PURCHASED by Steve Sterjovski in the year of the Sydney Olympics, ITSWAR started its journey as a fairly typical Sydney-spec VL Calais Turbo. Riding on a set of 17-inch Simmons FRs and powered by a single-cam RB30 sporting a Microtech ECU, big intercooler and T04 turbo, it hit all the right notes for the then-19-year-old Steve.
This article was first published in Street Machine's 2020 Yearbook. Photos: Ben Hosking
“It had all the bits that were cool in the 2000s and was lots of fun on the street, but I destroyed the bottom end being young and dumb within 12 months of owning it,” the Wollongong local laughs. “It sat around for a while, as I was devvo that I had just killed my car, and I started parting out the drivetrain. One thing I was certain of was that I wanted to build a big-horsepower twin-cam RB for it.”
Steve sourced new GM-H headlights and tail-lights, boot garnish, blinkers, Calais moulds, boot mould, eyebrows, bumpers and badges. The engine bay has had the strut tops, back of the headlights and the firewall smoothed, the front chassis rails boxed and smoothed with all seams welded, and a custom radiator support added. Hardware in the engine has been mirror-polished, with the turbo cover and intercooler piping chromed. Even the stainless cap-head fasteners were machine-chamfered and polished!
To prepare for the manic six, Steve took the car to Wild Fab for a nine-inch diff and full-floater, four-link, rollcage, chassis connectors and brake conversion, as well as a sheet-metal parcel tray and tubs, though they left the stock chassis rails alone. The VL was then turned into a two-seater and treated to a custom aluminium dash and trim by Steve from Cools Auto Trim. Nineteen-inch Simmons rims were also added, before the car was media-blasted and Yugi at Yes Smash Repairs took care of the jet black-over-silver bare-metal paintjob.
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After piecing together a forged, dry-sumped RB26/30, Steve debuted the car in June 2008, wining some tinware and having a great time cruising it around. But his luck with RBs wouldn’t hold, and the good times were about to turn bad.
“I decided to take it for another tune early in 2011, and that’s when everything went pear-shaped, as it ended with a damaged engine,” Steve sighs.
“I took it home, pulled the running gear out and began stripping it down to work out what had happened. I knew I wanted to take this build to the next level, but with family commitments and a lack of funds, I lost interest in it and it sat in the naughty corner for a good five or six years.
“I decided to call Alex from Birrong Automotive, as his R33 Skyline sports a very similar engine package to what I was hoping to put together,” Steve continues. “He pointed me in the right direction, and in December 2018, the new engine was ready.”
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ITSWAR rides on coil-overs with Koni 90/10s and Wilwood six-pot brakes up front, with Wilwood four-pots and Strange double-adjustable coil-overs out back. Those giant, gold-plated Simmons FRs span 22x8in (front) and 22x13in (rear)
The VL’s RB30 bottom end and a deep-breathing RB26DETT cylinder head from a Skyline GT-R is a potent combo, and Steve had the basis there for a four-digit power figure, so he didn’t muck around. Birrong fitted a 3.2-litre Nitto stroker crank, rods and JE pistons combo, held together with ARP hardware, while the block was fire-ringed for big boost and had billet main caps and girdle fitted, too.
A brand new RB26 head had Birrong’s CNC port program put through it, while Birrong custom cams, shimless buckets, Tomei cam gears and cap stud kit were all given the nod, before Ariel from CPC and Chris from Billet Motorsport got busy making parts. ITSWAR now wears a tonne of custom billet components: oil pump block-off plate; water pump; dry sump pan; engine main caps and girdle; header tank; thermostat housing; intercooler mounts; inlet plenum; oil filter housing; cam and timing covers; intercooler and radiator end tanks; and a 100mm throttlebody.
“I wanted this ITSWAR V2.0 to be the best version of the car possible, with lots of new undercarriage detail and custom billet parts, a new boot set-up and plenty of refinements,” Steve says. “Another big change was getting rid of the FR19s to replace them with a set of 24-karat gold-plated 22x8 and 22x13-inch Simmons FRs.”
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The monster 3.2-litre twin-cam RB is hooked up to a race-spec Powerglide and a full-floater nine-inch diff stuffed with 35-spline axles, 3.7 gears and everything else required to handle well over 1000rwhp once Steve has run the engine in.
