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Nine-second 1987 Holden VL Commodore SL sleeper

By Iain Kelly | Photos: Steve Kelly, 05 Jul 2018 Features

Holden VL Commodore

Don't be fooled by Nathan Dyson's sedate-looking VL Commodore SL - boosted by a Gen II GTX3582 Garrett turbo, it's done a 9.87@141mph

WHILE the VL Commodore is as Aussie as Hawkey slugging schooners at the cricket, the fact a Nissan 3.0-litre single-cam inline-six propelled them was controversial for many back in the day. However, over the past 30 years many have grown to love the insane power that can be extracted from these Japanese donks, while keeping everything under the bonnet and retaining good street manners.

Holden VL Commodore frontOne such punter is Queenslander Nathan Dyson, who carries the keys to this sedate-looking VL Commodore SL. Don’t be fooled, though, as the Ice Blue machine has gone as quick as 9.87@141mph!

Related: Blown LS-powered 1983 Volvo 240GL sleeper

“I had an R31 drift car that had a ’cage and was pretty quick, but I decided I wanted to go fast,” says Nathan. “I started with a dead stock base model VL, which I found on Facebook for $3000. It was completely grandpa-spec and only had 98,000km on it. Someone had attempted to respray it at some point, but apart from that it really hadn’t been touched.

Holden VL Commodore engine bay“I took the engine from my drift car and then bought the transmission and diff from a crashed VL Turbo to put in it. It’s a pretty simple combo, but it works.”

Related: RB30 turbo-powered VL Calais on the dyno

The single-cam RB30ET runs a stock crank but has been fitted with Spool rods and CP slugs, while the head copped over-size valves and a JW Automotive cam to help the breathing. The forward-facing plenum is a Rajab unit, sucking up to 35psi boost from a Gen II Garrett GTX3582 snail through the 100mm-thick front-mounted air-to-air intercooler, with a Turbosmart 45mm external gate helping to control boost.

Holden VL Commodore engine bay“We welded it to the exhaust housing to try and help control boost,” explains Nathan. “I used to have a Gen I GTX3582 turbo but I upgraded when I fitted the new cam and cylinder head.”

Related: LS1-powered 1966 Chevy II Nova sleeper

The VL drinks horsepower-friendly E85 corn syrup, supplied by two Walbro 460 pumps in the boot-mounted surge tank, while 1000cc ID1000 injectors living in the BPP fuel rail get it into the 3.0-litre six up front. It’s burned by six LS1 coil packs, as the stock dizzy has been deleted, and is now used as a timing sync for the Haltech Platinum Sport 2000 ECU.

Holden VL Commodore boot“In the VL, the combo made 510rwhp, but it made 580hp in my drift car as that used a manual gearbox, so the 3800rpm Dominator convertor is costing us a little bit,” offers Nathan.

While many would expect to see a Turbo 400, Jatco or perhaps a Powerglide trans behind such a stout RB30, Nathan’s VL rocks a three-speed Trimatic!

“It had been rebuilt by the guy I got it off, but it definitely surprises a few people,” he says. “I can’t believe I ran 9.87@141mph with a Trimatic, off the footbrake, and with only 5psi off the line!”

Holden VL Commodore interior frontBehind the tortured ‘Traumatic’ is a VL Turbo BorgWarner diff running stock 28-spline axles, although both the ’box and diff are likely to cop some attention as Nathan looks to step up the combo to chase eight-second slips.

“I don’t want to tub it, but I’d like to shorten the diff and put billet 31-spline axles in it, as that will let me run a 255 M/T tyres out the back all the time. Hopefully I’ll rebuild the motor in a couple of months and put a two-speed ’Glide in it, then go towards the eights... and I’d love to put a 3.2-litre Nitto bottom-end in it!”

Holden VL Commodore dashHe might also need to upgrade his number plates from 747 to SR71!

NATHAN DYSON
HOLDEN VL COMMODORE

Colour: Ice Blue

ENGINE
Type: Nissan RB30ET
Capacity: 3.0L
Turbo: Garrett GTX3582 Gen II
Manifold: Rajab
Crank: Stock
Rods: Spool
Pistons: CP
Cam: JW Automotive
Fuel system: 2 x Walbro 460 pumps, ID1000 injectors, BPP fuel rail
ECU: Haltech PS2000

Transmission
Gearbox: Trimatic
Convertor: 3800rpm Dominator
Diff: VL Turbo BorgWarner, 28-spline axles

SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Suspension: Lowered King springs (f & r)
Brakes: VT Commodore twin-pot (f), VL Turbo discs (r)

WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: VL Calais alloy 15x6in
Rubber: 205/65