Posts Tagged ‘stroker’

Feature Car: Chris Rossi’s 355ci Holden LC Torana Coupe

24 Jul

Chris Rossi’s metallic purple 355ci stroker Holden-powered LC Torana coupe, looks mean standing still. Chris did a lot of the bodywork work himself. It’s backed by a T350 and a 9in for good measure. It appeared in the July issue of Street Machine.


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Chris Rossi's 355ci Holden LC Torana Coupe

Chris Rossi's 355ci Holden LC Torana Coupe

Chris Rossi's 355ci Holden LC Torana Coupe

SMOOTH CRIMINAL: Chad Darke’s Smooth 336ci EH Holden Ute

18 Jun

Chad Darke's EH Holden Ute


A long list of subtle refinements makes Chad Darke’s inky blue EH stroker one slippery character
Story and Pics by Ben Hosking

Chad Darke's EH Holden UteBesides the 48-215 and FJ, there’s no more an iconic Holden model than the EH. Even today, almost 50 years since the introduction of the EH range, they remain as popular as the 260,000 they manufactured between 1963 and early 1965.

It’s no wonder then that Holden lover Chad Darke scoured the country for the right basis for his next automotive project back in 2005. “I rang my mate to see if he’d come with me to check out a car,” the 37-year-old electrician from Sydney relates. “I didn’t mention it was in Tasmania! We flew down there the next morning and started haggling.”

Once Chad had settled on a price, it was time to get the ute home and instead of throwing it onto a transporter and taking the easy route home, Chad and friend jumped in and headed north. “I asked the seller about fuel economy,” Chad says. “He said it was good for 10km/L and it was supposed to have a 100L tank, so I filled it up in Victoria and we set off for home. Somewhere between Yass and Goulburn the car started to splutter… out of fuel in the middle of nowhere!”

“Here I am waving my Jerry can around furiously trying to hitch a ride when a guy that resembled Ivan Milat picks me up. He took me to the nearest town and after a tense trip I got some fuel and found my way back to the car safe and sound.”Chad Darke's EH Holden Ute

With that fateful trip home behind him, Chad could breathe a sigh of relief and get stuck into the build up. Over the course of the next five years, the old EH would be transformed into a sleek, modern interpretation of the classic Holden, but not without the odd headache.

“Dealing with panel beaters and relying on other people’s conversion kits that didn’t fit were probably some of the hardest parts of the build,” Chad explains. “I ended up finding a good panel guy though.”

He’s not lying either – the finish on Chad’s EH is pristine and includes some choice body mods that really smooth the old girl out. For starters, the door handles and locks were shaved off. Given that Australian rules require a mechanical method of opening front doors, Chad replaced the handles with short metal rods poking up out of the top of each door. However, whereas most similar conversions work by being pushed down or lifted up, the mechanism on Chad’s doors works by gently pulling the rods toward you. We gave them a go and they worked effortlessly.

Chad Darke's EH Holden UteAnother huge visual improvement came via the deletion of the front quarter windows. With full one-piece glass inserted into the doors, it looks far more modern and further simplifies the exterior aesthetic. With an aviation-style fuel filler replacing the factory door, the modern iteration of the EH is almost complete – perhaps finished off most notably by the venerable Simmons FR18s.

Having a nice-looking ute is one thing, but without the proper mechanical motivation it’s little more than BBQ rice: all show and no go. Surely the old six-banger was never going to cut the mustard and Chad swapped it out for a Holden 5L.

Based around a Kingswood pre-EFI block, Alan Bruni built up a nice offset-ground 336ci stroker motor that is updated with a pair of VN EFI cast heads. It’s a relatively mild affair with an HSV hydraulic cam’, unported heads and a 650cfm Holley on top. While power is untested, the combo has pushed the ute to a 13.8sec ET in full street trim; and as they say, a 14sec street car is nothing to sneeze at.Chad Darke's EH Holden Ute

Chad shifts gears through a T5 5-speed and there are more Commodore parts to be found out back, with a VN Borg Warner running 3.45:1 gears and an LSD centre. Check each corner and you’ll find VT-spec’ discs on the nose and VN discs in the rear.

