BUILDING cars with mates in the garage is a favourite pastime for us gearheads. But while the sharing of beer and breaking of bolts can sometimes result in great things, it’s not often that it results in an 870rwhp, nine-second, street-driven monster.
This article was first published in the October 2020 issue of Street Machine
But that’s exactly what went down in the case of Corey Sant and his LS-powered VH Commodore. “I’d always had a thing for the VHs, being the last of the chrome-bumpered Holdens,” he says.
Corey grew up in a Holden family, his love affair with Commodores beginning with a V8 VS Berlina. “I got it when I was 19, and I built the engine for that and had a lot of fun. Then after a quick break I got into this VH.”
He searched high and low for a suitable starting point, before a friend brought this SL/E to his attention. “A mate sent me a link to the ad; I called the owner and told him I was pretty much sold before I’d even looked at it,” says Corey.
The VH had been pulled apart and resprayed by the previous owner, so all Corey had to do was piece it back together, but he never intended to leave the boat-anchor 202 in it for long. “I wanted an LS for this build, and specifically I’d been searching for an iron-block LQ9 for ages,” he says.
However, the decision to throw some boost down its throat didn’t come about until Corey spent the weekend at Summernats riding shotgun in a force-fed VZ Maloo: “After that, the thing needed a turbo and it was going to run nines!”
Corey took on the VH as a painted shell, with the previous owner having given it a fresh coat of Mazda Velocity Red. The bodywork is all still largely standard as well, save for the Alfa four-inch reverse cowl to make room for the Holley mid-rise intake
With that on the brain, Corey finally got his hands on an LQ9 before building it up with some help from the fellas at Flowcraft Heads & Engines. “I did some research online about what guys are doing in the US with iron blocks, and then Flowcraft did all the machine work and helped spec out the engine package for me,” he says.
The VH’s rear end copped some split tubs to help accommodate the 15x8.5 Street Pro wheels, wrapped in 275/60 Mickey Thompson SS radials to ensure 870hp of turbo LS doesn’t simply go up in smoke
Corey threw the LQ9 together himself, which retained its standard crank, but the rest was renovated with Callies Compstar rods, Mahle pistons and reworked cathedral-port heads adorned with a Holley mid-rise manifold.
Feeding the LS is a GT4202 hairdryer using reversed, standard LS cast exhaust manifolds; that, combined with a tuned LS1 ECU and E85, means this package is good for 650kW (870hp). “Frank at Allsparks Performance got the job of tuning it, and the car truly stunned us when it made 650rwkW on a hub dyno on only 18psi,” Corey says.
There isn’t much clutter in the engine bay to distract from the beastly Holley intake manifold and GT4202 turbo hanging off the side of the 6.0L LQ9 mill. There’s no fancy wizardry going on here, just good research and quality parts to create more than 800rwhp of fury
Backing up the blazing, boost-fed LS combo is a Turbo 400 ’box from CE Performance Transmissions, housing a Dominator 3800rpm converter that sends all that oomph to the nine-inch rear end.
The SL/E has been kept fairly standard, with Corey just wanting to improve on the OEM theme. As such, the front Kirkey seats have been trimmed to match the SL/E material
The build process took around 12 months, with Corey and his mates spending most weekends and weeknights toiling away on the VH. “Jon at JR Modifications took care of the big fab stuff like the nine-inch, modified firewall, six-point ’cage, turbo kit and split tubs, while we did the rest,” says Corey. His good mate Shaun rewired the entire car, while his mate John was there for the entire reassembly process of the suspension, brakes, fuel system, interior and everything in between. “I owe this car to my mates for all their hard work, late nights and weekends in the build,” Corey says. “This car is truly garage-built by me and my mates.”
“The trim for those seats cost a fortune – three times what it would’ve cost to redo the entire car in full leather,” he says. “But that’s what I wanted, and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less.”
Corey’s vision for the VH was to build a proper driver. “It was never going to be a Top 60 car; we built it to use on the street, and that’s exactly what I do with it all the time,” he says. “It’s been perfect from day one; we’ve had zero issues. It drives so well; it’ll just hook up and go from any speed.”
With a best of 9.4@154mph so far, Corey is confident of seeing more speed from the SL/E: “That was with a 1.78-second 60-foot, so now it has the transbrake I’m sure an eight-second pass with the mph we have should be fairly achievable.”
The only other deviations from factory are the six-point rollcage, Auto Meter gauges and the B&M Pro Ratchet shifter, which Corey integrated with the original surround for a seamless blend of aftermarket and OEM
Corey does have big plans for this thing further down the road – think along the lines of an LSX-based twin-turbo powerplant – but his next goal is to kit it out with a full Holley EFI system, and then set his sights firmly on Drag Challenge.
“Funnily enough, we finished the car right around when the first Drag Challenge kicked off; I just haven’t had the chance to get off of work to do it,” he says. “But Drag Challenge is on lock for next year – you can count on that.”
1982 HOLDEN VH COMMODORE SL/E
Paint: Velocity Red
Block: LQ9 6.0L
Induction: Holley mid-rise
Turbo: Garrett GT4202
Heads: Cathedral-port 317
Camshaft: 238/228, 115deg lobe separation
Conrods: Callies Compstar
Pistons: Mahle Motorsport
Oil pump: Melling
Fuel system: Holley pump, 1000cc injectors
Cooling: PWR radiator
Exhaust: 4in stainless
Ignition: Custom leads
Gearbox: Turbo 400
Converter: Dominator, 3800rpm
Diff: 9in, 3.55:1 gears, 31-spline axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: King Springs, Koni Yellow shocks
Rear: Custom springs, Viking adjustable
Brakes: VT Commodore (f), drums (r)
Master cylinder: VT Commodore
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Street Pro; 15x4 (f), 15x8.5 (r)
Rubber: Nankang 175/80R15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET SS 275/60R15 (r)
Frank from Allsparks; Eugene at Flowcraft; Ray at CE Performance Transmissions; Richard at Instyle Custom Trim; John and Mick at Race Parts Melbourne; Jon at JR Modifications; my wife Angie, who was always by my side and kept me focused on the build; my mates Shaun and John who both spent countless hours in the garage helping me piece this car together
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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