the HQ sat in the garage unlicensed for the next six years before he was ready to start the build.

The first job on the list was to send the Quey to Stripped Bare to be taken back to bare metal, but after all the paint was removed, it was revealed that the car resembled swiss cheese. “The only panels that didn’t need any cancer cut out of them were the bonnet and boot,” John says.

Fortunately, John’s mates, John and Dave from Restoration Style, did a magnificent job with the body and got it ready for paint. “The bodywork took up most of the build – about four-and-a-half years fixing all the rust and getting all the repair panels,” John says. “We had to sacrifice two ute rear quarters, which were grafted on from below the swage line.”

With the body once again 100 per cent metal, the car was sent off to Mark at B&B Smash Repairs, who applied the gorgeous Spies Hecker Iridium Silver – a Mercedes colour – and GTS black-outs. “I was after a colour that popped in the sun to really show off the lines, and I saw Neil Bunce’s HG Monaro [SM, Sep ’13] and fell in love with the silver,” John explains.

When John first got the car, it had a 308, Turbo 400 and nine-inch, but for him that was kind of a ‘two out of three ain’t bad’ situation. So he got rid of the 308, had the transmission and nine-inch rebuilt and then got busy screwing together a Dart SHP-based 427ci small-block Chev, with help from Carlo at Romcol Automotives.

“When I spoke to Carlo, I said it had to run on pump fuel,” John says. “I didn’t have a horsepower figure in mind, but there was an HK Monaro that would come to Carlo’s workshop from time to time and it sounded like an absolute animal. I said to Carlo, ‘If you make it sound something like that, I’ll be pretty happy.’”

Carlo duly began piecing together a stout combo that fit the bill. The crank and rods are from Scat, while the pistons are JE flat-tops. There’s a Crane solid-roller cam doing the lumpity-bump on the valves, and everything was balanced and blueprinted. Up top are AFR 210 heads with 65cc combustion chambers, with the whole lot crowned by an Edelbrock Victor Jr intake and Holley 950cfm Ultra HP carb. Exhaust gases are funnelled rearwards via Pacemaker headers and a twin three-inch stainless system with Lukey mufflers, fabricated and installed by Andy’s Exhaust Werx.

It’s a pretty old-school combo, and John kept that theme when it came time to paint the engine block. “I know everyone is going black, but I always had this thing when I was a teenager and going to car shows that a Holden V8 had to have a red block, so it’s a throwback to when I was 17.”

Underneath is just as tidy as the rest of the car, with the floor painted gloss black and all of the suspension parts powdercoated. “I knew the car wasn’t going to be a full-on show car, but I wanted it to look like a brand-new car,” John says. “Everything was detailed around being driven a lot but still looking nice.”

John knew the level of quality he wanted from the Monaro, and the secret to achieving that is to pick the right shops to do the work – people you can trust. “You do hear some horror stories, but I never got burnt with any of the shops I dealt with,” he says. “Being a builder by trade, I did project-manage the car somewhat.”

When it came to wheels and tyres, John was tempted to go with Center Line Auto Drags. “By the time I got my arse into gear, they’d actually ceased making them, so I missed the boat on that one,” he says. “I had a set of Draglites for it, but as things progressed, I thought they probably weren’t going to cut the mustard. It took me a while to decide on the Welds, because I couldn’t get my head around the fact that the fronts were 17s and the rears were 15s.”

The final touch was to bring the interior up to scratch, so John turned to Adam at Romeri Motor Trimmers to make the inside factory fresh. Adam suggested they use leather on the seats, but John wasn’t too sure until he stuck his head inside Adam’s leather-trimmed Torana: “I opened the door and I thought it looked pretty cool; it gave it a subtle luxurious look.” A TCI shifter and a few extra gauges give the cabin a tough look but with a lot of the factory styling retained.

That’s pretty much been John’s philosophy for the entire build: not too far from stock, but with enough subtle hints to let you know that there’s something special going on underneath. This pristine Quey proves that John’s GTS Monaro obsession has come a long way from that metal-shop keyring!


Paint: Spies Hecker Iridium Silver/Black
Type: 427ci small-block Chev V8
Inlet: Edelbrock Victor Jr
Carb: Holley 950cfm Ultra HP
Heads: AFR 210 65cc
Valves: 2.08in (in), 1.60in (ex)
Cam: Crane solid-roller
Pistons: JE flat-top
Crank: Scat
Conrods: Scat H-beam
Cooling: Brown’s radiator, twin AU fans
Exhaust: Pacemaker headers, twin 3in stainless system, Lukey mufflers
Ignition: MSD Pro Billet distributor, 6AL Digital box
Transmission: Turbo 400
Converter: AllFast 4500rpm stall
Diff: 9in
Front: Pedders Super Low springs, Koni adjustable shocks
Rear: Pedders HQ Race springs, Koni adjustable shocks
Steering: Blacks Racks rack-and-pinion
Brakes: Hopper’s Stoppers cross-drilled discs (f), drums (r)
Rims: Weld AlumaStar 17×4.5 (f), Weld SR71B 15×8.33 (r)
Rubber: M&H Racemaster 185/55R17 (f), Mickey Thompson 28×10.5×15 (r)

My wife Catia for supporting my dream; John and Dave at Restoration Style; Carlo at Romcol Automotives; Craig and Ryan at Stock Road Auto Electrics; Adam at Romeri Motor Trimmers; Mark at B&B Smash Repairs; Joey at Xtreme Automotive Detailing