ONE of Australia’s quickest street cars, Daniel Szabolics’s HQ Monaro, has scored a new heart as Dan and his accomplice, Frank Marchese of Dandy Engines, chase mid-sixes with the 4016lb, 275 radial-shod brute. It has already ran a 6.98 at 204mph in testing yesterday at Sydney Dragway.
First published in the January 2021 issue of Street Machine. Photos: Shawn McCann
Propelled by a walloping 632ci big-block Chev packing twin 94mm Precision Pro Mod snails, the Monaro made headlines last year by rattling off Drag Challenge’s quickest and fastest pass with a 7.35@197mph. It later went 7.01@202mph on what Dan described as a “soft” amount of boost.
They never really got a chance to explore the limits of that near-11-litre combo. Dan received an offer that was too good to refuse, so he moved the motor on and decided to work with Frank to build something even more serious.
“When we had the chance to build a new combo, Dan wasn’t interested to go 6.90s anymore; he’s talking 6.50s in a full-weight street car on 275s,” says Frank. “We’ve done 6.70s and 216mph with Steve Bezzina’s XW so we’ll see.
Some may question moving from an iron block, renowned for its strength under forced induction, to a theoretically weaker aluminium foundation, but Frank has the answer, “When you order a block from Brodix you can option a process called Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP), which basically packs all the molecules of the block more tightly together and this is meant to make the alloy block much stronger,” he explains. “At the end of the day this is a cast block not a billet one and they can still rip apart, so if you can keep the molecules of the metal denser, hopefully it will not come apart!”
“That HQ was one of the best cars out of the box, straight off the trailer. His first pass was an 8.99 rolling through the beams. Then he went 7.99 rolling through the beams, and it just got quicker from there.”
The core of the new combo is a Brodix 8B 2000A aluminium block, which was selected to try and lighten the nose of the HQ, according to Dan. “The main reason we went with a new engine was to get rid of weight, so we’ve gone to an aluminium block,” Dan says.
As we went to print, Frank and Dan were preparing to kick the 540 in the guts and start making power, which might come at a higher rpm than some might think despite the donk’s big inches. “His big engine spun up to 8800rpm, even though I don’t want to turn it that hard, but it got there so quickly!” laughs Frank. “It makes me believe this engine could possibly spin up to 8500-9000rpm – but I don’t think we want to turn it there if we can avoid it”
“We haven’t changed the bore; it is still conventional bore spacing and is basically a conventional big-block Chevy,” offers Frank. “We’ve gone from 632ci to 540ci hoping to take away some torque for the sake of the 275 tyre, because even if you’re leaving the line on 5psi that is making too much torque with the 632ci.”
The new fat-block rocks a billet Callies crank, NGP alloy rods and Diamond pistons of approximately 10.0:1 comp, while Jesel tie-bar lifters work a custom solid-roller cam from the USA.
“We had a few phone calls with Steve Petty, who I reckon is the man when it comes to ProChargers and turbos,” Frank offers. “They had a cam profile over there which we thought would work but we talked about our tracks over here and he made some changes to the cam we then installed. Because this engine is only a 540 we didn’t have to lift the cam tunnel, which is something you normally do to swing a big crank for huge capacity.”
Up top are a pair of Brodix SR20 cylinder heads, which are no relation to the Nissan SR20 four-cylinder engine. The SR20 head gets its name from Brodix running the intake valve with a 20⁰ angle instead of the stock 26⁰ lay-over, coupled with the exhaust oriented at 13⁰ instead of the stock big-block Chevy lay-over of 17⁰. Brodix retained the stock 4⁰ secondary lateral angle on the exhaust valves to help move the waste gas ports away from the cylinder wall.
As supplied by Brodix, the SR20 head comes with 2.40-inch intake and 1.8-inch exhaust valves crammed into a 95cc chamber, but the heads on Dan’s 540 weren’t bolted on in that spec.
Dan figured the oil system worked well on the first motor, so he replicated it on the new 540 with a Moroso race oil pan tying into a Peterson R4 single-stage external oil pump. “At Drag Challenge you have a huge commitment to maintenance,” says Dan. “We had five 20-litre drums in the trailer and we’d change 20 litres of oil every day!”
“Higgins Race Heads sourced the heads as a bare casting and did all the CNC porting on them, plus they did the chamber design,” explains Frank. “We then cut the seats and assembled them at Dandy Engines. Because of the angle of the intake you can’t use an ordinary big-block intake manifold so we sent the heads to Plazmaman and they made their plenum work with our heads.”
While Dan sold his previous engine holus-bolus, the new combo will use the same spec Pro Mod 94mm turbochargers, FuelTech FT600 ECU, fuel and dry sump oil systems.
“I’d think 45-50psi would be all the boost I’d ever want to push into this motor, and only when it is set to kill,” says Frank. “And that is providing the track is there to take it, too! We made 2513rwhp on 30psi with the old engine, which didn’t have anywhere near the cylinder head this new motor has, and that was only on one set of injectors!”
“This engine has the best stuff we could get in it,” says Dan. “The old 632 wasn’t bad but it was nowhere near its limits. We were being soft out of the hole and only doing 4.60@160mph to the eighth-mile!”
“I love big-block engines, they’re my favourite engine and I’m a Ford guy,” laughs Frank. “Dan’s old engine revved like my small-block, so I am super-keen to get back to the track with this new engine. I reckon we’ll push it ’til we see 3000hp. My car makes 2800rwhp so it needs to do more!”
You can bet that Daniel is also keen to see what the combo will do, and he has a big target in his sights.
“Frankie boy better get that XW ready because I’m coming for him; there is only a nose in it at the moment,” laughs Dan.
540ci BIG-BLOCK CHEV
Brand: Brodix 8B 2000A
ECU: FuelTech FT600
Turbos: Precision Pro Mod 94mm (x2)
Heads: Higgins-prepped Brodix SR20
Camshaft: Custom solid-roller
Conrods: NGP alloy
Pistons: Diamond 10.0:1
Crank: Callies billet
Lifters: Jesel tie-bar
Rockers: T&D steel shaft-mount
Pushrods: Jet Engineering
Oil system: Peterson R4 belt-driven pump, Moroso race sump
Fuel system: Billet Atomizer 700lb injectors (x8), Siemens 80lb injectors (x8), Aeromotive in-tank pump (petrol), Bosch 044 primer pump (methanol), Waterman belt-driven pump (methanol)
Exhaust: Custom manifolds
Ignition: FuelTech Smart Coils
Frank Marchese and the guys at Dandy Engines; Nathan Higgins from Higgins Race Heads; Alex at Plazmaman; all the fellas at Race Products; Shane Marshall from Marshall Speed Shop; Corey Edwards; Shane Benson; and a massive thanks to Matt Snell, Simon Borella and Dean Soderblom, my crew of guys from home who worked so hard over the last few months updating the car