Mark Sullivan’s 1972 Holden HQ Monaro

This 1972 Holden HQ Monaro Coupe started as a cruiser for the missus until Munro builder Mark Sullivan gave it some real punch

Photographers: Easton Chang

GATHER Monaro die-hards together in one room, ask them to vote on Australia’s best coupe, and chances are two things will happen.

Firstly, and with no disrespect to Mike Simcoe, Holden’s recent version wouldn’t get a look in. And secondly, you could guarantee chairs and beer would go flying before the early-girl HK/T/G camp and blokes who prefer HQ/J/Xs came to a mutual agreement.

Ask Munro nut Mark Sullivan, owner/builder of this blown Quey stunner called BADHQ, and his answer might come as a surprise. “Oh, I prefer HKs over HQs,” he reckons. Whoa! Hang on a minute.

His opinion mightn’t seem strange to those who recognise the HQ’s style, the rego plate attitude and surname. Yep, Mark was the owner of 1BADHK, the 400-cube first-gen beast on 20s featured in the July issue of Street Machine last year. He still is, too. In fact, by the time you read this he’ll be screwing on the last nut of a complete rebuild (see sidebar) that’s likely to knock your Blundstones off.

“I love my HK,” Mark says. “I’ll never sell it. But it’s a mongrel to drive. So I built the HQ, so my wife has something to cruise in too. And it’s so much better to drive than the HK, even on the 20-inchers. It’s bloody amazing.”

Being a better cruiser doesn’t necessarily mean it’s soft. Far from it. The HQ’s tough-nut 350 Chev, built by Daniel from Boydy’s Mechanical (02 4388 2550), is a ball tearer. It’s boasting worked-over Dart II heads and strengthened blower-friendly internals, and was ripping a healthy 385 horses at the expensive Yokohama rears once Mark slapped on a Wieand under-bonnet blower and single Holley 950 double pumper.

However, just prior to our shoot, Mark figured that heaps wasn’t enough.

“The older blower was overdriven to buggery, about 180 per cent,” he says, so he slapped on a bigger 6/71 huffer – running about 12 per cent overdriven – to feed the Chev’s thirst for premium unleaded through 650 DP twins. The result?

“I reckon it’s got an extra 75 horsepower but, jeez, the torque increase in phenomenal! Let me put it this way. The HK ran a low 12, but the HQ feels heaps quicker.”

Not bad for something whipped up so that “the wife can take it to car shows.” Well, it wasn’t exactly whipped up. The build took eight months to complete, with Mark doing much of the work himself, but you sense he’s the kind of bloke who can’t be kept out of Sullivan tool shed for very long. His car-building experience helped make the project virtually painless from the get-go.

“The HQ was really tidy when I bought it after a tip off from a mate,” he explains. “It had been built 10 years ago, was sitting in a shed for seven years, and was already blown when I got it. There was only one little bit of rust, but other than that it was in perfect original GTS nick.”

In many ways it still is original. You see, it’s easy to cop an eyeful of those tasty 20-inch Intro Victory 5 rollers – from Showwheels, (03 9510 3331) – and presume there’s a fair whack of retrotech trickery going on underneath. It’s simply not the case. Everything from the exterior trim work through to the original disc/drum brake set-up is planted in classic old school.

Smart wheel choice makes all the difference. So smart, in fact, that you’d reckon Holden’s designers had three decades of foresight when they penned the fattest Monaro era. Would you believe that the monstrous billet rolling stock, a meaty 8.5 and 10 inches front and rear, fit under the Quey guards with no modifications whatsoever? Try doing that to virtually any other Aussie classic that matters.

“The only mod I had to do was shorten the nine-inch diff by 90mm each side,” Mark explains, and employing a tailshaft lifted from a Holden one-tonner to feed torque from the Stage 2 Turbo 400 slushbox. So without the need for mini-tubbing or re-engineering the rear suspension, it was a simple matter of whacking in a set of King Springs and Pedder’s shock to get the HQ’s slammer stance.

Mark tackled the body prep, calling in his mate and panel pro Dean Meadows to give him a hand at the final pre-painting stage. Another mate, Geoff Wallings, hit the coupe’s Coke-bottle curves with what Mark calls a custom cosmic green mix.

“It’s based off a Vee Dub colour, but I mess around with it a bit. It’s got a heavier grade of metallic running through it together with a bit of gold pearl.” If you look real close you’ll see ghosted boot and bonnet GTS stripes in a slightly lighter green that Mark created by adding straight silver tinter to the body colour formula.

The keep-it-classic attitude also features inside. Although stitched in a fresh vinyl-and-leather combo courtesy of Valley Auto Carpets (02 4358 2681), those pews are original HQ GTS. Meanwhile, the dash has been lifted from an HJ.

“That was the biggest job of the whole build,” Mark says. “You have the change the bulkhead.” He also deleted the armrests from the GTS door trims, added billet alloy handles and converted the windows to fast glass. It’s all slightly modernised without spoiling the 70s feel. The only area that bucks the trend is the boot, which hides a custom install of the latest in Sony sonic artillery.

“I built it because we really like the show car scene,” Mark says. “And I did the HQ up in the same style as the HK because we do weddings, formals and other events with both cars.”

Now that both the HQ is a street regular and the 1BADHK Version Two is completed, there’s little doubt he’ll be itching to hit the tools again. “I’d definitely build another Monaro if I could find a good starting point,” Mark reckons.

So would he build a modern one and make it an all-era trifecta? “Nah, I wouldn’t buy one. I don’t mind them, and the (HSV) GTO is pretty nice. But you can’t wind down the rear passenger windows in the new ones. Which is kinda the whole point, isn’t it?”

Mark Sullivan
1972 Holden HQ Monaro Coupe

Colour: Two-pack Cosmic Green custom

Engine: 350ci Chev V8
Top end: Ported Dart II heads, Crow
custom grind cam
Blower: Wieand 6/71
Internals: Aries forged pistons, 8.5:1 compression ratio, H-beam rods
Induction: twin Holley 650 DP
Exhaust: Pacemaker 4-into-1, dual
3-inch exhaust

Gearbox: Three-speed Stage 2 T400, 3800rpm stall converter
Diff: Ford nine-inch, billet axles, 4.11:1
final-drive ratio, one-tonner tail-shaft
Brakes: HQ disc/drum

Suspension: King Springs, Pedder’s shocks, Nolathane all round
Wheels: 20×8.5inch (f) and 20x10inch (r)
Intro Victory 5 billets
Tyres: Yokohama 225/30 R20 (f) and 275/30 R20 (r)

A VOLVO. Just kidding. Mark’s 1BADHK has just copped the full service after some gremlins crept in while out having some fun in it.

“I took it to the drags, and things went wrong at three-quarter during one pass. I was about to drop a valve and it lost the top skirt off one piston. Then we pulled the diff apart and found that both axles were dangerous close to snapping.”

Mark says readers won’t recognise the HK from July last year’s feature. “It’s got the same 400 Chev but it’s got a 6/71 and I rebuilt it with a blower cam and pistons. I’ve mini-tubbed it for the new wheels and diff, and whipped up a custom electric orange colour that’s got gold Zurellic pearl through it. You should see it in the sun. It looks unbelievable.”