Our Project HQ on show

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Gary O'Brien talks to SS designer, Leo Pruneau Gary O'Brien talks to SS designer, Leo Pruneau Gary O'Brien talks to SS designer, Leo Pruneau
Gary O'Brien talks to SS designer, Leo Pruneau Gary O'Brien talks to SS designer, Leo Pruneau Gary O'Brien talks to SS designer, Leo Pruneau
Victorian Hot Rod Show 2015 Victorian Hot Rod Show 2015 Victorian Hot Rod Show 2015
Victorian Hot Rod Show 2015 Victorian Hot Rod Show 2015 Victorian Hot Rod Show 2015

Our Project HQ has been doing the show circuit tour over the last couple of months, and at the recent Hanging Rock classic car show, met up with the bloke who helped create it, Lou Pruneau

Our Project HQ on show
Gary O'Brien talks to SS designer, Leo Pruneau


Project HQ


Our Project HQ has been doing the show circuit tour, starting with the massive Summernats in Canberra, then the Victorian Hot Rod Show gig, followed by one of the biggest classic car shows in the country, Hanging Rock, in February.

Once people see the thing in the flesh, they start to understand what all the fuss is about. Our own Uncle Phil and builder Gary O’Brien of Bendigo Retro Muscle Cars generally hover over the thing like a couple of mother hens, fielding questions and sometimes debating its finer points. Though raced as a Monaro, the car actually started life as a Lettuce Alone (green) SS.

Of the hundreds of folk we spoke to at the Rock, the biggest surprise was Leo Pruneau, the Canadian-born former GMH head designer who was responsible for the SS.

You could see Gary brace himself for a ticking-off from Pruneau, but had no cause for concern. After patiently walking around the monster, and after an uncomfortable silence, Pruneau started giving his approval.

"Gloss black car with matt black striping - that's pretty good, pretty subtle," he concluded.

So, Leo, how about telling us a little about how the SS project came about? "A lot of those projects we did in those days, the sales guys would come in and say 'look we gotta make something or other, here's a bit of a specification, we want to base it on a Belmont, because this is teh cheapest thing'," he began. " 'But we're going to put in a V8 and maybe a four-speed transmission. What can you do styling-wise to set it apart?'

"That's always a challenge because there was never any money to spend on the bloody project.

"I never did sketches or anything like that. I always did a full-sized car, because I felt that was the only way to sell it. With a full-sized car, you knew exactly what you were going to get.

"So I put the car together and the prototype, the styling model, was silver with orange stripes. We got the product policy guys in because they had to approve it for production.

"The manufacturing guys, who were part of the product group, got all concerned about the hood stripes. They weren't only on the hood, they were on the fender and also on the front nose can. We wanted the stripes to line up with the headlights - that's wjy I put them there - we thought that's where they looked the strongest.

"We finally got it approved, but they still didn't quite know how they were going to do it because they couldn't afford to maks it and paint it, because they were spraying over three panels. About the same time the 3M company had arrived in Australia and we heard about it. They sent a rep around and we showed him styling model and asked if they could do it in their material. They said yeah, they jumped on it. So we gave them all the drawings.

"The very first set of stripes came through and the car was built down at Dandenong and I went down there and put the first stripes on myself. We just laid them on and cut them out with a razor, on to the panels" he says, laughing and shaking his head at the memory. "In those days everything was done by hand.

"The other thing about it, I got here in 1969 and th HQ sedan body and the Monaro were already finished. I got to work on the commercials, but couldn't do anything with the sedans. There was no decoration, it was just the raw body - or the body in white as we called it.

"I always thought the guys had the (rear) deck there a little too low. The hood stuck straight out, but look at it in a side-view profile and the deck looked too low. Same with the LJ Toranas - not enough 'push' in the back. That was why I put that black panel on the back (of the SS) to kind of lift the eye a bit and harden it up because it was a bit too 'soft' for my tastes."

Leo was also in on the ground floor for the development of the first Commodore SS, but that's another story...


So what now? In between shows, the Bendigo mob will be doing a little fine-tuning and set-up. Our next step will be to hand the keys over to young Mr. John Bowe and see what he reckons. Then, eventually, we’re going to have to give it away. Will that lucky person be you?




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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