IVY LEAGUE

FROM HUM­BLE BE­GIN­NINGS, JOHN DWYER’S HQ UTE HAS BEEN RE­BORN AS A SHOW-WOR­THY, POI­SON IVY-CLAD THING OF BEAUTY

Street Machine - - Contents - STORY AN­DREW BROADLEY PHO­TOS CHRIS THOROGOOD

With its Poi­son Ivy paint and stout 350 Chev, this HQ ute is built to cruise in style

SOME 17 years ago, John Dwyer pur­chased this HQ ute from a car­a­van park on the flood plains of the mighty Mur­rumbidgee River in his home­town of Nar­ran­dera. As he re­moved chunks of river mud from the Quey’s rusty inner sills that day, he had no idea what he’d let him­self in for.

He had no way of know­ing that it would take so long for the ute to again see the light of day, or that it would be fin­ished to such an ex­act­ing stan­dard that it would de­but at Aus­tralia’s premier in­door show, in the com­pany of the finest show cars in the land.

That be­ing said, John is quick to in­sist that it is ev­ery inch a street car, and de­spite the ute’s flaw­less pre­sen­ta­tion, its street cre­den­tials are ob­vi­ous. The quad We­ber-fed 350ci small-block is plenty tough, but it’s also per­fectly drive­able, and fits neatly be­neath the bon­net. The choice of rolling stock is strik­ing yet sen­si­ble at 18 inches in di­am­e­ter, and the un­der­car­riage is painted in durable stone guard, with most un­der-car com­po­nents pow­der­coated to re­sist stone chips and make clean­ing a cinch. It’s built to drive, and once he’s got a few shows un­der his belt, that’s ex­actly what John in­tends to do with it.

“I started out build­ing it with my dad, but we got screwed around by a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent shops who led me astray and gave me bad in­for­ma­tion,” John ex­plains. “Then I met Greg Maskell. It was years ago, when he was help­ing Gary My­ers build the Sil­ver Bul­let, and things kicked off from there.”

John knew full well that the ute had en­dured a tough life at the hands of its pre­vi­ous own­ers, but it was only when the paint came off that the

IT HASN’T GOT BIG OVER­SIZED RIMS OR CRAZY IN­TE­RIOR TRENDS THAT WILL DATE – IT’S CLASSY AND TIME­LESS

full ex­tent of the dam­age was re­alised. The fire­wall and tray were both rid­dled with bas­tard rust, but with plans for a fabricated tray area and flat fire­wall, the show went on re­gard­less.

John had al­ready sourced most of the parts for the build, in­clud­ing the mo­tor and driv­e­line. “Be­ing an HQ it had to have a Chev in it,” he says. “I had it built by my me­chanic in Wagga, and the bot­tom end is pretty much sprint-car spec, so it had to have We­bers on top.”

With a Scat crank, H-beam rods, forged SRP pistons and a cus­tom­grind solid cam, the lit­tle 350-cu­ber is built to be wailed on. A pair of Cnc-ported Edel­brock al­loy heads were used up top, along with the afore­men­tioned quar­tet of We­ber carbs, which look just plain cool.

“I spent years at the ’Nats look­ing at dif­fer­ent set-ups, and I knew I wanted it un­der the bon­net be­cause I didn’t want has­sles with the po­lice,” John says. “It should have a good in­duc­tion sound, and if it makes 500hp I’ll be happy. I wasn’t chas­ing num­bers; I just wanted it to be a nice cruiser that’s got a bit of stick. For me, it’s all about the We­bers!”

Maskell’s Cus­toms & Clas­sics in Shep­par­ton han­dled the build from start to fin­ish, and when you con­sider that their back cat­a­logue in­cludes such mas­ter­pieces as Chris Bit­mead’s XBOSS Fal­con hard­top, Leisa Chin­nock’s PSYCO XF Fal­con, and Karen Keves’s Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble HQ Monaro, the qual­ity of the fin­ished prod­uct sud­denly makes per­fect sense.

Greg sug­gested ditch­ing the leaf springs in favour of a cus­tom tri­an­gu­lated four-link and airbags for im­proved ride qual­ity and a ground-hug­ging stance. While the ute is still yet to move un­der its own steam, we wouldn’t mind bet­ting that it drives a lot bet­ter than it ever did with the old horse-and-cart rear sus­pen­sion. Koni shocks all ’round are matched with Ped­ders coil springs and drop spin­dles up front, while brakes are discs at all four cor­ners, with mon­ster 330mm ro­tors and six-pis­ton calipers at the pointy end.

The old ute’s body­work also came in for se­ri­ous at­ten­tion, over and above the oblig­a­tory rust re­pairs. A cus­tom flat fire­wall was whipped up, along with smoothed inner fen­ders, twin fuel fillers, GTS guards and a twin-head­light front end. Of par­tic­u­lar note is the tray area, which is a real high­light of the car. The floor is flat, with a re­cessed rear fire­wall and smoothed wheel tubs.

“The tray was some­thing I saw in a mag­a­zine 30 years ago, and I said: ‘Righto, I want that,’” John says. “It was one of the as­pects of the build that I got screwed around on at the start, but it was the num­ber one thing that I wanted on the car. I wanted to get rid of the ribs and smooth the whole thing from top to bot­tom. All the globes are still ac­ces­si­ble through the side pan­els, and it’s kept a bit of the orig­i­nal Holden char­ac­ter in that way.” The paint is beau­ti­fully ap­plied, and Stan­dox Poi­son Ivy in colour. Suf­fice to say the ute wears it well.

The in­te­rior fell into place fairly late in the build, and was only com­pleted two weeks be­fore the car’s de­but at Mo­torex 2016. “I talked about some dif­fer­ent ideas with Greg, and it had to have a GTS dash in it,” John says. “I didn’t like the HQ in­di­ca­tor stalk, so he put an HZ col­umn in it but kept the orig­i­nal head­light dip­per switch on the floor. I wanted elec­tric seats, so they’re out of a VX Calais, re-trimmed in leather. I’m not in­ter­ested in putting a stereo in it; I’ve found an orig­i­nal in-fill panel to blank off the hole for it!”

The first time John laid eyes on the fin­ished prod­uct was when it was set up at Mo­torex in all its glory. “I wasn’t far off tears!” he says. “I was a bit freaked out; I was so rapt that some­thing that started out so rough had turned out so awe­some. I stood there for an hour or so and just en­joyed look­ing at it. I was blown away.

“I can’t wait to drive it, and we’ve started the en­gi­neer­ing process, so it will be 100 per cent reg­is­tered and le­gal,” he con­tin­ues. “I’m just go­ing to take it out on Sun­days and en­joy it with the kids and the fam­ily. It hasn’t got big over­sized rims or crazy in­te­rior trends that will date. It’s all sort of classy and time­less – just how I wanted it.”

WITH A SCAT CRANK, H-BEAM RODS, FORGED SRP PISTONS AND A CUS­TOM-GRIND SOLID CAM, THE LIT­TLE 350-CU­BER IS BUILT TO BE WAILED ON

BODY: The GTS guard flutes, Prem front end and States­man chrome around the door frames are time-hon­oured mods for H-se­ries Hold­ens, and John had to have them on his ute

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