This article on Anthony Dooley's VK Commodore was originally published in issue #6 of Street Machine's LSX Tuner magazine, 2017
THE VK Commodore was always a good-looking rig, but when equipped with an HDT bodykit and covered in Asteroid Silver it becomes a downright sexy piece of gear. While we’re used to seeing plenty of replica HDT Commodores with wild engine combos, Anthony Dooley’s is a genuine SS – the base-model HDT VK in ’85.
“I always loved early-model Commodores and everyone loves a VK – even Ford guys,” Anthony says. “I had sold my VH Commodore, TUFVH, and got good money for it, and my mate Shane Ross from MONSTR had this car. It was less than half done and he had too many projects on the go; I was in the right place at the right time and got it.”
Anthony’s mental SS wears a Group A front bumper, though the slimline lip spoiler and decals down the side are just as Bertie Street would have delivered it back when Barnsey was shouting about working class men. It has all been coated in Asteroid Silver by Ronnie Tarabay, which was one of two colours available on the SS model.
It’s one thing to build a car with massive power, or a finely detailed show car, but to wrap a mega-powered drivetrain into a show-quality shell is quite another. It takes a huge amount of thought and planning to package components like the wiring, exhaust, and fuel system. Anthony’s VK masters these nuances for an amazing finished product
The 6.2-litre LS3 fitted up front copped a host of upgrades, including a Scat crank and JE pistons, so it now swings 408ci and 9:1 compression, and it has been mounted on a K-frame from a later VS Commodore to make it easier to fit in the first-generation chassis. Even though they’re capable of flowing over huge air in factory-spec, the LS3 heads have been ported and equipped with dual valve springs to handle the 12psi that the 8/71 Blower Shop pump rams down their throats.
Forgiato wheels aren’t common in Australia, but the custom-made American hoops have a big market Stateside. The three-piece Martellatos fitted to the VK span 20x8in up front and 22x10in out back, wearing Pirelli 235/30 and 345/25 rubber respectively
You might be surprised to learn there aren’t a hundred off-the-shelf options to bolt a traditional GM-style supercharger onto an LS engine, and Anthony’s inlet manifold was made by Shaun’s Custom Alloy to bridge the gap between the rectangle-port LS3 heads and the old-school supercharger. Three Bosch 023 pumps fuel the monster, sucking out of a custom 60-litre fuel cell in the boot, and fired by 16 1000cc injectors sitting at the motor. A MoTeC M800 and CDI and a Bosch coil handle the ignition and running of the engine.
The rear-end of the VK features a lot less real estate than when it rolled off the line in '85 thanks to those mini-tubs needed for the huge 22x10-inch rear wheels. Boxed control arms and Koni shocks mount to the narrowed Ford nine-inch diff, filled with all the good gear like 35-spline axles, Truetrac centre and 3.5 gears. Wilwood discs have been employed to stop the Commodore
It’s a serious set-up, so it should come as no surprise that it stomped out 800hp on the engine dyno when it was still being run in! Still, Anthony reckons it’s the tractive effort the engine is making that’s the real story.
Anthony had the boot trimmed around the custom 60L fuel cell, but kept it factory-looking with the same style of blue vinyl used in the cabin of the HDT VKs. The battery lives under the hatch on the left
“The torque of this motor is just insane,” he says. “Mates have Commodores that were doing turbos, but that whine and the look of the blown car coming down the street is just awesome. I love tough cars. When I first built the car the torque was so much it cracked the strut towers, so we reinforced it.”
With the shaved and smoothed silver bay and everything on the engine blacked out, the blown Gen IV looks massive. Anthony hit the Lowe Fabrications catalogue for many of their billet parts, including strut tops, oil cap, plenum cover, and headlight covers
One of the attractions for going an old-school supercharger is the snap-crackle-pop, near-instantaneous power delivery you have on tap. This would play havoc with any standard transmission, so it’s a good thing Anthony’s VK rocks a fully manualised Turbo 400 three-speed auto, along with a TCE converter, and a custom tailshaft that won’t twist into shrapnel the first time he gets froggy with the accelerator.
Twin 1000cc injectors-per-cylinder were fitted to provide headroom for E85 fuel, but Anthony is happy using regular pump gas. “It has a flex fuel sensor, though I run petrol most times now. It only picked up around 60hp on E85 and the torque is so much from this set-up I am happy to just use normal fuel.”
