ANY car with a PB of 7.24@193mph is a serious machine, but a 3590lb (1628kg) street car with steel panels, power windows and full trim is something else indeed. Andy Coles, one half of Spot On Performance & Fabrication, carries the keys to one such machine, his VL Calais known as BQQ57.
First published in Street Machine's Outlaws magazine, 2020. Photos: Mitch Hemming
“BQQ57 is my first car, which I have owned for 18 years now,” says Andy. “I get people I grew up with saying they can’t believe it’s the same car all these years later. It has seen some hard yards, this girl, and plenty of sets of tyres, that’s for sure!”
Being a fab shop, Spot On handled the rollcage, wheel tubs, trans tunnel (to suit the low ride height), tube K-frame and control arms, rear arms, panhard bar, diff bracketry, exhaust manifolds and piping, intercooler set-up and more
With such a long history behind it, the genuine Calais has gone through several evolutions before it became the seven-second streeter that Andy enjoys today. That said, going fast has always been a priority.
Watch next: Andy's 2JZ-powered VL Commodore wagon
The VL was factory blue. Tony Mounsey, Andy’s painter and brother-in-law, redid it purple 15 years ago when it had an RB30, but two years ago Andy spoke to Mick from Dip It Kustoms to mix up a custom teal. This was then laid down by Tony. “It was a big change but Mick nailed the colour from a photo off the ’net that had a filter,” says Andy
“My business partner Danny Lansdowne has been here the whole ride, starting off with the RB30 we pushed on with for years,” Andy offers. “It was making 700-800hp 10 years ago, but I got fed up with head gasket issues and always working on it.
“We put the VL away and built the YOUWONT LJ Torana, which ran 8.6@165mph with a twin-turbo LS. I raced that for a few years and got the bug for V8 torque and boost on top, so when we sold the Torana it was time to give BQQ57 a big birthday.”
“The ride height I cruise it at the street with the billets on is the height I race it at,” laughs Andy. “I make a couple of shock changes but other than that it runs the set-up I cruise it on. I love the no-prep events because, sure, we built the car to race, but running in full street trim on E85 with a full exhaust against all sorts of cars is awesome”
While Andy kicked things off with an LSX376 crate motor and a pair of 35s turbos, BQQ57 has a far more serious LS powerplant now courtesy of Danny. Based around a 427ci grout-filled Dart LS-Next block, it’s chockers with all the good fruit, including Byrant Racing billet crank, Diamond pistons, Carrillo rods, a solid-roller cam playing on Crower rockers, and a Barnes four-stage dry sump oil system.
Up top, the 7.0-litre LS wears Brodix BR7 CNC-ported heads (maintained by Topend Performance) and a custom billet intake manifold by Bliss Custom Machining that breathes through a 105mm Wilson throttlebody. It’s plumbed with 16 Siemens 2400cc injectors and AN16 fuel lines because the Calais runs E85 on the street but methanol on track. This requires a Kinsler billet mechanical fuel pump, remote mounted in the rear of the car in a Waterman mount, and cable-driven from the front of the car off the back of the dry sump pump.
Management is all Holley EFI, which Andy tunes himself. He runs EGT sensors to monitor each cylinder’s temp, while Holley Smart Coils light the fire and data is read out on a 6.8in Holley dash. The Spot On crew came up with a tailshaft-mounted speed sensor. “I don’t use traction control as I worry about the stress it places on the engine,” offers Andy
The party starters are a pair of Garrett GTX4202 turbos low-mounted on forward-facing manifolds made by Spot On, and plumbed through Turbosmart wastegates and blow-off valves, while a Spot On-fabricated water-to-air intercooler keeps a lid on charge air temps. It’s all controlled through a Holley EFI Dominator ECU, including the Holley Smart Coils, dash and EGT kit, which was wired in by Ash at WTS. Andy takes care of the tuning side of things himself.
While he has a twin 3.5in exhaust for the street, Andy switches to 4in bullhorns at the track to tame the VL’s love of standing on the bumper. “I didn’t have bullhorns on it at first and we had problems with it wheelstanding. We put the bullhorns on it and a bar adjustment and all of a sudden it doesn’t sit on the back bumper. I can see it pre-loads the front suspension on the two-step in the data logs!”
Read next: Twin-turbo 440-cube 1986 HDT VL LE Calais
“To run the times it is doing now, it’s showing around 2000rwhp,” offers Andy. “It made 1700rwhp and went 7.50s on 26psi a year ago, but I’ve been creeping up on it since then. It has gone 7.2 on 30psi but I don’t really chase the dyno figures; I like results at the track as the blacktop stops all the bullshit!
