THERE’S nothing dishonourable about paying experts to weld, panel-beat or paint your car. Hired help is the norm because few people are electricians, engine experts and smash repairers. So it’s almost unheard-of for a builder to don the jack-of-all-trades cap and go it alone.
This article on Phillip's HG Monaro GTS was first published in the October 2007 issue of Street Machine
Then there’s Phillip Micallef, and his dad Charlie. This blown HG Monaro GTS is 100 per cent home-grown.
“From the time we started the project, the Monaro remained at home in the shed,” Phillip says. “And it didn’t leave home until it was finished. We worked on it tirelessly for the best part of four and half years. Dad worked on it during the day, and I’d work on it at night. Everything, from panel beating and spray painting down to the tiniest details, was done in our shed.”
The bond with the shed goes way back and is a big part of why Phillip got into cars.
“I used to help the old man tinker with his cars in the shed and I always wanted a Monaro. So when this one came up for sale in Bendigo, I knew the time was right.”
The starting point seemed rosy enough: a reasonably clean 253ci V8-powered coupe and bona-fide GTS, with half its bodywork in primer. Phillip soon discovered that it was really a bit of a mixed bag.
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“It didn’t look too bad when we got it but after taking it back to bare metal, we found rust and body damage,” he says. “It also came complete with a retrimmed standard GTS interior, which I sold to fund a new custom interior. Now, though, I wish I’d held onto it.”
The gravity of owning an increasingly collectible piece of Aussie muscle history wasn’t lost on the 23-year-old and he decided early on that he wasn’t about to butcher the Holden’s classic Coke-bottle lines.
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“I tried to keep the body all stock, without any modifications,” he says, “and I kept most of the parts I didn’t use so that if I ever want to take it back to stock GTS form, I can.”
So there’s little in the way of obvious alteration but lots of work in the details, from the smoothed engine bay to the tidy, pinstriped grille badge. Charlie did the Monaro’s striking Bright Orange in DuPont two-pack.
Phillip had plans for going the blown route from the project’s outset but for the time being, he’s not too fussed what sits under the twin 600cfm Holleys and 6/71 Fisher huffer.
“I supercharged the 253 but it didn’t hold up as long as I’d hoped,” he says. “I busted some piston rings right before Summernats — that was a bit shattering. The 308 in there now is a temporary engine so I can drive it — if a show comes around I can enter and enjoy it.”
There’s nothing wild or bank-busting about the iron-headed 308; bar a mild Crane 276 cam, all the internals are stock GM parts. Still, he spent up on the peripherals to help the five-litre go the distance despite some lead-footed abuse, with an Aussie Desert Cooler radiator, Pro Billet distributor, Pro Comp coil, quality spark and fuel systems, Pacemaker four-into-one extractors and dual 2.5-inch straight-through exhaust. For now, the Monaro runs an M21 four-speed manual.
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“She drinks a bit but that’s half the fun,” he says. “If I wanted economy, I would’ve bought a Commodore. I’m planning on building a 383 stroker with a two-speed Powerglide for it.”
Once they’re ready, the new engine and ’box will slip nicely into place in front of the shortened and spooled 4.11:1 nine-inch filling the space between the Intro 18x10 Sport 5 rims. The rear is slung super-low using reset standard leaf springs and Munro gas shocks. “Eventually I’ll air-bag the rear so I can lift it to a nice ride height if I have to,” Phillip says.
The front end sits on King Springs and Munro shocks, while the brakes have been upgraded with HQ discs and Girlock calipers, inside 17x7 Sport 5s. Phillip adapted VS Commodore disc brakes for the rear end, so the HG isn’t short on stopping power.
The real highlight, however, is the interior. As much as Phillip now regrets selling the original gear, he’s more than made up for it with the tasty new custom makeover.
Squint hard enough and you might recognise the front buckets as HSV VX Series 2 pews.
“We cut the headrests off the front seats — they were just too high,” he says. “I like the look of a low-cut seat, like the Monaro originally came with. We also had to cut down the Commodore rear seat to make it fit properly.
“The dash is original but it’s been redone and painted. We made up the custom door panels and console at home out of painted craft wood — we had to throw some joinery in there somewhere,” he says.
Contrasting the cream leather are custom race-style seatbelts and a six-point aluminium Trik Engineering rollcage which threads through the rear bulkhead and into the fabricated boot installation, which houses most of the stereo gear. It’s a classy system, too: JVC CD/DVD head unit with seven-inch monitor, two 1100-Watt amps, and a full complement of Pioneer speakers and Fusion subs.
“All the enjoyment and satisfaction comes from knowing that Dad and I did it ourselves,” he says. But all the hard yakka has taken its toll.
“My girlfriend Stacy loves the car but she gets a bit upset that I spend more time on the Monaro than I do on her.”
1970 HOLDEN HG MONARO GTS
Colour: DuPont Bright Orange
Engine: Holden 308ci V8
Cam: Crane 276
Induction: Twin Holley 600cfm
Blower: Fisher 6/71
Exhaust: Pacemaker four-into-one extractors, dual 2.5in system
Gearbox: M21 four-speed manual, Daikin clutch
Diff: Ford nine-inch, shortened, spooled, 4.11:1 gears
Brakes: HQ discs and Girlock calipers (f), VS Commodore discs and calipers (r)
Seats: HSV VX Series II Club Sport
Trim: Cream leather
Rollcage: Polished six-point aluminium
Stereo: JVC CD/DVD player, dual 1100-Watt Xtreme Competition amps, Pioneer and Fusion speakers
Suspension: King Springs (f), lowered leaves (r), Munro air shocks, Nolathane bushes
Wheels: Intro Sport 5, 17x7 (f), 18x10 (r)
Tyres: Sumitomo, 205/50 R17 (f), 265/35 R18 (r)
Dad for doing most of the work; brothers Paul and Andrew; Mum; girlfriend Stacy for patience and support; everyone else who helped along the way — you know who you are