Down the back the Borgy is long gone, replaced by an OC Motorsports-built Ford nine-inch wearing street-friendly 3.5 gears, plus a Truetrac limited-slip centre. Overkill Customs took a torch to the back end of the VK, stretching the stock wheel tubs to the factory chassis rails, reinforcing the stock control arms and fitting a custom Panhard bar, and adding adjustable upper arms to achieve the perfect pinion angle on the diff. King Springs coils and adjustable Koni dampers sort the suspension, while the stock rubber bushes were replaced with stiffer Nolathane items to resist twisting when the blown 408 is tickled.
“I built it to be a street car, which is why we set the suspension up that way and went with 3.55s in the rear end; I can sit on 120km/h and it’s cruising,” Anthony says. “I drove it out to Powercruise and drove home, and people told me I can’t drive it, but I had it fully engineered.”
A VK interior is about as good as we got in the 80s and Anthony wisely kept it mostly HDT-fresh, though we doubt the Bertie Street boys ever had a B&M Stealth Pro Ratchet shifter!
A serious set of Wilwood disc brakes handle stopping, with six-piston calipers up front and four-piston units out back, all operated by one of Wilwood’s master cylinders and pedal boxes to keep it compact. They’re barely covered by huge Forgiato Martellato three-piece wheels from America, running 20x8 on the turning end and 22x10 on the burning end.
One of the most famous VK Commodore advances was the digital dash, and Anthony’s had a nod to that legend with his digital aftermarket gauges in the stock dash housing. “I’ve set it up so I can undo one plug and put the original gauges back in,” he says
Anthony is keen to rack up miles under the car now, with plans to enjoy the hard work. “There is a lot of money and hard work in the car, but it just drives so well,” he says.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
EVERYONE knows about the VK SS Group A, the infamous Blue Meanie, and Holden fans can tell you about the earlier Group Three. But did you know HDT’s VK range actually had eight different models?
Offered before the launch of the main VK HDT range, the crew built 120 LM5000 models based on the VK SL Commodore to celebrate Brock racing at the Le Mans 24-hour in a Porsche 956. Using a mix of VH and VK parts, the LM5000s had Irmscher wheels, Group Three 308ci drivetrains and even an optional five-speed T5 manual, and could be had in Alpine White or Asteroid Silver. The LM5000 pack was a $4350 option on top of the base $11,150 for an SL-spec VK.
The SS model kicked the main VK HDT range off. It used the Group Three’s 177kW 308ci mechanical package, with the four-speed M21 manual and 3.08 gears, and included Scheel seats, MOMO steering wheel and subtle bodykit. The SS scored side stripe decals not featured on any other HDT VK models, and could be ordered in white or silver like the LM5000 and Group Three.
Most of the 200 Group Threes built came in Alpine White, and they sat at the top of the HDT tree until the later launch of the Blue Meanie. They had an optional five-speed manual and air conditioning that pushed the ticket price up to $28,520, or $9655 more than a base-model SS.
Interestingly, there were also 50 cars dubbed the 'SL Group A' built off the base-model Commodore and not related to the later Group A homologation car. Available in Venetian Red, Walton’s Blue, Asteroid Silver and Alpine White, they featured 177kW 308ci engines, four-speed M21 and 3.08 rear gears, just like a Group Three.
The VK SS Group A proper remains one of Australia’s greatest factory racers and a true muscle car, with the 196kW 304ci Holden V8 featuring a special Crane cam, roller rockers and even a different, reinforced engine block. There were 502 built, with a very different feel to the far more luxurious Group Three and Calais-based Director.
Finally, there were 48 Group A/3 models built, based on the mid-spec Berlina and using the fuller Group Three interior and bodykit, but with the SS Group A’s 196kW engine. These cars are exceptionally sought-after today, as the rarest and highest-spec VK HDT cars sold.
1985 HOLDEN VK COMMODORE
Paint: Asteroid Silver
Type: GM Gen IV LS3 6.2L
Pistons: JE 9:1
Intake: Shaun’s Custom Alloy
Blower: Blower Shop 8/71
ECU: MoTeC M800
Injectors: 16 x 1000cc
Gearbox: TH400, manualised
Diff: 9in, 35-spline axles, Truetrac, 3.5 final drive
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: King springs, Koni shocks (f & r)
Front end: VS Commodore K-frame, adjustable upper control arms, notched and braced rear arms, mini-tubbed rear
Brakes: Wilwood six-piston (f), Wilwood four-piston (r)
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheels: Forgiato Martellato; 20x8 (f), 22x10 (r)
Tyres: Pirelli; 235/30 (f), 345/25 (r)
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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