BUILDING a race car at home in the shed, taking it to the track and driving it into the eights is an act of considerable bad-arsery for a person of any age. But Tony Rohr, a retired farmer from Mudgee with no formal automotive-related training, has managed to do just that at 77 years young. Sure, you might be cool, but odds are you ain’t that cool!
This article was first published in the February 2020 issue of Street Machine
Body-wise, the car is fairly standard except for a shaved fuel filler and aerial, and a Hornet scoop that draws in gobs of cool air and jams it straight down the gullets of the twin Garrett GTX3582R hairdryers. The car is all steel, while the rear and side windows are Lexan. It’s Tony’s sixth car in Holden Sting Red; he reckons red ones go faster!
Paint, ’cage and transmission aside, Tony tackled the whole process from go to whoa on his own, with no outside help. He repaired the rust, specced and built the twin-turbo 427ci RHS-blocked LS, fabricated the turbo system, and plumbed, wired and assembled the car from top to bottom and front to back.
Read next: Twin-turbo 383-cube 1981 VH Commodore
The wheels are something different to your usual Welds or Center Lines – Max Wheels in 15x4 on the front, and 15x11 with beadlocks wearing Hoosier 28x10.5s on the rear. VT discs on the pointy end and VH discs on the rear slow the old girl, aided by a parachute, of course
The finished product ran out of injector on the ACM Engines hub dyno at just 15psi of boost, but still managed to reel off 1010hp. That was enough to propel the VH down the Sydney Dragway blacktop in 8.88@155mph, with plenty of headroom for further development. Retirement done right!
The whole reason the VH came to be is that Tony’s street car – a V2 CV8 Monaro with a big single spooly-boy – ran well into the nines at full weight, complete with air con, cruise control, leather interior, IRS and no safety equipment whatsoever. He grew tired of being sent home from the track by stewards, and in fairness, the car probably wasn’t as safe as it should’ve been.
“I wanted to be able to run quicker times,” Tony says. “Because the Monaro didn’t have a ’cage, I had to take it all the way to Heathcote to run it, and that was a hassle.”
That desire to go faster, coupled with his reluctance to compromise the Monaro’s practicality and useability as a street car by adding a rollcage, meant a dedicated race car was the best way forward.
“We were coming back from the Holden Nationals with the Monaro a few years back when my mate Lee Murray mentioned he had a VH at his workshop for sale,” Tony explains. And so he picked up the VH, dragged it home, removed the Monaro’s 427-cube mill and Turbo 400 auto (replacing them with a cammed and blown six-litre and six-speed manual respectively), and stuck the old single GT4508 under the work bench.
The diff and four-link rear end was sourced from McDonald Brothers. Using the standard pick-up points, it features tubular arms and Viking coil-overs for adjustability. The diff itself is a 9in with a full spool and 35-spline axles
Having already built the engine with an RHS block, Callies DragonSlayer crank, Callies Ultra rods, JE slugs, sizeable solid-roller cam and ETP LS7 heads, Tony stripped and inspected it, threw a set of bearings in it and buttoned it back up again. He then dropped it into the VH and fabbed up a new turbo system to turn the new mirror-imaged Garrett GTX3582R snails.
The nine-inch diff and four-link rear end are McDonald Brothers kit, while the mini-tubs and ’cage were farmed out to local fab shop, Warpipes. Tony repaired the rust, replaced the damaged radiator support panel, took care of the bodywork and shaved the fuel filler and aerial, while Pro Customs tackled the final paint prep and applied Tony’s hue of choice – Sting Red. The CV8 was the same colour, as is his VF GTS, and his VZ and VU SS utes before them, so it was unlikely that any other hue was going to get a look in!
Billet dress-up gear from Lowe Fabrications, a sheet-metal intake manifold from Shaun’s Custom Alloy and miles of braided line make for a neat engine bay. The owner-fabbed turbo system looks great and works brilliantly, while the 1000+hp, 427ci donk is controlled and monitored by a Haltech Elite 2000 ECU
The VH might be a dedicated race car, but it uses stock suspension pick-up points and runs on a small tyre. If Tony was to add side glass, wipers and a full exhaust system, it would be every bit as much of a streeter as the quicker stuff we see at Drag Challenge. As far as race cars go, it’s also remarkably well presented and well thought out, with Tony’s skills honed over six decades of mucking around with cars.
