This article on John Hondrakis's VE Commodore was originally published in issue #7 of Street Machine's LSX Tuner magazine, 2018
EVERYBODY wants to be the quickest or the fastest, particularly if it is over a standing 400 metres. When it comes to the list of the most rapid street-registered cars to go down a drag strip, the competition to get to the top is lava-hot, and for VE Commodore owners, there’s a new king of the hill.
While it divided opinion when it was launched, the VE Special Edition’s more angular front from the Pontiac G8 GXP was a winner for John. “I have had the car since new,” he says. “I chose the G8 Special Edition over the standard VE SS because I liked the Pontiac front on it, as it just seemed like something different”
Melbourne’s C&A Auto Fashion built this mild-looking turbo LSX 427-powered VE SS to chase down the title of quickest street-going VE Commodore in Australia, though it all started so much more innocently back when the Phantom Black sedan was new.
Watch the video: John's VE Commodore SS runs eights
Owner John is massively happy with how G8PSI has turned out. “Con and Andrew built the car completely in-house and were great at keeping me up to date with everything,” he says. “When I first started the build I had a goal in mind to be the quickest street-driven VE in Australia, and the C&A team delivered that for me”
“John Hondrakis, the owner, bought the car new and I think it started off with us getting an exhaust, intake and tune,” remembers Con Orphanides, the C in C&A. “John then came back to improve the heads and cam, then a supercharger went on, and then that was replaced with a turbo.
“He just loves that car and keeps developing it. The car was always modified with us through the time he’s had it, which is also a nice thing. It was probably a bit over a year ago that John came to us with the goal of being the quickest street VE Commodore.”
Getting that title meant G8PSI would have to surpass the 8.77 seconds that Matt Whiting achieved in his white TMS-built VE ute. Con and his brother Andrew kicked their engine build off with some heavy metal, in the form of a 427-cube LSX block, jam-packed with a Callies DragonSlayer crankshaft, billet Oliver conrods and Diamond pistons.
“The compression ratio in the motor spools this turbo amazingly fast,” Con explains. “It’s set up at a healthy compression point to help get the turbo spooling fast, which helps get it out of the hole. It’s a recipe we put together through our R&D, and has been set up to suit this combo.”
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The bottom end also copped Morel solid lifters and a custom-ground solid lifter-spec Comp Cams bumpstick. Up top are LS7 square-port six-bolt cylinder heads, bridged by a GM Performance LS7 single-plane intake and elbow, with a billet 102mm Yella Terra throttle mounted to the front.
“This was changed after issues with the old GM throttle,” Con says. We approached Yella Terra to develop a throttlebody for a serious-horsepower motor like John’s. After logging the issue on the dyno, we found a huge improvement straight away with the new Yella Terra item.”
Con and Andrew also built their own complete stainless-steel exhaust system, including the manifold, from which they hung the gigantic Garrett GTX55 snail. The pipework was then ceramic-coated by Andrew at Competition Coatings for better thermal efficiency.
C&A reflashed the standard GM E38 ECU to control all the parameters they needed, including the two Holley Dominator billet fuel pumps and eight 2000cc injectors. All up, the combo touched 1100hp at the treads, which was enough to run 8.5@170mph at Calder Park in late March this year, making it not only the quickest but also the fastest VE street car in Oz.
“We dyno-tested the car at around 20psi and it made 1065hp,” says Con. “But we aren’t shy to go to 24-25psi. We have a milder street tune for the car, and we have a harder track tune for it. It’s on E85 full-time at the moment, although I wouldn’t mind putting different fuel in it later on.”
While late-model Commodores have pretty darn good stoppers from the factory, the different drivetrain and wheel-and-tyre combo necessitated a change to Wilwood brakes – and a parachute on the rear for trips to Calder. John normally runs the car with Simmons FR 20in wheels on the front and 15x8.5in Convo Pros out back
The stock transmission and drivetrain would never have handled this level of power or grip, so it should be no surprise C&A has been busy under the floorboards. A three-speed TH400 auto has gone in with a TCE 3500rpm converter, while the IRS set-up was tossed in favour of a Pro9 four-link, AFCO coil-over shocks and a sheet-metal nine-inch.
“We went to the TH400, replacing the stock six-speed manual, and did the nine-inch set-up when we fitted this new motor,” Con explains. “The only thing that was bought externally was the clip for the rear, which we fitted.”
Inside, the Commodore is deceptively mild, with only an upgraded driver’s seat, B&M shifter and a six-point ’cage to give away that this is no stock 13sec VE
Amazingly, despite plenty of much tamer engines having start-up dramas, none of these issues cropped up for John’s G8.
“This build came together quite quickly,” Con says. “We have a lot of experience and knowledge in the background, which helped when we were planning and putting the car together.
“It literally was first fire-up and it sounded healthy-as. Its first full pass it went 8.90 on 18psi, then we got to 8.70 on 18psi, launching on 3-4psi. The fourth run we launched at 6psi and went 8.50. With some suspension tuning to get it tucking to the ground and launching harder, and a bit more boost, it’ll go stupidly fast.”
Given the huge mile-per-hour trap speed, hopefully we’ll see it only progress from here.
2009 HOLDEN VE COMMODORE SS
Paint: Phantom Black
Brand: Chevrolet Performance LSX
Turbo: Garrett GTX55
ECU: Standard GM E38
Crank: Callies DragonSlayer
Rods: Oliver billet
Heads: LS7 square-port
Cam: Comp custom solid-roller
Intake: GM Performance single-plane and elbow, 102mm Yella Terra billet throttlebody
Fuel system: Two Holley Dominator billet fuel pumps, 2000cc injectors
Exhaust: Custom C&A turbo system
Gearbox: GM three-speed TH400
Converter: TCE 3500rpm
Diff: Sheet-metal 9in
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Rear: AFCO coil-over struts
Chassis: Solid rear-axle, four-link
Brakes: Standard two-piston (f), Wilwood discs (r)
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Simmons FR20; 20x8.5 (f), 15x8.5 (r)
Rubber: 245/30 (f), Mickey Thompson 275X (r)