The sweet combination of old and new continues inside where the cabin has been decked out with timeless black leather and suede. Premier buckets provide an iota of more lateral support than a bench, but it’s the Autometer dash, Sony stereo and Momo wheel that helps bring the old girl into the present day.

With a ute as cool and contemporary as this in the shed, many would be happy to rest on their laurels and take a break, but Chad has more plans under way. “I’ll probably end up putting a bigger stroker kit into it,” Chad starts. “It’ll also cop a bigger stainless fuel tank,”

Bring it on!

Owner: Chad Darke
Model: 1963 EH Holden
Colour: PPG Midnight blue
Bodykit: Aviation-style fuel filler, deleted door handles and locks, deleted quarter windows
Engine Type: Holden V8
Engine Mods: Offset-ground 336ci stroker conversion, 5.7in small-journal Chevrolet rods, ACL Larry Perkins pistons and rings (10:1-comp’), ACL bearings, VN cast heads, polished rocker covers, HSV hydraulic cam’, Yella Terra roller rockers, double-row timing chain, high-volume oil pump, High Energy sump, Davies Craig thermo fan, 80A alternator, PWR alloy radiator, 650cfm Holley DP carb’, ceramic coated Torque Power intake manifold, adjustable FPR, K&N air filter, Bosch HEI distributor, Bosch EA Falcon coil, wiring hidden, Carter fuel pump, braided lines, custom bonnet hinges
Power: Untested, 13.8sec @ 98mph
Exhaust: Custom stainless headers, twin 2.5in into single system, single stainless muffler
Gearbox: T5, heavy-duty 10in single-plate clutch
Diff: Narrowed VN Commodore Borg Warner, 3.45:1 final drive, LSD, Cortina tail shaft
Brakes: 300mm VT-spec’ rotors and calipers, 278mm rear discs, VN calipers, front braided brake lines, VN master cylinder, VN V8 booster
Wheels and tyres: 18in Simmons FR rims (7in front, 8in rear)
Suspension: HR front end, King front springs, Pedders shocks, reset rear leaf springs, custom sway bars, LH Torana rack and pinion conversion, modified EH column
Interior: Momo steering wheel, EH Premier buckets, black leather retrim, custom Autometer instrument cluster, custom door skins, black carpets, black suede roof lining
Other Mods: Battery relocated
Stereo: Sony head unit and speakers
Build Period: 5 years
Cost: $44,000
Thanks: Pioneer Plating, M&S Johnson, “Tony Wellington for the timber tray; Jeffrey Smith for the machine work; Terry Edwards for engine balancing; Ray and Warren for the great panel and paint and my wife for putting up with us.”

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM: Matthew La Spada’s 398ci VL Commodore

12 Apr

Matthew La Spada's Holden VL Commodore


After starting a family, buying a house and owning two other V8-powered VLs, Matthew La Spada finally has the VL of his dreams
Story and Pics by

There’s an old saying that claims ‘good things come to those who wait’ and that adage is probably best shown in the story of how Matthew La Spada came to pilot this pristine VL Group A clone. Where most people tinker with modified cars are young – indeed, many of our top feature cars are owned by people under 30 – 41-year-old mechanic Matthew was wise enough to play around with Commodores pretty casually until only recently. And his patience has paid off.

Matthew La Spada's Holden VL Commodore“I’d done all the right things first,” Matthew says. “I built my house, got married and had a child. I had even sold my other cars to fund the house, but that itch to build a car was always there.”

Matthew would find himself watching eBay every night after putting his daughter to bed, trawling through the muscle car listings and lamenting the insane prices for his unicorn car, an HQ 2-door Monaro. Still, he kept his eyes open for something he could afford. “I’ve had two other VLs in the past: a Berlina and a Calais and both V8s,” he says. “I’ve always had a soft spot for them.”

As it turned out, eBay would offer up the basis for his next project and our story would begin in earnest. Although it almost didn’t happen at all. “I spotted this VL and I kept an eye on it,” he says. “I watched the price go down over a couple of auctions and then myself, my dad and brother went out to check it out and made an offer, but the seller refused it. So, we drove off. But the next day the seller called and said ‘come pick it up’.”Matthew La Spada's Holden VL Commodore

Getting the previous owner to agree to the price was only half the battle. Half way home, a trans’ line blew, spraying fluid all over the gearbox and extractors, causing plenty of smoke, but thankfully no fire. “It must have been close to catching fire,” Matthew says.

