This article on Stephen's HZ ute was originally published in the September 2018 issue of Street Machine
STEPHEN Molson was one of five West Aussies to make the trek to Adelaide for last year’s Street Machine Drag Challenge, and one of three to finish in the Top 10 overall – although he only just snuck in thanks to a few people falling by the wayside. “We did the Steven Bradbury, that’s what we did,” he laughs.
That’s probably making light of his HZ ute’s performance, as it’s no slouch, having run a best of 8.83 back at the Perth Motorplex, but some of the potentially quicker cars on Drag Challenge were struggling to run a good number on some of the tracks.
Steve was happy to bank any run under 9.50 and then hit the road early, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing, with Drag Challenge really living up to its name. “We got to Swan Hill on the first night and cracked a fuel tank,” Steve recalls. “Luckily, Josh Lopreiato’s team had brought along their own welder and their own boilermaker with them and we ended up TIG-welding in the car park of the hotel at midnight, with a firehose filling up the fuel cell. But that was the only mechanical problem we had.
As cool as the sidepipe is, Steve reckons he won’t be doing that again: “I learnt real quick that I’m too old for this shit,” he laughs. “I might race with the sidepipe, but never do the whole trip. It wasn’t too bad when you find the sweet spot where you can coast, but under load with a trailer it wasn’t much fun, especially on the day it was too hot to have the windows up”
“We took a little bit of boost out of it, but on the first day of racing in Adelaide it was ridiculously hot; then, by the time we got back to Adelaide on the last day it was 11 degrees and they couldn’t get any temperature in the track,” he continues. “Because we had everything wound right down, it was hitting a limit in the ECU at three-quarter track and I didn’t know what it was. We were running 10.50s and maybe a 10.1. I couldn’t get hold of Justin, my tuner from BYE Performance, so in the end I took all the limits off for one last run. Because the day was a lot cooler with much higher air density, it was making a lot more boost and the car just wanted to go.”
It’s a pretty straightforward combo: 6.0L LY6 block, SRP pistons, Eagle rods and Scat crank topped by a Holley high-rise EFI intake and 105mm throttlebody. The LS3 heads have been hand-ported by Luigi’s Head Shop, ensuring there’s no restriction for the 83mm BorgWarner turbo, which is fed through a KillaBoost T6 manifold. All up, she’s good for 950hp at the treads on 20psi and has run as quick as 8.83
There were other issues on the five-day trek, but mostly related to driving the car in pissing rain down winding country roads, which while picturesque were at times a little nerve-wracking. “There were some pretty epic country roads, single lanes with no marking, massive potholes,” Steve says. “All the logging trucks down into Portland were pretty insane with torrential rain and on front-runners. It was pretty crazy.”
It’s not exactly luxurious on the inside – or that watertight as it turns out. With DC 2017 throwing weather extremes from both ends of the thermometer, Steve thinks a few more creature comforts might be the go in the future: “You see the guys that have been hardened; they’ve done it a couple of years, they’re smart and they’ve got comfy passenger seats. I had a stereo and that was it!”
While Steve has turned out a pretty stout and reliable machine – by virtue of finishing Drag Challenge – initial plans for the ute were miles away from how it turned out. Purchased as a work ute, it already had a 350 Chev in it, but after building a turbo LS for a mate, Steve’s plans changed: “We did an LS1 with a turbo kit in a VZ ute, and it was a lot more fun than I anticipated. I’d had blown cars before and quite a few serious set-ups, but never had anything turboed. We decided it was a good thing to do.”
Of course, what was initially intended to be a fairly basic set-up soon grew into something much bigger. “It was a bog-stock LS1 with a Bullseye on it, but the Bullseye was pretty much maxed out on the LS1. That was no fun, so we went with a bigger engine, then went bigger turbo, then that turbo was too small, so we went bigger turbo again! Now that turbo’s too small again, so where do you stop? The car’s only teched for an 8.0 and it should do a mid-eight quite happily now with the power it’s got.”
While the racing is a big part of the fun during Drag Challenge, being able to cruise around with a bunch of other high-horsepower cars and not get the book thrown at you was even more fun for Steve. “I could not get my head around the difference in attitude towards modified cars over east,” he says. “We’d come into a country town at school pick-up time; there’s kids everywhere, mums everywhere – we do the right thing and idle through – and there’s a cop on the other side of the road waving at us. If that was WA they’d be putting spike strips across the road and tasering you as you got out of the car!
“The hardest thing was, at the end of each day you’re happy because you’ve made it, but then you’ve got the dread of having to drive another 600km the next day and race and hope you don’t break it, then jump in the car and do it again. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat!”
HZ HOLDEN UTE
Type: 6.0L LY6
Inlet: Holley high-rise and 105mm throttlebody
Turbo: BorgWarner 83mm
Wastegate: Precision 46mm
Blow-off valve: Turbosmart Race Port
Valves: Ferrea stainless
Crank: Scat forged
Conrods: Eagle forged
ECU: Link Thunder
’Box: Turbo 400
Converter: 4000rpm stall
Diff: 9in, Moser 31-spline, Strange 3.25 centre
Front end: Stock
Rear end: Gazzard Bros mono split-leaf, CalTracs
Shocks: Custom Engineering 90/10 (f), Afco double adjustable (r)
Brakes: Wilwood (f), VN Commodore (r)
Rims: Weld Magnum V-Series; 15x4 (f), 15x10 (r)
Rubber: M/T Sportsman S/R 26x6.00R15LT (f), M/T Radial Pro 275/60R15