Pro street big-block 1971 Holden HQ Statesman – PRO HQ

Matt Morgillo has been working towards pro street goodness with his Holden HQ Statesman since day dot. Despite taking a few hints along the way, his vision has finally been realised

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

This article on Matt’s HQ Statesman was originally published in the February 2019 issue of Street Machine

AS WE enter Matt Morgillo’s innocuous suburban garage, he explains his vision: “Big tubs, big engine; I’ve been picturing it since I was a kid.”

Under a car cover before us sits the embodiment of this vision, the very definition of the pro street style. Matt’s cloaked HQ Statesman takes up a commanding proportion of the available space. He peels back the cover to reveal the custom PPG silver duco and perfect gaps, features that appear so at odds with the cluttered walls framing it, full of vintage Coke bottles, model cars and oil paraphernalia. This car is the culmination of more than a decade of spannering, with two colours, several motors and plenty of downtime in between.

Supporting the Statesman’s big-block is a stock HQ front end, upgraded with kidney plates and a CRS rack-and-pinion system. The cross member was dropped 60mm to allow the heads to fit under the bonnet. The rear conceals a McDonald Brothers four-link set-up against a full chassis and strenghtened 9in

“This was my first car,” Matt explains. “It was pretty original when I got it; although it had been set up for a big-block, it was never finished.” Sometimes those projects are fraught with danger, but the Statesman was pretty straightforward. “I did it all up myself; it was a pretty tough car,” Matt continues. “All the usual stuff: 255s, deep dishes, nine-inch and a 450hp 308. I was 18 or 19 driving around like that!”

The tough combo lasted a few years, and although it was never Matt’s daily, it copped plenty of battle scars. “Some lady came out from a side street and took me out,” he says, gesturing to the Statesman’s original but damaged Taormina Aqua nosecone hanging on the wall. “Dad wanted to keep it, but I hate that colour, man!” he winces.

Matt’s Statesman was repaired, retaining the disliked factory colour, but it wasn’t out of the wars. “That’s when it got defected,” Matt sighs. “They did me for over 20 things, so there was no way it was going to be lifted easy.” A wry smile creeps across his face: “So that’s when I decided to come back worse!”

Matt’s decision to reinstall the vinyl roof after the body resto ensures the Statesman stands apart of many pro street cars. Winner Products in SA supplied the roof in a Rolls-Royce grain similar to the now-unavailable Holden vinyl. “These cars look too big when they’re one colour,” Matt says.

Naturally, the HQ’s transition from tough P-plater rig to intimidating pro streeter didn’t happen overnight. “I let it sit for a while,” Matt admits. He looks towards his dad, Vince, who has wandered in to raid the shed fridge, before continuing: “We had heaps of other toys, so we put it on the backburner.”

The rear wheelarches were cut, stretched and tubbed to swallow 31x18in Mickey Thompsons. Matt’s original rolling stock was a set of Center Line Auto Drags, but a visit from a mate changed things up. “He put his Weld V-Series on the front and I thought it looked wild, I told him that he wasn’t taking them home!” A set of matching, albeit significantly deeper rear alloys appeared on Facebook Marketplace not long after. “They’re the perfect offset,” Matt says, happy with the win

The bug to rebuild the car hit Matt hard and without warning. “I just woke up one day and said: ‘That’s it, I’m doing it.’ I put the papers in to the engineers and sold all my streetable cars to help finance it.”

Vince shakes his head at Matt’s statement. “We sold a lot of nice cars to pay for this thing,” he adds, clearly with no regrets.

“I had the bodywork and paint done by a panel shop and was dropping in there most nights to do the assembly,” Matt says.

“The whole car was finished, but when I opened the boot, it felt like something was missing,”Matt admits. Adam DeRose of Trim By Mooch was able to knock something up, tidying up the boot around the battery box and 75L Aeroflow fuel cell. Panelling hides the washer bottle and fuel pump

The Statesman’s tough shape was kept relatively pure, with modifications made either for aesthetic or practical reasons. The workshop took the shell back to bare metal, flattened the firewall, smoothed the front wheelwells, stretched the rear wheelarches and installed a pair of monstrous tubs.

“We fitted the interior, dash and the whole front end; all the bolt-on stuff,” Matt says.

