IT’S A tale as old as time: Boy buys ute, ute drops valve, boy decides to take ute off the road for a ‘quick freshen-up’. Naturally, said freshen-up escalates into a full-scale, nut-and-bolt rebuild. It’s just how these things tend to go. A trophy-hauling, 1200hp blown and injected skid rig wasn’t exactly what Craig Craft had in mind when he first came to own this HJ Kingswood ute.
“When I bought it I wanted a tough street car,” he says. “It was already pretty tidy, but I only drove it three or four times before I hurt the motor. I made some calls and got some quotes, then I worked out it wasn’t even worth fixing.”
The ute sat for six months while Craig decided what to do with it, but when he eventually pulled it apart to fix it, his mates got in his ear and convinced him that it needed a ’cage. “I sent it off to Paul at ProFlo and he did the ’cage, tray and firewall. It just got to the point that the car had gone so far that it needed to be finished off schmick. It was never meant to be the level it is now.”
Craig’s plans for a nice street car went completely out the window once he heard about a Powerhouse-built blown big-block that Mick Brasher had for sale. Craig had no problem picturing the 8/71-blown, dry-sumped, mechanically injected 477ci monster motor being lowered into the HJ’s engine bay, so he bought it.
Rocking a Callies crank, Oliver rods and JE pistons down below, it’s topped with Edelbrock heads, a Littlefield manifold and Blower Shop blower, with a Big & Ugly hat. Running on a steady diet of methanol, it’s said to be good for a lazy 1200hp.
“I sent the car to Phil Kerjean to get the engine fitted, and things really started to get out of control from there,” Craig says. “When I met Phil I knew I wanted him involved because his car was everything I wanted mine to be – show-quality, but with everything it needed to go. Phil took control of the build and he’s done a killer job; I couldn’t be happier with the end result.”
Phil enlisted Travis from Killer Fabrications to tackle the engine plates, four-link, airbags and a few other odd jobs, while he and Craig got stuck into the engine bay. “We had the bay set out early – I wanted everything symmetrical,” Craig explains. “The flat firewall with no booster and master cylinder help with that, and Phil built the steel dash – it’s symmetrical too.”
The radiator is a custom alloy item from LCW, and it’s pretty trick. Due to the ute’s methanol-only diet, the core only needed to be 40mm thick. LCW built the radiator in such a way that the fans are integrated and hidden within its body. Not only does it look great, but it gets around the clearance issues Craig was having at the front of the engine thanks to the big-block’s crank support.
With its heavy metalflake, the paint is another major talking point. “It was going to be green and then blue, then Phil dug his heels in at Summernats 28 and said I had to make my mind up,” Craig remembers. “We went to the PPG stand and took all the samples out into the sun and picked the colour.”
The lads opted for PPG Opal, and while it’s a standout colour, Craig figured the ute needed something more to round out the aesthetics, and the Sandman livery is an absolute masterstroke. “I’m really into old-school stripes, so it’s a nice finishing touch,” he says.
The build progressed steadily throughout 2015, until the team received a bit of a hurry-up in the form of an invitation to unveil the car at Summernats 29. Due to a couple of complications, Phil and the boys were left with four weeks to put the car together. It had no wiring or interior, the rear end wasn’t finished, and the massive 22x12in Showwheels Hauler billets had never been fitted to the car, among many other challenges.
Todd from Eastside Kustom Trim was put under the pump, and managed to turn the show-quality stitchwork around in just four days. The less-is-more approach has worked wonders in the ute’s cabin, with a custom sheet-metal dash built by Phil housing a Racepak display and datalogger, colour-coded and leather-trimmed Kirkey race seats, a PPP shifter, custom door cards, grey carpet and a fire suppression system rounding out the mods. “I wanted to add the fire suppression system in case the car ever catches fire when I skid it,” Craig explains, not unreasonably. “The bottle in between the seats adds to the overall symmetry.”
The build was starting to run on borrowed time, so Phil put the call out and it was all hands on deck for the sprint to the finish. Simon Kryger took care of the wiring, while Phil and Travis assembled the car with help from Matt Simms. When the ute was loaded into the trailer bound for Summernats, the glass was still yet to be fitted. Canberra-based auto glass specialist Terry Keys fitted the ’screens on-site in the Elite Hall, wrapping up the build with a mere 30 minutes to spare before the midnight cut-off!
“The whole thing was a bit stressful, but we made it and I was stoked; it was an awesome experience,” Craig recalls. “I had the right people on the job.”
The car won the Engineering Excellence award in Tuff Street on debut at Summernats, and has gone on to win a swag of other accolades at Brashernats, Supernats, Bathurst Autofest and Burnout Outlaws.
“I didn’t set out to win trophies with the car; to tell you the truth I’m not really into that stuff,” Craig says. “I just wanted the car built to a standard that I was happy with and could afford. But I think the show thing is over and it’s time I start to skid it. At the end of the day, that’s what I built it for.”
1974 HJ Holden Kingswood Ute
Colour: PPG Opal
Brand: 477ci big-block Chev
Induction: Littlefield blower manifold, carbonfibre Big & Ugly injector hat
Blower: Blower Shop 8/71
Heads: Edelbrock, CNC-ported
Oil pump: Peterson R4 four-stage
Fuel system: Enderle 110 mechanical pump, Aeromotive A1000 lift pump
Cooling: Custom alloy radiator with integrated fans
Exhaust: Custom 2¼in headers, 4in collectors
Ignition: MSD 8-Plus
Converter: TCE 3800rpm
Diff: 9in, 31-spline axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs & shocks: Pedders (f), Air Ride ShockWaves (r)
Brakes: Wilwood (f), none (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood pedal box
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Showwheels Hauler; 20x8.5 (f), 22x12 (r)
Rubber: 235/30/20 (f), 315/30/22 (r)
Phil Kerjean Motorsports; Fuelworx; Killer Fabrications; Innocent Motorsports; Eastside Kustom Trim; Keys Auto Glass; Cronic Customs; my missus Jodie for being understanding throughout the whole build