I’m a bit of a sucker for HQs, so I’ll always stroll up to one to check it out, especially if it’s in the Elite lane for judging at Summernats. That’s where I initially spied this stunning HQ ute. One of the first things I noticed was the beautifully detailed engine bay, chock-a-block full of 615 cubic inches of big-block Chevy.
Most likely, the first thing your eyes will be drawn to are the engraved rocker covers advertising Shields Garage, but don’t go looking for it in your local directory, because Shields Garage is basically a really well-equipped shed created by West Aussie Nigel Warr.
“When I built the workshop, the intention was just to build some cars for me or my son, and an HQ ute was on top of the list. A couple of mates use it from time to time, too,” says Nigel.
The ute was actually spotted for sale in South Australia and it just so happens that Nigel has some business interests over there.
“I was looking online and it was for sale about five minutes from one of our shops, so I said to my operations manager: ‘Get this bloke out to the workshop, put it on the hoist, and if it’s good, just buy it off him and give him an Uber to get home.”
I didn’t ask what the original engine in the ute was, but I reckon it’s a pretty good bet it was a 202. That wasn’t going to cut the mustard, so Nigel went straight to the Shafiroff Racing Engines catalogue to make his selection. “I wanted an engine that would run on pump gas,” he says, “And I reckon if you’re going to put a big-block in, the bigger the cubes, the better.” You’ll get no argument from us, good sir!
The engine Nigel chose was the low-deck ‘Twisted’ package, which is rated at 925hp – although Nigel’s particular one came with a dyno sheet that listed 926hp at the flywheel. Bonus! You’d think something with that much grunt would be a nightmare on the street, but that’s not the case at all.
“When we were at Summernats I drove it back to the hotel every night,” Nigel says. “They had a really secure car park, so we’d leave Summernats, go for a cruise, stop for dinner and cruise home.”
On a 42-degree day at Summernats, the ute punched out 686hp on the hub dyno in the Horsepower Heroes comp, which made him top qualifier in the Aspirated Eight-Cylinder class, but Nigel wasn’t aware that he had to come back for Sunday’s finals.
“We didn’t go to Summernats for anything like that; we just went to have fun,” he says. “The thing that was good for the boys – and good for me too – was the MPW dyno guys giving us the award for their favourite car.”
It’s easy to see why, as the car not only performed extremely well, but it was probably the most highly detailed car to make a run on the dyno. Underneath is just as nice as the top, with the chassis and underbody all painted in the custom mix that Nigel has dubbed Shields Orange.
To get that power to the ground, you need a fair bit of rubber hitting the road, and there’s definitely no shortage of that at the rear, while the front tyres are suitably skinny. What sets the ute apart from other Pro Street-style cars is the diameter of the rims front and rear.
There’s a current trend where people are running 17s on the front with 15s on the rear, but Nigel has stepped it up on the rear with massive 17x12s wrapped in 345/40 Toyo Proxes TQ drag radials.
“I wanted to put the bigger brakes on, so I needed the bigger wheels,” he says. “A lot of cars look a bit ‘roller-skatey’ because the wheels don’t look big enough to fill the guards, so I thought I’d just go a bit bigger. I didn’t want to get a modern wheel, and I think the Weld wheel is the toughest wheel you can buy.”
The brakes Nigel chose should do an admirable job of hauling the car up, as they’re 355mm Wilwoods with six-spot calipers up front and 320mm with four-spots out back.
As with the outside of the car, the interior is highly detailed and thoroughly purposeful. There’s an ANDRA-spec rollcage that has been painted body colour, a custom dash and console, and a set of race buckets that also copped a bit of customising.
“Originally I wanted to put some old-school seats in, but it’s really hard to get all the ANDRA approvals, so I bought the OMP seats, which do nicely, then we retrimmed them in original Holden-style materials,” says Nigel.
The dash was fabricated to accept a set of Auto Meter gauges and billet buttons. A billet steering column replaces the original. but it’s been pushed back around 50mm to give the driver more space. The dash was also reshaped to make more room and then retrimmed.
It’s an impressive effort for a first-time build, but Nigel admits the credit should go entirely to the small and very talented crew at Shields Garage. Apart from the initial sandblasting of the car and the interior trim – which was done at Shields Garage by Tim’s Motor Trimmers – the entire car was built in-house. But as I said at the start of the story, don’t go looking them up to book in a job. Nigel’s already got something else in the build, and, no doubt, a few more ideas rattling around his head that need to come to life.
Words // Boris Viskovic