LS-powered 1972 Holden HQ SS

Chris Reece inherited his love for HQs from his old man and together they built this stunning streeter


THEY reckon that the apple never falls far from the tree, and it sure seems to be the case wherever car guys are concerned. Rob Reece is a dyed-in-the-wool gearhead, so his son Chris stood little chance of escaping the affliction. “It started when I was a kid,” Chris said. “I remember going to pick up my great-grandfather’s old ’29 Ford tourer from where my dad grew up in Bingara. That’s when the passion started.”

This article was first published in the March 2014 issue of Street Machine

It’s fair to say that Chris was always destined to have a project of his own, and with a little help from his dad Rob, that project ended up being this now-stunning bona fide HQ SS.

Rob found the car three and a half years ago at Merimbula on the NSW South Coast as “an immaculate basket case”. It might have been rough, but it was a genuine SS and that’s what mattered.

“I first saw an SS when I was about 12 years old and it was love at first sight; I’ve wanted one ever since,” Rob said. He already had a two-door HQ Monaro in the shed with a 253 and four-speed and the plan was to flip the running gear out of it and into the SS on a budget, but – as these things tend to do – things got out of hand.

From the outside, Chris’s Quey resembles an immaculate bone-stock SS with a set of 18in Weld Industries rollers. The Infra Red duco is superb for a backyard job

The SS was originally a parts-bin special dreamed up by Holden’s marketing department. With the 253 the only engine available, it was hardly a genuine muscle car back in the day, but since the Aussie muscle-car boom of the early 2000s, models like this have become much more desirable.

Once Chris became aware of just how sought-after the SS was, he was immediately committed to preserving it despite his desire to add his own personal touch. Even though it packs a late-model engine and gearbox conversion, the only cut made to the standard HQ body was a single hole the size of a 20c piece for the wiring harness to run through. Other than the engine and box, the wheels are the only deviation from stock.

The build took 12 months from go-to-whoa, and the entire process was carried out in the Reeces’ back shed, with the exception of the superb Infra Red paint, which was laid on in someone else’s shed. The colour choice reflects Chris’s resto-mod approach to the build – it’s one of just three hues in which the SS was offered from the factory, and it suits the Quey’s lines to an absolute tee.

Rob and Chris started out by getting the body sandblasted, but the panels were so far gone that a donor car had to be sourced. The bodywork was attended to by good mates Alan and Chris Barber, and there was plenty of work involved by all accounts.

Just as Rob and Chris were preparing to slot the thong-clapper from the coupe into the SS, a friend by the name of Peter Ryan drew their attention to a freshly rebuilt 5.3-litre iron-blocked Gen3 he had that was surplus to his requirements. Pete was kind enough to offer Chris the motor for the cost of the rebuild and suddenly the Quey had a far more capable donk to call its own.

Before being introduced to the stunning engine bay, the Gen3 was treated to a warmer COMP Cams stick and a BBK SSI inlet manifold to liven it up a touch. A Tremec TKO 600 cog-swapper was sourced from the States, while the diff is a disc-brake Statesman-issue 10-bolt Salisbury with a limited-slip centre and 3.55:1 gears.

The 5.3-litre cast iron-block Gen3 fitted to Chris’s HQ is common fare in the States and is fitted to hordes of commercial vehicles. This beautifully presented example benefits from a healthier cam and a BBK ilet manifold

A Statesman under-dash air conditioning system was also sourced, meaning that Chris can dial in his desired cabin temperature with the flick of a switch. The system is driven by a Vintage Air compressor, which came in a kit complete with the entire engine pulley system. The kit included the alternator, water pump, power steering pump and pullies, so it didn’t come cheap, but Chris says it was a dream to fit.

Brad from Brad’s Auto Upholstery, just up the road from the Reece family shed in Sydney’s outer north-west, is responsible for the concours-quality factory restored cabin. “Brad grew up working on HQs, so he took one look at it and knew exactly what to do and where to source the correct materials for the job,” Rob said.

The interior has been flawlessly restored and looks like it’s straight out of a 1972 sales brochure. It also harbours a subtly installed stereo

The finished product caught the eye of the judges at Bathurst Autofest 2013, where the car picked up the Pro’s Choice (GM) trophy. It’s a beautifully presented, regularly driven streeter with air, steer and a reliable fuel-injected motor with gobs of grunt. It’s personalised, but in a way that’s sensitive to the original offering.

“It’s a classic and it wouldn’t have done the car any justice to butcher it. You wouldn’t know what’s been done to it ’til you lift the hood, and that’s the way we wanted it,” said Rob.

“HQs are a passion I have and it’s great that Chris has embraced it. It keeps us out of the pub.”

1972 HQ SS

Colour: Infra Red

Brand: Chevrolet 5.3L Gen3
Induction: BBK SSI inlet manifold, BBK 80mm throttle body, alloy fuel rails
Camshaft: COMP Cams hydraulic roller
Sump: Moroso
Preferred fuel: 98-octane pump
Fuel system: Carter lift pump, Holden pressure pump
Cooling: Custom alloy radiator, 16in thermo
Exhaust: Pacemaker headers, twin 3in exhaust to 2.5in over diff, twin 4in cats
Ignition: MSD coil packs, Painless wiring

Gearbox: Tremec TKO 600
Clutch: McLeod hydraulic
Diff: 10-bolt Salisbury, 3.55:1 gears, LSD centre

Springs and shocks: Pedders
Brakes: HQ discs (f), HQ Statesman discs (r)
Steering: Standard power steering, Vintage Air pump

Rims: Weld Industries 18x7in (f) 18×8.5in (r)
Rubber: Rockstone 225/45/18 (f) 255/45/18 (r)

Robert Reece (dad), Bill Hepburn (sparky), Allan and Bruce (beaters), Joey (engine builder – installed cam), Rose Reece (mother), Emma Newman (girlfriend), Toad.