Aiden Stampalia’s HZ Premier has had more makeovers than Kim Kardashian, but this latest one has been built to stand the test of time. “When I first got it, it looked like a car from the first Mad Max movie. To put it simply, it had more hits than Elvis Presley and was the laughing stock of my mates. They still call it Mad Max!”
As much as he’s a fan of the movie – let’s face it, it would be un-Australian to not be – Aiden wasn’t too fussed on the 80s-spec styling attributes of the car. Its next look would be full granddad-styled, old school cruiser, complete with a cammed LS running a single carb on petrol. That whole build took a sum total of two weeks, so you can imagine it wasn’t exactly magazine quality. The fact Aiden was working at Fordhold Wreckers at the time also sped things up, thanks to Justen Brown allowing the use of the workshop.
It’s no surprise then, that my first sighting of this car was when Aiden was brutalising it on the Snakepit burnout pad a few years back at Motorvation. I’ve seen a lot of skids in my day, but this one still stands out. The sight of a two-tone HZ, complete with sunvisor absolutely revving its tits off and getting thrown around the pad mercilessly is one I’ll never forget.
But the car definitely had its issues, Aiden even reckons it was cursed, so it was time for its next makeover into a tough, reliable streeter: “It snapped the left-hand rear wheel studs and the wheel came off on Tonkin Hwy on the way to Motorvation, then I got there and the car caught fire after the first skid on Friday night, then on the second skid on Saturday I lost the keys and seized the engine, it was 100 per cent cursed.”
It was clear and exorcism was required, so Aiden got the car in his shed and that’s where it stayed for the entirety of the build. Obviously, a new engine was going to be required, so a 6.0-litre L98 was secured and topped with a set of LS3 square-port heads. “It’s a stock bottom-end with all the top-end done on it. It’s got a cam, valve springs, oil pump upgrade, pushrods and the trunnion upgrade in the rockers,” says Aiden.
That’s pretty standard fare these days, but what you might notice from the engine bay pics is that there’s a funny looking round thing at the front of the engine with wires coming out of it. Aiden admits that it’s created a bit of head-scratching, especially amongst some of the older set who ask whether it’s a Windsor. “I wanted to make it the most trouble-free cruiser I could and have some way of keeping it sort of old school, even though it’s an LS. It’s a GM Performance timing cover with a spud bolted to the front of the cam. It does actually use a 351 Windsor distributor, you can use a GM one, but they’re exactly the same.”
The most difficult thing about setting it up is that there are no timing marks on an LS engine, and there’s no keyway on the balancer for even fitting a balancer with timing marks. So I had to put a piston stop in there and make my own timing marks, so that was a pain in the arse!”
But don’t worry, Aiden hasn’t gone and chucked a set of points in it or anything, there’s still a bit of electronic trickery going on when it comes to the ignition. There’s an MSD Digital 6 mounted underneath the glovebox, so the base timing is set through the distributor and all the final tuning is done via the computer. It’s even got a MAP sensor to keep tabs on what’s going on with the intake charge. Aiden admits, he’s no fan of electronics: “It’s easy, the distributor eliminates a lot of problems. You’ve got fuel, you’ve got spark, it’ll run.”
This straightforward combo nets 468hp at the rear wheels on E85, which is nothing to be sneezed at, but it also means a tough, reliable driveline is required. Aiden didn’t want to throw a tonne of money at it, so there is a shift kitted Turbo 350 with a billet Pro Torque nitrous converter, a 3.5in moly driveshaft from Final Drive and surprisingly, no 9-inch. Instead, Aiden kept it all GMH. “Being an exhaust person, I hate doing exhaust systems on cars with 9-inches – but then I didn’t end up doing the exhaust to the rear [laughs]. They don’t fit well, and I knew I was never going to put a massive horsepower combo in it and the Borg Warner diff is good for 700hp,” says Aiden. So, once again it was off to see Phil Purser at Final Drive Engineering where the VN housing was shortened and set up with mounts for the HZ and with a set of 3.45 gears, it’s got plenty of punch with fairly reasonable highway manners.
With the mechanical side of things sorted, it was time to get the old girl looking a bit more respectable. The car had suffered a little from its time on the burnout pad, but Aiden, along with help from his brother Glenn and Alex Allsop from Outter Limitz Spraypainting got the body cleaned up nicely – keep in mind, this was all happening in Aiden’s shed at home. The colour chosen was Toyota Sunset Bronze, a modern choice but not too far removed from factory options such as Persian Sand or Saddle Tan.
Those with a keen eye might be wondering how Aiden managed to fit a set of 10in wide rims under the untubbed back end: “The quarters are two inches wider each side than a normal HZ. If you look at the rear pillar, how it goes to the quarter panel, it’s shaped almost how a Monaro is, no one really picks it. My old man is a pretty crafty panel beater, we had two oxys on it and three bottle jacks on the inside. With the door, we cut along the body line then re-welded it.”
The whole interior was also restored to a factory fresh look, with the only departure from stock being a B&M shifter in the factory console. The Buckskin trim also carries through to the boot and was handled – for the most part – by Nathan Harris from Second to None Designs. I say “for the most part” because not long before the trim was complete, tragedy struck. “Nathan passed away suddenly due to a brain aneurism and all he had left to do was the driver’s door trim, so Tim Rayment stepped up and finished off the last piece. With some help from my good friend Jamie Cato, we made it our mission to have the car done in time for Nathan’s funeral as a tribute to him. This story is my way of giving back to him so he can finally be recognised for the work he did.”