ANDREW Natoli’s plastic-powered VK Commodore has been a familiar sight in the Drag Challenge staging lanes, having taken on both our full-length DC and the condensed Drag Challenge Weekend on a combined total of five occasions since his debut in 2015.
His love affair with DC began when he saw the opportunity for a getaway. “I love racing and it looked like the perfect excuse for a week away with mates, and after the first one I was hooked!” he says.
Andrew competed in Drag Challenge 2015, 2016 and 2018 in the K&N DYO class (finishing every single one!), before jumping over to the Carnage Outlaw Aspirated class for both DCW and DC in 2019.
During that time, the car was rocking a nasty 540hp, 320ci aspo Holden V8 and big fat slicks for mid-10-second ETs, but for 2020 Andrew decided to take his car to the next level. “I’ve always wanted to go faster, and my goal now is to win my class at the next Drag Challenge,” he says. “Hopefully we can come out and hurt some feelings by winning without an LS!”
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As his Drag Challenge exploits have progressed, so have Andrew’s gear-carrying needs. As the car got quicker, his gear went from fitting in the car to being stored on roof racks, and in 2019 he finally hitched a trailer behind the VK
To do this, Andrew has sorted a whole bunch of new gear for the VK, the main party piece being a fresh mill from BG Engines. He was hell-bent on staying Holden-powered and carby-fed for his new set-up, so Damian Baker from BG cooked him up a stonking 385ci Holden V8. “I wanted to keep it Holden-powered no matter what, and carby to me is real muscle – I never even considered EFI,” says Andrew.
We featured the engine in detail as our Mill Of The Month in the August 2020 issue of SM, but the basic rub is this: a VT five-litre block using a Scat crank, Eagle rods, RaceTec pistons and Edelbrock alloy heads with an 850cfm carby, making the package good for 670hp on PULP, 690hp on Andrew’s chosen VP109 race fuel, and a staggering 922hp with a shot of giggle gas. Other renovations to the car included a freshen-up of the Turbo 400 ’box, a beefier 6500rpm converter from SDE, a six-point rollcage and coil-overs all ’round.
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Andrew has owned the car for seven years now, and while he originally wanted it to be just a tough street cruiser, he happily admits that every stage of the build since DC 2015 has been geared towards making it a Drag Challenge weapon. “I just love the event,” he says. “I met Al Vella at Drag Challenge and now we’re best mates. We do everything ourselves at home, and pretty much everything we do to the car is to make it better for the next crack at Drag Challenge.”
While a decent shot of extra ponies can be found with the nitrous, Andrew intends to refine the new package in aspo form first before hitting the button down the track. “We should go into the nines comfortably as it is, and then once that’s done I’ll probably use the gas and crack into the eights,” he says.
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Andrew was determined to stay with an iron lion for his VK. As Damian Baker from BG Engines put it: “I wanted to build Andrew a nice little LS for the VK, but I couldn’t get him interested in the idea – never late in a 308, he reckons!
While the latest renovations were carried out with racing in mind, Andrew’s VK is still very much a street car. “If I don’t use it every weekend, it’ll be every second weekend; I don’t see the point in having a shed queen,” he says.
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In recent years, Andrew has had Damian Baker’s son Tom riding shotgun during his Drag Challenge campaigns, along with Al Vella’s brother Michael. “Tommy was my crew member at both Drag Challenge events last year, and now he’s always at the track with me when I race,” Andrew says
“I can’t wait to get back out there for another Drag Challenge. We rushed to finish the car for the Sydney event before it got cancelled, and we’re hanging for another crack – I just can’t wait.”
1984 HOLDEN VK COMMODORE
Class: Carnage Outlaw Aspirated
Engine: 385ci Holden V8
Trans: Turbo 400
Converter: SDE, 6500rpm
Diff: 9in, 4.11:1 gears
Best DC 2019 pass: 10.70@127mph
Best DC result: Third in class at DCW 2019