LS1-powered 1968 Holden HK GTS Monaro

After a lifetime building top-notch race cars, Monty Brown turned his eyes to the open road

Photographers: Daniel Ward

QUEENSLANDER Monty Brown has spent almost 40 years building drag cars. He caught the bug behind the wheel of a mate’s warmed-over FJ ute at Surfers Paradise Raceway when he was just 16.

This article was first published in the May 2012 issue of Street Machine

He’d built his own race car by the time he was 19 and once he completed his apprenticeship as a coach and motor body builder, he set out on a career in which he’s built some of Australia’s toughest drag cars. These include John Payne’s Top Doorslammer, Daniel Callaghan’s CAL400, Andrew Searle’s ZD True Streeter and an eight-year stint building cars for Jack Daniels Racing.

Monty is also an ANDRA tech inspector. That, and the history outlined above, means he hasn’t had much time for building streeters — until now.

“I wanted to show that I could build a street car to a very high standard,” he says. “How many people can build an elite show car and then build a five-second Funny Car? With the Monaro, I’m showcasing what I can do in my shed.”

The starting point was a Brisbane-built genuine HK GTS, complete with 186S driveline. “I found it on ebay and it was literally a stone’s throw away from the Acacia Ridge Holden factory. And it was a basket case.”

Handily, Monty runs a soda and grit-blasting operation, so the Monaro was stripped of its years of crud in double-quick time. The car was then thrown on a rack for the rear quarters, floor and firewall to be removed. The quarters were replaced with rust-free units, while the bare metal under them was given a birthday, with a rust treatment and a urethane coat.

Monty had a full-on retrotech build in mind, with a late-model engine, transmission and interior fitted to the classic body. To that end, he grabbed a VZ Commodore and ran the tape-measure over it. Happy, he decided to go for it.

The VZ’s complete floor and firewall was cut free and grafted into the coupe. “Now the top of the body is HK and the bottom, from the firewall to the back seat, is VZ,” Monty says.

Restrictive registration rules meant that the front and rear suspension had to remain HK but the VZ graft made it easy to fit a CV8 dash and also provided ready-to-go mounting points for the seats, seatbelts and wiring.

Holden HK GTS Monaro engine bay

Near-stock LS1 nestles up against the VZ Commodore firewall. Hinges are Ringbrothers items that were designed to suit HQs but work well with the HK after a few minor mods

For power he found an LS1 that’d been fitted to an HK and was ready to transplant. It’s matched to a VZ four-speed slushbox that’s been treated to Corvette servos and Kevlar bands.

At the back there’s a nine-inch of course, running 3.9:1 Truetrac gears and Altra 9 heavy-duty axles. It’s held in place by a set of Camaro split leaf springs, with Caltracs and double-adjustable Strange shocks. Four-wheel disc brakes are a mix of Harrop on the front and Wilwood at the rear, all hooked up to the VZ’s ABS unit, which is hiding under the guard.

With the bodywork, engineering and mechanicals sorted, the car left Monty’s shed in primer, ready to be painted in House Of Kolor Tangerine Kandy over a silver base by his mate Steve Kroik. The colour was chosen to match Monty’s classic Honda 750 and the result is dazzling, set off by the factory GTS stripes.

Holden HK GTS Monaro interior

Classic Monaro on the outside, modern Monaro on the inside. Power windows, air conditioning and leather trim make for a comfy ride

As you’d expect, adapting the interior of the larger VZ to the HK wasn’t without headaches.

“The door trims were the hardest part of the build. I wanted them to look like factory CV8 items but I had to get them to fit onto the 1968 doors. It took a lot of messing around, but I think we pulled it off. The rear seat needed a little fiddling around, but it fits up nicely now.”

The rear also sports headrests that have been moulded into the parcel shelf, with speakers grafted in for good measure. All of the interior trim was then wrapped in Italian leather by Lee Brothers Upholstery in Albion, who did a cracking job at completing the package.

Piecing the car together took 18 months and around 2500 hours in labour, and Monty has racked up plenty of miles and a few trophies since. Now he wants more power — with a few bolt-ons he hopes to squeeze 440hp at the treads from the aluminium small-block.

His next project will be bigger and slower. “I’m going to do a trip to the States, buy a campervan and go travelling. Then I’ll bring it here and do the same. After 40 years of spannering on cars, it’s time to take a break!”


Colour: House Of Kolor Tangerine Kandy

Donk: LS1, 5.7-litre
Heads: Ported
Radiator: ARE aluminium
Exhaust: Pacemaker extractors, Magnaflow mufflers

Trans: 4L60E, Corvette servos and Kevlar bands
Converter: Converter Shop 3000rpm
Diff: Nine-inch, 3.9:1 Truetrac

Front: Pedders shocks with six-cylinder springs
Rear: Camaro split leaf, Caltracs, Strange double-adjustable shocks
Brakes: Harrop discs & four-piston calipers (f), Wilwood discs & calipers (r)

Rims: Weld 18×7 (f), 18×8 (r)
Rubber: 215/35 (f) 245/40 (r)

Steve Kroik and Darren, paint; Lee Brothers Upholstery, interior trim; Gavin, New Look Metal Polishing; Village Motorsport Petrie, parts, dyno-testing and tuning; KAI Dyno Logistics; Adrian and Aaron, electrics; Darren at Altra 9, diff components and modification approval; Gadenne Motor Trimmers, leather trim and boot fit-out; Monty’s Competition Engineering and Monty’s Soda & Grit Blast, 0407 376 39