Vinnie Pratico’s 434-cube Holden HK Premier

Vinnie Pratico took an already-tough HK Premier and made it sweet for the street

Photographers: Troy Barker

TURBOS and LS engines may be the go in this new age of making horsepower, but it’s refreshing to see some people sticking to the old-school street machining recipe of big, carby-fed V8s sucking down pump fuel, ramping up on high-stall converters and meaty treads.

First published in the September 2021 issue of Street Machine

Vinnie Pratico is one such practitioner of the old ways, and his HK Premier embodies his ideal of a big, tough street cruiser. When he saw it for sale, the Prem’s colour combo, killer stance and thumping 630hp aspo donk were enough to make him want it more than a six-year-old begging their mum for a chocolate at the supermarket checkout.

“I knew opportunities like this don’t come up very often anymore, and the combination of the black paint, red interior and mini-tubs meant I couldn’t pass it up,” the South Australian says. “I’ve always liked the HKs, and this one was the perfect combo of that pure, iconic muscle that I just love.”

The big HK had already been treated to a ground-up rebuild by the previous owner, which included fitting the striking Goya Red interior, laying down the two-pack black paint and dumping in the 434ci small-block Chevy.

The latter is a big part of what personifies this car for Vinnie. “I love the older-school muscle using the carby and pump fuel, and with the carby and tune that’s on it now, it drives just as good as a new car anyway,” he says.

The donk was put together by Graham at Advanced Engine Reconditioning using some good-quality gear. The crank is a four-inch Scat steel piece, with H-beam Scat rods and custom-coated Mahle pistons bringing comp up to 11.5:1. A pair of Brodix Track 1 heads breathe through a Crane solid R268 stick, and topping the whole deal is an APD 950 Billet Enforcer carby. On the engine dyno, it cranked out 635hp and 560lb-ft, backed up by a session on the chassis dyno at THR Developments, which yielded 444hp through the Turbo 400 ’box and nine-inch diff.

The trans is forward-pattern and fully manualised, housing a Norwood Automatics 4500rpm nine-inch converter. The diff also has all the good stuff in the form of Moser 31-spline billet axles and snappy 4.33:1 gears. “The gears are probably a bit too aggressive for the street, especially on the highway, so I’ll look into changing those soon,” says Vinnie.

On the surface, then, it would seem that Vinnie had walked his way into a ready-to-rip cruiser, but that’s far from the case. “On the first two drives of the car we had alternator issues, and I’m very fussy with my cars,” he says. “While on the outside things looked good, once we got into it we ended up fixing a bunch of stuff.”

Vinnie had to get most of the wiring redone, and not long after spoke with Nick from Manta Car Restorations about the long and stringent task of getting the car to meet the letter of the law. “Engineering was a big process, but I wanted the peace of mind of knowing the car is fully legal on the street and I’ll have no issues,” he says. “The boys had to completely redo the fuel system, and even the noise test had to be done three times because the car was too loud! But we got there in the end.”

The finished product is impressive, and the rewards have included Promoter’s Choice at the 2019 Adelaide Auto Expo and Best Street Machine at the 2020 event.

The gongs don’t mean that the HK is a pampered show pony, though. “Don’t get me wrong, I look after the car, but we take it out and cruise it a fair bit on the weekends; it just drives so bloody nice,” Vinnie says. “It never gets hot, and people always stop me and want to have a chat about it, which I love doing.”

Vinnie had to sell his 11-second, 383 big block-powered VC Valiant to make room for the Prem, but he has no issue with that. “I’ve always been a bit of a Mopar guy, but there really is no comparison between the HK and the Valiant,” he laughs. “It’s just such an awesome car; this’ll be the one for me now.”

Vinnie’s plan now is to enjoy the car on the street for a bit before beefing up the top end of the motor in order to head to the track. “It’s obviously more a street car than strip, but next year we’ll change the heads and manifold and hopefully shoot for low 10s,” Vinnie says. “Then I’d love to put the bottle on it and go for nines!”


Paint: Custom two-pack black
Brand: 434ci small-block Chev
Induction: Holley Dominator
Carburettor: APD 950 Billet Enforcer 
Heads: Brodix Track 1
Camshaft: Crane R268 solid-roller
Conrods: Scat H-beam
Pistons: Mahle
Crank: Scat 4in steel
Fuel system: MagnaFuel 275 pump
Cooling: Ron Davis three-core radiator, twin 1700cfm thermo fans
Exhaust: Pacemaker headers, 3in system
Ignition: MSD 
Gearbox: Turbo 400
Converter: Norwood Automatics 9in, 4500rpm stall
Diff: 9in, Moser 31-spline billet axles, 4.33:1 gears
Springs & shocks: Pedders (f & r)
Brakes: HQ discs (f), HQ drums (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
Rims: Center Line Auto Drag,15×5 (f), 15×10 ®
Rubber: Maxxis 165/80R15 (f), Mickey Thompson 28x12R15 (r)

Nick and his team at Manta Restos; Nick and Brenton at THR Developments for the tuning; Graham at Carline Mufflers in Findon; Simon at The HKTG Garage; Sot at Speed Garage; my friends and family and everyone else who helped make my vision possible