“I turn it down for the street to make 1200-1300rwhp in full street trim, on E85 and with a full exhaust, which is plenty enough for Mexico nights.”
The Spot On tube K-frame and front arms lightens up the front end of the VL by approximately 20kg and allows far more room in the nose to perform maintenance. “The tube K-frame frees up room, makes it easier to pull pan to check bearings,” says Andy
Behind the four-digit LS is a 3000hp built Powerglide built by Ben at Elite Automatics, and a PTC converter, while Spot On handled putting together a nuclear-grade nine-inch.
The third-member runs all the good gear, including a fabricated braced sheet-metal housing, 3.2:1 gears, Race Products floater, 35-spline axles, and Spot On radial bracketry, while the diff wears Wilwood rear brakes, tube panhard bar, Gazzard Brothers billet anti-roll bar, and AFCO Big Gun X radial coil-overs.
“So many sets of tyres and plenty of ‘trips to Mexico’ later, here we are with a proper street-driven car, with all-steel panels, glass windows, full factory Sandalwood Calais trim, and a 109L fuel cell,” says Andy. “This is a legit 3590lb car that runs a 1.15sec 60ft and 7.24@193mph, but I still drop my kids at school in it. All we change for track is swapping E85 to methanol, fit the parachute and bull horns, and take the billets off to put the 275 radials on.”
Those billets are polished 20x8- and 20x12-inch Showwheels hoops, wrapped in 225/35 and 345/25 rubber, while at the track Andy switches to Champion billet 15x4s on the front and Weld Alpha-1 15x12s on the back.
“This car is driven and driven hard,” laughs Andy. “I’m proud to say BQQ57 was fully built in-house at Spot On Performance with the plan to have a well-built car to showcase our work, be used for radial racing, and cruising on the street. We load up with the boys and an Esky, and head off to street meets whenever we aren’t racing the Kenda radial meets. We’ve also done trips up to Noosa, down to Byron… even to Mexico!”
While he is keen to keep pushing towards the six-second barrier, Andy’s long history with the car means he doesn’t want to cut it up to take it to the next level.
Apart from the ’moly cage, Kirky seat, TCI Outlaw shifter, and Holley 6.8in screen set back into the factory dash, the rest of the factory Sandlewood interior is largely how GM-H supplied it, radio and all!
“I know there’s more in it – it’s only on 30psi with 18-degrees of timing – but I’m right at the limit of what I can do legally,” he says. “I am not going to wreck the car by putting a 25-1 ’cage just to keep chasing a number; the car means too much to me and my kids love going in it on the street too much.”
I don’t think too many people would criticise Andy for calling it quits when his full-weight street car runs low sevens at over 190mph!
1987 HOLDEN VL CALAIS
Paint: Custom Teal
Brand: Dart LS-Next 427ci
Induction: Bliss Custom Machining billet intake, Wilson 105mm throttlebody, custom Spot On water/air intercooler
ECU: Holley EFI
Turbos: 2 x Garrett GTX4202
Heads: Brodix BR7 CNC
Crank: Bryant Racing billet
Oil system: Barnes 4-stage dry sump
Fuel system: 16 x Siemens 2400cc injectors, Kinsler billet cable-driven pump, AN16 fuel lines, Speedflow fittings
Cooling: PWR radiator
Exhaust: Spot On forward-facing manifolds, 4in bullhorns (track), twin 3.5in Spot On system (street)
Ignition: Holley EFI Smart Coils
Gearbox: Elite Automatics Powerglide
Converter: PTC USA
Diff: Race Products braced sheet-metal 9in housing, 3.2:1 gears, Race Products floater, 35-spline axles, Spot On bracketry
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Gazzard Brothers Santhuff radial coil-over struts
Rear: AFCO Big Gun X radial shocks, Spot On tube-arm kit, Gazzard Brothers anti-roll bar, Spot On tube panhard bar
Brakes: VX Commodore 2-piston discs, (f), Wilwood 11in 4-piston discs (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Street Rims: Showwheels; 20x8 (f), 20x12 (r)
Street Rubber: 225/35r20 (f), 335/30r20 (r)
Race Rims: Champion 15x4 (f), Weld Alpha-1 15x12 (r)
Race Rubber: DS2 26x4.5 (f), M/T 275 PRO (r)
My business partner Danny Lansdowne; my crew chief Bruiser; Tony Mounsey; all the boys at the shop; Marty from Performance
Wholesale; Ben from Elite Automatics; Andrew from Bliss Custom Machining; Dan from Race Products; Ash from WTS; Nick from
Topend Performance; Long at Pompanzzi Coatings; and Fussey for always keeping the car clean