STUFFING a turbo LS into a first-generation Commodore is a bloody good way to build a seven-second street car, as we’ve seen lately with cars like Adam Rogash’s VK, ALLSHOW. Darren Clinton’s immaculate VH SS looks to subscribe to this newsletter by combining a killer stance on fat rubber with that immaculate HDT-inspired bodywork and a 1200rwhp twin-turbo LS. But Darren didn’t quite mean to end up with a killer eight-second streeter.
This article was first published in Street Machine's LSX Tuner #9, 2019
“I originally wanted to build it to a semi-standard spec as I’d bought it on the premise it was an original Group 2 HDT car,” says Darren. “I chased up evidence to support this and continually hit the wall as the HDT records for this model have many gaps. It is a genuine 308 VH SS, though”
“I bought the VH as my first steel bumper car once I could finally afford a toy,” says Darren. “It was a roller with a 383ci Holden stroker, a T5 manual ’box in pieces, a nine-inch diff, and the interior either missing or so old the material on the seats was decayed and coming apart. It is a genuine 308 VH SS so I had decided I was going to do a quick closed-door respray and put it together as it was… until we inspected the paint more closely and I saw the ripples in the sun. I then decided it was time for a full panel and paint job, and the build began to spiral from there.”
After stripping the car to its undies, Darren had Mirror Image Spray Painting repair, prime and paint the mid-sized four-door in a custom pearlescent version of the famous original HDT hue, Maranello Red. Steve Green from Vintage Commodores worked with Tim Rayment to rebuild the interior, making it fresher than Don Johnson’s haircut in Miami Vice. But then Darren moved the goalposts, as the initial vision for a tidy plastic-powered streeter became something far crazier.
“I decided to go for a big-horsepower combo as I wanted to try and run a seven-second time in a registered street car,” he says. “I sent the VH to Jeff Johnson at Streetbuilt Racing and we came up with a combo to suit, then Lundy Race Fabrication went to work to make it all fit.”
The combo spans 403ci built off a production 6.0-litre LY6 truck motor, with JE pistons, a Callies DragonSlayer crank and Oliver rods, while a custom LJMS hydraulic-roller cam and LS7 lifters transfer rotating force into T&D shaft-mount rockers affixed to AFR 245 heads. The cathedral-port heads inhale through a Shaun’s Custom Alloy intake manifold and Nick Williams 92mm throttlebody.
Siemens 2400cc injectors hose the E85 into the LS from a custom fuel cell made by Lundy Race Fab, housing an Aftermarket Industries in-tank pump hanger with a trio of Walbro 460 litres-per-hour pumps. A Holley HP EFI engine management system controls the vitals and is currently set to 26psi boost from the twin front-mount turbos.
The LY6 is a Gen IV 6.0-litre iron truck motor making 364hp in stock form. Running 9.6:1 compression, a 58-tooth reluctor wheel and a 4in bore, it was offered in the 2007-10 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD and 3500 HD pick-ups, the 2007-09 Chevy Suburban 2500 and GMC Yukon XL 2500 SUVs, and the 2008-09 Chevy Express 2500 and 3500, along with the same years GM Savana 2500 and 3500 vans. Look for a K in the eighth digit of the VIN to signify that vehicle came with an LY6
The Gen 2 Precision 64/66 snails sit on custom Lundy Race Fab exhaust manifolds, with more Lundy Race Fab custom pipework joining the Plazmaman Pro Series intercooler, as well as the full twin three-inch exhaust that drops into a single four-inch tailpipe. All up the combo makes 1244hp at 7000rpm measured at the hubs on 26psi and E85 boost juice.
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Being a Gen IV engine with a 4in bore, the LY6 is incredibly easy to build into a monster. Equipped from the factory with rectangle-port #823 heads, a cam swap will wake any iron 6L up nicely and, interestingly, GM chose to equip the truck motor with the same valve springs as the high-performance LS3
“Once the dummy build was complete we realised some rear suspension upgrades and a rollcage were now required to handle the projected horsepower,” says Darren, who then shipped the car to Adam Spiteri at Cronic Customs.
The VH scored a custom four-link rear end, with the rails notched to allow the larger wheel tubs to swallow the 15x10-inch rear wheels. Cronic Customs also added a custom anti-roll bar, six-point rollcage, and a parachute mount, plus fixed race seats as per ANDRA regs.