Despite the rocky start, Matthew now had the basis of a project build. Not that a full rebuild was what Matt actually had in mind to start with. “It was in average condition when I bought it, but it was a good starting point,” he says. “I really only meant to put a set of mag wheels on it, lower it, fit a Momo steering wheel and some number plates. I just couldn’t stop.”

Perhaps one thing that forced Matthew’s hand was that he already had a stockpile of VL spare parts in the shed looking for a new home – thanks to his previous VLs. “I had a lot of spares put away for a VL build, but had pretty much used none of them on the previous two cars,” he explains. “When I stripped this one down and had parts strewn all over the floor and back yard, I knew I was in trouble.”

Matthew La Spada's Holden VL CommodoreDuring the build, Matthew must have driven his family mad with frequent misuse of the clothesline for spraying parts and more than a few late nights in the shed. However, he says the build also helped bring other family members closer. “I would do it all again,” he says. “I had great times with my family and friends building this car.”

And what a car he’s built. The 398ci stroker Holden is about as big as you’re likely to get out of a 5L. Hume Performance achieved the prodigious cubes with a 3.875in COME Racing crank and matching 5.850in H-beam rods, connected to forged Probe pistons. This rotating assembly is housed within a welded and grout-filled VN Group A SS 4-bolt block that’s had numerous improvements made for power and longevity, including deburring the valley for better oil control.

The round-port Group A SS heads were also ported, which together with the large 825cfm carb’ and single-plane intake makes breathing easy – a good thing when your cam’ boasts well over 0.600in of lift. This is all backed by a built T350 and narrowed BW rear end with 31-spline billet axles and a 4-pinion LSD centre.Matthew La Spada's Holden VL Commodore

Inside things perfectly match the HDT homage exterior, with Walkinshaw buckets and the original Berlina bench wrapped in light grey leather. The dash and plastics have been painted to match a grey plush pile carpets can be found under foot. While there is a Pioneer stereo in the car (with the rear 6x9in speakers hidden in the parcel tray and a 4-channel amp behind the rear seats), Matt tells us he prefers the sound of the V8 rumbling through the custom Hurricane headers and twin 3in stainless system any day.

Despite the lack of modified wheel tubs, the VL boasts a nice amount of backspacing on the 19x9in Simmons FR rims, which is made possible by the previously mentioned narrowed Borg Warner diff’ housing. The Simmons hide some nice detailing on the larger brakes and in the interests of saving finger and knuckle skin, the inner wheel hoops have been painted silver to prevent the need for constant polishing.

A Holden-friendly family, the La Spada clan plays host to several more nice Holden rides, including Matthew’s former daily VU SS that boasts the usual bolt-on mods and his brother Peter’s immaculate VL Calais. Together, they’ve got another early girl Commodore in the build and we can’t wait to see how that turns out. If it’s anything like this tough and tasty Berlina, it’ll be something to behold.

