Not that you’d know it now, but, back a bit — more than a decade ago, in fact — Dale Wil­liams was a ro­tary fan. Ac­tu­ally, he was more than just a fan; his cars were well known the length and breadth of the coun­try, both for the abuse they re­ceived on the burnout pad and the awards they won in the show hall. At any given stage, Dale’s over­pow­ered RX 323 could only ever be found with melted rub­ber drip­ping off the back of it, and his candy-coated RX-3 was al­ways pol­ished to per­fec­tion. How­ever, that all changed when Dale moved his at­ten­tion back to the race­track. It turned out that, thanks to his years of kart­ing as a kid, he wasn’t a half-bad ped­aller, ei­ther, work­ing his way through open wheels and into pro­duc­tion-class rac­ing be­fore step­ping his rac­ing up a gear to the NZV8s, in which he cam­paigned a Fal­con. But that all came to a sud­den end at the Hamilton street race, when a ma­jor ac­ci­dent left Dale with a lit­tle less rac­ing ‘mo­tor­va­tion’. Although Dale stepped aside from cars for a few years, there was still petrol run­ning through his veins and a de­sire to own, once again, some­thing in which he could have a bit of fun. That fun came in the form of a VK Com­modore, pur­chased with a 308 and Cel­ica five-speed. It wasn’t long be­fore Dale was up to his old an­tics and hav­ing a blast do­ing it. As a panel beater by trade, look­ing at the lessthan-per­fect fin­ish on the car started to ag­i­tate Dale. So, just a few months into his own­er­ship, the VK had its panels mas­saged to per­fec­tion. While the panel side was done at home, it was good friend and PPG em­ployee Luke Cos­ford who was given the task of spray­ing the car, us­ing a spray booth bor­rowed from Austin Au­to­body. With Dale hav­ing grown up in the 1980s watch­ing Bathurst and the like, there was only ever one colour the car would be and that’s the fa­mil­iar — to VK fans, at least — For­mula Blue. For­tu­nately for the bud­get, when Dale pur­chased the car, it had al­ready been equipped with an SS bodykit, al­beit badly fit­ted. The fin­ish­ing touch to the paint job was a set of Brock graph­ics, cre­ated by sign­writer friend Clint at Head­case De­signs. Any Com­modore lover will know that when you’ve got a For­mula Blue VK, there’s only one wheel choice and that’s a set of three-piece gold Sim­mons FRs. How­ever, for Dale at the time, the price was far too high, so he tried out a few other op­tions. While they worked OK, they weren’t the ul­ti­mate, so when lo­cal Sim­mons Wheels sup­plier Heads Rac­ing Sup­plies an­nounced that it could of­fer a bud­get-friendly, one-piece op­tion, Dale couldn’t get to lo­cal tyre re­tailer Cooper Tyres quickly enough. Mea­sur­ing in at 20x8.5 and 20x9.5 inches, and wrapped in 225/35R20 and 245/30R20 tyres, the


size of the wheels meant the rear guards needed to be pumped to ac­com­mo­date them. Ob­vi­ously, with the car re­cently painted, this was a daunt­ing task. How­ever, with his years of ex­pe­ri­ence and plenty of pa­tience, Dale man­aged it suc­cess­fully. What made the task harder was Dale’s com­mit­ment to a proper ride height — and, by ‘proper’, we mean slammed. This stance was achieved thanks to Iain Wil­son at Au­tolign, who came up with the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of Bil­stein shocks and Dobi springs to com­ple­ment the pre­vi­ously fit­ted White­line sway bars and ad­justable Pan­hard rod. Dale, his wife Wendy, and son Troy cruised around with the car in this state for a few years, get­ting out and about in it al­most ev­ery week­end, turn­ing heads wher­ever they went. Dale wasn’t afraid to drive it hard, go­ing so far as en­ter­ing it in grasskhanas and par­tak­ing in the odd garage skid. Of course, the near-stock 308 soon be­came a bit of a bore, so the fam­ily started to look for al­ter­na­tives. Want­ing to keep ev­ery­thing un­der the hood, the thought of an LS en­gine be­gan to ap­peal more and more, es­pe­cially when com­bined with a tur­bocharger or two. That po­ten­tial to add boost eas­ily in the fu­ture was all Dale needed to make the de­ci­sion, and, be­fore long, the old run­ning gear