Engine builder Dino Cecere put together a tough motor using a tall-deck Dart block and Dart SR20 heads. The big big-block contains a set of Carrillo pistons surrounded by Total Seal rings and is thumped up and down by a Callies Magnum crank attached to a set of Carrillo rods. Backed by a Reid two-speed Powergide, this torque monster required a full chassis connecting front and rear subframes

It was during the reassembly process that Matt noticed the new silver paint was going off, blistering and cracking within a few short months. Having lost faith in the original workshop, Matt had the faults corrected elsewhere, and the results speak for themselves – as does a Top 60 berth at Summernats 31.

All this chat about bodywork has so far failed to address the 632 cubic-inch elephant in the room. After a quick clatter and a whirr, the shed is shaking to the sound of 10 litres of angry V8 desperately seeking a road to run down. I quickly check to see if any of the garagenalia has dislodged, but it’s safe. Matt shuts down the Dart Race Series tall-deck big-block and all is quiet again.

“We originally had it set up with an F3R ProCharger hanging off the side; thank God we didn’t run that. It would have been so shit on the streets,” Matt says.

Yet despite the mad skills of engine builder Dino Cecere and the big-cube Dart smashing out over 1000hp, Matt isn’t keen to hit the quarter-mile any time soon. “Really man, I don’t want to abuse the car,” he says. “I had the bug for a bit, but there’s a lot of money in PRO HQ to put down the track and I ain’t taking it to no dustbowl drag strip!”

The 1250cfm carburettor was custom-made for the engine by Bob Brooks. “It’s a big carby and it loves fuel, too!” Matt laughs.”I was thinking of putting a tunnel-ram on it and going injected, but doing it like this hasn’t given us a problem. You just need to bring a flathead in case anything happens. Nothing that can’t be fixed with that.” The whole set-up is barely contained under a full-steel, 6in reverse-cowl scoop crafted by Tony DeRose

Matt guesses the Statesman would run low-to-mid nines if challenged, but that in itself presents an issue; it would need a rollcage. “I did consider putting a ’cage in it at some stage, but it would be a pain in the arse driving it around like that, plus I couldn’t engineer it with people in the back seat, so I threw that idea away.”

PRO HQ runs a surprisingly stock interior for a pro steet weapon, with the work carried out by a guy named Lori. “He’s done a heap of cars and is one of the best older generation-style trimmers. He also did Dad’s Torana, then he retired,” says Matt. The seats and door trims replicate the standard Statesman de Ville items, but deletes the woodgrain from the latter. Matt installed an HZ Holden multi-function indicator stalk to tidy up the controls, along with a Dakota Digital gauge cluster with GPS speedo

The appeal of hitting the track isn’t totally lost on Matt, but only for the right event. “If Powercruise or something comes to Adelaide, we’ll take it there and have some fun, but running numbers doesn’t interest me at all. If I want to race a car, I’ll build a race car. I just want to have fun in this.”

Matt reaches into the fridge and rescues a softie. “I’m fine to let my mates do the drag racing. I’m just happy to sit there cooking the barbie and drinking beers.”

With the multiple dramas that beset the HQ now a fading memory, we’d say Matt has earned that pleasure.


Colour: PPG Silver with factory black vinyl roof

Type: Dart tall-deck big-block
Capacity: 632ci
Intake: Edelbrock Super Victor II
Induction: Bob Brooks custom-made 1250cfm
Heads: Dart SR20
Pistons: Carrillo
Rings: Total Seal
Crank: Callies Magnum
Rods: Carrillo
Cam: Cam Motion solid-roller
Pushrods: Jet Engineering 7/16in
Lifters: Isky 904
Valve springs: Isky Tool Room
Valves: Manley Performance stainless; 2.4in (in), 1.88in (ex)
Oil pump: Moroso billet
Ignition: MSD Digital 6AL box with Pro-Billet distributor
Fuel pump: MagnaFuel ProStar 625 series
Exhaust: Custom four-into-one headers with 2.25in to 4in collectors, 3in pipe into twin 18in Magnaflow mufflers, twin stainless 16in resonators

Transmission: Reid two-speed Powerglide
Converter: TCE 4800 high-stall

Brakes: Vented and slotted DBR rotors with HQ calipers (f), vented and slotted DBR rotors with PBR twin-piston calipers (r)
Front suspension: Pedders springs, Competition Engineering adjustable shocks
Rear suspension: QA1 coil-overs
Rear end: McDonald Brothers four-link, Strange 4.11:1 diff centre with Truetrac 35-spline axles
Tailshaft: Hardy Spicer with Strange forged ends
Steering: Custom rack-and-pinion

Rims: Weld V-Series; 17×4.5 (f), 15×14 double-beadlock (r)
Rubber: Mickey Thompson SR; 17×6 (f), 31×18 (r)