NEW OLD SCHOOL: Steve Labroad’s 700rwhp Turbo LSx VY Commodore

31 Mar

Steve Labroad's Holden VY Tonner


Steve LaBroad’s VY Tonner mixes new-millennium hardware with old-school attitude for a tyre-frying result
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Sadly, the late model Commodore one-tonners never did find themselves modified en masse like the 1970s models did. It’s a damn shame, because when you do see them customised, you realise how damn good they look. Boasting a leaf-sprung rear end, they also make the perfect late-model basis for a performance project… say, for instance, a Powerskid car.

Steve Labroad's Holden VY TonnerNot that that was why Novacastrian Steve LaBroad bought this 2004 VY six years ago. “I bought the car off the original owner,” Steve says, a concreter by trade. “He was worried about those little bits of rubber that stick off new tyres when I took it for a test drive. Little did he know I was going to use it as a work vehicle.”

Steve says he kept the tonner pretty stock for a while, just hauling stuff around to work sites. Although he did put a set of 4-into-1s and side pipes on for some fun. “I soon added a big cam’ and Higgins heads to it,” he says. “With a full Comp Cams valvetrain it made 400hp and surprised plenty of people, with the tray filled with boards and tools!”
With the power bug continuing to bite, before long, Steve had a Harrop blower bolted into the valley and the ultimate version of the first build saw the ute making 480rwhp. However, this prodigious power also meant that it was becoming kind of useless as a work hack and it wasn’t long before the tonner found itself garaged in favour of something more utilitarian.

“I built a purpose-made 408ci LSX stroker with another set of ported heads and a T1000 turbo kit that I bought off a bloke in Sydney. So the VY came off the road and it was all transplanted in. Once tuned, it made 696rwhp.”

Steve Labroad's Holden VY TonnerThese days the ute is only built for one thing: Powerskids… and practising Powerskids. That means Steve had to seriously beef up the rear end, too. While there’s some serious metal in the back of the tonners to begin with (Steve says the rear section weighs around 500kg on its own), the diff’ and tail shaft required some work to cope with the punishment dished out by the T51-equipped LSX.

The original diff housing was ditched in favour of a Competition Warehouse sheet metal 9in with a Strange centre and 35-spline axles. With a full-spool and a heavy duty chromoly two-piece tail shaft, it’s unlikely it’s a rear end component that will fail first.

“The first skid driving home with the new turbo set up was definitely one of the highlights of the build for me,” Steve says. “While not as enjoyable, the ute’s first Powerplay was pretty memorable. On the second lap, the thing caught fire after melting a power steering line that was too close!”

While the factory red paint remains, it’s in good condition and the bonnet copped some speed holes one night after a few JD and Cokes to “let some heat out”. The tray on the other hand came to fruition via a well thought out plan and some excellent fabrication work from Dean Beattie.Steve Labroad's Holden VY Tonner

“A tray makes or breaks a tonner,” Steve opines. “Dean had a great plan from the start and had it finished in time for the 2014 Sydney Powercruise.”

Almost a couple of feet were removed from the rear end of the tray length, when compared to a typical tray and with no sides on it, it helps Steve reach his old-meets-new aesthetic goal with the VY – as do the Weld wheels. Despite there being a full five inches difference between the front 20in RTS rims and the 15x10in rear Alumastars, the tonner looks perfect, tough and somehow old-school.

“You know what? I don’t think I’d build this car again if I had the chance to do it over,” Steve says. “This thing hated every part of being modified unlike any car I’ve ever had. From the suspension to the little things like the fuel tank setup – everything was more difficult than it should have been.”

Despite this, the tonner represents the longest relationship he’s had with a car so far and he’s now at the point where he wants to sell up and move on to something new. “I like the build and then get bored after.” If you think you might like to see yourself behind the wheel of a machine like this, give us a bell and we’ll put you in touch.

Owner: Steve LaBroad
Model: 2004 VY Tonner
Bodywork: Factory, custom tray, vents in bonnet
Colour: Red, carbon vinyl on roof
Block: LSX
Engine Mods: (408ci), ported cast heads, stud girdle, Comp Cams pushrods, ARP head and mains studs, Garrett T51 turbo (18psi), modified ASE turbo kit, Turbosmart BOV, Tial wastegate, screamer pipe, alloy power steering reservoir, alloy catch can, alloy strut tops, billet fuel rails, 80mm BBK throttle, custom fuel lines, 3.5L surge tank, 2x Bosch 044 pumps, 500hp Carter lift pump
Power: 700rwhp (522rwkW) @ 18psi
Exhaust: 4in turbo-back mild steel exhaust, straight through muffler
Gearbox: T56, DCS twin-plate clutch
Diff: Competition Warehouse sheet metal 9in, Strange centre, 3.5:1 final drive, full-spool, 35-spline Strange axles, 1350-series 3in two-piece tail shaft, high-impact unis, billet yoke
Brakes: Harrop 4-piston front brakes, Wilwood 4-piston rear brakes, Green Stuff front pads, Wilwood rear pads
Suspension: Pedders front shocks and springs, Pedders rear shocks, reset rear leaf springs
Wheels/Tyres: 20x8in Weld RTS front rims, 15x10in Weld Alumastar rear rims, M/T Sportsman rear tyres
Interior: HSV dash, carbon fascia, tweed cloth pillars and roof lining, black leather seats, tweed seat bases, eBoost 2
Stereo: Pioneer head unit and speakers
Build period: Ongoing
Cost: Undisclosed
Contacts: ADZ Towing, Pryce Engines, Dean Beattie, Gibson Driveshafts, Stitched Up Custom Trim, Tanilba Tyre Service, “Jack Daniels… lol”

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