This article on Simon's VK Commodore was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Street Machine magazine
SLEEPERS are the happening thing right now: A massive powerplant lurking beneath the veneer of a factory, potentially patina-covered body, usually rounded off with hubcapped stockies, venetians and a nanna rug for effect. Yet in a break from tradition, Simon Murran may have built the ultimate sleeper; a 1980s-spec VK Commodore police car with LS power up front!
“Hardly anyone builds ex-cop cars,” Simon says of the unusual concept for his VK. “And I’d always fancied the yellow ex-police cars after owning one 20 years ago.”
Not that Simon jumped to the full-blown, face-smacking livery straight off the bat; instead, he started with a more traditional approach.
“I bought the VK SL BT1 as a rolling body from eBay five years ago; it’s plated with a six-cylinder and a Trimatic, not the usual V8, so it must’ve been a special order,” he explains. “But overall it was in bad shape; it was missing the motor and brakes, the suspension was shit and the interior was wrong – really nothing on it was right! I only jumped on it as it was cheap.”
For Simon, it was an emotional rather than level-headed, budget-conscious purchase, a bid to relive his youth.
“When I do go for a cruise, people either sit behind me like I’m a real cop, or they just act like dickheads,” Simon tells us. “I had a mate following me in it and he reckons it was comical; we were on the highway and once people drove up past him and saw the VK, they’d slow straight down! I do get a lot of thumbs-up and people taking photos, though”
“I regretted getting rid of my first VK and I thought it’d be good to go back to my early years, to do one up as a weekender and cherish it,” he says.
First up, Ringwood Body Works got the nod to revive the 30-year-old sheet metal.
The VK has a special rego status that lets current police officers know that it’s a recognised historic car, not someone pulling a dodgy. On top is a genuine Victoria Police rack complete with working lights and sirens
“The body was rough,” says Simon, “especially the engine bay, as the battery tray had been chiselled out. There was also the usual rust, a pop-up sunroof to fill in, and an old LPG filler hole covered over with only bog and tape!”
More historical goodies are packed in the boot, including witches hats, first-aid kits, a gear bag, an RBT sign and police raincoats
With that nightmare sorted, Stylerod Panels then laid down Simon’s beloved Absynth Yellow on the panels. From here it went to MKAL Automotive to make it a turn-key cruiser. “They pretty much built the car,” Simon says.
MKAL’s tasks included bolting an LS1 between the towers.
“The LS is a good thing; people pull up next to it expecting a shitty old 5.0L and get a surprise when I keep up,” says Simon. Could you imagine LS-powered cop cars in 1985? It’d be like they had super powers; car chases would’ve been over in 1320ft!
“I didn’t return it to original, as I figured, who builds a 202ci black motor these days? The 245rwkW (329hp) LS is modern, reliable and won’t break down,” says Simon.
Behind the LS, a T700 transmission with 2500rpm stally feeds back to a trusty and size-appropriate VL BorgWarner third member.
The suspension received the overhaul it was begging for, and then braking was reintroduced thanks to a VS master cylinder, 330mm rotors and twin-piston calipers all ’round. Nine months later, MKAL birthed a sanitary and engineered VK, giving the once parted-out ride a new lease on life. Simon promptly hit the streets in his tidy new toy in a bid to relive the 90s.
“I built it as a cruiser, but was I bored after a year or two so I figured I’d go a different avenue,” he says. Here’s where the character of the car was whipped a full 180 degrees. “I thought about building a Blue Meanie replica, but there’s a lot of them around now; what you don’t see are BT1s being restored back into police cars.”
In detail: The UHF, VHF and CB are all genuine ex-police units; the passenger visor sticker explains how to operate the UHF; on the driver’s visor is the service schedule - Simon has had each sticker reproduced from old photos. The sticker on the glovebox lists the UHF police radio channels and that's a working Falcon radar gun on the passenger seat
The amount of old police gear Simon was able to subsequently get hold of is impressive.
“I started looking for the equipment on eBay and on specific Facebook groups, such as the Police Car Owners Australia,” he explains. Hooking up with fellow owners, as well as those who originally fanged about in these cars, helped guarantee the authenticity of the build.
And you can’t have a cop car without massive reflective stickers set to blind you from every direction. Simon sourced the era-specific regalia through the Victoria Police Historical Society, with the application handled by a bloke who bonds the stuff to cop cars as his daily trade.
Next, Simon and a mate swapped out the big brakes in favour of the original VK discs to fit the police-spec 14x7 stock rims. Inside, he reintroduced the cloth and brown vinyl goodness from 1985 and then filled it to the brim with authentic patrol gear, including a working radar gun and defect notices!
“I’ve not handed a defect notice to my mates as yet, but the thought has always been there!” Simon laughs.
As you might have guessed, Simon can’t just drive his cop car around willy-nilly.
Simon has racked up 01331.3 on the odometer since having the speedo recalibrated to suit the ECU
“To take it out, I need to first notify the Victoria Police Historical Society. Then, I have to cover the blue lenses and run Historical Vehicle banners on the front and rear windscreens,” he says. “Mostly it goes to police events, though it’s just been in a music video clip for The Amity Affliction.
“It’s great to take it on special outings, such as helping kids with cancer. I dress up in the old uniform and get to turn on the lights and sirens; the kids love that and I get a bit of a kick out of it too.
TOG (Traffic Operations Group) box, full of books and reference materials used at the time. “I hit a gold mine with that,” says Simon. “An ex-cop saw my XTOGVK Facebook page and supplied me with one of the radios, the TOG box and all of the paperwork from 1985”
“It’s pretty cool driving it; I get to imagine what it was like to be an officer 30 years ago. Who would’ve thought that an old police car would become an iconic vehicle?”
1985 VK COMMODORE
Paint: Absynth Yellow
Donk: 5.7L LS1
Cooling: Alloy radiator, twin 12in thermos
Exhaust: Pacemaker extractors, high-flow cats, single 2½in Hurricane system
Power: 245rwkW (329hp)
Converter: Road Blaster 2500rpm stall
Diff: VL Turbo / V8 BorgWarner, 3.45:1 gears, 28-spline axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front and rear suspension: King SL springs, Monroe GT shocks
Brakes: VK disc (f & r)
Master cylinder: VS Commodore
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Factory cop steelies 14x7 (f & r)
Rubber: Bridgestone; 205/70/14 (f), 205/65/14 (r)