Owner: Matthew La Spada
Model: 1987 VL Berlina
Bodywork: HDT Group A, modified wheel arches, modified rear bumper moulds
Colour: Venetian red/custom mix
Block: VN Group A SS 4-bolt
Engine Mods: Welded and grout-filled block, COME Racing crank and H-beam rods (398ci), Probe forged pistons (11:1-comp’), Diamond rings, King bearings, ported cast VN Group A heads, Ferrea 6000-series valves, Isky valve springs and retainers, custom catch can, Camtech billet cam’ (0.653/666in lift, 255/261° duration, 108° LSA), 1.65:1 roller rockers, head and mains studs, Rollmaster timing chain, JP oil pump, High Energy sump, heavy-duty water pump, SPAL 16in thermo, PWR alloy radiator, 200A alternator, custom 6-rib pulleys, Romac harmonic balancer, 825cfm Holley Pro Series carb’, Torque Power single-plane intake manifold (match-ported), K&N filter, MSD Pro Billet dizzy, MSD Blaster, MSD 6AL, Holley billet FPR, dash-6 fuel lines, Aeroflow fuel log and throttle linkage, billet power steering reservoir
Power: 466rwhp (347rwkW)
Exhaust: Custom Hurricane tri-Y headers (1-7/8in primaries), twin 3in stainless system
Gearbox: T350, 4000rpm stall, reverse-pattern valve body, manualised
Diff: Borg Warner, 3.9:1 final drive, LSD, 4-pinion centre, Moser 31-spline billet axles, custom two-piece tail shaft
Brakes: 296mm front rotors, twin-piston front calipers, 279mm rear rotors, VL V8 rear calipers, Bendix pads, modified VT booster, VT master cylinder, hidden braided brake lines, stainless fittings
Suspension: Custom Jumbo springs, Monroe GT gas shocks, Pedders sway bars, Whiteline adjustable panhard, Nolathane bushings, boxed rear trailing arms, adjustable top rear trailing arms, adjustable camber/castor strut tops
Wheels/Tyres: 19in Simmons FR19 (8in front, 9in rear), Khumo Ecsta SPT tyres
Interior: Scheel seats, light grey leather trim, Momo Race steering wheel, painted dash and plastics, suede roof lining, HDT cluster, Autometer ancillary gauges, NOS seat belt buttons, grey carpets, trimmed and panelled boot
Stereo: Pioneer CD head unit, 4-channel power amp’, 6x9in Pioneer rear speakers in parcel tray, Gold Series cabling, electric aerial
Build period: 4 years
Cost: Undisclosed
Contacts: On Track Auto Electrical, Hume Performance, Abruzzi Race Transmissions, Terry Diffs & Chassis, Smithfield Diff & Gears, Race Brakes, Alfa Motorsport Fibreglass, All Trim, Anthony Coronna (paint, engine bay), Alex Vella (undercarriage, interior plastics), Hume Mufflers, Lowe Fabrications, Daryl (custom pulleys/brackets), Tempe Tyres, Liverpool Trans, Ricky (tail shaft), Peps Auto Parts – Hoxton Park, Anthony Fonti, my father Phil and my brother Peter (endless help and advice), “And last but not least my darling wife Ana-Maria and my daughter Veronica for all their patience, love and support”

LIFER: Nick Sassine’s 450rwhp 355ci VK Holden Commodore

04 Apr

Nick Sassine's Holden VK Commodore


At the ripe old age of 31, Holden-addict Nick Sassine finally popped his old-school cherry with this kickass VK SS clone – and he’s keen for more
Story and Pics by

Nick Sassine's Holden VK Commodore“I’ve owned Holdens all my life,” says 31-year-old Sydneysider Nick Sassine. The builder/developer got stuck on the brand thanks to his family. “My uncles and grandfather all had VKs at one time or another and I loved the shape,” he says. “My first car was a VN Calais 5L. It was repainted orange and had big wheels. That was 15 years ago.”

The Calais proved to be total cop bait, but Nick wouldn’t be deterred. “It got attention everywhere I went,” he says. “I remember having a drawer full of defect notices and spending all my spare time going back and forth clearing them.”

Eventually he got sick of the bureaucracy and sold the car, but couldn’t live without a Holden – instead turning his attention to later-model examples. “I ended up with a VY Maloo and from then on I bought newer model Holdens. I also had a VZ Senator and more recently a VE Senator,” he says. “But while driving around I’d see these old-school Holdens out cruising and I’d think to myself ‘There’s nothing like an old-school Holden. I’m going to build myself one of those one day’.”Nick Sassine's Holden VK Commodore

And that’s exactly what Nick has done. Although, fate had a helping hand in getting him started on his journey. “I had to get the front bar of my VE repainted. I walked into the workshop and spotted a freshly painted VK shell sitting there in that Blue Meanie colour,” he says. “It had no motor, no interior… it was just the shell. I figured it was someone’s project and wasn’t for sale.”

Clever Nick made a few enquiries and learned that the car belonged to Sam, the spray painter at the shop. Nick convinced him to sell the shell and with a deal done, Nick had himself a project car. First thing on the agenda was an engine and Nick approached Sports Tech to build him a 355ci Holden stroker (see spec’ box) and a little more convincing by Nick saw him secure a built T350 that Milad from Sports Tech had in waiting for one of his own projects.

