IMAGINE setting out to build a car for Street Machine Drag Challenge and ending up with something good enough to be in the final three cars in the hunt for the Grand Champion sword at Summernats, almost by accident. You’ve got to hand it to Sydneysider Domenic Luci, because that’s what he’s managed to achieve with his flawless VK Commodore.
This article was first published in the July 2020 issue of Street Machine
VOTE for Dom's VK Commodore in the 2020 Valvoline Street Machine of the Year
Dom is perhaps better known for his antics in his HZ Holden skid car, LITMUP. Powered by a staunch 416ci LS-based combo, Dom’s all-motor Kingswood has mixed it with the blown brigade for years, with a best of third place in the Summernats Burnout Championship and an eighth-place finish in the Masters. It has also proved capable of a 9.7@138mph pass at Sydney Dragway. However, Dom was keen to build something a little more streetable.
“The HZ is registered and it’s a street car to an extent, but I really only ever venture 30 minutes from home in it,” Dom says. “That’s why the VK is fairly subtle and driveable; it’s a proper street car.”
Read next: Dom's VK unveiled at Summernats 33
This is true in so many respects. The Harrop 2650 FDFI-supercharged LS fits neatly beneath the HDT scoop, and while the 15x9-inch RC Comp rear wheels look tough and sport plenty of dish, tubs were not required to accommodate them or the 255/60/15 Mickey Thompson ET Street Drag Radials with which they are shod. The factory rear suspension configuration has been retained, with the addition of Koni shocks and tubular arms for adjustability and strength.
Read next: Allshow seven-second VK Commodore
Up front, there’s a super-trick Pro9 front crossmember and suspension set-up, which Dom opted for mostly to create some real estate for the sizeable 17/8-inch primary custom headers. This has also shaved a fair bit of weight off the VK, which won’t hurt when the time comes to send it down the strip.
Dom knew from his experiences with the HZ that the lads at Russo Performance could screw together a mean LS engine, so he had Justin assemble the blown 360-cuber for the VK, while Chris manned the laptop. The factory GM crankshaft remains, but it’s paired with Carrillo rods and CP pistons, all of which is topped with LS3 heads wearing titanium valves and PAC springs. The camshaft is a custom-grind hydraulic-roller milled to Russo’s specs, while the crowning glory is the aforementioned Harrop 2650 supercharger kit. A Holley Terminator X Max ECU meters out the E85.
The HDT Group A influence is obvious, but a non-standard colour makes 1INMUP different to the raft of more faithful replicas on the scene. The burgundy hue is a custom mix, and was expertly applied by Grange Smash after Dom’s mate Kresi Basanovic bashed the 35-year-old bodywork into shape
Why the blower over the turbo route favoured by many DC competitors? “To be honest, I haven’t had a supercharged car before, and I wanted one,” says Dom. “We can make enough power with the blower for what I want to do, and it’s got the sound too – that V8 note. The Russo guys use the Harrop blowers flat-out and have had a lot of good experiences with them. The response is awesome.”
Read next: Blown LS3-powered 1985 HDT VK SS Commodore
The transmission is a Turbo 400 with a TCE converter, funnelling grunt back to a nine-inch rear with a nodular iron centre and 35-spline billet axles, which will hopefully mean no roadside driveline repairs at Drag Challenge.
Oval exhaust cut-outs in the sills are a subtle yet practical touch, meaning that the system doesn’t have to be routed under or over the diff. Cleaner looks, ease of maintenance and increased ground clearance are the results
The car itself was purchased as an honest old stocker with minimal rust and factory paint, and Kresi Basanovic – aided and abetted by Dom – attacked the bodywork in Dom’s shed at home. Aside from the addition of the HDT Group A bodykit and exhaust cut-outs in the sill panels, the exterior is fairly stock-standard, but the same can’t be said of the engine bay, which features a stack of stunning fab work.
“Early Commodores aren’t the easiest engine bays to pull off,” Dom explains. “There was a lot of work involved in recessing and covering the radiator, boxing the headlights and smoothing everything out. I wanted it customised, but not to the extent that it was too full-on – just neat.”
