This article on Craig Rose's HQ ute was originally published in the October 2004 issue of Street Machine magazine
AWARD-winning chef and award-winning car builder; guys like Craig Rose have a recipe for success, even if it doesn’t come easy. The same skills Craig uses as a chef have been channelled into cooking up this creation.
It’s the little details that count. Craig recessed the body to ensure the one piece rear bar got a snug fit
Cars like this don’t just happen, they evolve, and this one has been simmering on the backburner, maturing, over seven long years.
Related: Blown big-block 1973 Holden HQ ute
“I could visualise the end product right from the start but it’s been a bloody struggle, getting stuffed around with less-than-perfect workmanship and uninterested people,” Craig says. “Why can’t people just say what they intend to do up front or admit they aren’t interested?”
The number of times Craig packed up his bits and pieces and took the project elsewhere taught him that if he wanted it done right there was only one person he could trust: himself. With a little help from his friends …
The history of this HQ styleside ute is like grandfather’s axe — five new heads and four new handles. Not much of the original workhorse remains. Starting life as a Belmont ute, it’s been through it all — including floods during one rebuild!
When it found its way into Craig’s hands, the driveline consisted of 308 power and a TH400 ’box. The raw ingredients weren’t as fresh as Craig had hoped. The body was shot with rust and previous repairs were ropey.
Related: 350-cube 1974 Holden HQ ute
“I loved the look of it and saw potential,” says Craig, justifying his purchase.
Initially the ute was a daily driver. When serious plans were laid out, the horsepower chase began. A second rebuild saw the body tidied up and covered in Aviation Orange paint. A 350 Chev and four-speed Muncie, fitted in an earlier rebuild, went out the door this time. The ute was getting tougher but still not tough enough.
So how best to go about preparing the beast’s body? On a bloody great rotisserie as any chef knows, and no short-cuts. The firewall, inner guards and under-bonnet were painstakingly smoothed and filled. VR Commodore exterior handles were grafted on, the front was updated to HZ Statesman Caprice and the rear copped WB tail-lights and a full-width rear bar. Items like side marker lights and fuel filler were smoothed over. The rear quarters were subtly re-sculpted to Craig’s liking too.
Painting became a nightmare but eventually a couple of shops proved they could do it properly.
“I’ve been let down by so many experts that it’s a relief to finally have it right,” says Craig.
Ray at Coopers Plains Paint and Panel and Craig at Johnstone’s Auto Refinish chased paint perfection and sorted blemishes left by others. Final colour choice stayed with the lickable Aviation Orange two-pack.
A real highlight of Craig’s ute is the exhaust, built by the crew at Gonzo’s Racing Pipes — the same blokes who bend up pipes for Mr V Bray. The system starts with a set of Pacemakers, hits four catayltic convertors, then into a gorgeous 3.5in X-style twin system. At the rear of the car, the system splits, with a pair of pipes continuing straight through, (with spirals added to keep things quiet) and a pair of sneaky dump pipes
The rotisserie came in handy for the massive amount of chassis detailing Craig took on.
“I seam-welded it and reinforced it to handle the horsepower I had planned — took me bloody ages,” he says.
On race day, Craig can remove the plates that block exhaust flow through these dumps and the world can enjoy the un-impeded big block song!
When the chassis was finally perfect it was coated in ‘Craig Silver’ two-pack, as were the bars and grill, to give that monochrome look associated with precision.
Tying the lot together is a chrome-moly rollcage built by Andy at Fireball Custom Fabrication. Craig intended to cook up a storm with enough hi-octane horsepower to bring on a hiatus hernia, so the cage was needed.
Have a taste of the ingredients: there’s a fatty 454, oval-port BBC, stuffed full of goodies such as a Crane solid cam; SRP forged, dome-top pistons; beam-polished, shot-peened stock rods; and balanced and shot-peened stock crank spinning in Michigan bearings. A Crane solid cam with 544 lift and 238deg duration sends the message to hardened steel valves via the Isky 1.7 roller rockers.
Twin Holley Blue fuel pumps provide Shell Optimax from the custom, alloy drop tank. A Demon DP carbie squirts through an Edelbrock Airgap intake manifold and the fire is lit with the aid of an MSD 6AL-boosted Hei electronic dizzy and 10mm plug leads. Eagle-eyed readers may notice that the Mr Gasket scoop got its ribs and lips removed. “I hate to think how many hours went into that,” Craig moans.