Nick Sassine's Holden VK CommodoreNick still needed an interior and a rear end and he found both in Melbourne. “I found a car in Melbourne that had a Scheel trim and a 9in in it,” he says. “Now I had two VKs. My bank account was getting smaller and so was my driveway!”

With the 9in sent off for reconditioning and narrowing, Nick had the Scheel trim steam cleaned to find it practically brand new underneath the grime. Months went by with Nick scouring the globe for parts to finish the project off and in quick succession it was towed between Sports Tech (to put the motor, ‘box and 9in in), Budget Exhaust (where the twin 2.5in system was fitted as well as having the undercarriage sprayed black), Sports Tech again (for the wiring) and then home for final assembly.

“I was getting closer to hearing it fire up for the first time,” Nick says. “Finally that day came and the sound was heard streets away. It was like music to my ears!”

With most of the car complete, Nick went in search of an HDT body kit to get that iconic SS Group A look. At the same time, the car was given its stance with King Springs and Pedders gear, getting just the right height for the big 20in Simmons FR rims filling the VK’s small arches.Street Commodores - Issue 243

“Putting it all together was definitely my favourite part,” he says. “Waiting for the parts sucked, but whenever something came in, I couldn’t wait to fit it. It was my first time building a car and I really enjoyed it. I wait to do more to it.”
The “more to it” Nick alludes to could see the VK reach new heights in automotive aggression, with future plans including a blower and big tubs under the bum. “I’d love to put deep dish 22s on it,” he says.

Owner: Nick Sassine
Model: VK
Bodywork: HDT SS Group A
Colour: Formula blue
Block: 308ci Holden
Engine Mods: Harrop stroker crank (355ci), Scat rods, SRP pistons (11.5:1-comp’), head and mains studs, cast VN heads, MSD coil, high-volume sump, Howards solid cam’, Scorpion rockers, 2x 395cfm Holley carbs, Holley HP125 fuel pump, tunnel ram intake manifold, Holley FPR, custom catch can, braided fuel and oil lines, billet strut top covers, alloy radiator
Power: 450rwhp (335rwkW)
Exhaust: Pacemaker headers, twin 2.5in exhaust (dumped at diff’)
Gearbox: T350, 3500rpm TCE stall, manualised valve body
Diff: Narrowed 9in, 4.11:1 final drive
Brakes: 296mm front rotors, D2 8-piston front calipers, D2 twin-piston rear calipers, DBA pads, VT booster
Suspension: King springs, Pedders shocks, adjustable panhard
Wheels/Tyres: 20in Simmons FR (8.5in front, 9.5in rear)
Interior: Scheel trim, HDT Momo steering wheel, B&M Pro Ratchet
Stereo: Clarion head unit, 2x Kicker power amps, JVC 6in front speakers, 2x 12in subs, custom sub enclosure, rear, 6x9in speakers
Build time: 3 years so far
Cost: Over $55,000
Contacts: Sports Tech, Budget Exhaust – Merrylands, Wholesale Suspension, Savage Customs, Race Brakes, Unique Restorations, Lowe Fabrications, Rare Spares, “My mum for putting up with all the noise on those late nights”

FULL HOUSE: George Aspite’s 403ci Audio-Heavy Holden VY SS Ute

04 Apr

George Aspite's Holden VY SS Commodore


George Aspite’s 403ci, audio-heavy VY SS boasts everything you could want in a late-model ute
Story and pics by

Cast your mind back about 10 years. Car magazines like this one had regular features dedicated to vehicles boasting stupendous amounts of car audio gear jammed into every nook and cranny. So popular was car audio at the time that even overtly tough, blown monsters carried their weight in speakers most of the time and Street Commodores magazine even ran a regular audio tech feature for good measure.

George Aspite's Holden VY SS CommodoreHowever, over the ensuring years the car audio craze started to give way to a more stripped down aesthetic where body kits, stereo and ‘bling’ took a back seat to more horsepower. While this was probably a reaction to the sheer excesses seen back then, with plenty of car guys claiming to have never liked the car audio craze, we reckon it’s something that has been sadly lacking. So it’s nice to see the occasional Commodore carrying its share of stereo hardware, like George Aspite’s VY SS pictured here.