“There don’t seem to be a lot of blokes my age playing with cars,” Tony says. “I’m only an old broken-down farmer, so it feels great when people come up at the drags and talk about how neatly put together the car is. It’s nothing particularly flashy, but it’s neat, and it works.”
Things are as you’d expect in the cabin: rollcage, sports buckets and steering wheel, Haltech dash, and sheet-metal door trims. Despite the tubs, Tony has retained the factory rear seat so he can take his mates for happy laps at Powercruise
And Tony’s not done yet. “It should still go a little quicker; an 8.6 would be nice, though it’s only teched down to 8.5 seconds. From there it will need injectors and a fuel pump upgrade to go faster,” he says. “Other than that, I built a low 10-second VK for my son Pete with a nitrous 408ci LS, and I really want to tame it down a bit so he can use it as more of a street car; it’s a bit too cranky at the moment. I’ve picked up an LSA for a good price, so I’ll pull that down and do the usual stuff to it; that’ll probably end up in the VK. I also have a VL wagon in the shed that I’ll have to do something with. I might make a Drag Challenge car out of it. I reckon a wagon would be handy for that; it even has a tow bar!”
No rest for the wicked, then!
TONY reckons he’s been playing with cars for a good 60 years now. “I put a set of rings in my first car; I suppose I would have been 17 or 18 at the time,” he says.
“My first modified car was an FJ ute that ended up with an X2 carby set-up on it, then an S-series Valiant that had a hot slant in it with triples at first, then a 327ci small-block Chev from Bill Warner in the mid-60s. I’d always wanted a V8 and there were hardly any around, other than sidevalve Fords. It was a fairly new car at the time, and eventually I put a tunnel-rammed big-block Mopar in it in the early 70s when the GT Falcons were the thing to beat. It went 12.7s at Castlereagh with the standard mechanical fuel pump; it used to run out of fuel in the deep end. It was my road car; I used to drive it everywhere. That combo then went into a T-bucket-based dragster, but I sold it before ever I got it to the track.
“I had a VL Turbo and a VN V8 in the 80s, and built a 13B RX-7 that was a quick little street car in the 90s, but then I had a break from cars for a while.
“I got interested again when LS engines came out and I was impressed with how responsive to modifications they were. I bought a VU SS ute and put a Harrop blower on it, and eventually upgraded to a VZ, which I put a 440ci turbo LSX in. It was a manual, made over 800rwhp and ran 10s at Heathcote. That engine went into a VY One Tonner burnout car – but with nitrous instead of a turbo – and the turbo set-up went onto the CV8.
“I guess you could say cars have kept me out of strife in my retirement!”
1982 HOLDEN VH COMMODORE
Paint: Sting Red
Brand: 427ci LS, RHS block
Induction: Shaun’s Custom Alloy intake manifold
ECU: Haltech Elite 2000
Turbo: Twin Garrett GTX3582R
Heads: ETP LS7
Camshaft: 244/246@.050in, .644in lift
Conrods: Callies Ultra I-beam
Pistons: JE forged
Crank: Callies DragonSlayer
Oil pump: Melling
Fuel system: MagnaFuel
Cooling: VZ alloy radiator, Davies Craig water pump, SPAL fans
Exhaust: Custom turbo manifolds and bullhorns
Ignition: ICE coils & leads
Gearbox: Turbo 400
Converter: Dominator 3500rpm
Diff: 9in, full spool, 35-spline axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Otomoto coil-overs, Pedders 90/10 shocks
Rear: Viking double adjustable coil-overs
Brakes: VT discs and calipers (f), VH discs and calipers (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Max Wheel; 15x4 (f), 15x11 (r)
Rubber: Hoosier front-runners (f), Hoosier 28x10.5in (r)
Adam Cope at ACM Engines for ongoing tuning and advice; Haltech – computer system and support; my wife Jill for her patience and understanding; my son Peter for his ongoing and unending support of all my efforts and undertakings with the race cars over many years, and his assistance with computer operation; Warpipes for the fabrication work; Pro Customs for the paintwork; Wetherill Engine Reconditioning for machining and balancing work