"Marilyn Monroe was a real woman with curves in all the right places. The flowing lines over those distinctive hips… She was very sexy looking and one-of-a-kind," Karen Keves muses, "that's why I had to call my HQ Monaro 'Marilyn.'"
In Karen's mind, the idea was to create "a concept car, merging the old with the new and bringing it into the future." She wanted people to know that hers was still an HQ Monaro, whilst giving it the look of a modern car with all the extras like big, upsized wheels.
"This is my idea of an HQ for 2011," Karen explains. This project may have spanned more than three-and-a-half years (with some minor adjustments still to be made) but the seed was planted many, many years earlier.
"The first car I learnt to drive in was my parents' yellow HK Monaro. It wasn't the easiest car to do a hill start in, plus, at 5' 1" there was the issue of trying to reach the foot pedals," laughs Karen. "We took it to Perth, across the Nullarbor Plain's unsealed roads, with no air con, to travel back through floods. The car survived and so did I."
At 19 years of age, Karen owned a purple and lime green HQ Monaro with a 253 engine and Trimac auto transmission: "My pride and joy!" she exclaims, "I would drive her down Adelaide's Hindley Street on a Friday or Saturday night, feeling pretty cool..." (laughs)
Impending motherhood meant Karen had to part with her beloved HQ as its two- door body and difficult-to-reach rear seat weren't exactly ideal for a baby on board. But the dream didn't die.
"When I met my beautiful hubby, Tom, my passion for cars began again and I never looked back. One of my dreams was to own another HQ Monaro GTS," Karen explains, "Tom's been the most supportive person during the build. He's been my guiding light, encouraging me to think outside the square and not lose sight of my ideas. Without his support, love and input, my dream would've never happened."
"I had been to several shows and admired the Show Elite level of custom cars and their modifications. I came home with plenty of ideas for my girl," says Karen, "I knew she required a full restoration to bring her back to her former glory but as you can see, the finished project was not a simple restoration – there are over 108 modifications!"
Of all the custom work, Karen admits it's the under-bonnet mods that excite her most: "The engine is a 6.2-litre LS3 V8: modern, with a lot of power! Dressing up the motor was a challenge. The engine bay was something I was passionate about; all I wanted to see was an engine, almost as if it didn't run. The one-off, custom-made trumpets give it an impressive edge."
Karen had the satisfaction of driving Marilyn for the first time at Summernats 2011, where the vehicle was unveiled with full running gear and interior in place, albeit in bare metal.
"What a feeling it was - wow! It was a very special time for me," she reflects, "the crowd was amazing and the comments the car received even more so."
"MotorEx then gave me the opportunity to show off my concept HQ to the motoring world," explains Karen, "I had no expectation of winning – that's always a bonus." Karen and Marilyn walked away with two Champion Awards in the Superstars category at the 2011 Meguiar's MotorEx: the gold medal for "Undercarriage and Driveline" and bronze for "Overall Innovations".
"Before MotorEx 2012, the car will be in the workshop for some finishing touches. Going back to MotorEx as a Superstar will be pretty special and I cannot wait!" Karen exclaims, "I look forward to showing Marilyn within Australia and, into the future, overseas."
"Along the way I learned that I had more insight into what I wanted than I imagined. And I have more patience than I thought I had," Karen reveals, "I loved building the HQ and I would build another in time, when I have finished off this one to the standard it requires. It's been an interesting journey and I would do it again."
House of Kolor Orion Silver and Nova Orange satin; boxed undercarriage; lowered sills; roof gutters removed; "D-cup" bonnet bulge; sectioned steel bumpers incorporated into bodywork; front guards welded, sliced and extended downwards 55mm; Camaro driving lights; billet V-shaped grille with billet headlight surrounds; front and rear metal window surround raised and flushed; chrome-less glass
Reconstructed dash; custom console and gauges; moulded twin speaker covers