LUKE Bailey can be assured he won’t turn up to a car show and find another black VE ute that is anything like his car, BELTFD. In spite of heavy-handed legislation, the NSW-based street machiner managed to kit out his ute with custom widebody guards, sills and bumpers; fully trimmed interior and tray; airbagged suspension; and a supercharged Alloytec under the bonnet.
Of course, it didn’t start like that.
This article was first published in Street Machine Commodores issue #1, 2018
“I had an old slammed ’63 VW Beetle, but I wanted to do a stretched Ford Ranger,” Luke explains. “So I sold the VW to buy a new Ranger so I could get it stretched, and that is how I met Brad from Ultimate Metalworks, who would end up working on my VE.
“At the time I was on my green P-plates and had the VE as a work ute and daily driver. I bought a stereo for it, which didn’t fit, and then decided to do the trim. Once I had it trimmed I took it to Summernats and saw everyone had big Simmons wheels. I wanted a set and ended up buying the 22x12in rears and had to work out how to fit them.”
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Living 600km away from where his car was being built presented Luke with some logistical challenges during the build. “Todd and Michelle from Eastside Kustoms and Brad at Ultimate Metalworks let me crash at their places when I’d come down to visit,” he says. “Todd, Justin and Brad all did 18 hour-plus days to get the ute ready for MotorEx”
While older street machiners who remember the early-80s pro street era would traditionally go inwards to fit steamroller rubber, Luke has mates into Japanese cars, where they push outwards. However, that wasn’t as simple as just riveting on some old Torana fibreglass flares he found behind the shed.
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“I had seen the Zen Garage VE Maloo, which had metal widebody front guards, and I saw Queen Street Customs had done a red VF, but they left the fuel filler inset to the original bodyline and scalloped out around it. I spoke to the metal-worker at Brad’s shop and explained my original vision was to make it look how I feel the factory or HSV should have done a widebody.
“The rear guards now look like they were always there as a factory part, and everything flows nicely. A lot of people think it’s tubbed, as the side panels have been stretched 50mm forward of the tail-lights, so it doesn’t stand out like other Japanese-style bodykits that just sit over the wheelarch itself.”
Getting those lines spot-on was a lot of work, but it would’ve all been wasted had Luke left the ute on stock springs. Thankfully he got the attitude dialled to 11 with Pedders eXtreme XA coil-overs up front, with an airbag suspension kit from TSS in the rear, along with lower control arm bushes to prevent binding.
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This work wasn’t easy to get done, however, as Luke doesn’t live anywhere near Sydney and would travel down each fortnight to help work on his car. He got to know Brad and the boys at Ultimate Metalworks, as well as Justin from Obsession Paint & Bodyworks, well enough to go cruising in the city in Brad’s ’64 Impala on hydraulics. Once Brad was done, Justin was also chosen as the man to shoot the ute in a fresh new hue, once he’d spent dozens of hours gapping the panels and ensuring all the bodylines were sharp.
While its load-carrying days are over, the tray hasn’t been wasted, with Luke kitting it out with a killer stereo. Rockford Fosgate subs, speakers and amplifiers have all taken up residence in custom enclosures, providing sweet cruising tunes
“I had a couple of choices for paint,” says Luke. “I was looking at Jaguar Black Cherry, or Ferrari dark grey, but then I spoke to Justin and mentioned I love the black-on-black look. We went for DeBeer Super Jet Black, which doesn’t have any metallic. I reckon the 10 minutes the car looks clean is worth it for the finish black gives you!”
There’s a serious set of stoppers up front. UK-made AP Racing four-piston calipers fill the Simmons FR 22x9.5 five-spokes, with the caliper housings custom-coated in copper-coloured paint
A major point of difference with BELTFD is the cylinder count under the bonnet. While plenty of young blokes are bashing around in V6 Commodore utes, bugger-all are spending time and money pulling decent power from them like Luke has with his Alloytec! On top of the V3 blower hanging off the side of the V6, there is also a quartet of custom-ground billet camshafts by JW Racing.
The engine bay is as blacked-out as the ute’s exterior, with the custom pipework for the Vortech V3’s front-mounted air-to-air intercooler all going dark, along with the intake manifold. Luke plans to change the pulleys to increase boost from 9psi and push for 500hp
“The supercharger happened as I met a bloke who was going to buy a Ranger, which he was going to do up, and so was selling a supercharger kit for a VE. The kit came with the piping and intercooler, but the piping was pretty messy. A mate of mine deleted a lot of the silicon joiners and welded metal sections into it so it flows better.
“At the moment the blower is running 9psi on 98RON premium unleaded. I don’t run it on E85 yet, although the plan is to retune it on 13psi on E85 with a smaller pulley. However, the closest E85 to us is four hours away! While I have an HSV GTS fuel pump, these Alloytec V6s are a direct-injection motor, so you don’t need to play with the fuel system, really.
“When I did the Vortech I wasn’t looking for massive horsepower, but now I’ve got the bug. I’ve heard these engines are capable of 500hp with the stock pump, so that’s what I’ll go for.”
While Luke has done a few shows, including MotorEx 2017 in Sydney, the tyranny of distance means BELTFD is spending more time cruising than trophy-hunting.
Both cabin and tray are coated in Scottish Nappa brown leather and biscuit-coloured suede in a killer job by Todd from Eastside Kustoms. German brown loop carpet replaces the Holden stuff, while the seats use HSV foams that have been re-wrapped
“I take it out on weekends, and around town,” Luke says. “I wanted to enjoy it, especially after it sitting around in shops for the best part of a year – I wanted to use it, but still keep it tidy for the shows we did.
“I can appreciate any type of car. I do like Holdens, but I really just like nice clean street cars. The ute was never really planned this way, it just happened. I have actually bought a Ranger, but now I tow the ute with it,” he laughs. “I haven’t stretched it – yet!”
Hopefully Luke builds something as different, interesting and cool as his VE if he does decide to take spanners to his Ranger!
VE COMMODORE UTE
Paint: DeBeer Super Jet Black
Type: Alloytec 3.6L V6
Blower: Vortech V3
Cams: Custom billet JW Racing
Fuel system: VE HSV GTS pump
Exhaust: 2.5in XForce centre section, 100-cell cats, 3in dump pipes
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Clutch: Xtreme ceramic button
Diff: Factory IRS with LSD
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Pedders eXtreme XA coil-overs
Rear: TSS shocks, TSS Fast airbag kit
Front end: TSS lower control arm bushes
Brakes: AP Racing four-piston calipers (f), OEM discs (r)
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheels: Simmons FR; 22x9.5 (f), 22x12 (r)
Tyres: Winrun 245/30 (f), Lionhart 335/35 (r)
Todd & Michelle at Eastside Kustoms; Brad at Ultimate Metalworks; Justin at Obsession Paint & Bodyworks; Tubby for the brakes and stereo gear; Gary and Bel for the trailer; Sam at Simmons Wheels; Clint for the tuning; Steve and Spud; my family for all their support