NOW a rare and highly prized muscle car, the HDT VK SS Group A (or Blue Meanie, as it’s popularly known) is holding its own in the value stakes among the Monaros, Torries and Falcon GTs. Some low-kilometre examples command prices upwards of $200,000. Only 502 of these SS Group A Commodores were built, plus 48 Group A/Group 3s, so it’s generally only purists that are willing to make such a steep investment – these cars are simply too expensive and too scarce to chop up.
This article was first published in the August 2020 issue of Street Machine
It’s for this very reason that Mario Zahra’s perfectly executed Blue Meanie is a tribute build rather than the real deal. “I own an HSV and I wanted an HDT as well, because HDT built the foundation cars,” Mario says. “But I wanted a modified version.”
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In 2013, as Mario could see the Holden brand beginning to fade, he set about crafting an all-Aussie Blue Meanie on ’roids, with almost every aspect given an upgrade on the original. “My plan was to build a car with no chrome and a Touring Car feel – retro 80s, yet modernised. But not a race car; I wanted a tough, driveable street car that could rock up to a show.” This stout VK certainly ticks those boxes.
Mario took on the bodywork himself, removing all of the under-bonnet and boot holes, deleting the antenna and adding the HDT bodykit. His mate Jason Cumbo then laid down the seriously glossy Formula Blue
With a helpful push from mate Rob Petkovski, Mario nabbed a sweet, grandpa-spec 1985 VK Vacationer six-banger for the princely sum of $3000. “It was a straight car, with no rust,” Mario says. “There was no accident damage at all.”
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Mario wasted no time in getting stuck into the build. “I did it all myself,” he says. “I’m a mechanic, so I’m used to working on other people’s cars all the time and I enjoy working on my own stuff after hours.”
The proverbial cherry on top of this contemporary Blue Meanie tribute are the gleaming white 20in Simmons FR rollers with custom offsets
The build took both hard yakka and research. “Every night I’d be on eBay sourcing all of the parts,” Mario says. “It was the right timing, as I would struggle to find the parts now.” And no doubt the prices have quadrupled, too.
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You’d be forgiven for thinking that the rare VL Walkinshaw twin-throttlebody intake manifold sitting front and centre in the engine bay was the hardest piece to track down. But in fact, Mario found it easily – and didn’t pay a cent for it! It was a gift from his nephew, Alex Seychell. Lucky bugger!
The holy grail of Holden V8 performance, the VL Group A twin-throttlebody intake dominates the engine bay and is paired with a VN SS airbox. Below is 570hp of Holden goodness, packed with all the right gear. A VL V8 air-conditioning compressor helps take care of cabin cooling
While we’re already taking a gander under the VK’s bonnet, let’s run through the 570hp iron lion. Mario had John Ramsdale bolt together a 370ci stroker based on a VS Commodore block, complete with modified VN heads and custom COMP cam. Below, CP-Carrillo Bullet Series slugs are anchored to Callies Compstar rods, swinging off a custom stroker crank. An MSD 6AL2 sparks the PULP, fed forward by a Bosch 044 pump.
Keeping with the Touring Car vibe, Mario has upped the entire driveline, adding a Tremec TKO600 five-speed cogbox mated to a two-piece chrome-moly tailshaft. A spiced-up BorgWarner diff takes up the rear, packed with 3.9:1 gears, a Harrop Truetrac and Moser 31-spline axles.
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The suspension copped a decent upgrade, too. There’s a VN Commodore rack and K-frame, Whiteline strut brace, KMAC adjustable camber kit and Koni adjustable shocks on all four corners. The car also pulls up easily thanks to Harrop’s Monster discs and four-piston calipers, which are housed inside 20-inch Simmons FR three-piece rims, powdercoated in white as a nod to the HDT Aero factory fitment.
It’s a look that perfectly complements the Formula Blue paint. “I got it ready to roll into the paint booth, and then my mate Jason Cumbo put the colour on,” Mario says. “I did all of the panelwork and everything.”
Continuing the HDT-spec styling, the cabin contains every mid-80s Holden lover’s wet dream: a sporty Scheel interior. “I bought the full kit from Scheel, including the seat frames, foams and head lining,” Mario says. “I just had to supply a rear seat for them to trim.” Teamed with a VK Group A tiller, bolt-in rollcage and a raft of Auto Meter gauges, Mario has neatly melded factory appointments with Touring Car-esque requirements.
“I had an image in my head, and that’s exactly how the car looks now; there’s lots of little details on the VK once you study it,” Mario says. “We first unveiled it at Showcars Melbourne on 26 February 2017 – Peter Brock’s birthday.”
Scheel interiors were the pinnacle of mid-80s Holden appointments. Mario has teamed this with a bolt-in rollcage, Auto Meter gauges, monster tacho and HDT tiller
There, the VK was awarded Top Holden and one of three Top Overall trophies. Mario backed this up at Meguiar’s MotorEx 2018, heading home with gold medals for Paintwork and Bodywork and a bronze for Impact & Display.
“The whole car is detailed inside and out, top to bottom; every nut and bolt on this car was touched,” Mario says. “My mates ask me: ‘Why don’t you just build something simple?’ But I can’t; I want my cars to be both pretty and to function right.
“Now I’m building a VL Walkinshaw replica with an LSA with my son Jayden [Young Guns, SM, Sep ’19],” Mario continues. “I wanted to help him build a car and was thinking of a VK Group 3, but he was keen on a VL Walky. My dream is for us to cruise together in our tribute Group As.”
1985 Holden VK Commodore
Paint: Glasurit Formula Blue
Block: Holden VS, four-bolt mains
Inlet manifold: HSV VL Group A
Induction: EFI, Bosch Motorsport injectors, VN Commodore Delco ECU
Heads: Modified VN, Yella Terra shaft-mounted rocker arms
Camshaft: COMP custom-grind
Valves: REV, COMP springs
Conrods: Callies Compstar
Pistons: CP-Carrillo Bullet Series
Crank: Custom 3.60in stroke, Clevite big-end bearings
Sump: ASR Club Circuit
Fuel system: Bosch Motorsport 044 pump, PULP
Cooling: Custom PWR radiator, factory fan
Exhaust: Pacemaker tri-Y 1¾in, custom stainless mufflers, 3.5in system
Ignition: MSD coils, 6AL2 multiple-spark ignition, VS Commodore leads
Gearbox: Tremec TKO600 five-speed, short shifter
Clutch: McLeod twin-plate clutch, Xtreme lightened flywheel
Tailshaft: Two-piece chrome-moly
Diff: BorgWarner with Harrop Truetrac, 3.9:1 gears, Moser 31-spline axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: King Springs, Koni adjustable shocks, K-Mac adjustable camber plates
Rear: King Springs, Koni adjustable shocks, Whiteline adjustable Panhard rod
Steering: VN Commodore rack and K-frame
Brakes: Harrop Monster discs and four-piston rotors (f & r)
Master cylinder: VK Commodore 1in
Rims: Simmons FR; 20x8 (f), 20x9 (r)
Rubber: Kuhmo; 225/35ZR20 (f), 245/35ZR20 (r)
Alex Seychell; Paul Pace at Ezy Fix Auto Electrics; Darren Xuereb at Point Cook Collision Repairs; Jason Cumbo at Street Elite Bodyworks; Steve Brown at Phantom Stickers & Signs; Duane at HiTech Exhaust; Robert Petkovski; John Ramsdale; Tim at Electronic Automotive; Gene Cook at Gene Cook Race Engines & Dyno Tuning; last but not least my beautiful wife Helen for allowing me to build the car after hours and on weekends.