Some cars take years to build, but the sinister black HZ sedan you see here took decades to make it to the Summernats Top 60 – and even then, it wasn’t finished.

First published in the January 2022 issue of Street Machine

The HZ’s trans tunnel has been raised and the rear arches tubbed to allow a four-link set-up and girthy rubber. A full-floater 9in diff is completed with Wilwood brakes for each axle, cushioned by Viking coil-overs

Twenty years earlier, the 1978 Holden was a clean, neat streeter running a mild 308 before owner Dave Cuell added a bit more punch beneath the bonnet with a 355 stroker. It then happily rolled on in that guise until Dave started toying with the idea of some fresh paint and improvements – but he wasn’t in a rush.

“To force myself to commit, we pulled the engine out and put it in my mate’s HK wagon, which made the Summernats Top 60,” Dave says.

The fat back end houses huge Mickey Ts on Weld wheels, with the four-link planting the HZ’s tail. The licks of red interior tease from the outside, where the Premier’s perfect bodywork is shown off by the clearcoat Standox Jet Black paint

With the 355 stroker gone and the HZ in pieces, bodywork could be attended to while the hunt for another donk went on. That process concluded with a supercharged 383 Chev getting bolted between the strut towers. The bodywork and engine bay prep saw some clever detailing by Dave’s mate Adam Pollard, with the heater removed, the chassis rails smoothed over and the inner guards dropped lower to sit closer and cleaner to the control arms.

At this stage, the HZ’s cabin was swathed in various shades of black. “I thought I’d be different and change it up, so I went with gloss-black inner door jambs, bumpers and trims – anything that was chrome, really,” Dave says. The panelwork? Satin black.

The HZ’s aggressive stance comes from the combo of a tubbed, four-link rear end and skinny front-runners. The black paintwork is topped with chrome window detailing, fresh bumpers and an HZ Statesman front, along with new head- and tail-lights for a super-clean finish

“Who doesn’t want a blown, street-registered car?” says Dave of the resulting black beauty. “I did a few burnout comps and street duties in that look until I was offered some money to sell the engine and trans combo, so I did.” That’s how the HZ went back to 355ci Holden power – but again, Dave was in no rush and wanted to create something a bit different.

He sent the car to Jake Bradley at MTS Custom Fabrications, who did the tubs and raised the trans tunnel, enabling the fitment of the McDonald Brothers triangulated four-link in the back end. The HZ also copped a full-floater assembly with a sheet-metal housing and 35-spline axles, with Wilwood brakes at either end.

“It had to look angry,” says Dave, which explains those AANGRY plates the car now sports. “I wanted to bring the car back to its original black and chrome look, but this time with big wheels and rubber. It had to have that look that when you saw it you wanted to kick yourself in the balls!”

That meant that the paintwork had to be AANGRY too – with every last detail drenched in black, black and more black. The engine bay and boot innards were painted satin black, the firewall was smoothed over, and for extra punch, the chassis rails – also smoothed out previously – were finished in gloss black. The fuel cell and various fittings also sport gloss for a contrasting black-over-black theme throughout.

The 355 stroker’s Harrop manifold pushes the engine package through the bonnet, with the Holley 830 carb up top (mounted sideways to allow neater positioning of the fuel lines) monitored by an in-bay Auto Meter fuel-pressure gauge. The remaining gauge pack sits outside, just ahead of the windscreen. The stunning engine bay sees contrasting gloss- and satin-black paint along with a smoothed firewall and repositioned ancillaries

Under the nose is a rebuilt front end with Viking coil-overs, but there’s still chrome on the HZ’s exterior: the window surrounds, fresh bumpers, and Statesman lights and grille all serve to offset the black, with the latter feeding airflow to the 355.

The iron lion was built by Jai Shanahan and Flowcraft, who’d built the HZ’s earlier 355. This time, there’s a transbraked Powerglide with a 5200rpm stall converter behind the bent-eight, which sports a Harrop inlet manifold atop VN heads, a custom Crane cam, Crane valve springs and ACL pistons. “To be different, we also turned the carby sideways,” Dave adds, which enabled the fuel lines to be plumbed more neatly.