George started building the ute some four years ago and like most projects; it began as a stocker – in this case a VY SS. It once served as George’s work ute as he worked on abrasive blasting quotes for customers. But these days the ute is more of a weekend warrior than long-haul survivor.

There’s a good reason for that, too. Well, numerous good reasons. Perhaps the best is the flawless Quicksilver exterior, George stripped the original paint work himself in the garage at home – no doubt giving his family heart palpitations at the sight of a perfectly neat SS being torn down to its undies. It all ended well, though, with the ute now wearing a super smooth coat of paint, as well as an SSX-style front bar, VZ HSV guard flutes and a custom bonnet from Savage Fibreglass.George Aspite's Holden VY SS Commodore

It’s what lurks under the surface that probably makes the SS all the more special for most of us. George’s VY is a balanced mix of muscle and music, boasting a 403ci cast iron LSx up front and a similar power level out back in the tray.

The engine was built by Feneck Race Engines and features Manley rotating parts, Howards Racing cam’, FAST intake, Holley 90mm throttle, AFR alloy heads and all the good stuff that makes a modern V8 so potent. This is backed by a T56 with a Textralia clutch.

Out back and in the cabin, George has assembled what must surely be the majority of a Rockford Fosgate product catalogue. While the combo starts with a Clarion double-DIN source unit, the rest of Rockford gear and includes two pairs of 6.5in splits and two shallow-mount subs in the cabin before spilling out into the tray where a custom install houses no less than four pairs of speakers and another two sub woofers. Oh, and a pair of 7in monitors! On top of that, there’s an extensive lighting system using LED down lights and LED strips to highlight it all.

George Aspite's Holden VY SS CommodoreWe’re not done with the interior just yet. Inside, there’s nary a piece left untouched, with a two-tone grey leather re-trim immediately improving on the factory SS fare. The leather covers the factory door trims, steering wheel and centre console lid, as well as the rear bulkhead – but also the trick VE GTS buckets. All the dash and door plastics have been custom painted, too, using the cool marbleised effect. Adding to the appeal (and the sonic footprint) is the speaker enclosures covering the quarter windows. These also feature custom LED lights.

George reckons the install – performed by Luke Clifton – has cost him around $8000 “ish”. This includes the custom lighting in the tonneau lid and interior, extra battery in the tray, custom fibreglass enclosures behind the seats, reversing camera and remote switching in the cabin that controls the cacophony out back. Pretty good value for money if you ask us!

As nice as the current combination is, George isn’t done yet. “There’s a possible upgrade to the tray still to come,” he says. “As for the engine, I want to fit a Magnusson supercharger.”


Owner: George Aspite
Model: 2003 VY SS ute
Bodywork: SSX front bar, VZ guard vents, custom Savage Fibreglass bonnet, rear bumper in-fill panel
Colour: Quicksilver
Block: Cast iron 6L
Engine Mods: 6.6L (403ci) stroker, DuSpeed OTR, 90mm Holley throttle, FAST LSX R intake, Manley crank, rods and pistons, AFR alloy heads, Howards Racing cam’, Edelbrock dress covers
Power: Untested
Exhaust: Pacemaker headers (1-7/8in primaries), high-flow cats, twin 3in system
Gearbox: T56, Textralia Z-Grip clutch
Diff: Factory
Brakes: AP Racing 4-piston calipers, slotted rotors
Suspension: OZ Racing coil-overs front and rear
Wheels/Tyres: 20in MC Racing rims (8.5in front, 9.5in rear)
Interior: Leather trimmed steering wheel, custom painted plastics, VE GTS seats, Depo gauges, custom trimmed rear bulkhead and centre console lid, custom door trims
Stereo: Clarion VX-401 double-DIN source unit, Rockford Fosgate T1652-S splits front and rear, 2x Rockford Fosgate P3 shallow subs (inside), 2x Rockford Fosgate P2 subs (in tray), 4x Rockford Fosgate T1692 6x9in speakers (tray), 2x Rockford Fosgate T165 coaxials (tray), 2x Rockford Fosgate T165S splits (tray), 2x Rockford Fosgate T800 4-channel power amp’, Rockford Fosgate T1000 mono-block power amp’, second battery in tray, blue LED lighting, custom fibreglass sub enclosures behind seats, Hertz power amps, custom tray install, custom C-pillar speaker pods, reversing camera
Build period: 4 years so far
Cost: Undisclosed
Contacts: Feneck’s Race Engines, Savage Fibreglass, Luke Clifton