Eight-second performance requires serious stopping power and Darren has fitted Wilwood six-piston front disc brakes, with Wilwood four-piston discs out back. They’re hidden behind Weld Magnum 17x4in and 15x10in wheels, wrapped in radial race rubber
A Race Products sheet-metal nine-inch was filled with a Strange Engineering Truetrac centre, 3.25 gears and 35-spline billet axles, then hung off AFCO dual-adjustable coil-over struts. It works with the Reid-case ’Glide, TCE 10.25-inch converter, and Final Drive two-piece tailshaft to carry the power from the LS.
While he had a stout driveline, the car wasn’t complete yet. Nothing motivates a project towards completion like a deadline, and so Darren decided to show the SS off at West Australia’s biggest show, Motorvation, just two months away.
“I was chatting with Mark ‘Happy’ Williams and he suggested finishing the VH for Motorvation, two months away,” explains Darren. “I thought maybe it could be done, so I sounded out a few friends and they pushed me to have a go. It turns out it is possible with a lot of coordination and running around!
“It was a mad rush to build it, including countless hours from Mirror Image Spray Painting as the car was painted again, Cronic Customs, Streetbuilt Racing, Audio Image for a full rewire, Vintage Commodores, Lundy Race Fabrication and Tim Rayment my trimmer.
Dom at Audio Image wired the car, including the Holley HP EFI system and Racepak display dash. This isn’t a small job. Given Darren still wants to drive his car on the street, it needs wipers, headlights and all those other circuits a purpose-built race car can discard
“The VH was finished on the day of Motorvation with it on the hub dyno at 2:30pm, then set up at about 4:30pm. It was an amazing effort by all involved and the VH turned out exactly how I dreamt it would.”
After wowing everyone on debut, Darren took SS out to the track, to head towards nailing his goal of a seven-second slip.
“It has run a PB of 8.30@169mph so far,” he says. “We encountered wheelstanding issues so we couldn’t dial anymore into it, but new Pro9 struts are ordered and the aim is to get the seven-second ET. Not bad for a full-trim street car with an exhaust!”
THE PROBLEM WITH STRIPPING
ANYONE who has eagerly embarked on their first big project car knows the peril of stripping it down. Pulling apart a complex bit of machinery like a car means you need thousands of plastic bags and tags to list what goes where, as Darren discovered.
“I completely stripped the car ready for panel and paint, putting the parts in boxes with minimal labels, thinking I would build it within the next two months or so,” he sighs. “It went to Mirror Image Spray Painting where it spent nine months being stripped, having panel work done, then being primed, blocked and painted. By then I had started to forget where all the parts were or went on the car, as I had also now moved house.
“We began the rebuild in my shed and I recruited the assistance of Steve Green from Vintage Commodores as he has stripped and built more VHs than most. We had to basically build it from boxes of parts laid out on the floor, and we were missing bolts and pieces everywhere. Thankfully, Vintage Commodores had all the parts we needed.
“The dash was stripped and sent to be painted and trimmed and all the parts went to Vintage Commodores to be reassembled at a later date. The roof lining was done, the front and rear screens and door glass went in, and the seats, console and parcel tray went to Tim Rayment for trimming. We assembled the VH back to a roller, minus a few exterior trim pieces and the dash."
1983 HOLDEN VH COMMODORE SS
Custom PPG Maranello Red
Brand: GM iron LY6 403ci
Induction: Sean’s Custom Alloy manifold, 92mm Nick Williams throttlebody
ECU: Holley HP EFI
Turbos: Precision Gen 2 64/66
Heads: AFR 245cc
Camshaft: Custom LJMS hydraulic roller
Crank: Callies DragonSlayer
Fuel system: Siemens 2400cc, 3 x Walbro 460 pumps, custom Lundy Race Fab fuel cell
Cooling: PWR radiator
Exhaust: Custom Lundy Race Fab manifolds, twin 3in system
Ignition: LS coil packs
Gearbox: Reid-case Powerglide
Converter: TCE 10.25in
Diff: Race Products sheet-metal 9in, 35-spline billet axles, 3.25:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Super Low springs, Pro9 shocks, manual close-ratio steering rack
Rear: AFCO dual-adjustable coil-over struts, custom 4-link, tubs
Brakes: Wilwood 6-pot calipers & discs (f), Wilwood 4-pot calipers & discs (r)
Master cylinder: VS Commodore
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Weld Magnum; 17x4 (f), 15x10 (r)
Rubber: 185/55 (f), M/T 275/60 (r)
Thanks and love to my wife Calli for putting up with my crazy car obsession and supporting me throughout, including the draining of our bank account on several occasions; my daughter Shyla, she doesn’t realise how many cars she now owns and fingers crossed she actually likes them (she is 18 months old); to all my mates, and all the new friends I made during the build; special mention to Corey and Mick for all their hours of help