Power output? Try 413 naturally aspirated neddies at the rear wheels! Remember this ute’s no one-trick pony — it’s designed for street and strip as well as shows. That was proved at the Muscle Car Shootout this year, and at Holden v Ford shows, with State Champion Show Ute and Top Big-Block on the dyno among its titles.
In case that’s not enough, this beast has a Big Shot NOS, adjustable, single-stage nitrous system delivering 555hp at the rear wheels — as tested at Redcliffe Dyno and Performance by Steve Leerentveld.
“Strapped into the caged beast, the sheer but smooth acceleration after a rolling start is mind-blowing to say the least,” chuckles Craig.
Keeping all this from going off the boil is the task of an alloy Aussie Desert Cooler radiator and thermo fans. Keeping the mill cool was a trial and error process, with different radiators and fan combos being used.
Waste gases are sent down a set of Pacemakers with two-inch primaries and four-into-one collectors. Gonzo’s Racing crafted the rest of the 3½-inch, quad cat, dual system — with a set of sneaky drop pipes for race day.
Mumbo is transferred by a full manual, reverse pattern-shifted HD TH400. A beefy 3½-inch tailshaft with billet yokes spins the 3.7 ratio, Detroit-equipped and disc-braked nine-inch.
Rear suspension has been tweaked — a custom fabricated two-link with torsion bar and reset leaf springs holds things in place and puts power to the pavement. Pulling it all up are disc brakes all ’round, built by Lynton from On Car Disc Brakes.
Finishing the outward appearance, Keith for Wheels came to the party with a neat set of 8x18 Bonspeed Wavetech alloys, shod in Falkan rubber.
You would be hard pressed to find any original HQ stuff inside the ute. The door cards are particularly trick with a flame motif and 1990 Toyota Celica doorhandles, which include these nifty controls for the power windows and central locking
Inside, the tasty treats continue. The sculpted theme, by Shane Allt of Custom Trim Design, has been expertly clad in dove grey leather. Features include a flat floor and flame motifs on the door trims. Celica interior door handles house the power window switches. Facing the driver is an array of Silver Autometer gauges in a cool, custom dash pod.
One possible design fault with the HQ is the position of the handbrake. Craig re-positioned it to the centre of the cockpit.
A pair of RCI three-inch, five-point harnesses keeps occupants strapped into the leather-clad, Jap import seats. A Pioneer MP3/CD player, with twin amps, play tunes though Pioneer six-inch splits up front, while two 12-inch Rochford subs in the rear massage the kidneys just nicely. A B&M Quicksilver shifter stirs the gears. “It makes for smoother launches and shifting,” says Craig proudly.
1972 HQ BELMONT UTE
Colour: Aviation Orange two-pack, with ‘Craig Silver’ two-pack chassis and details
Mill: 454 Chev
Heads: Oval port
Crank: Stock, balanced and shot-peened
Rods: Stock, polished beams and shot-peened
Pistons: SRP forged, dome top
Cam: Crane Powermax solid, 544 lift, 238 duration
Oil pump: Mellings high-volume
Manifold: Edelbrock Airgap
Carb: Demon 1000DP
Gas: Big Shot nitrous single stage, adjustable
Ignition: MSD 6A
Exhaust: Pacemaker extractors, Gonzo custom 3½-inch dual system, quad cats
Cooling: Aussie Desert Cooler alloy radiator, thermo fans
Gearbox: TH400, full manual, reverse pattern shift
Converter: 3000rpm high stall
Diff: Nine-inch, Detroit Locker, 3.7:1
Chassis: Braced, seam welded, smoothed
Springs: King Springs H/D, lowered (f); lowered leaves, two-link, torsion bar (r)
Shocks: 90-10 Pedders (f); Pedders Sports Rider (r)
Brakes: HZ aluminium calipers, DBA cross-drilled and slotted rotors (f); VR Commodore calipers, DBA cross-drilled and slotted rotors (r)
Rims: Bonspeed Wavetech alloy 8x18
Rubber: Falkan 265/35 (f); Falkan 275/35 (r)
Interior cladding: Grey leather
Seats: Jap import buckets
Harnesses: RCI three-inch, five-point
Cage: Chrome-moly, six-point
Gauges: Autometer, custom dash pod
Shifter: B&M Quicksilver
Sounds: Pioneer MP3/CD, twin amps, Pioneer six-inch speakers, Rockford 12-inch subs
Door trim: Flamed motif, Celica handles, power windows, central locking