This article was originally published in Street Machine LSX Tuner #8
AIDEN Stampalia’s HZ Premier has had more makeovers than Madonna, but this latest one has been built to stand the test of time.
“When I first got it, it looked like a car from the first Mad Max movie,” says the West Aussie. “It had had more hits than Elvis Presley and was the laughing stock of my mates. They still call it Mad Max!”
As much as he’s a fan of the movie – let’s face it, it would be un-Australian to not be – Aiden wasn’t too fussed on the 80s-spec styling attributes of the car. Its next look would be full granddad-styled old-school cruiser, complete with a cammed LS running a single carb on petrol. That whole build took a sum total of two weeks, so you can imagine it wasn’t exactly magazine quality. The fact Aiden was working at Fordhold Wreckers at the time also sped things up, thanks to owner Justen Brown allowing the use of the workshop.
My first sighting of this car was when Aiden was brutalising it on the Snakepit burnout pad a few years back at Motorvation. I’ve seen a lot of skids in my day, but this one still stands out. The sight of a two-tone HZ, complete with sunvisor, absolutely revving its tits off and getting thrown around the pad mercilessly is one I’ll never forget.
But the car had its issues – Aiden even reckons it was cursed! – so it was time for its next makeover into a tough, reliable streeter.
“It snapped the left-rear wheel studs and the wheel came off on the Tonkin Highway on the way to Motorvation,” Aiden recalls. “Then I got there and the car caught fire after the first skid on Friday night. Then, on the second skid on Saturday, I lost the keys and seized the engine; it was 100-per-cent cursed.”
Clearly an exorcism was in order, so Aiden got the car in his shed and that’s where it stayed for the entirety of the build. Obviously, a new engine was going to be required, so a 6.0-litre L98 was secured and topped with a set of LS3 rectangle-port heads.
“It’s a stock bottom end with all the top end done on it,” says Aiden. “It’s got a cam, valve springs, oil pump upgrade, pushrods and the trunnion upgrade in the rockers.”
That’s pretty standard fare these days, but what you might notice from the engine bay pics is that there’s a funny looking round thing at the front of the engine with wires coming out of it. Aiden admits that it’s caused a bit of head scratching, especially amongst some of the older set who ask whether it’s a Windsor.
“I wanted to make it the most trouble-free cruiser I could and have some way of keeping it sort of old school, even though it’s an LS,” he says. “It’s a GM Performance timing cover with a spud bolted to the front of the cam. It does actually use a 351 Windsor distributor. You can use a GM one, but they’re exactly the same.
“The most difficult thing about setting it up is that there are no timing marks on an LS engine, and there’s no keyway on the balancer for even fitting a balancer with timing marks. So I had to put a piston stop in there and make my own timing marks, so that was a pain in the arse!”
But don’t worry, Aiden hasn’t gone and chucked a set of points in it or anything. There’s still a bit of electronic trickery going on when it comes to the ignition. There’s an MSD Digital 6 mounted underneath the glovebox, so the base timing is set through the distributor and all the final tuning is done via the computer. It’s even got a MAP sensor to keep tabs on what’s going on with the intake charge.
“It’s easy, the distributor eliminates a lot of problems,” says Aiden, who admits he’s no fan of electronics. “You’ve got fuel, you’ve got spark, it’ll run.”
This straightforward combo nets 468rwhp on E85, which is nothing to be sneezed at, but it also means a tough, reliable driveline is required. Aiden didn’t want to throw a ton of money at it, so there is a shift-kitted Turbo 350 with a billet ProTorque nitrous converter, a 3.5-inch ’moly driveshaft from Final Drive Engineering, and, surprisingly, no nine-inch. Instead, Aiden kept it all GM-H.
“Being an exhaust person, I hate doing exhaust systems on cars with nine-inches, but then I didn’t end up doing the exhaust to the rear,” he says with a laugh. “They don’t fit well, and I knew I was never going to put a massive horsepower combo in it, and the BorgWarner diff is good for 700hp.”
Once again it was off to see Phil Purser at Final Drive where the VN housing was shortened and set up with mounts for the HZ. And with a set of 3.45 gears, it’s got plenty of punch with fairly reasonable highway manners.
With the mechanical side of things sorted, it was time to get the old girl looking a bit more respectable. The car had suffered a little from its time on the burnout pad, but Aiden, along with help from his brother Glenn and Alex Allsop from Outter Limitz Spraypainting, got the body cleaned up nicely – keep in mind, this was all happening in Aiden’s shed at home. The colour chosen was Toyota Sunset Bronze, a modern choice, but not too far removed from factory options such as Persian Sand or Saddle Tan.
Those with a keen eye might be wondering how Aiden managed to fit a set of 10-inch-wide rims under the untubbed back end.
“The quarters are two inches wider each side than a normal HZ,” reveals Aiden. “If you look at the rear pillar, how it goes to the quarter panel, it’s shaped almost how a Monaro is. No one really picks it. My old man is a pretty crafty panel beater. We had two oxys on it and three bottle jacks on the inside. With the door, we cut along the body line then re-welded it.”
The whole interior was also restored to a factory fresh look, with the only departure from stock being a B&M shifter in the factory console. The Buckskin trim also carries through to the boot and was handled – for the most part – by Nathan Harris from Second to None Designs. I say “for the most part” because not long before the trim was complete, tragedy struck.
“Nathan passed away suddenly due to a brain aneurism and all he had left to do was the driver’s door trim,” Aiden says. “So Tim Rayment stepped up and finished off the last piece. With some help from my good friend Jamie Cato, we made it our mission to have the car done in time for Nathan’s funeral as a tribute to him. This story is my way of giving back to him so he can finally be recognised for the work he did.”
HZ HOLDEN PREMIER
Paint: Toyota Sunset Bronze
Type: GM 6.0L Gen IV L98
Inlet: Edelbrock Super Victor
Carb: Quick Fuel Technology 750cfm
Heads: LS3 rectangle-port
Valves: 2.165in (in), 1.590in (ex)
Cam: 236/241@50thou, 615thou lift
Radiator: AFCO alloy race radiator
Exhaust: Castle Headers 1-7/8 4-into-1, twin 2.5in with SMB mufflers
Ignition: GM Motorsport distributor drive timing cover, MSD billet distributor, HVC coil, MSD programmable ignition box
’Box: TH350 with shift kit
Converter: ProTorque billet nitrous converter
Diff: Shortened VN Commodore BorgWarner, 3.45:1 gears
Front end: SSL springs (f & r)
Shocks: Monroe (f & r)
Steering: Astra electric power steering
Brakes: Wilwood twin-piston (f), VN Commodore (r)
Rims: Jegs SSR Spike with Cronic Customs beadlocks; 15x4.5in (f), 15x10in (r)
Rubber: Nankang; 175/70/15 (f), 255/60/15 (r)
Jamie Cato; Alex Allsop; Dad; Nathan Harris; Tristhan Bruce Powers; Matt Brdar; Rachel Quinn; Justen Brown at Fordhold Wreckers; Jeff Johnson at Streetbuilt Racing; Wayne Smith at Performance Carb Tuning; Johnny Packer at Outter Limitz Spraypainting; Steve Lundy at Lundy Race Fab; Dale Galbraith at DPE; Adam Spiteri at Cronic Customs