Ryan Pearson’s HOLDON Premier

Burnout specialist Ryan Pearson’s HK-fronted HT Premier revs like a NASCAR, packs 1300 ponies and is one of the best-engineered skid rigs in Oz

Photographers: Ben Hosking

Somewhere, a bunch of purists are sharpening their pencils to write sternly worded letters to Ryan Pearson. But they can jog on, because Ryan took an abandoned HT Premier and built it into a super-neat, 1300hp blown burnout rig, which is heaps better than the old Holden languishing under dirt.

“I came across the car on a job I was doing, just collecting dust in a shed,” the Sydney-based air-conditioning mechanic says. “It was a little 253 and totally stock, but it came with the original purchase order and logbooks from Holden. The car was in really good condition and the interior was mint.”

First published in the August 2021 issue of Street Machine

Ryan initially intended to build the HT into a sweet street cruiser, but his in-built need to improve the engineering and quality of finish took over.

“I’d always been into burnouts, and my LH Torana burnout car got out of control, becoming a show car-type deal,” Ryan explains. “Initially the HT was meant to have a little blown motor to cruise the street, but I’m always wanting to make things better, so it rolled out of control, too.

“I took it to a bunch of comps and got back into burnouts. Eventually, I burned the whole rear of the car and a lot of the wiring, which led to this big rebuild. I think it took four-to-five months to get it done, but I took a lot of time with this version just to make sure it was all spot-on.”

The DNA Emerald Green paint came about because Ryan wanted something that would stand out on the pad. “Having a burnout car, you want something that looks great, especially in photos and video,” he says. “I thought the green would look awesome with white smoke pumping out behind it, contrasting with it.”

The shell has been mini-tubbed, but done in 3mm steel to match the rest of the nuclear-grade undercarriage that cops a walloping during skids. To stiffen the car up, half-inch tube was welded around all four wheelarches, the front and rear chassis rails were joined together (with the front rails chamfered, gusseted and plated to improve exhaust clearance) and a custom gearbox crossmember was added.

“So much engineering has gone into the HT, most of it for strength, clearance and ease of maintenance,” Ryan explains. “Chris Spicer from CS Engineering has been a huge help with the fab work on the car, and he’s the man behind my Torana. The HT is punished, so maintenance has to be regular and as easy as possible, but I’m always looking for ways to improve the engineering in the car and make it look tough.”

One way to do that is to jam in a dyno-proven 1360hp mouse motor. Ryan opted for a traditional small-block Chev rather than a fat-block or LS, and got Brett Niddrie at BNR Engines, the shop responsible for a stack of top-shelf burnout donks, to build it.

The 377-cube mill runs a Callies crank, Oliver rods, JE slugs and a Crower solid-roller cam, topped with deep-breathing AFR heads. You may struggle to see the latter though thanks to the 8/71 blower, five-inch Big & Ugly hat and custom sheet-metal intake manifold dominating the view.

“I knew what I wanted: a short-stroke motor that would rev,” Ryan says. “I did some research and tried to incorporate NASCAR and Sprintcar engineering tips in there, because I love rpm. It takes you to another level, and it energises me. Normally HOLDON sits around 9000rpm, but I have gone to 10,300rpm once!”

The angry SBC has been mounted on engine plates, with a VL Commodore steering rack replacing the bulky stock box and draglink, and a Holden Astra hydraulic-electric pump providing assistance from its remote-mounted position in the boot. The firewall and engine crossmember have also been recessed for engine clearance, while the HT’s restrictive stock trans tunnel was rehomed at Sims Metal in favour of a more generously proportioned item.

A stout Powerglide high-low ’box was built by Steve Micallef at Shift Right in Richmond, paired to a TCE 3700rpm converter and custom three-inch tailshaft (which also runs a pair of safety loops). Ryan also biffed the stock leaf springs and weedy Salisbury diff in favour of a sheet-metal nine-inch chock full of all the good gear, swinging off Viking coil-over struts and an adjustable four-link featuring an X-bar and anti-dive bar.

“Everything has to be accessible so I know where to find things and how to fix them if it goes wrong,” Ryan says. “I try and put a fair bit of thought into these things, because you’re constantly working on them.”

Ryan has already started on his next build, an LX Torana sedan being wrapped around a Fowler 14/71-blown big-block Chev, but he’s concentrating on the underlying engineering and giving it a show-quality finish. Sound familiar?


Paint: DNA Emerald Green
Brand: 377ci small-block Chev
Induction: Custom sheet-metal
Blower: Aug-71
Heads: AFR
Camshaft: Crower solid-roller
Conrods: Oliver
Crank: Callies
Oil system: Auto Verdi dry sump, custom ASR sump
Fuel system: MagnaFuel lift pump, Enderle 110A front pump, mechanical injection
Cooling: PWR cross-flow aluminium radiator, twin 12in fans
Exhaust: Custom four-into-one headers
Ignition: MSD 12LT mag, MSD ignition controller
Gearbox: Shift Right Powerglide
Converter: TCE 3700rpm 
Diff: Braced sheet-metal 9in 
Front: Pedders springs, Koni adjustable shocks, custom column, VL power rack-and-pinion steering, custom control arms
Rear: Viking coil-over struts, custom four-link with anti-dive bar and X-arm
Brakes: Slotted discs, AP four-piston calipers (f)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
Rims: Intro billet; 20×8 (f), 20×12 (r)
Rubber: Michelin; 245/25R20 (f), 325/25R20 (r)

THANKSKarl Shields at Southwest Car & Truck Tyres; Brett Niddrie at BNR Engines; Jeff Briffa at Briffa Customs; Chris Spicer at CS Engineering; Joe Webb at Bad Image; DNA Custom Paints; Mark at Hawkesbury Auto Trim; Steve at Shift Right; Fred Watson at Fear Motorsport; Troy Newman at Reflection Detailing & Coatings; Marc at The Rod Shop; most of all, my wife Kim for all her help and support