This article on Shaun's HK Monaro GTS was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Street Machine magazine
FEWER cars are dearer to the hearts of Australians than the Holden Monaro. The HK was the first two-door Aussie muscle car, and it was bold, brash and unequivocally gorgeous. It won Bathurst and Wheels Car of the Year in 1968 – 50 years ago now – and present-day values in excess of $300,000 are indicative of the strength and scope of the Monaro legend.
Fortunately for Shaun Braybrook, he got hold of his HK GTS in 1997 – long before prices headed for the stratosphere.
“I bought it from Canberra after a mate showed me the ad in the Trading Post,” Shaun says. “I had wanted one ever since I was a kid, and this one seemed pretty good. It had been resprayed and I was told that 99 per cent of the parts were there, but when I got it home a lot of the hard-to-find parts had been pilfered!
If you look closely, you’ll spot a sprinkling of subtle body mods. The rear guards have been pumped to accommodate 18x10in Intro V-Rod billets with 275/35/18 hoops, while the scuttle panel, boot locks and door locks have been shaved
“I ripped it right to bits and set it up with a stroker 308, did up the HK front end and fitted HQ brakes, had the rear leaves reset and put a set of Welds on it, then sent it to a workshop in Albury to be repainted.”
The colour scheme harks back to the sought-after Silver Mink/Goya Red combination on the HK GTS, but in actual fact both the paint and interior colours are brighter than the stock hues
There the bulk of the fab and sheet-metal work was carried out, including fitting a four-link rear end and chassis connectors, and a bolt-in Southern Chassis Works front end. Unfortunately, the shop shut its doors for good before the HK was finished, and the car sat idle for a while before Shaun went in search of someone to finish the project.
“It got to the stage where work got busy and the kids came along,” says Shaun, “so I thought: ‘F--k it, I need to get someone to finish this thing so I can concentrate on what I need to do’. My dad told me that I’m better off working my arse off doing what I do best, saving up and paying someone else who does this stuff for a living – it’s the only way to get a proper job done. He was right.”
Shaun chose wisely, because that someone ended up being Shane and the crew at Southern Rod & Custom; one of the country’s leading custom car builders.
The horse-and-cart suspension is gone from underneath Shaun’s HK, with fabricated chassis rails, tubs and a four-link rear end with Air Ride ShockWaves in place of the factory leaf springs. At the pointy end, there’s an aftermarket front end with tubular A-arms, Firestone bags and rack ’n’ pinion steering, with big Wilwood anchors on all four corners. A self-levelling AccuAir system regulates ride height
“I’d started to change it to airbags and put the Chev in it, but I wanted someone to finish the bodywork off and paint it,” says Shaun. “Lots of things were started but nothing was finished properly. That’s how it was when Shane got it – a bit of a basket case!”
Related: Home-built 1969 Holden HT Monaro GTS
The body was in bare metal, and SR&C removed and refitted the HK’s trademark Coke bottle quarters to bring them back into line, and went about getting the bodywork up to standard. They gapped the car and got the bodylines arrow straight and razor sharp. They also provided some guidance.
The result is a car that retains the original charm of an HK GTS with a factory-like colour scheme and GTS stripes and badges, but it’s enhanced in the key areas of stance, comfort, handling, and, most importantly – horsepower!
There’s not a square inch of sheet-metal or hardware that hasn’t been modified or replaced under the hood, but a distinctly OEM look remains due to the restraint exercised during the build. Much of the sheet-metal mods were already done before the car lobbed at Southern Rod & Custom, but were sharpened up, finished off and added to by Shane and the team
The choice of a naturally aspirated small-block Chev is, again, true to the original car, but the 434ci Dart-blocked screamer that’s now fitted offers up more than twice the horsepower of even the range-topping 327ci GTS powerplant. It’s fitted with a Scat crank and H-beam rods, SRP pistons and a Comp Cams mechanical camshaft. The heads are AFR 227 alloy items and the intake manifold is from Edelbrock, but the Southern Rod & Custom team went to great trouble to mask all the aftermarket hardware by smoothing and colour-coding everything to tie in with the OEM-inspired theme of the build.
The 434ci small-block looks mild, but it’s closer to the wild end of the spectrum
“We were considering different options for the air cleaner and decided to use the Holden one modified with two snorkels and custom decals on the lid,” says Shane. “The rocker covers were old sprintcar ones that we tidied up and painted. If it had blinged-out, polished covers it wouldn’t have the factory look we were after.”
Likewise, the interior is very much inspired by a standard GTS cockpit, with clever tweaks throughout to enhance the look and user experience.
The seats are Procar by Scat; a basic, low-back design somewhat reminiscent of the original pews, but infinitely more supportive. A pet hate of Shane’s is having the seats visible above the window line from the outside of the car, and the sans-headrest look gets around that issue. The rear bench seat was made from scratch to accommodate the tubs, and the centre column is also custom-made, but it looks like it’s part of the furniture. The man responsible is Craig Wood at Option Auto Interiors, and he’s done an exquisite job.
Considering the project was started by one workshop and finished by another, it is wonderfully cohesive. After an on-and-off build process that’s stretched across two decades, Shaun is beyond happy with the car.
The shifter looks like something custom, but it’s just a B&M Quicksilver with the stalk ground down and painted, and the body of the shifter obscured from view beneath the console. A basic sound system with a RetroSound head unit, amp and sub are all subtly integrated into the cabin. The column is a billet, collapsible Flaming River item, but it’s been painted to keep with the OEM theme
“Not only does it look amazing, it drives great, too,” he says with a grin. “Shane knew what I had in mind, developed the ideas, and made the car even better. I can’t speak highly enough of his work – there’s a reason why he’s been doing it for over 30 years.”
The seatbelt mechanisms are hidden inside the quarter panels
Shaun’s not really into the show scene, but after the hard yakka that has been invested in the car, he reckons he’ll probably do the rounds for a year or so anyway. And after that? “I’m going to drive it; ultimately that’s what it was built for.”
Drawing on the woodgrain panelling on a stock HK GTS dashboard for inspiration, the dash inserts, console top and steering wheel were all hydro-dipped for a durable woodgrain-look finish
If you ask us, Shaun’s HK is a bit like Kylie Minogue – an Aussie treasure that’s aged gracefully and is looking pretty bloody good for 50!
1968 HOLDEN HK MONARO GTS
Paint: Iridium Silver
Type: 434ci Dart Little M block
Induction: Demon carb, Edelbrock intake manifold
Heads: AFR 227 alloy
Camshaft: Comp Cams mechanical
Conrods: Scat H-beam
Crank: Scat forged
Oil pump: Melling high-volume
Fuel system: Electric fuel pump
Cooling: PWR radiator
Exhaust: Braybrook Engineering custom headers, SRC twin 2.5in stainless exhaust
Ignition: MSD dizzy
Gearbox: Turbo 400
Convertor: 3500rpm converter
Diff: 9in, Strange LSD centre, 3.7:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front suspension: Fabricated front crossmember, stainless tubular arms, Firestone airbags, AFCO shocks
Rear suspension: Triangulated 4-link, Air Ride ShockWaves
Steering: Rack ’n’ pinion
Brakes: 13in rotors, Wilwood 4-piston calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood pedal box
wheels & tyres
Rims: Intro V-Rod billets; 18x7.5in (f), 18x10in (r)
Rubber: Kumho; 235/35/18 (f), 275/35/18 (r)