Stephen Day’s iconic HK Monaro being reborn

Originally built by Stephen Day, one of the most famous Monaros of the late 70s is coming back with a vengeance

Photographers: Shawn McCann

With its hunkered-down stance, fat guards over wide rubber and outrageous stack injection towering out of the bonnet, it’s no wonder Stephen Day’s HK Monaro scored several trophies at the third Street Machine Nationals in Shepparton back in 1978, including Best Engineered and Best Engine Bay. The 327 Chev-powered Holden was also the cover star of the July 1978 issue of Australian Street Rodding, alongside another stand-out from that year’s Nationals, Steve Langham’s mega-tough ‘GForce Junkie’ Monaro.

First published in the October 2022 issue of Street Machine

After passing through a few sets of hands, the HK featured in the June 1989 issue of Street Machine (see breakout, p.100), before seemingly disappearing. Fortunately, current owner Chris Boddy has recently brought it out of ibernation and commissioned Jason and Catherine Whitling and the crew at JC Classic Car Restorations to bring it back to life.

We chatted with Stephen, Chris and Jason about the HK’s past and future.

Stephen Day – original builder/owner

What was the car like when you bought it?

It was a 307 Chev/four-speed Saginaw car that I bought around 1975; it was my daily driver. I finished the 12-month rebuild not long before the ’78 Nationals. Presto Bodyworks in Clayton did the paint and the flares – they were old-school, welding and working the metal with an oxy torch.

I wasn’t really trying to build a show winner – more just looking to make it presentable – but obviously the Nationals judges liked what I did.

Stack Injection is tough to run on the street – what made you go in that direction for the 327 Chev?

My family is into power boat racing. I was actually the youngest-ever member of the Australian Power Boat Association; I won my first national title when I was 21.

We knew injection, as that’s what we ran on our boats.

The mill had 12:1 compression; what fuel did you run?

Straight methanol – again, because that’s what we ran in our boats. The injection’s belt-driven mechanical pump doesn’t draw very well.

To ensure it always had a good head of fuel, I ran a Holley electric pump at the tank in the boot, which fed the surge tank up in the engine bay, the fuel level of which was controlled by two Holley fuel bowls. It worked pretty well.

Many still recall the Australian Street Rodding cover that the HK appeared on (pictured above). Did you know your fellow cover star Steve Langham?

A great guy, but I’d never met him before the Nationals. At the shoot, I think he was a bit miffed.

He drove his car to the Nationals and I trailered mine; this caused a bit of controversy with a few of the awards the HK won.

Who had the car after you?

I sold the car running to Harry Jos. He only hung onto it for a short while, as alcohol is a lot of effort to live with. You’ve got to be up for it; it’s not a kind fuel.

You can’t just turn it off and think it will start back up later on; you’ve got to empty and clean the whole fuel system every time.

You built the motor in the original car, and you’re still building engines today.

I specialise in NASCAR-based engines, mainly R5P7 Dodges. Chris Boddy has asked me to build him a motor for the HK’s restoration, which I’ve agreed to do.

It will be a very traditional iron-block 327 Chev with fuellie heads. It will look like it has Hilborn stack injection, but it will be one of my eight-throttlebody EFI set-ups.

Second Helping

When the HK appeared in the June 1989 issue of Street Machine, then-owner Tony Sayers had just finished a full two-year rebuild (pictured here). It had been quite run down and was missing its injected small-block, transmission and diff centre.

After redoing the body and giving it a fresh coat of paint, Tony filled the engine bay with a healthy 396ci big-block Chev, backed by a rare, fine-spline Muncie four-speed. The trim, wheels and Tank Fairlane 9in rear were carried over, but Tony added extra gauges, a roll bar and uber-expensive Deist Top Fuel harnesses. However, the most obvious deviation was the sky-high Formula 5000 scoop!

Current owner: Chris Boddy

How did you come to own the HK?

I bought her off Brett Addison; she had a little 253 at that stage. Prior to going to look at her, I didn’t even know she had ever existed; my mate Adam Dardha put me onto her. Early plans included a black respray and maybe a 454 big-block, but then I started doing some research, which is when I found out about the car’s history.

How long have you had the car?

Twenty-two years! I drove her around for a few years, then had a lovely little accident – it made me cry. I was going to repair her; however, life, family, mortgages and that kind of stuff all got in the way, and she sat under covers for 18 years. During that time, a lot of people tried to buy her, but I’ve loved her from the moment I saw her – that’s why I kept hold of her.

What motivated you to finally undertake the restoration?

Kathy, my beautiful partner. Even when money was tight, never once did she ever suggest selling the Monaro. We’d been saving up to move house, and when that fell through, Kathy said, “Stuff it, let’s put the money into the Monaro.”

It’s a real family affair, then?

Yep, my two boys, Harrison and Nicholas, love the car, despite never having seen her run. Harrison has already asked if he can have her when I die.

What’s the goal for the restoration?

Because of the history of the car, I want to keep her as original as possible. It won’t be 100 per cent the same; she’ll be EFI this time, and Stephen has talked me into running a Richmond five-speed. But it will be very close. That’s why I went with Jason Whitling; he ticked all the boxes and understood what I’m looking to achieve.

It’s cool that Stephen is sorting the new motor for the car he built!

I’d wanted to meet him since I bought the car – he’s been great; so many stories. He vividly remembers bolting the diff into the car; it was the day Elvis died. As I told him and everyone else, she’s been through a few hands; I’m just the lucky bastard who’s ended up with her.

Jason Whitling – JC Classic Car Restorations

The car looks to be in relatively good shape?

We see a lot of cars around this age that are in really poor condition. This Monaro is in surprisingly good condition. We were pleasantly surprised when we pulled the quarters off; the inner frame was pretty much rust-free. And when it came back from the blasters, no surprises!

What stage will JC get the car up to?

Turn-key – we’ll do everything. As well as body and paint, we’ll redo all the suspension and have the wheels refurbished and fitted with new BF Goodrich TAs.

It’ll retain the chrome diff, chromed sway-bars and all the chrome bolts, and we’ll redo the interior – I think the goal is to keep it blue velour, the same as original.

What are the overall goals for the rebuild?

We have lot better metal shaping skills these days, so we’ll make up new quarter panels, and English-wheel new flares out of fresh steel, as there’s a lot of filler in the old ones.

To make sure the new flares are exactly the same shape, we made a host of profile gauges, and we’ll also use the original flares as a buck. The main thing is finishing everything off to a much higher standard. It will be MotorEx build quality without losing any of its original character.