We come up with all kinds of excuses to create our awesome machines, and Jamie Small’s reason for building this LS-swapped HQ Kingswood ute is a bloody ripper. “I had a spare set of Center Lines lying around and I wanted a car to put them on,” is his simple explanation. “I went through about three different HQ ute shells before I landed on this one, and we started from there.”
However, even that chosen fourth shell still needed a whole bunch of love to get it up to scratch. “I had Sean Hammond and the crew from South Melbourne Smash Repairs take on the bodywork, and we used everything from the Rare Spares catalogue,” Jamie says.
Everything up to and including the rear quarter panels were replaced, but because the bodywork was tackled during one of Melbourne’s many COVID-19 lockdowns, the boys were able to knock out all the work in around three months.
If you’re struggling to pinpoint the hue on Jamie’s ute, that’s because it’s the unusual choice of Keswick Green, taken from a classic Land Rover Defender
While the major body and paintwork were outsourced, rest assured that Jamie tackled the bulk of the HQ build himself. “We did all the assembly, tubbed it, did the engine conversion and even the wiring,” he says. “It was one of the more enjoyable builds I’ve done.”
That conversion was to an LS1, which was given a tickle by Chris Slattery. The original heads, block, crank and rods all remain, now accompanied by Wiseco forged pistons, LS7 lifters, head studs, a beefier Crow Cams stick with matching valve springs, and a Moroso oil pump. Air comes in via a Proflow 102mm throttlebody, and the LS belts out its gas through a set of Castlemaine Rod Shop pipes paired with a 2.5-inch exhaust. “I went with the LS because it was the best value for money for an engine swap, and it just works,” says Jamie.
Using a stocko LS1 ECU and thumping through the Turbo 400 gearbox and McDonald Brothers nine-inch rear, the LS makes a healthy 375rwhp on pump 98. “It goes well for a street car,” Jamie says. “It does everything I want it to do.”
It took Jamie and his mates around two years to transform the ute from a shell to a turn-key streeter, but towards the end of the build, he had extra motivation to get the big Quey done.
There’s nothing wild or in-your-face under the Kingswood’s bonnet, just some Edelbrock engine covers and a few small basics to help blur the lines between the original 70s HQ hardware and modern LS tech
“A good mate of mine, Tony ‘Barney’ Peerman, had been battling cancer for a while, and towards the end he grabbed a tape measure and measured up the back of the ute. He said his coffin would fit, and that’s how he wanted to be taken out of this world,” Jamie explains. Luckily, the HQ just made that deadline after Barney’s passing. “We got it registered just a few days before the funeral, so he got his wish,” Jamie says.
Since then, the ute has been doing street miles every other weekend around Melbourne, which is exactly what Jamie built it for. “It’s just a nice, simple cruiser, and people enjoy seeing it around,” he says. “I think everyone can relate to these older utes, because everyone knows someone who had one back in the day, so to see one getting around these days is a cool thing.”
Jamie went for a simple black-on-black theme for the interior, using a GTS steering wheel to complement the original Kingswood bench seat and dashboard. The only real hint of performance comes from the billet B&M shifter
With a second-gen Camaro in the stable as more of a racer, Jamie says he doesn’t have any plans to take the HQ down the track, but we quietly suspect that could change if he follows through with some potential future plans for the Kingswood. “We built the engine to handle boost, and I do have a turbo sitting there that I might use for a rear-mounted system someday,” he says.
“But for now, I’m just going to enjoy it as it is. It’s nice to just have a car that works!”
Story: Kian Heagney
Photos: Chris Thorogood