LIFE ON THE LYMITA: Adrian Borg’s 557hp 355ci VC Commodore

26 Mar


After months of intense searching all over the country, Adrian found this low-km gem just 15 minutes from home. Now it has a whole new lease on life… destroying tyres
Story and pics by

It’s easy to become disillusioned when searching for a nice, clean early girl Commodore with which to base your ideal project build. One thing early Commodores are not known for is clean, rust-free bodies and most unrestored cars bear the scars of hard lives spent working as family taxis – not ‘only driven on Sundays’, always-garaged time capsules.

Adrian Borg's 557hp 355ci VC CommodoreHowever, as you’ll read here, there are some remarkable first-gen cars left out there waiting to be found. “I was looking for an early model Commodore for months,” says Adrian Borg, a 23-year-old mechanic from Sydney. “I went and looked at heaps of them, every time with high hopes, but nothing but disappointment when the cars didn’t live up to the seller’s description.”

Adrian was so intent on buying an early model that he even drove all the way to Melbourne – with a tow truck – only to have to turn back around with plenty of time and money wasted. “I went down there to see a VL Calais with a tow truck, ready to buy it and bring it home,” he says. “But the owner didn’t even show up! I went to Nambucca Heads the next weekend to look at a VK, but that wasn’t any good, either.”

It was on his way home from the Nambucca trip that Adrian was told about a mint VC that was only 15 minutes from home. Typical! “I went straight there,” he says. “It was about 9pm and it was in a showroom, on sale by consignment. It was exactly what I wanted – a one-owner car with log books and 43,000kms on the clock.”Adrian Borg's 557hp 355ci VC Commodore

Adrian went home and tried to sleep, despite his excitement. First thing the next day he rang the showroom and arranged a proper viewing. What he found was an honest rust-free car with little more than a couple of small dents and a tear in the driver’s seat to show for its 30 years.

“I bought the car and lowered it and put a set of venetian blinds inside,” he says. “I drove it for about five months like that and loved it. But with my P-plates coming to an end I decided it was time for the 202ci six to go and build a 308ci for it.”

As we hear so often here at Street Commodores, it wasn’t long before the simple idea of building a V8 for the car blew out of all proportion and it wasn’t long before the old VC was undergoing a full transformation. “A simple tidy-up of the engine bay ended up with the entire car being soda blasted,” Adrian says. “The mild 308ci V8 turned into a pretty wild 355ci and the whole thing turned into a full rebuild without a single nut or bolt being left untouched.”

Adrian Borg's 557hp 355ci VC CommodoreWell, that’s not entirely true. So clean was the original interior that with the exception of a repair to the driver’s seat and a repaint of the dash, the cabin of Adrian’s VC is as Holden built it. It’s crazy to think that a car built three decades ago could be in such a fantastic state. The only deviations he’s made since buying the car has been to add a B&M shifter and a few Autometer gauges to keep him informed when ripping big power skids.

Under the 4in reverse-cowl scoop lies a 557fwhp 355ci Holden stroker based around a VS block and ported cast heads. With a shiny Harrop single-plane, 850cfm Holley and aggressive solid cam’, Adrian says it makes enough grunt to rip hellacious power skids, even with his mates in the car. The power reaches the ground via a pair of 19×9.5in Simmons FR rims. Adrian tells us that he achieved this impressive feat by “massaging” the rear factory tubs and a narrowed Borg Warner rear end and that there’s no scrubbing.

“One of the best memories I have of the build was fitting the T350 in the shed at home,” he says. “All my mates were there to help. It was New Year’s day and no one was feeling very healthy after the party the night before. But I lowered the car down and started it for the first time. It took a while for it to hit me that the car was actually ready to drive. That first drive around the block was the best.”Adrian Borg's 557hp 355ci VC Commodore

Now that the car is finished and looking amazing, Adrian is pretty content with how it sits. However, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t considered a few more alterations. “I might add a small shot of nitrous,” he says. “If I ever build a new motor for it, I’d probably add a blower, but we’ll see what happens.”