Aside from the raft of custom fabrication work in the engine bay, there’s also some trick bolt-on gear like the strut tops from Lowe Fabrications and the rocker covers from Swiftek, which house the coils in the factory location. “I wanted the engine bay to look clean, but I didn’t want to remote-mount the coils,” says Dom. “I figure the closer they are to the engine, the better they’ll work”
The tank on the driver’s side is segmented for both water and oil, while the one on the passenger side serves as a reservoir for the water-to-air intercooler. The car has a Vintage Air air conditioning system, though you won’t find an unsightly crank-driven compressor; instead it’s an electric pump, cleverly hidden in the boot. How good is that going to be in the sweltering heat Drag Challenge is famous for?
Now, as for the paint… We love a Blue Meanie as much as anyone else, but it’s the Group A influence mixed with the inspired choice of custom metallic burgundy duco that makes Dom’s VK stand out from the pack. The paint application was handled by Kev from Grange Smash, and he clearly did a ripper job – the car made the Top 20 at Summernats 33, after all.
Tuning on the Harrop 2650-charged 360ci LS is not yet finalised, but Dom’s hoping it’ll have enough shove for eights over the quarter
Dom opted for a matching hue inside, and it looks like it could have easily been a factory VK Calais or VH SL/E trim colour. The front Recaro seats, factory rear bench and custom door cards were retrimmed by Steve at Alltrim. The six-point rollcage (with removable taxi bar and intrusion bars) was fabricated by Daniel at Metal Mavericks (who also took care of the chassis work) before being painted to blend in with its surroundings. A Momo twirler and B&M shifter deal with driver inputs, while critical information is relayed via a Holley 12.3-inch digital dash.
The fuel tank, Walbro pumps, battery and an electric compressor for the air conditioning are all concealed back here, while retaining plenty of useable boot space – an important consideration for a Drag Challenge car
After it returned from paint, Dom and his mates had just two months to get the car together, running and driving for Summernats 33. “I haven’t had cars to this calibre before, and I never set out to build a show car, just a clean streeter,” he says.
Unveiling a car at Summernats is an achievement in and of itself, and given that was the only box he set out to tick, you can imagine Dom’s surprise when his Drag Challenge rocket made the Elite Top 20 and came within a whisker of winning Grand Champion.
Comfortable, functional and classy as hell, the interior fit-out by Alltrim was completed in a delightfully era-appropriate colour. The rollcage is colour-coded and as such is not immediately obvious to the casual observer, while removable side intrusion and taxi bars make it a much more useable street car in between trips to the track
“I certainly didn’t expect it, because it was a brand new build and I’d never driven the car; it still needed a lot of sorting,” says Dom. “I set out to make it as clean as I could, and while it doesn’t look like there are a lot of modifications, a lot of thought has gone into it.
“But what I’m really looking forward to is Drag Challenge. I tried to keep it as streetable as I could while still having enough power. It’s on a 255 tyre at the moment, but if I can get it to work on a 235, we’ll have a crack at the 235 Blown class. I’m looking for high eights; that’s the aim. I just love the idea of driving and racing the car and completing the course; that’s the whole reason I built the thing!”
VOTE for Dom's VK Commodore in the 2020 Valvoline Street Machine of the Year
1985 HOLDEN VK COMMODORE
Paint: Custom metallic burgundy
Brand: 360ci LS
Induction: Harrop 2650 supercharger kit
ECU: Holley Terminator X Max ECU
Camshaft: Russo performance hydraulic-roller
Crank: Factory GM
Oil pump: High-volume
Fuel system: Walbro pumps
Cooling: SCR radiator and thermo fans
Exhaust: Custom four-into-one headers, twin 3.5in exhaust
Ignition: LS3 coils
Gearbox: Turbo 400
Diff: 9in, nodular iron centre, 35-spline billet axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Pro9 crossmember, coil-overs
Rear: Koni shocks, custom coil springs, tubular arms
Brakes: Wilwood (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: RC Comp; 17x4.5 (f), 15x9 (r)
Rubber: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street R 255/60/15 (r)
My wife Jess and my girls Savanna and Arianna for understanding my addiction for cars; my son Johnny for always helping me out and giving me his ideas; Kresi Basanovic for help with the car the whole way through; Daniel at Metal Mavericks for the chassis fab work, rollcage and exhaust; Justin at Russo Performance for putting a killer combo together for me, and Christian for the tune-up; Kon at Diff Technics; Steve at Alltrim for the awesome interior; Kev at Grange Smash for laying down the paint; my family and friends for their last-minute efforts