GRUNTA | Shane Harvey's 1978 Holden HZ Ute


Words Karlee Sangster Photography Luke Ray.

Shane Harvey knows what he likes and likes what he knows. Ten years ago he saw a stock standard, rust free 1978 HZ in the Trading Post. It presented well as a light blue 253 V8 auto with bucket seats and a GTS dash. $1200 later, it was his. This wasn’t Shane’s first foray into car building, his radical 4WD Valiant ute winning Top Exhibition at Summernats in years 9 and 11. Over the next three years, he busied himself turning his new project into a 308-powered street machine, its flared guards sitting low over Shane’s trademark American Racing Indy 14x10” jellybean mags. “I love my 14x10s; I’ve had these same mags for more than 25 years. I’m not into the bigger wheels. 22-inch rims remind me of the prams we had in the ‘50s.”


The ute received a transmission upgrade; a four-speed Top Loader manual gearbox behind a Dellow bell housing and Shane upgraded the interior with SS Commodore buckets.

He chose to paint the car at home and the practical choice was a dark blue metallic acrylic with light blue ghost flames. It debuted at Summernats 22, in 2009 and received Top Ute in the Street class. Shane drove it everywhere for the next two years. “I was happy with it when it was blue,” he recalls. “It only owed me $23k then. It had the big grille, the wheels were on it, it was just tidy. I drove it everywhere. Sometimes we’d do three shows in a weekend. It got pretty well known. But my young blokes (stepson Daniel and son Luke) were onto me to take it to the elite level.”

Conveniently, Daniel owns and runs Kingpins Kustom Paint workshop, a custom shop in Newcastle, NSW. Shane, his two sons and the team at Kingpins worked solidly on the HZ for five years and as a result the dash is almost the only stock item left on the car.


“The nose cone, inner and outer guards and the wiper grille are welded up, with the guards welded to the pillars,” Shane says. “It’s all one piece.” Following the theme, the tailgate was also welded closed and the fuel filler to the 120-litre drop tank was concealed behind the hinged rear number plate. The sharpened swage lines and flared guards are the work of Peter Lamb, the latter redone to accommodate a ride height 1.5 inches lower due to the airbags, and the side sills lowered 30mm to hide the chassis rails.

This car sits low, just 20mm off the ground on airbags and stainless steel control arms supplied as a kit by James at Tubular Suspension and fitted by Kingpins, but rides at a road-legal 100mm.  Practically, it can be raised as high as 150mm for getting on and off trailers.


The ’bagged and highly detailed four-link rear is all Kingpins’ work. Leyland P76 rotors from Hoppers Stoppers gripped by WB calipers reduce the track up front by 16mm each side. With 10 inch wide rims, you need all the help you can get tucking those massive 265 hoops under the guards. The nine-inch diff was upgraded to allow discs at all four corners.


Shane mentioned suicide doors to Daniel, who jumped at the chance, using modified Commodore latches and the whole unit is operated remotely or via a small flush button near each side mirror. The frameless, double skin hood used three stock bonnets, and rises on Ringbrothers billet hinges. The outer panels wear a high-gloss PPG Lexus Kustom Red and are set off by a contrasting satin finish underneath and in the smoothed, lightly tubbed tray.


A subtle orange pinstripe separates the two paints. Luke painted the engine, gearbox, diff and other underbody components to match. Everything shiny is courtesy of Tony from G&T Custom Metal Polishing, who polished all the alloy and stainless on the car, putting 250 hours into the tunnel ram alone.


The car leads with its nose, and Shane is particularly proud of the grille. “It took me 116 hours to make,” he says. “I was inspired by Steve Ellis’ ‘XX308’ and Steve Abbott’s ‘Vanrat’. They’re my favourite panel vans of the ‘70s and ‘80s. They were awesome vans back in the day and would be hard to beat if they were still around. They were built the way cars should be built. The grille came from three separate Statesmans, one on the bottom and two top sections, filed and glued together. A lot of people don’t get it right. People have told me I’ve done a good job, you can’t see the joins. A bloke at Summernats thought it was made from billet alloy!”


Shane is a man who doesn’t follow trends, and Grunta’s engine was no exception. There would be no small block Chev here. Instead he upgraded the 308 with a COME 355 stroker kit bought from a mate. A Redline tunnel ram was found on eBay and topped with a pair of 600cfm Holleys. “It starts easy,” Shane says. “They’re Holleys; you never have any trouble if you buy them new and they’re so cheap, why would you fix the old ones? The distributor is a dual-points Mallory. I’ve run them on all my cars and never had a hassle. I’m not into the electronic thing.” The car is, afterall, a tribute to the ‘70s and ‘80s. “It’s got wide wheels, a big grille, a tunnel ram and sits low. To me, that’s an old school car,” says Shane. “Everybody tried to talk me into ‘20s and a brown interior. At the end of the day, I’m not building a car for them.”


He’s stayed true to his vision and his word, and the ute still sports its SS Commodore seats from the earlier build, re-upholstered in black leather with red stitching by Todd at Eastside Kustom Trim, who continued the theme on the door trims, console and crash pad. A few people suggested building a custom one-off dash, but Shane wasn’t having a bar of that, any more than he’d consider billet for the steering wheel and column. “I like the dash,” he says. “It’s good, why change it?”


Cars like this don’t come cheap, even with family help. “There’s over $20k in chrome alone,” Shane says. He also admits to a total build cost of around “half a house”.


Despite all the modifications, and the large team involved, the build went relatively smoothly. Relatively. “There was a lot of yelling, I promise you that, “ says Shane. “A lot of deadlines missed. It was always going to be unveiled at a Motorex or Summernats. We kept missing them, people were ringing up and asking when it was going to be ready. Things got tough right when it was getting painted, and with my dad on my mind, I had a disagreement with the boys and told them “Forget it, that’s it, it was over,” and I walked out. Luckily they didn’t listen to me and worked all night to get it done. They finished painting at 3pm the next day.”


Summernats 22 was fast approaching and Shane’s father Reg was very unwell in hospital. He was determined to live long enough to see the ute finally painted, or at least photos of it on a computer screen. “He just wanted to see it finished,” Shane says. “He waited two days to see it painted, then 10 minutes after that he stopped breathing. Luke had promised him we’d have it at Summernats and that pushed us to finish it. We might not have made it otherwise. For the last week, the lights were never turned off at Kingpins, and Todd installed the trim on New Year’s Eve, the day before we left for Canberra.”


The hard work certainly paid off. Grunta took out the honour of Top Elite Ute and was named one of the Top 20 cars of the show. “Getting a car unveiled in the Elite Hall was the dream, so winning Top Ute and making the Top 20 was a big bonus,” says Shane. The win just goes to show that taking the road less travelled can yield its own rewards – what’s right is not always popular, and what’s popular is not always right, and Shane Harvey has the ute to prove it.


Shane would like to thank the boys from Kingpins Kustom Paint: Daniel Slater, Luke Harvey, Keiran Hearne, Nathan Bagwill,  Brendan Laughlan, and Winston Sharpe. Tony Clough from G&T custom metal polishing, Todd Herbert from Eastside Kustom Trim. Thanks also to Shane’s Summernats crew: Daniel, Keiran, Tony, Riley, Andrew, Joel.


Grunta was built in the Memory of Shane’s father, Reg Harvey.

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 21.

Karlee SangsterHolden, Australia, Ute