The gloss-black fuel cell stands tall in the satin black-finished boot, along with the MagnaFlow fuel pump and Optima battery. Smoothed wheelarches, braided lines and custom fittings match the colour scheme of that glorious engine bay up front

Twin thermo fans keep things cool up front, while a set of custom three-inch dual pipes lets out the mighty bellow at the rear.

“I just finished the car the night before Summernats, which I think was New Year’s Eve, put it on a trailer pretty much without testing it and we made Top 60!” Dave says, having made the journey to Canberra from Geelong, Victoria.

Clad in Hotspur red, the cabin absolutely pops against the pristine back exterior. Standard front seats and a modified rear bench are trimmed in leather from Porsche and Bentley models. The centre console has been deleted, the transmission tunnel has been smoothed, and the headlining is Alcantara – straight out of Stuttgart’s finest performance models

Despite the serious achievement – made all the sweeter given that the HZ’s former powertrain had also made the Top 60 – there was still more that Dave wanted done to the Zed.

“I’d seen the red on an HK years before and I just loved it,” he says. The black interior was removed and in its place now is the jaw-dropping, eye-searing red trim that screams anger from the heart of this beast. It’s a bold contrast with the exterior and gives the car a seriously world-class cabin for weekend cruises.

After all, power and quarter-mile ETs are not what this monster is about.

“Now I just want to drive the wheels off it – I want to get at least one summer out of it the way it is,” Dave says. “I’ve always loved HJ-HZ models, and I bought this off a mate about 20 years ago as a roller.” Two decades on, Dave’s made his HZ seriously AANGRY!

GREAT SOUTHERN BAND

Dave is part of the Geelong-based Southern Union Crew, who you’ll see raising funds and helping at charity and community events around Victoria.

What’s more, Dave’s HZ wasn’t the only streeter from the crew to star at ’Nats 33. AANGRY was one of three – yes, three – cars from the SUC that made the Top 60, with Darryn Wishart’s LJ Torana (SM, Sep ’18) and Ben Grayland’s amazing 347-powered XR Falcon (SM, Aug ’20) also among the 60 best.

DAVE CUELL
1978 HZ HOLDEN PREMIER

Paint:  Standox Jet Black, Valspar Satin Black
ENGINE
Brand:  355ci Holden by Flowcraft
Induction:  Holley 830 Quick Fuel carb
Heads:  Ported cast VN Commodore
Conrods:  A9L
Pistons:  ACL
Crank:  Harrop
Oil pump:  Modified factory
Fuel system:  MagnaFuel fuel pump
Cooling:  Custom radiator, twin thermo fans, electric water pump
Exhaust:  Custom 3in dual exhaust
Ignition:  ICE
TRANSMISSION
Gearbox:  Transbraked Powerglide, B&M shifter
Converter:  TCE 5200rpm stall
Diff:  9in, 4.3:1 gears, 35-spline axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front:  Viking coil-overs
Rear:  McDonald Brothers four-link, Viking coil-overs
Brakes:  Wilwood (f & r)
Master cylinder:  Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims:  Weld V-Series; 15×4 (f), 15×12 (r)
Rubber:  Moroso Drag Special 5.50-15 (f), Mickey Thompson Sportsman Pro 29×15 (r)

THANKS
All my mates who have helped with the car over the years; Jai Shanahan and Flowcraft for the engine; Jake Bradley at MTS Custom Fabrications for the fabwork; James Isaacs for the paint; Tready for the wiring and electrical work; Matt Cook for the interior; Tony Di Biagio at TDR Engines & Race Parts; Adam Pollard; Tassie Ainley; Dave Hoe; Dan Smith; Rade; Jason Thomas; my ‘influential neighbours’ growing up, Shaun and Turk; my daughter Lily for all the help and advice.

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