It's hard to imagine that Ben North's immaculate Holden HT Monaro was slowly turning into a patch of iron-rich soil in the back paddock just three years before
This article on Ben's HT Monaro was originally published in the June 2009 issue of Street Machine
INSPIRED by his 2002 CV8 Monaro, Ben North wanted a project that would make the Summernats Top 60 and be better than his first build, a Torana that he cut his teeth on.
He loved the shape of the 1969 HT and he found one. But not a neat original. Ben started with a car that barely resembled a road-going vehicle.
“It was in a paddock, pretty much from the bottom of the doors down gone, front end rusted off. It was a foot deep in gum leaves and rat shit, bright blue with a blue interior, a 161 and column shift,” he says.
But it was the right shape and came as part of a deal on a genuine HG GTS. So after three and a half years of hard work and a massive learning curve, the 26-year-old butcher from Kerang in country Victoria took his place in the 2009 Summernats Top 60 and picked up the Encouragement Award along the way.
To start with, he wanted “something I could drive every day, four-wheel disc brakes, BMW leather”. And an engine that wasn’t insane but with enough muscle to give the Monaro the cred it deserves. He opted for a 355 Holden with a COME Racing manifold up top.
“Holden in a Holden, I say — in the Torana I had an L34-spec thing, and I wanted something a bit better this time. The idea was to get a bit of driveability with the fuel injection. And I wanted a Holden engine rather than go the easy option and put a Chev in it.”
But it took a long while to get the car to a stage where it was even capable of accepting a donk.
“I stripped it out and rubbed all the paint off it for rust repairs,” Ben says. “I had to pick off a lot of the structural stuff from other cars — like where the front end bolts on — and then stitch the crossmembers back in, then start on the floors. Massive job!”
So what part of the car is original? “The seat foams — I’m not shittin’ ya! The doors are genuine off that car, half the steering column, the glovebox lid and pad, and that would be it. The roof was fine and the rear quarters had the usual repairs but there was a shitload of sheet-metal work to do.”
The custom trim job was done in Connolly leather, with refurbished belts and a painted dash filled with Auto Meters
Ben eventually made an important discovery here.
“I didn’t understand the value of a custom bodyshop at that stage. I just used smash repair guys. It’s not their fault — they do a job to a price and that’s it. It’s been a bit of a learning curve along the way.”
After three body repair and paint jobs, none of which were to Elite Hall standards, he turned to Dion Hearn, a former Street Machine feature car owner and proprietor of Hearn’s Automotive in Deniliquin.
The donk is a stout 355ci stroker, with COME manifold, Delco ECU and heavily massaged heads
“I’m trying to block it out!” Dion laughs when asked what he remembered of the build. “We resurrected it in the end. Thirty-year-old paint had been bogged over and the rust hadn’t been repaired.
“Ben asked how he’d go in the Nats. I said he didn’t have a hope in hell! So we bare-metalled it four weeks before Summernats and I worked night and day on it. But he’s a good bloke so we looked after him.”
It was a big effort from Dion as he was building his new workshop at the same time!
With the body finally straight, the engine came under scrutiny. Ben’s instructions were simple: “Build an engine that’s going in a show car — if it blows up I’ll throw it through your front window!”
He laughed as he said it, which is lucky because it’s been trial and error getting it right.
“The thing is, I started with the standard manifold and put a hydraulic cam in it to suit,” he says. “It had standard heads but when I dynoed it, it didn’t go as well as my old 308. Then I put these massive heads and manifold on but they were too big for the cam — it was running out before I could get the full benefit of the manifold. I put a solid camshaft in — a huge one from hell — and everyone said that would work.”
The combination feeds the rear Billet Specialties rims via a TH350 with a 3800 converter and a custom tailshaft made at Bendigo Drivelines.
A computer simulator suggests it’ll nudge 500hp, a little outside Ben’s original ‘nice and driveable’ brief.
“I’ve got the itch now! I’d like to run a mid-11. We’ll see what happens.”
1969 HT MONARO
Colour: Spies Hecker Indiana Red
Engine: Holden 355i
Manifold: COME Racing twin throttle
Heads: Aluminium ported
Cam: Crane solid
Radiator: Aussie Desert Cooler, twin thermos
Exhaust: Mandrel-bent polished stainless custom system
Converter: Hand-built 3800 converter
Brakes: DBA Gold discs, HQ Holden calipers (f), DBA Gold discs, VS Commodore calipers (r)
Springs: King Low (f), 5.5in rearsets (r)
Seats: Connolly leather
Gauges: Auto Meter Ultra Lite
Shifter: B&M Quicksilver
Rims: Billet Specialties, 18x7 (f) 18x9 (r)
Rubber: Nankang 215/35 (f), 245/40 (r)