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LS3-powered 1985 Holden VK Commodore

By Andrew Broadley | Photos: Dean Summers, 10 Mar 2020 Features

LS3-powered 1985 Holden VK Commodore

This Sting Red VK Commodore was going to be a burnout car but Blake Poisel got carried away

REMEMBER when retrotech was new and an injected five-litre in an early Commodore was the duck’s guts? The labyrinthine complexity of the wiring mixed with the dark art of tuning EFI meant the conversion was a tall order for most, yet the 304’s prodigious 165kW made it all worthwhile.

This article was first published in the September 2011 issue of Street Machine

Holden VK Commodore

How times have changed. The modern revhead has an arsenal of potent powerplants at his disposal, and none has proven more popular than GM’s arse-kicking LS-series V8s.

Not that Sydney’s Blake Poisel has anything against Holden V8s. He bought this VK eight years ago, with a humble 308 and four-speed between the rails and later upgraded it to a 355 stroker, Turbo 400 and nine-inch combo.

Read next: Supercharged LS3-powered VK Commodore

Holden VK Commodore rear

Shaved door handles and fuel filler clean up the VK’s flanks nicely, while the HDT body kit maintains that classic 80s muscle car look

It had grunt but not enough, so Blake decided on a simple engine transplant. “It was just going to be a burnout car but it was one of those builds where one thing led to another. Twelve months on, the whole car has pretty much been rebuilt,” he grins.

Read next: 600hp Holden 355-powered 1985 VK Commodore

Holden VK Commodore onroad

His engine of choice was a big sucker; a 6.2-litre LS3 as found in HSV’s E3 GTS, producing 325kW and 550Nm. But if we’ve learned anything about GM’s new generation alloy small-blocks, it’s that they respond enthusiastically to a few choice mods.

Noel Forrest Race Engines cleaned up the ports and slid in a Crow Cams stick boasting 0.580in of lift, before upgrading the valvetrain, fitting a double-row timing chain and valve-relieving the pistons.

Holden VK Commodore wheel

Noel’s son Brendan, at Forrest Customs, then set about shoehorning the LS3 into the engine bay using a standard sump, fabricated engine mounts and modified VY Pacemaker extractors. A right-angle brake pedal kit and remote booster under the dash got around clearance problems, and a VS steering rack negated the need to relocate the starter motor.

Read next: Turbo LS-powered VK Commodore Brock replica

Holden VK Commodore bonnet

With a custom tune from Sam’s Performance stashed away in the factory ECU, the VK stomped out an impressive 450rwhp. And looks good doing it.

“I got talking with Brendan about tidying up the engine bay and said that I wanted a flat firewall,” Blake says. “He came up with the idea of getting rid of the booster and embossing the Chev bowties into the firewall, and it all developed from there.”

Holden VK Commodore

The 450rwhp LS3 is backed by a shift-kitted Turbo 400 with 3800rpm Dominator converter and a nine-inch Detroit Locker diff

The one-off symmetrical cold air induction was ceramic-coated for a neat finish and Blake hints that if he decides to go down the forced induction route in future, the existing holes in the inner guards will make intercooler pipework a piece of piss.

Holden VK Commodore engine bay

There’s extensive fabrication in the engine bay, including a handmade flat firewall with embossed Chev bowties, a relocated brake booster, smoothed chassis rails, smoothed inner guards and a custom radiator support panel

While he had the car, Brendan took care of the VZ dash conversion. It was a hell of a job but allowed Sideshow’s Performance Wiring to knock up a harness so that the VE engine would talk to the VZ dash, making the electronic side of the conversion much easier. Now all the factory VZ instrumentation and dash functions work as they should.

Holden VK Commodore engine bay

Cleverly, Brendan stashed a modified VZ ute fuel tank inside the stock VK tank so that it not only has an internal swirl-pot, but the fuel gauge and all fuel-related trip computer functions work perfectly.

Surprisingly, the VZ dash was about spot-on in width but Brendan shaved six inches from the leading edge as the face stuck out way too far into the VK’s cabin. He also had to shorten the VZ column, though he maintained the factory tilt function.

Holden VK Commodore interior

Fitment of the VZ centre console presented its own challenges. The VZ handbrake was grafted to the floor and the shifter was recessed into the tunnel to mate up with the console. Blake intends to fit full VZ door trims and seats to complete the look but for now aftermarket front buckets with a retrimmed VK rear bench and door trims do the trick.

Despite the DeBeer Sting Red, HDT-inspired profile, shaved door handles and 20in wheels, it wasn’t until the pointy end of the build that he decided to pay so much attention to the exterior.

Holden VK Commodore dash

The VZ SS dash is 100 per cent functional. Before too long the VK will have the seats and door trims to match

“The body kit was fitted and the car was resprayed Sting Red before I bought it. But it wasn’t the best job and I was keen to shave the door handles, so we eventually decided to give it a freshen up,” he says.

Nick’s Customs completed the job in-house at Forrest Customs, losing the handles and fuel filler and deleting the numberplate recess in the Group A front bar. The remainder of the body kit is Group A equipment, with the exception of the bonnet scoop and rear bar which are both Group 3 units.

Holden VK Commodore shifter

Looks complete, doesn’t it? Well there’s still that VZ interior transplant to complete and Blake says he intends to tub the car and shelve the current 20in Verde wheels in favour of something wider, with more dish. That might explain his not-so-subtle hints about forced induction. It’s easy to get carried away.

Blake Poisel

BLAKE POISEL
1985 HOLDEN VK COMMODORE

Colour: De Beer Sting Red

ENGINE
Brand: Chevrolet LS3 6.2-litre
Induction: Standard
Heads: Ported, Crow valves
Camshaft: Crow, 0.580in lift
Pistons: Standard with valve relief
Fuel: Premium
Fuel system: Walbro 550hp pump
Cooling: PWR radiator, twin 10in thermo fans
Exhaust: Modified Pacemaker VY headers, 3in Ballistic high-flow cats, custom Sureflow mufflers

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox: Turbo 400, stage 3 shift kit
Converter: Dominator 3800rpm
Diff: Detroit Locker nine-inch

SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: Kings Springs (f&r)
Shocks: Koni (f&r)
Brakes: 330mm discs, PBR calipers (f), VK discs (r)
Master cylinder: Under dash, custom bracket
Steering: VS rack, VZ column

WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Verde 20x8½in (f&r)
Rubber: Kumho 225/30 (f), Kumho 245/30 (f),

THANKS
Forrest Customs, Nick’s Customs, Sideshow’s Performance Wiring, Noel Forrest Race Engines, Sam’s Performance, Camden Automatics, my girlfriend Leah, our boys Aidan & Koda, Mum & Dad for their support

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