I FIRST spied Rob Cinanniís HK Monaro back in early 2016. It was parked amongst around 600 other cars at the start point of Big Alís Poker Run, of which there would have been at least a dozen other HK-T-G Monaros on show. Iím not sure what made stand out from all the others; it could be that Iím a sucker for Warwick Yellow HK Monaros, or the fact it sat just right on (at the time) Weld Racing rims, or maybe it was the way the injector hat just stuck out above the bonnet. Most guys running blown motors want the whole world to know and do their utmost to get as much of it as possible out in the sunshine, but Rob took a different, stealthier path. Back then, the hat was polished, but it has since been given a black finish to make it even more low-key.
But letís backtrack a little to just a couple years before I laid eyes on the HK, when Rob bought it as a stalled project from Adelaide.
ďWhen I bought the car it was basically a bare shell Ė no glass, the guards and bonnet werenít even on it, just the body, doors and bootlid, Rob says. ďIt was already mini-tubbed and the glass and interior were included, but it was all just thrown in the car. It had a small-block 400 Chev in it and ran 11.0 before I got it, had the timeslips and all, so it went all right.
Most people would probably be happy with that, but as Robís already got an HQ Monaro coupe in the shed that was running 10.50s 18 years ago naturally aspirated, he knew he had to step it up a bit. The motor is still around the 400-cube mark, but itís based around a Dart Little M block thatís been built to take the punishment an 8/71 blower can dish out using a Callies Magnum crank with a big-block snout and double keyways. Thereís a set of Carrillo rods, and the JE pistons squeeze the E85 with an 8:1 ratio.
We all know that none of that is worth a damn if the heads arenít up to the task, but Rob definitely didnít skimp in that area. A set of AFR 245 NPP (no pushrod pinch) heads are fitted with Crower stainless shaft rockers and Manton pushrods. The cam is a custom solid-roller grind from Moose at Ranch Automotive Engineers, who also did all the machining work on the engine as well as some other choice modifications.
ďThe manifold that came with the blower kit was really nice, but it was another 45-50mm higher than whatís on there now, Rob explains. ďI had to get another manifold Ė the lowestprofile one you get on the market Ė and then Moose welded it up to match the ports on the heads. It was a bit of stuffing around, but it was worth it because all you can see is the very top of the pulley and the hat. If you didnít have a mate with a machine shop that could weld and machine it, you wouldnít do that shit.
Robís a mechanic by trade, so he screwed everything together, but he reckons thatís the easy part.
ďWhere the work goes in is the machining, really, so Moose should take the credit. Heís so meticulous, itís a pain in the arse!Ē
Sitting pretty on top of the stout small-block is an 8/71 with a billet case and rotors from The Blower Shop that is topped with an Enderle bug catcher. To my eye, these are the sexiest injector hat; they just look the business and suit the era of the car to perfection.
While it might look all old-school, thereís a bit of technology hidden away, with an EFI system controlled by a BigStuff3 ECU, which took a little bit of work to get right.
ďThey sent me a map, but it was just enough to fire it up, it wouldnít do anything else, Rob says. ďMy mate Trevor Morrison from Mad Max Racing and I got it going. We put it on a dyno but it wouldnít rev up over 6400rpm. Still made 765hp at the wheels, so itís definitely going to go up around the 850 mark when we turn it to 7500. The ignition box failed on me in the end, so at least now we know what the problem was.
With that much grunt, the rest of the driveline needed to be equally strong, so Rob went straight to the US and got a fully manualised, reverse-pattern Turbo 400 from Abruzzi Racing. The car was already fitted with a nine-inch, but thatís been upgraded to 35-spline, fitted with a Moser Wavetrac LSD and converted to disc brakes.
The mechanicals were easy for Rob, but getting the bodywork and trim sorted meant calling in some more mates to help out.
The bodywork was already about 85 per cent done, but you know how it is; that last 15 per cent is where all the hard work happens. Thanks to his good mate Marco, the old body and new panels got massaged into perfect shape before the stunning Warwick Yellow paint went on.
ďIf you saw where it got painted, youíd freak out, Rob laughs. ďActually, the whole car got built there. We had all intentions of taking it to a panel shop to paint the final colour, but we got a fine day, and with acrylic you can play with it. It was basically built from go to whoa in a lean-to!
ďIt took me two years; I just went flat-out on it. I didnít walk away from it, like you do with projects. I was on it every night.
Paint: Warwick Yellow
Type: Dart Little M 403ci
Injection: Enderle bug catcher EFI
Blower: The Blower Shop 8/71
Heads: AFR 245 NPP
Valves: 2.125in (in), 1.600in (ex)
Crank: Callies Magnum, big-block snout, double keyway
Exhaust: 17/8in headers, twin 3in system
Ignition: MSD Digital-7
Box: Abruzzi Racing Turbo 400
Converter: Abruzzi Racing
Diff: 9in, 35-spline, Wavetrac LSD
Springs: Lovells (f), leaf (r)
Shocks: Koni (f & r)
Brakes: VS Commodore (f),
BA Falcon (r)
Rims: Center Line Auto Drag; 15x6 (f), 15x10 (r)
Rubber: 195/65/15 (f), 255/60R15 (r)
Moose for the machining and help with the engine; Trevor Morrison for helping with tuning the EFI; Tony Riggio for the trim; Marco for the paint; all my mates for their input and help along the way
The finishing touch was to restore the interior back to factory stock, and for that Rob called in Tony Riggio. Itís been done in your basic black and only deviates from stock with the addition of a trio of AutoMeter gauges and a TCI Outlaw shifter. HK Monaro fans may notice that the iconic console-mounted tacho is missing, but donít worry, Robís got the shift points covered: ďThere is a shift light where the choke used to be. I donít really have time to look at a tacho; the light comes on pretty quick!Ē Itís a neat solution and it goes with Robís whole philosophy on the build.
ďItís not overly customised; itís really just got a drivetrain in it, he says. ďDonít stuff with a good thing to start with. They age beautifully, thatís all s they do.