Project HQ GTS tribute update: part 6
Our mighty HQ is starting to look like a car again...
Project HQ GTS tribute - part 6
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You can only assume that Gary O’Brien, the ringmaster at Bendigo Retro Muscle Cars, is a patient man. To the untrained eye, our mighty HQ GTS might not look a whole lot different to last time we saw it, several weeks ago.
It’s as good an example as any of how these big rebuild projects often reach a stage where they’ve apparently stalled, even though everyone is working their proverbials off. When we last left the project, the good folk from Bendigo had assembled something that vaguely resembled an HQ and were painstakingly lead-filling some of the key seams.
So, what’s different? The devil really is in the detail, which Uncle Phil – aka the world’s fussiest man – spotted in a heartbeat. "The lines on it are perfect," he enthused. "It will probably be the straightest HQ in Australia when it’s finished."
Gary winced a little at that comment, as that’s an accolade that can just as easily put you up as a target. What he is aiming for is very much a factory look, which doesn’t necessarily mean utter perfection.
He points to one of the now invisible lead-filled body seams as an example: "What we did was lead-fill the joins. Then they have to file it, then there’s a sanding process and then it’s etch-primed the same as the rest of the car.
"We won’t be concentrating on having it look seamless inside – we want it to look the way the factory car did. You’ll be able to tell inside the boot trough, for example, that it’s a factory look. Most of the show guys will go to the next level and smooth the whole thing out, but we won’t."
That, in a nutshell, defines the car: it’s an improved production project, designed to be driven regularly, rather than a ultra-sleek show car.
Among the numerous subtle changes is getting the panel alignment on the new driver-side front wing right. The piece from Rare Spares fitted in the space well enough, but sat several millimetres proud of the nose. That, according to O’Brien, is normal for a car of this era and is exactly what he would have expected from the factory part.
"With a bit of massaging with the rad support and so-on – there is a bit of a secret with them – we’ve been able to achieve a good result," he said. "Sometimes you can spend an hour mucking around with it, but it’s well worth it to get the result."
Where you can see the time being soaked up is getting that last level of finish right – like a lot of projects, it’s the last five per cent that seems to take 95 per cent of the effort. With the body assembled, the crew has sprayed on a primer and is now working guide coat, which has been laid over the high-fill, to check they’ve got the curves right.
O’Brien explains the laborious process: "That guide coat, basically you work up to the lines. Then you rework the lines and work back the other way. It goes through a couple of processes and the grades of paper come down.
"The guide coat will pick up any imperfections. I rubbed the roof the other day – the way they’ve done the job, you’d be hard-pressed to find an imperfection, even in the primer stage."
To us, the car is looking damn near perfect, so surely there isn’t any more to do?
"By the time we dress the primer and just check a few things, probably a three-day process would kill it," O’Brien said. "We’re looking for a higher quality with this project."
Leaving his tradesmen to get on with the job, we head on to the fun part: unwrapping the truckload of bits that has turned up from Rare Spares. O’Brien and Uncle Phil are like kids at Christmas, impatiently waiting for courier ‘Swifty’ to unload his truck.
Piece by piece, they start unwrapping, making the appropriate ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ noises along the way. The range of bits offered by Rare Spares is quite staggering, and it continues to expand. We saw a prototype nose cone while we were there, and items such as a complete plenum panel have recently been added.
But it’s the detail that intrigues the lads. Instrument gauges are pored over, and there is even a set of replica stickers showing how to use the jack. O’Brien notes a lot of the parts, such as lenses, have GMH markings and original part numbers – something that is going to have huge appeal for anyone who wants to build a dead original car.
Caught up in the excitement of the moment, O’Brien makes a rash promise. Scanning the host of bits scattered across the Bendigo Retro Muscle Cars nerve centre, he offers: "I’m going to count all these parts and by the end of the build I’m going to tell you how many there are."
So, how many bits does it take to build an HQ? Watch this space…
RARE SPARES HOT TIP
Gary O’Brien reckons that, while our GTS is turning out to be a high-end project, the Rare Spares catalogue has a lot to offer basic builds done on a budget. He points to an HQ ute in his workshop: "See that car there? That belongs to a local wood-cutter and he’s asked us not to spend too much money. We’ve used a Rare Spares plenum panel which fits in beautifully. Once it’s all done, it’ll be out there carting wood again."
|Visit the website: www.bendigoretro.com.au/|
Rare Spares: Looking to restore, repair or rebuild a HQ? Contact your nearest Rare Spares store for parts, advice and service. Visit the website: www.rarespares.net.au
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