TONNER FUN

DANNY BOARD’S AWE­SOME CUS­TOM-BUILT, BLUE MEANIE-THEMED VK IS THE FIRST-GEN COM­MODORE ONE-TONNER HOLDEN SHOULD HAVE OF­FERED BACK IN THE 80S

Street Machine - - Contents -

This cus­tom tray­back VK is way too good to be haul­ing tools for its keep

DE­SIGNED in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ze Ger­mans, Holden’s first-gen Com­modore range came with a lot of hoopla about be­ing a lighter and bet­terequipped ‘Car For The 1980s’. But there was one re­ally im­por­tant thing miss­ing: a ute. The clos­est it got to a proper load-lug­ger was the four-door wagon – and even that was a late starter in Holden’s mid1970s de­vel­op­ment pro­gram.

But words such as ‘wasn’t, ‘can’t’ and ‘didn’t’ have never been much of a slow-down for a keen street ma­chiner, have they?

They cer­tainly weren’t for Danny Board, who jan­gles the keys to this im­pres­sive VK Holden Com­modore ‘one-tonner’. Not only is Danny’s one-off cre­ation built with a rear-half chas­sis – more or less the way Holden would have done it – but it also serves as a tidy VK HDT Blue Meanie trib­ute, packs in a stack of stuff from a later-model VY Com­modore, and rocks a su­per­charged LS V8 up front. Crikey!

To be hon­est, though, it wasn’t ex­actly Danny’s idea to cre­ate this Com­modore, nor did he build it from scratch – although, as he tells it, maybe he should have.

“I saw it on ebay one day,” he be­gins. “To cut a long story short, I was hav­ing a break from another project, af­ter the death of my brother-in­law. I’d lost in­ter­est in that, but I spot­ted this. I wasn’t look­ing for a ute – I think I found it listed as a ‘VK Project’. It had been started, then it went through a stack of own­ers.”

Danny is a house-builder who is lucky enough to own a cou­ple of Aussie mus­cle car leg­ends – a 350-cube HT Monaro and a VK Com­modore SS Group A Group Three – and live in the shadow of Mount Panorama near Bathurst.

“My orig­i­nal idea wasn’t to reg­is­ter it, just drop in a big-block for some fun,” he says. “But I was hav­ing a few beers at a mate’s place and I met a bloke who said he was sell­ing an SS. He wasn’t sure what it was but said he wanted $1500.”

The bar­gain buy was a VY se­ries, so that gave Danny the idea to use it as a parts donor for the two-decade-older VK. But first, he had to sort out the ob­vi­ously ‘un­fin­ished’ parts of the un­fin­ished project he’d bought.

“It hadn’t re­ally been built right,” he ex­plains. “It wasn’t sit­ting right – it looked bent, twisted. I had to cut one of the rails out of it and set it back in straight. It was a bit of a shame be­cause some­one had ob­vi­ously put a fair bit of ef­fort into it.”

Holden’s com­mer­cial HQ-WBS – utes, vans and one-ton­ners – of the 1970s used a fullchas­sis de­sign with a body sit­ting on top, but this Com­modore tonner had been cre­ated by weld­ing the rear half of an HJ ute chas­sis to the in­side sur­faces of the Com­modore’s sills af­ter the rear body sec­tion had been re­moved. The re­sult is a fac­tory-en­gi­neered set of rails and rear sus­pen­sion that should be able to work long and hard for its liv­ing – but more on that later.

Other work re­quired to cre­ate the tonner was – of course – the clos­ing-in of the rear of the body (us­ing an early-model Hilux win­dow and rub­ber) and re­plac­ing the ab­bre­vi­ated tur­ret

with another due to one of the project’s pre­vi­ous own­ers hav­ing in­stalled a sun­roof. The work took two years of part-time ef­fort, and de­spite the now-stun­ning ap­pear­ance, none of it was easy, right down to the orig­i­nal car’s paint: “The body looked like it had had the paint stripped off with a grinder,” Danny laments.

The dash looks fac­tory be­cause it mostly is: the lesser curve of the VK Com­modore wind­screen was com­pen­sated for by re­shap­ing the in­fill pan­els ad­ja­cent to the ’screen. The ex­tra width of the donor VY dash was made to fit the nar­rowwaisted VK by fid­dling with the out­board door­pod/air vent trim sec­tions of the two VK doors when they were be­ing mod­i­fied to Vy-style. It was crit­i­cal to get the pitch (an­gle) of the dash cor­rect so it would prop­erly align to the cen­tre con­sole. The VY’S steer­ing col­umn em­i­grated, too. And yes, every­thing (ex­cept the airbags) works thanks to Danny care­fully splic­ing in the com­plete VY wiring har­ness dur­ing a six-week, take-it-easy hol­i­day from build­ing af­ter a small stint in hos­pi­tal. Give the man a 10 out of 10!

He’s had good help, too, with Ray Tobin per­form­ing some panel magic on both the orig­i­nal and the fab­ri­cated sec­tions of steel be­fore Darren Smith laid on that soul-stir­ring VK Com­modore SS Group A-spec PPG For­mula Blue. That ‘drop tank’ is ac­tu­ally a clever ex­tra stor­age area ac­cessed by – drum­roll, please – an elec­tric slid­ing sun­roof re­cessed into the glass tray.

Sun­roof? Tray? Glass? Huh? Yes, that tray is glass, a su­perb-look­ing slice of tough­ened in­dus­trial-grade stuff, back-painted black (and also pro­tected with steel where re­quired) on the un­der­side for a grand lus­tre on the top­side. You see, de­spite this VK Com­modore’s ‘tonner’ sta­tus, it’s about as likely to carry con­crete or clay or a Doul­ton dunny to Danny’s job sites as he is of dress­ing in a pink tutu and singing Some­where

Over The Rain­bow at the pub just af­ter knock-off time on a Fri­day. Yeah, nah. The real fuel tank is some­thing Danny bought from the wreck­ers, with the filler flush-fit­ted on the driver’s side of the tray.

The donor SS gave up its pow­er­train as far rear­ward as the out­put splines of its now­tough­ened four-speed auto gear­box. Danny did con­sider us­ing the VY’S semi-trail­ing arm in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion, but he shook his head and crossed his arms at the time and ef­fort in­volved in splic­ing the VY’S rear sub-frame un­der the ex-h-se­ries rails. In­stead, he in­stalled an ex-vl Com­modore Turbo Borgwarner rear end, mod­i­fied with the pads for the H-se­ries leaf springs – a far eas­ier and more com­mon swap for Holden utes.

What’s up front gets grins, too: an LS1 5.7litre V8 trans­plant with its val­ley full of blower. The en­gine is from the same VY SS and runs all stan­dard bits, and the Har­rop 112 su­per­charger set-up is also a bar­gain-buy, Danny re­mov­ing it from a car he’d bought, then on-sell­ing it. It’s not in­ter­cooled, and in a mod­est and safe state of tune plays out just un­der 400hp at the treads. Danny built the ex­trac­tors him­self.

Blue Meanie trib­ute, or the early Com­modore ute Aus­tralia wanted to have in the 1980s? This awe­some streeter does both.

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