At first it was a distant rumble, but as the beast got closer it became an awe-inspiring howl. Up and down the gears, on and off the throttle, the silver Monaro was still a ‘grey ghost’ to the waiting throngs – unseen, yet anything but unheard.

* Originally printed in the January 2005 issue of RallySport Magazine.

Then it happened, the mightly Holden slid into view with the steering on full opposite lock, and with rooster tails 20 metres in length shooting from the rear wheels. The New Zealand crowd went wild. Keith Callinan had arrived!

The world of rallying has traditionally been a four cylinder domain with normally aspirated and, now, turbocharged cars winning the majority of rallies all around the world since the 1960s. Yet there’s something about the roar of a mighty V8 engine that can’t be equalled.

In Keith Callinan’s case that ‘mighty V8’ is a 6.7 litre monster that pumps out 520 horsepower and has travelled the world in its quest to thrill rally fans everywhere. Whether it be on gravel or on tarmac, the Monaro seems equally at home, and in ‘KC’s’ hands it will always be entertaining.

Callinan is a retired businessman from Mackay in far north Queensland, but it’s fair to say that KC has retired because of his success, rather than because of his age! Now with plenty of time on his hands and plenty on money in the bank, he and co-driving wife, Mary-Anne, spend a lot of their time travelling Australia and the world in pursuit of their passion – rallying.

RallySport first came across KC at the Otago Rally in Dunedin in 2003. Inspired by the words of five-time Australian Rally Champion Ross Dunkerton, Keith had loaded the big Monaro on a boat and headed for the New Zealand south island for the Dunlop International Classic Rally. Against drivers of the ilk of Hannu Mikkola and Bjorn Waldegard, the big Monaro never really had a chance of victory, but if success is measured by the amount of cheers you get at spectator points, then KC won hands down!

That trip ‘across the ditch’ was thwarted by an engine failure, but such is KC’s passion for rallying that it is hardly something to dwell on. In his mind, the best cure for disappointment is to simply send the car home and rebuild it for the next event – wherever that may be.

The HK Monaro is an Australian classic, having achieved success on both the track and in the forests. Norm Beechey mastered the HK on the tar, while Colin Bond did likewise on the dirt, so it’s no coincidence that KC’s Monaro has been built to compete on both surfaces.

While he admits the building of the car was “a bit of a compromise” because of the range of events he wanted to compete in, that compromise is only in the set-up sense, rather than in preparation terms. Money has been no object in the building of the car, and it shows.

You could literally eat your dinner out of the engine bay, and it is this meticulous preparation that has helped make the car a crowd favourite wherever it goes (oh, and the little fact that it’s generally the most exciting car to watch in any event!).

The list of events that KC and Mary-Anne have competed in with the Monaro reads like a wish list for any modern rallying fan. The car has contested the East Coast Classic, the Midnight Sun to Red Sea Rally, Classic Adelaide, Rally Tasmania, the London to Sydney Marathon, and the Otago Classic Rally, as well as rounds of the Australian and Queensland Rally Championships.

In fact such is the performance of this HK, and the prowess of its driver, that the car led the 2004 London to Sydney Marathon before an engine failure in Monte Carlo caused its retirement.

But fastest stage times and rally victories or not, Keith Callinan is adamant that he’ll be around for some time to come. November was a busy month with participation in a Classic Rally Car shoot-out at Perth’s World Rally Championship round, followed a week later by Classic Adelaide. Two different events on two different surfaces, again highlighting the versatility of both the driver and the car.


1968 Holden HK Monaro, 2 door coupe. Purchased in poor condition and rebuilt from the ground up by Duncan Richter in Mackay, North Queensland.

Roll cage, Sparco seats, Autometer guages, Coralba tripmeter

Holden 308 block, stroked to 383 cubic inches. 6.7 litres, producing 520 brake horse power. Built in Gawler, South Australia, but Des Jewis and Rhemac Motors.

Super T10 4-speed gearbox with Pfitzner Dog Teeth set.

Technoflex 3-way adjustable canister units.

HSV/Harrop 4-spot discs on AP 2-piece rotors.

Compomotive Minilite wheels, 15”x6” on Yokohama 205/50x15 tyres

Weight: 2000kg


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