CULT HERO

THE HOLDEN VN SS IS A CULT CLAS­SIC, AND BRAD PHILLIPS’S EX­AM­PLE IS THE BEST OF THE BREED

Street Machine - - Contents - STORY AN­DREW BROADLEY PHO­TOS TROY BARKER

You’d be STRESSN too if you were try­ing to build an 876hp, 6/71-blown VN SS in time for Summernats

IT SEEMS odd to re­fer to a car with plas­tic bumpers as a clas­sic, but that’s ex­actly what the VN Commodore SS has be­come. Just like the VL Calais be­fore it, the VN SS has come of age and emerged as a cult favourite. Good ex­am­ples are in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to come across and val­ues are head­ing steadily north; some will even be el­i­gi­ble for his­toric rego next year! Brad Phillips bought this one when he’d just turned 17, and it’s fair to say it bore the brunt of his de­struc­tive P-plate years. “Two weeks after I bought the car it was de­fected and I’d lost my li­cence,” he says. “In those two weeks I had a cop tell me – and peo­ple at my school tell my sis­ter – that I’d end up dead in the car. Glad I’ve proven that wrong!”

For the fol­low­ing three years the VN was used as a week­end toy, and the de­fects and driv­e­line break­ages came thick and fast. Brad skid­ded the car and raced it too, with a bit of spray yield­ing a com­mend­able 13.1-sec­ond quar­ter-mile pass. At the age of 20, he en­dured an­other state-man­dated hia­tus from driv­ing, and de­cided to pull the car off the road for a thor­ough see­ing-to.

“I booked it in with Frank at Za­gari En­gi­neer­ing here in Ade­laide for mini­tubs and a nine-inch,” Brad says. “That went out the win­dow one Fri­day arvo when I rang Frank to tell him that if I was go­ing to tub it I should put a four-link in it, and that if I was go­ing to do that I should put a ’cage in it. Frank was keen on that idea, so it all changed to a three-quar­ter chas­sis, mas­sive tyres and a ’cage; I guess that was the point at which it spi­ralled out of con­trol.”

With the chas­sis work and nine-inch rear end com­pleted, Brad dragged the car back to his fam­ily vine­yard, where it sat in stor­age. He shouted him­self a 6/71 blower for his 21st birth­day, but the build lost mo­men­tum and progress stalled.

Some years later he blew the dust off the car and started to think about an en­gine. “By then I’d met my now-wife, Darls. We started to talk about hav­ing kids, so I thought I’d bet­ter get the car done be­fore that,” Brad says.

“I had a fair few of the ma­jor bits for the mo­tor ready to go, so I took them down to Rino at RC En­gines. Rino and the guys put it to­gether, and it made 876hp@7000rpm on the en­gine dyno, which was more than I was hop­ing for at the time, so I was stoked.”

The mo­tor is a fairly staunch small-block Chev, weigh­ing in at 412ci with a Cal­lies crank, Crower rods and Di­a­mond flat-tops. The heads are Pro-filer items and the cam is a Comp solid-roller. Topped by twin Hol­ley HP 950 carbs, the Weiand 6/71 blower winds 12psi of boost into the en­gine to achieve what is quite a re­spectable num­ber, on E85 fuel. Brad is con­fi­dent that there’s more in it, too.

Mean­while, the car headed back to Frank at Za­gari for an en­gine plate, flat fire­wall, shaved bat­tery tray, para­chute mount, and that killer sheet-metal dash, which is a real high­light of the car. From there, Brad and his good mates Car­pet and Daniel from DV Paint & Panel hooked into the body­work and trial fit-up of the car prior to paint, in amongst the birth of Brad’s first child. The car also spent some time at SA Weld­worx hav­ing the head­ers and ex­haust seen to.

Brad’s wed­ding saw the car put on the back­burner once more, be­fore progress recom­menced in earnest at Car­pet’s work­shop, with lots of late nights lav­ished on it.

“Plenty of peo­ple said the car wouldn’t get done, but I was de­ter­mined it would be at Summernats 30,” Brad says. “My mate

PLENTY OF PEO­PLE SAID THE CAR WOULDN’T GET DONE, BUT I WAS DE­TER­MINED IT WOULD BE AT SUMMERNATS 30

Benny of­fered to give us a hand with the pan­el­work; I don’t think he ex­pected he’d be do­ing as much as he did! He joined Car­pet and me on the car. It was stone-guarded un­der­neath at this stage, plus I had the nine-inch and four-link bars pow­der­coated, so we chucked these in. Even­tu­ally the car went to Benny’s house so he could fo­cus on the pan­el­work, and he spent lots of time smooth­ing the fire­wall and en­gine bay, and metal-fil­ing the rear quar­ters and roof.”

Just three months out from Summernats the car was only a shell in primer with a painted en­gine bay, and the build be­gan to con­sume Brad’s life. The en­gine and Turbo 400 trans went in, while the wiring and plumb­ing were painstak­ingly car­ried out with help from Brad’s mate Cachia. Then came the defin­ing mo­ment in any build: “That first push of the starter and it fired; I was stoked, and beers were had to cel­e­brate.”

Daniel and David at DV Paint & Panel laid on the At­las Grey paint, and they did a sen­sa­tional job of it. The SS pin­strip­ing and liv­ery were placed on over the top, and in a stroke of ge­nius were also car­ried over to the cabin.

The car’s maiden drive took place with no win­dows, the rear doors zip-tied shut, no bon­net or boot, and no wheel align­ment. “I pulled out of Car­pet’s work­shop and onto the street and couldn’t re­sist the chance,” Brad says. “I straight­ened the car up, flicked the line

locker on and lit up the rear tyres with ease. All the hard work was fi­nally start­ing to pay off.”

The Summernats thrash con­tin­ued and the car was de­liv­ered to Adam at AJ Trim on the Mon­day be­fore Christ­mas. By Fri­day af­ter­noon, the in­te­rior was done. “As soon as I saw the seats I was pumped; they looked ev­ery bit as good as I hoped they would,” Brad says. That left lit­tle more than fit-and-fid­dle work to do be­fore the car’s Summernats 30 de­but.

“I went to the ’Nats hop­ing that Street Ma­chine would want to fea­ture the car, and that I’d pick up a tro­phy and make the Su­per­cruise. I left tick­ing all those boxes and then some, so I was stoked,” Brad says.

Sec­ond place in Pro Tuff and sec­ond place Over­all in Tuff Street were tes­ta­ment to Brad’s hard work, and get­ting an in­vite to the PPG Supreme En­trant show on the Sun­day morn­ing was the ic­ing on the cake. Not ev­ery­thing at Summernats went ac­cord­ing to plan, but the feed­back on the car was over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive and Brad had lived out a child­hood dream by fi­nally tak­ing his own car to the event. After 13 long years, all the STRESSN had been worth­while!

I PULLED OUT ONTO THE STREET, STRAIGHT­ENED THE CAR UP, FLICKED THE LINE LOCKER ON AND LIT UP THE REAR TYRES WITH EASE

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