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A Holden Com­modore in NZPC isn’t a com­mon oc­cur­rence, so how did Jay Singh’s 1987 Holden Ber­lina catch our eye among hun­dreds of ve­hi­cles at the 2015 V 4&Ro­tary Na­tion­als?

When we are at such an event, scout­ing for ve­hi­cles to fea­ture, we take it very se­ri­ously — some­times spend­ing more than 30 min­utes look­ing over the finer de­tails to en­sure a car’s le­git­i­macy. It wasn’t un­til we popped the bon­net of Jay’s VL Com­modore that we no­ticed it wasn’t sim­ply just an­other Com­modore — and more suited to our sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion NZV8 — but rather an RB30-pack­ing boost-snort­ing rear-wheel-drive mon­ster.

The car’s de­but at the Na­tion­als was the end of a very drawn-out six-year build, so where did it start for Jay and the mighty Com­modore? He has been hooked on Hold­ens from the ten­der age of eight years old, ever since his brother Rob pur­chased one and took him out cruis­ing, do­ing skids, and other such shenani­gans. So when Jay came of age, and his brother Harry of­fered this ex­am­ple to him for a steal, he couldn’t say yes fast enough. “The car was bought by my brother as a 100-per-cent orig­i­nal, three-owner car from Tau­ranga. For most of its life it was owned by an el­derly man who used it oc­ca­sion­ally to tow his boat,” Jay said. “It only had 130,000km on the clock, and was in im­mac­u­late con­di­tion.” Un­for­tu­nately the Com­modore was des­tined to be a project from the get-go, as Jay pur­chased it from Harry with a blown head gas­ket. “Af­ter buy­ing nu­mer­ous heads over six months and find­ing out all of them were cracked, it was de­cided that the eas­i­est so­lu­tion would be to buy a new en­gine al­to­gether,” Jay ex­plained. Ini­tially pur­chas­ing a low-kilo­me­tre Se­ries 2 RB25DET mo­tor from Dod­son Au­tospares, Jay had a GT42 turbo in­stalled along with some other bolt-ons, but this setup wasn’t des­tined to be, as some­body made an of­fer on the pack­age that he couldn’t refuse, and the RB30 sin­gle-cam purist urge was tak­ing over.

With Jay’s older brother Rob on the quest for eight-sec­ond passes, he no longer needed the fac­tory 110,000km RB30ET en­gine out of his VL turbo Com­modore, so Jay took ad­van­tage. “Af­ter fit­ting the en­gine, the car sat for a few months be­fore be­ing dropped off to a work­shop — which will re­main name­less — to have a new Mi­croTech LT16C ECU fit­ted and tuned. How­ever this didn’t go to plan, and the car sat for months on end with noth­ing com­pleted. I then took the VL to an­other work­shop to have the work fin­ished, but af­ter let­ting it sit for months, they com­pleted some very poor work­man­ship,” Jay said, “They even tuned the car with the hand­brake on.”

Af­ter a few ter­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ences with var­i­ous work­shops, Jay and his broth­ers were over the build, and back in the shed it went — un­til six months later, when a good friend of Jay’s con­vinced him to start the build again. “The Hyper­tune in­take set-up that was sup­posed to be in­stalled on my brother’s eight-sec­ond mo­tor was in­stalled, a Pre­ci­sion 66/67 turbo was pur­chased, and the car was sent down to Sinco Cus­toms for what was only sup­posed to be a turbo man­i­fold and some in­ter­cooler pip­ing.” A few weeks later, af­ter talk­ing with Mike, it was de­cided a sim­ple set-up wasn’t what he was af­ter, and they opted to go all-out with the fab­ri­ca­tion — to make it show wor­thy. A black and red theme was de­cided upon, which gives the en­gine bay a some­what un­der­rated fac­tory ap­pear­ance, some­thing which drew us to the ve­hi­cle in the first place.

With the en­gine bay now look­ing the part, Jay had the ECU rewired ready for a tune. Drag-rac­ing leg­end Craig Dyson, from Dyson Ro­taries, just hap­pened to be in New Zealand at the time, and be­cause Jay is a huge fan of his work, he booked his ve­hi­cle in for a tune with him at the Revo­lu­tion Dyno Cen­tre, in West Auck­land. “Un­for­tu­nately the RB30 was hav­ing a few boost is­sues on the dyno, so Craig de­cided some street pulls were needed to prop­erly load the en­gine, but what we didn’t re­al­ize was there was a karate dojo a cou­ple of build­ings down — they ob­vi­ously weren’t RB30 fans, judg­ing by the looks we were get­ting.” Jay con­tin­ued, “Craig Dyson driv­ing my car is prob­a­bly the most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence build­ing this car. Be­ing a pas­sen­ger with Craig wheel-spin­ning first, sec­ond, and most of third was a real ex­pe­ri­ence — he can def­i­nitely pedal a car.” Once the boost con­trol prob­lems were solved, the sin­gle-cam RB30 en­gine made 331.7kW (444hp) at the wheels on just 20psi of boost, with the only lim­it­ing fac­tors now be­ing the fac­tory in­ter­nals and head.

The Com­modore hasn’t been overly mod­i­fied in all ar­eas (yet), but Jay has taken se­ri­ous time to make it ap­pear as tidy as pos­si­ble. Fac­tory bumpers, door mould­ings, and trims have all been re­sprayed in a cus­tom grey by Shane Gra­ham at Prima, and a set of 20-inch Sim­mons wheels were sourced. “At the end of last year we or­dered th­ese Sim­mons for the VL, and af­ter a month and a half of not re­ceiv­ing any­thing, we were start­ing to get wor­ried. Two weeks out from Christ­mas we re­ceived a par­cel, but it was only one of the four wheels. Luck­ily the other three ar­rived a week and a bit later — we were con­cerned for a while there,” Jay told us. Sus­pen­sion- and driv­e­line-wise the VL is pretty fac­tory, as Jay ex­plained, “The Com­modore is built to go in a straight line.”

He has a few mod­i­fi­ca­tions planned for the VL — a full Sony sound sys­tem is set to be in­stalled by Rapid Ra­dio, it’ll get a new in­te­rior, and will even­tu­ally push power to 550kW at the wheels with a forged RB30 sin­gle-cam backed by a Pow­er­glide trans­mis­sion, tubs, and much larger 22-inch Sim­mons wheels. So what you see here is re­ally only stage one.

We’re pretty sure by the time you read this Jay and his broth­ers will have torn the VL apart, ready for the next stage of the build — it’s go­ing to be hec­tic.

It ap­pears as though Jay has an ad­dic­tion for large tur­bocharg­ers, as both his old set-up — which was a GT42 turbo — and his new one, the Pre­ci­sion 66/67 turbo, are large-frame tur­bos ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing big power. The cur­rent Pre­ci­sion unit will be pushed to over 38psi to achieve the 500kW-plus goal Jay has for it in fu­ture

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