For a car that was built primarily to allow him to cruise with his mates, Adrian’s VC has become a truly inspiring machine. Retaining its factory charm (as well as almost all its factory interior), the car boasts plenty of classic appeal thanks to the iconic Simmons rims, slammed stance and roaring Aussie V8. Seeing it rip huge skids just adds the icing on the cake.

Owner: Adrian Borg
Model: 1981 VC

Bodywork: Reverse-cowl scoop, SL/E rear bar
Colour: VE silver
Block: VS 5L
Engine Mods: Harrop stroker crank, SRP forged flat-top pistons (11:1-comp’), I-beam rods, ARP head and mains studs, Lowe Fabrication rocker covers and billet parts, ported cast heads, dash-12 breather lines, alloy catch cans w/K&N filters, billet thermostat housing, Comp Cams solid roller cam’, Crane Gold Series roller rockers, double-row timing chain, High Energy sump, high-volume oil pump, BA Falcon thermo fans, alloy radiator, 850cfm Holley Ultra HP carb’, Harrop single-plane intake manifold, MSD Pro Billet dizzy, Holley fuel pump, modified factory fuel tank, dash-8 fuel lines, Tuff Mounts
Power: 557hp (415kW), 11.3sec @ 121mph
Exhaust: Ceramic coated Tri-Y headers (1-7/8in primaries), twin 2.5in mild steel system w/X-pipe
Gearbox: T350, 5000rpm Dominator stall, manualised valve body
Diff: Narrowed Borg Warner, 3.9:1 final drive, full-spool, 31-spline billet axles
Brakes: VT twin-piston front, VL disc rear, VL booster, 1in-bore master cylinder
Suspension: King Springs, adjustable panhard, chromoly tube lower control arms, “massaged” inner rear guards
Wheels/Tyres: 19in Simmons FR (8in front, 9.5in rear)
Interior: Painted dash, Momo steering wheel, Autometer gauges, B&M shifter
Stereo: Original AM radio, factory dash speaker
Build period: 2 years
Cost: Undisclosed
Contacts: All Cylinder Heads, Carline Mufflers – Mount Druitt, Peter Connolly, Ricky’s Driveshafts, Gear Exchange, Lou’s Smash, Gary’s Motor Trimming

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

26 Mar


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

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”

Feature Car: Tristan Wright’s XD Ford Falcon

21 Dec

It isn’t often that you see nicely modified XD and XE Ford Falcons. They seems to be the forgotten children in the Ford family, which is a shame when you consider how tough the boxy shape looks with the right stance. Tristan Wright’s XD was photographed for the October issue of Street Machine and boasts a 434ci Dart-based stroker and a ton of class.


As always, we’ve got a series of FREE desktop wallpaper images for you to enjoy. Simply CLICK HERE or on the thumbnails below to visit our Flickr page where all the goodies lay in wait for your visit.

Tristan Wright's XD Ford Falcon

Tristan Wright's XD Ford Falcon

Tristan Wright's XD Ford Falcon

Feature Car: James Falzon’s 1976 Volkswagen Kombi Swagman Camper

09 Aug

My photo shoot on James Falzon’s 1976 Volkswagen Kombi Swagman Camper appeared in the last issue of VW Magazine Australia, which was on sale last month. What may look like a sedate holiday machine actually boasts a Wayne Penrose-built 2.7L injected stroker that makes 160hp!


As always, we’ve got a series of FREE desktop wallpaper images for you to enjoy. Simply CLICK HERE or on the thumbnails below to visit our Flickr page where all the goodies lay in wait for your visit.

James Falzon's 1976 Volkswagen Kombi Swagman Camper

James Falzon's 1976 Volkswagen Kombi Swagman Camper     James Falzon's 1976 Volkswagen Kombi Swagman Camper

2016 Calendar: July’s Star is Chris’ Stroker VK Holden Commodore

27 Jun

It’s time for the July 2016 desktop calendar! Can you believe the year is half over already!? Feels like we just went through Xmas and New Years. Anyway, here’s a shot of Chris’ stroker Holden VK Commodore, as featured in Street Commodores magazine last year. CLICK HERE or on the image to download the full version.

July 2016 Desktop Calendar