A bargain on ebay
As it happened, the car was sitting at Rex Monahan’s place in Nagambie near Shepparton when Luke Dimech bought it. He ew down to inspect and pick up his purchase.
“I had no idea how I was going to move it or what I was going to do with it, but when I arrived Rex was fantastic. He lent me his ute and trailer so that I could move the car to my cousin’s place in Hurstbridge, in the outer north of Melbourne.
“Rex even said stay at my place and don’t bother with a motel, so I took him out to dinner and spent the evening having a pub meal and sharing lots of really cool Holden Dealer Team stories.
“The irony of the fact that I moved it to Hurstbridge, which of course was the home of Peter Brock, was not lost on me but the Monaro was stored there for a while ‘till I gured out what to do with it.”
The old rally Monaro got plenty of attention on the drive down with just about every second car either slowing down or honking the horn to acknowledge the old ‘HDT’ machine, according to Luke.
“Once I got back to my cousin’s place we were standing around the car having a beer and he said we should try and start it. So we
red it up and it started almost rst go, which was amazing.”
It sat at his cousin’s for a few months while Luke gured out a strategy for getting the car back in shape.
Luke, a metallurgical engineer in the mining industry, had rallied a Datsun for a while at university in his native South Australia. His brother Neil still lived in Adelaide and new of a retired panel beater/spray painter, Graham Jensen, who was the father of a friend who could do the restoration.
“It was on the basis that he would do the car when he had spare time and he made sure I knew that he spent a good part of the year caravanning, but it was ne with me because I wanted a good job but was not in a hurry and wanted to keep the costs down.”
Luke’s brother Neil got the car across to Adelaide to get the ball rolling to give the Monaro a birthday, with the aim of keeping it as original as possible, straightening out panels and giving it a fresh paint job
“It had a little bit of rust, but not much for an old Monaro especially since it had been sitting in Rex’s shed for about four years.
Eventually after a couple of years of part time work by Graham Jensen the Monaro was back in shape. Luke was keen install a 350 Chev in lace of the 308, and so after a false start with a dud second-hand engine, he had a new engine built by Kevin Stanley of Stanley Automotive in Adelaide, and matched it to a Turbo Hydramatic three-speed GM auto. The auto was handled by sometime Datsun rallyist, Glenn ‘the transmission magician,’ as Luke calls him, from the Brisbane suburb of Darra.
“In building the new donk, Kevin used a new cast block in the old style so we didn’t have to worry about corrosion or any of the problems with the old block.
“As I say I’m a metallurgical engineer by profession, so I knew some of the defect issues you could get with an old block cast in the 1960s, so it is a new block with the advantages of precision machining.
“It has some great heads off a dud 350 we had bought, it’s got a fantastic crank and when we put it on the engine dyno it produced 405 horsepower, which is just phenomenal,” said Luke with a smile.
The car is now back with Luke in Brisbane where he lives. The day we met with Luke and Ken Cusack, who drove up from his home on the Gold Coast, it was at the Narangba workshop of noted Queensland rally exponent, Keith Fackerall. A lot of the nal detail and safety work such as seat mounts, harnesses and tuning has been handled by Keith and his team at KCF Rallysport.
Ken Cusack is still incredibly fond of the big car. If circumstances were different, he would still love to have the Monaro in his life. But he also acknowledges that Luke has saved it, and has done a great job in giving it a new lease of life.
“After the divorce and with my three kids showing no interest in the Monaro, and my commercial ying work saw me living on the Gold Coast in Queensland and with no chance to use or run the car, I sadly decided to sell it,” said Ken.
More recently an episode of bowel cancer and the chemo therapy that went with it has seen Ken retire. Thankfully he has beaten the cancer and is enjoying retirement on the Gold Coast
‘With the Monaro in safe hands thanks to Luke buying and restoring it I am very pleased to see it will still be turning heads and throwing rocks at spectators and I can now spend my days as chief bikini inspector from the bar at the Burleigh Heads Surf Club,” said Ken with a smile.
Current owner Luke Dimech and former owner Ken Cusack, reunited with the old Monaro in which he started ralling way back in 1972!