was be­ing hauled out and a VX SS–sourced LS1 dropped off to ProTune Au­to­mo­tive. Rather than just in­stalling the stock en­gine, the ProTune team was com­mis­sioned to add a Kelford cam, heavy­duty valve springs, and the parts needed to make it all work. Mean­while, a set of off-the-shelf LS1-VK head­ers was or­dered and dropped to HPC for coat­ing, and a Road­run­ner cus­tom starter mo­tor was or­dered. How­ever, as more peo­ple are learn­ing, the con­ver­sion isn’t quite as sim­ple as it first ap­pears, with the starter mo­tor be­ing on the wrong side and the VK power-steer­ing rack foul­ing the en­gine. Part of the so­lu­tion in this case was to trans­plant a VN front K-frame to which off-the-shelf mounts were fit­ted. This al­lowed the en­gine to be dropped in the hole es­sen­tially fab­ri­ca­tion-free — well, it would have been if it hadn’t been for Dale and Wendy’s de­sire to clean up the en­gine bay first. Holes were welded up and ground smooth, and a cus­tom wiring loom cre­ated by friend Ryan Dar­rah to leave the en­gine bay as clean as pos­si­ble, be­fore Luke was called back to spray it all in the garage. Sim­i­lar treat­ment was given to the en­gine, with as many com­po­nents as pos­si­ble painted or an­odized black. The re­sult is one of our favourite en­gine bays to date, with the en­gine seem­ingly float­ing in the bay. At­tached to the rear of the spot­less LS1 is a T56 six-speed man­ual box, which was fit­ted with strength­ened in­ter­nals be­fore Dale got his hands on it. This was paired with an Exedy clutch, com­plete with hy­draulic re­lease bear­ing, which re­quired a VL pedal box and mas­ter cylin­der to be fit­ted. Later-model parts were also used down the rear in the form of a VN LSD cen­tre, which Steelie Gears af­fixed to the VK’s hous­ing along with shot-peened VN axles. The fin­ish­ing touches to the diff were a VN disc and caliper set-up, along with a bunch of No­lathane bushes. Any carb–to–EFI con­ver­sion re­quires a se­ri­ous fuel sys­tem re­think, and this one was no dif­fer­ent. Dale opted to have mate, Sean Card, fab­ri­cate a drop tank, which now works in con­junc­tion with a re­turn­less Bosch 040 fuel pump and Aeroflow reg­u­la­tor com­bi­na­tion. The fi­nal step to the con­ver­sion was run­ning the car

up on the dyno at ProTune, where it was tuned to an im­pres­sive 410hp at the tre treads. Not only is that good power in a car that weighs as lit­tle as the VK, but it’s re­li­ablere power that will tol­er­ate all that Dale thr throws at it — among other tor­ture tests, thosethos chal­lenges will in­clude burnout comps and,and all go­ing well, maybe even a blast up Rod Millen’sMillen drive­way. Be­fore that hap­pens, a pair of pe pe­riod-cor­rect race seats will re­place the cur­rent Re­caros. How­ever, with dogs and a kid in the back,back the rest of the in­te­rior is set to re­main as is, al­lowingal­low the whole fam­ily to en­joy the car, stress-free. Dale has owned show­sho cars, and, de­spite how good the VK looks, he’s de­ter­mined to make sure it never be­comes­be­com so pre­cious that it can’t be en­joyed by all. WithW a big-power LS up front, man­ual box in hand,hand and the per­fect looks to match, the car may well be­come not only his most fun ride yet butbu per­haps the most fa­mous, toot — im­pres­sivei i stufft for a largely shed-built and com­par­a­tively low-bud­get ma­chine.

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