FROM MINT TO MAGIC: Chris Irvin’s Holden 550hp 355ci VK

26 Mar

FROM MINT TO MAGIC

No amount of stern words from the car’s original owner were going to stop Chris Irvin from building his dream car
Story and Pics by hoskingindustries.com.au

While we’re sure some people are just born old, it seems as though most of us forget what it was like to be young (and power hungry) as we begin to age. Music becomes too loud, speed becomes scary and you realise you don’t recognise any of the actors in the latest films.

Chris Irvin's Holden 550hp 355ci VK Clearly the previous owner of this pristine VK sedan was feeling some serious age when it came time to hand over the keys to new owner, 26-year-old Chris Irvin. “I found it as an original six-cylinder, 2nd owner car with log books and original paperwork,” he says. “I paid a deposit and returned to pick it up when the owner asked what I had planned for the car.”

It’s at about this time that the conversation took an amusing turn. “I told him I was going to take it home, strip it and cut the ass end out of it,” Chris continues. “He told me that if I’d told him that before he wouldn’t have sold it to me. In his own words, he said ‘You young people always wreck cars like this’.”

Surely looking at the car today, it would be a hard task for the old guy to argue that Chris has done anything but a superb job of creating something that, in his words, is “like factory, but better”. Sitting resplendent in an expertly applied DIY 2-pack white with the obligatory HDT grille and a few other subtle refinements, the VK is better than brand new and not in any danger of looking dated in six months time due to picking the latest trendy colours or interior design. We reckon the old guy should be pretty happy with the work done – work almost entirely completed by Chris and his family at home.

I didn’t have a hoist in the shed at the time that I wanted to clean up the undercarriage,” Chris says – a mechanic by trade. “So, my brother Mick and I jacked the car up as high as we could get it, got under it with two wire wheels and stripped it. There was dust everywhere.Chris Irvin's Holden 550hp 355ci VK

“We made a quick plastic sheet paint booth in the shed and Mick spent two days painting it. A week later the new hoist went in!”

Being a mechanic clearly has its advantages when building a car. So does having a father-in-law that restores and builds cars in his spare time and boasts a killer, fully equipped shed of his own (where we photographed the VK). Chris and Joe bolted together the stout 355ci VN stroker together. Plenty of work went into the project, including de-burring the block, cross-drilling the crank for better oil flow, balancing the rotating assembly and porting the cast heads to flow an impressive 580hp.

Once everything was bolted together, Chris coated everything in a fetching black, which looks menacing as well as looking super clean in the smoothed and freshly painted engine bay. This blacked-out theme continues on the outside where the window trims and tail lights are also black. With Plastidip in hand, Chris even turned his attention to the rims of those 19in Showwheels KWC 001 rims – the effect is understated and totally tough.

Chris Irvin's Holden 550hp 355ci VK At 10in wide, you can bet the rear end of this VK is anything but stock and true to his word, Chris did indeed “cut the ass end” out of the car, widening the factory tubs to the rails and replacing the old Salisbury with a narrowed Borg Warner running 3.9:1 gears and a full-spool. Just to be on the safe side, there are also 31-spline billet axles.

The black and white theme ends at the door and stepping inside Chris’ VK is akin to walking into a modern art museum. The factory cloth and vinyl trim is in incredible condition, with the roof lining and carpets replaced, but so much remaining from the Elizabeth assembly plant in 1984. Only a few deviations can be found, including the Autometer cluster, period correct HDT tiller and neatly integrated B&M shifter. The rear bench had to be modified a little to accommodate the larger tubs, too.

“The VK’s first big drive was meant to be a cruise to Wollongong,” Chris says. “But when I pulled out onto Picton Road, the car backfired, blew a flame out of the carb’ and shut off.Chris Irvin's Holden 550hp 355ci VK

“We worked out it was a dead coil, so the missus’ old man drove out with another one, wired it up and we turned around to head for home – only I got pulled into an RBT unit and defected. I was going to propose to Danni that day if I’d made it to the ‘Gong. Shit day, but it seems funnier now.”

Chris is ultimately happy with how the car has turned out and says there isn’t much he’d want to do differently if he had his time again – except maybe a blower (“That would look pretty good”, he says).

Well, we wouldn’t argue!

Owner: Chris Irvin
Model: 1984 VK
Bodywork: HDT grille, smoothed body seams, smoothed sills and fuel filler door, deleted exhaust cut out
Colour: White
Block: VN 5L
Engine Mods: De-burred block, Scat 355ci stroker crank, SRP forged pistons (11.8:1 comp’), ARP head and mains studs, Hastings rings, King bearings, ported cast heads (flowed to 580hp), double valve springs, Crane retainers, dash-10 breather lines, alloy catch cans, Camtech solid roller cam’ (0.640in lift, 108° LSA), Camtech pushrods, Yella Terra 1.65:1 roller rockers, Rollmaster timing chain, blueprinted JP oil pump, High Energy sump, CSR electric water pump, SPAL 16in thermo fan, PWR radiator, 120A alternator, billet Gilmer belt drive, 750cfm Holley UltraHP carb’, match-ported Harrop single-plane intake manifold, MSD Pro Billet dizzy, MSD HVC coil, MSD 6AL spark amp’, Holley Blue fuel pump, Holley FPR, Aeroflow fuel filters, 57L fuel cell, braided fuel lines, K&N air filter
Power: Approx 550hp (410kW)
Exhaust: Liverpool Exhaust tri-Y headers, twin 3in mild steel system, Hurricane mufflers
Gearbox: T350, 4500rpm Dominator stall, TCI manual valve body
Diff: Narrowed Borg Warner, 3.9:1 final drive, full-spool, 31-spline billet axles, Hardy Spicer unis, 2-piece tail shaft
Brakes: VT twin-piston front brakes, VN rear discs, Bendix pads, braided brake lines, hard lines replaced by stainless
Suspension: XYZ front coil-overs, VN V8 front sway bar, XYZ adjustable rear shocks, custom rear springs, narrowed panhard bar, boxed rear control arms, smoothed and painted undercarriage, VL manual steering rack, VN cross member, factory rear tubs widened to rails
Wheels/Tyres: 19in Showwheels KWC001 rims (8in front, 10in rear), 275 Achilles rear tyres
Interior: Momo HDT steering wheel, factory trim (rear bench modded for tubs), Autometer gauges, Rare Spares seat belts
Stereo: Clarion head unit, Rockford Fosgate rear 6x9in speakers
Build period: 10 months
Cost: Undisclosed
Contacts: MX Auto Electrical, Liverpool Exhaust, Ricky’s Driveshafts, KCDR Drivetrains, Sydney Suspension, “Mum, dad, Mick, my fiancée Danni, Joe, Justin Borg, Nick Schembri, Luke, Dennis, Matt Refalo, Dave Vasallo”

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