Steve had a custom exhaust manifold made to hold the giant huffer, boost-controlled through a 60mm Tial wastegate, 5in dump and 4in system. Cooling is handled by a PWR core with custom billet end tanks, a custom shroud and thermo fans. A Peterson four-stage dry sump system takes care of oiling, driving off an ATI spline drive kit and sucking the black gold from an 8.0L tank in the boot. Fuel is supplied from a custom cell by a pair of Fuelab brushless pumps to a CPC billet fuel rail plumbed with 2400cc injectors and regulated with a MagnaFuel Pro Billet four-port item
“In mid-2019, I had the car ready to take to Birrong Automotive for the first start-up and run-in tune. Hearing it coming to life for the first time brought tears of joy to my eyes,” Steve says. “I couldn’t believe that all the years of heartache and hard work had finally begun to pay off. Alex reversed it onto the dyno and it reeled off 720hp at 20psi, which is on wastegate pressure for a run-in tune. It has lots left in it, but we tore the valve out of the rim, so that put an end to it!”
“It was never my intention to have the turbo out the bonnet, but because the dry sump pump is below the turbo manifold, it is limited for space on that side of the engine bay, so that’s where the turbo ended up,” Steve explains
As the VL had been sitting for half a decade, Steve chose to have Steve from Cruz Restorations give it a birthday before Pete from Group A Car Care got the shine on ahead of ITSWAR 2.0’s debut at Summernats 33.
In addition to the Sparco carbonfibre seats and steering wheel, Steve has had the custom dash filled with Auto Meter gauges. The interior has been totally retrimmed in bone plain and perforated leather, with a suede rooflining and custom boxes in the floor featuring hand-made chrome strips
“I had waited my whole adult life to get the car to Summernats, and it made the Top 60 Elite, which was beyond anything I had imagined,” Steve says. “Seeing people from all around Australia wanting to ask me questions about the car was a really humbling experience. Over the years I’ve had a select handful of people help me with the car, but one thing I’m very proud to say is that every nut, bolt, wire, hose and so on has been built by me and a few close mates in my garage. Everything that I dreamt it to be has finally come true!”
Now the VL is ready to be turned up to 11, Steve’s dream-come-true is about to become everyone else’s nightmare.
1987 HOLDEN VL CALAIS
Paint: Glasurit black over silver
Brand: Nissan RB26DETT in-line six-cylinder
Induction: CPC billet dual-rail plenum and billet 100mm throttlebody, Garrett intercooler core, custom CPC billet end tanks
Nitrous: NOS single-fogger
ECU: MoTeC M800
Turbo: Billet Turbochargers 94mm Pro Mod
Head: RB26DETT twin-cam
Pistons: JE Nitto-spec
Crank: Nitto 3.2L
Oil system: Peterson four-stage dry sump, custom pan
Fuel system: CPC billet fuel rail, 2400cc injectors, MagnaFuel billet regulator, Fuelab brushless fuel pumps, custom fuel cell
Cooling: Custom three-core radiator, twin Spal fans, 20AN fittings
Exhaust: Custom manifold, 5in dump pipe, 4in exhaust, Tial 60mm wastegate
Ignition: MoTeC CDI-8 ignition, MSD Pro CDI coils, MSD Race leads
Gearbox: JW-case Powerglide
Converter: Custom 6800rpm converter
Diff: Braced 9in; Romac full-floater and 35-spline axles; Strange aluminium case, full spool and 3.7:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Coil-over struts, Koni 90/10 shocks
Rear: Strange double-adjustable coil-overs, custom adjustable four-link and Panhard bar
Brakes: 14in Wilwood six-piston discs (f), Wilwood four-piston discs (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Simmons FR, 22x8 (f), 22x13 (r)
Rubber: 235/30/22 (f), 345/25/22 (r)
Alex at Birrong Automotive; Ariel at Custom Plenum Creations; Chris at Billet Motorsport; Pommy Paul at Paul’s Metal Polishing; Steve at Cools Auto Trim; Steve at Cruz Restorations; all the boys at Wild Fabrications; Chris at Performance Diff Centre; Pete at Group A Car Care; Kev & Daniel at Rocket Industries; Steve and Tony at Motortech; Yugi at Yes Smash Repairs; my bros Rodie (LUV2RN), Bob, Kev, Ilo, Zoran, Les and Alex; most importantly, my wife and kids for the constant support