Payback: 1968 Holden Monaro HK

Posted in Cars
After years of helping his kids with their cars, Neil Rutherford finally got his own back … he just didn’t know it

Imagine going into the garage to pull the cover off your much loved Monaro, only to find an EH Holden sitting there instead. You’d be suspicious, and shocked, especially since you’d walked past the covered car many times and never noticed anything wrong.  This was the situation Neil Rutherford found himself in five years ago now. The Monaro was part way through a rebuild at the time, the second build under Neil’s ownership, and in his eyes it was just about ready for paint.

Neil’s son Steve was the instigator of the plan to take the car while Neil and his wife Tilly were away for a few weeks, then give it a quick spray job and hopefully have it sitting back in the shed before the couple returned. When they got it back to Steve’s place, though, the team involved in the heist — which included Steve’s wife Emma, his sister (Neil’s daughter) Ange, and her partner Steve Miller — all decided the car wasn’t even close to being ready for paint after all. So, while the timeframe was blown out, the surprise at that stage was still in place.

After Neil discovered the car missing, and the rebuild plan was exposed, all involved decided that since there was now no rush to get it finished, the rebuild should be done properly. And by properly, we mean back to bare metal, having every nut and bolt replaced, and not one aspect of the vehicle left as it was.

After being taught by Neil over the years, Steve R could do pretty much everything in-house, and for the tasks he couldn’t do, such as upholstery and the top coat of paint, he knew exactly who to turn to. Combine this with Steve M’s engine knowledge, and input from both Ange and Emma, and the team had what it took to get the job done.

With the rush off, the bodywork could be taken care of properly. Since Neil had been a panel beater himself many years ago, it was relatively straight, but as Steve is a perfectionist, it wasn’t deemed good enough until it was perfect. This extended to the engine bay, where Steve smoothed over all holes and removed the battery tray to create a super-smooth look. Having built various cars for himself over the years, Steve had his own thoughts about how some things would look. “At the end of the day, it’s still his [Neil’s] car, so he’d have final say, but there were some things that we were doing regardless,” he says, laughing.

One of those things Neil was left in charge of was choosing the final colour for the car. After much searching he found just what he was after, a platinum tint from the Toyota range. Once the car was prepped for paint, it was mutual friend Cameron McKay who sprayed the DuPont Refinish Platinum Metallic paint to a flawless finish. 

While at the time son Steve wasn’t convinced the colour would look any good, he now admits it suits the shape of the car perfectly, highlighting the sharp curves and accentuating just how straight they managed to get the body. Of course, with the car back from paint looking so good, the rest of the build had to step up to match. Steve was willing to do the hard yards, though, and wasn’t going to return the car to Neil until it was up to his high standards. 

This included the 308 engine which Neil had installed in the car many years prior. Though he’d been told it was a fresh rebuild at the time, it never delivered the power it should have. When Steve M pulled it apart, he soon worked out why, and was surprised the car ever ran at all! With new valve gear in place, thanks to help from Courtney Evans, the previous issues were sorted, and the engine was pieced back together with an Edelbrock manifold and a Quick Fuel carb. Wanting the engine bay as clean as possible, Steve cleverly ran the wiring through the chassis rails, making it invisible, and keeping the engine bay smooth and tidy. 

The 308 had been backed with an auto trans before the heist, but Steve being the loving son he is, decided to replace that with a Celica five-speed, regardless of whether Neil wanted the car a manual or not. The box itself and bellhousing came from Steve’s own collection, while a new heavy-duty clutch and lightened flywheel were sourced to match. Out the back sits a rebuilt V8 banjo diff with LSD head.

A set of wheels that Steve had sitting waiting to go onto his unfinished EH project also found their way onto the Monaro, and it’s not hard to see why. At 15x6 and 15x8-inches, the Weld Pro Lite rims look perfect on the car, especially when combined with the super-low ride height — which again was one of Steve’s ideas. 

With the car starting to come together, the decision was made to paint out all chrome and stainless items in a matte silver. It’s something that has become Steve’s signature over the years, and though it’s a cheaper option than chroming, it also gives the car a more custom look. 

Neil’s original plan was for a black interior, however the instructions given to Cut Loose Upholstery were to use a Moroccan Red vinyl. A reproduction steering wheel and centre console, along with a full new rubber kit that Neil collected while in Australia, finish off the interior trimming.

Five years into the rebuild, the 2013 Kumeu Car Show was fast approaching and it was just the deadline needed to get the car completed. Plenty of late nights were had, and plenty of surprise gifts from those in the build showed up, including a set of red seatbelts; there’s a long story behind those, including an astronomical bill that Neil rightly refused to pay. The kids were keen to make it happen though, and it was Steve’s wife who finally sorted the issue, just in time for the car’s first public appearance at the show. 

Sure, the build may have taken a bit longer than the original two weeks that were planned, but the end result is also far more advanced than the initial plan ever was. The perfectly finished vehicle is now a great way for Steve and Ange as well as the in-laws Steve M and Emma to say thanks to Neil for everything he’s done for them over the years, and now that it’s on the road, we’re pretty sure Neil won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Sometimes payback isn’t a bitch, but a finely finished Monaro. 

Neil's Monaro was featured in NZV8 Issue No. 96 (May 2013)


  • Engine: Holden 308 V8, 60 thou over, Franklin Cams custom cam, Edelbrock Performer manifold, Pro comp Quick Fuel Slayer Series carb, high-volume fuel pump, twin-point Mallory ignition, Formula 10.5mm leads, Hurricane Headers, 2.5-inch exhaust, Flowmaster mufflers, three-core radiator, Gilmer belt drive
  • Driveline: Toyota Celica five-speed manual gearbox, lightened flywheel, heavy-duty clutch, V8 Banjo diff, LSD head
  • Suspension: Lowered on heavy-duty springs, reset rear leaves, Monroe shocks, heavy-duty sway bars
  • Brakes: HQ discs, HQ calipers, HK drum rear
  • Wheels/tyres: 15x6- and 15x8-inch Weld Pro Lite rims, Pirelli 195/60R15 and BF Goodrich 245/50R15 tyres
  • Exterior: DuPont Refinish Platinum Metallic paint, matte silver painted chrome
  • Interior: Full custom re-trim, replica woodgrain steering wheel, reproduction centre console, SAAS gauges, Sony head unit, Fusion speakers
  • Performance: Untested

Todd Wylie

Todd Wylie has been involved with NZV8 magazine since before the first issue was printed, and has been the editor for the last eight years. Growing up in the heyday of the Jap-import scene, he's not adverse to Japanese vehicles, having worked for NZ Performance Car previously, as well as owning a few well-known examples. These days he cruises at a slower pace in a 1956 Cadillac Coupe and dreams of building a Model A tudor.