SINGLE-CAM RB VL
The pusuit of speed can mean diffrent things for different folk. Some want to watch the needle go off the clock, while others would rather set lap records at their local, but, for the better part of a century, one thing that has remained the proving ground of anything fast is the quarter-mile. Yep, we’re talking drag racing. It’s helped forge the New Zealand car scene into what it is today – namely, super-tough street weapons that hit the strip looking for anything and everything to line up. The quest to run quicker than ever before has delivered a succession of ever-faster builds over the years. However, one chassis has become a cult classic among one community and caused confusion in another, due to parts from a mishmash of manufactures, but, if the Aussie boys are anything to go by, it can be built into an absolute monster.
The chassis in question is the Holden VL Commodore — famous for chopping down the straight in single-digit seconds in Aussie and for producing ‘hectic doses’ courtesy of its 3.0-litre Nissan-built heart. Hayden Mason bought his first example as a cheap way to have a bit of fun, and it arrived with the ‘pinnacle of speed’ — the RB20E — which was promptly ripped out in favour of the bigger-capacity and torquier RB30E, and, so that it would make all the correct noises, a turbo conversion soon saw it sporting a T04E. That incarnation of the single-cammer only made a handful of runs, enough to get him well and truly hooked before he decided that the car was far too slow to set any notable times, so he set about giving it the sprinkle of goodness it needed to head towards the single digits.
When seeking power from a single-cam RB30, you need not look any further than what the Australians are doing to get there, and Hayden says that there is plenty of information readily available that will take you to the 300kW mark; anything further becomes a closely guarded secret that you have to figure out yourself.
As with many builds, there was a bit of trial and error. So far, it’s been through a couple of head gaskets and, on one occasion, the gudgeon pins broke clean in half. However, through that process, Hayden managed to put together a reliable package consisting of an RB30 block housing CP forged pistons and Spool rods, with a CNCported head packing a Kelford Cams 284/292-degree camshaft and 1mm oversize Manley valves sitting on top.
As for where the power was going to come from — a hearty sized
snail — Hayden scrapped the T04E and fitted a Garrett GT3582R with 6Boost manifold, along with a gaggle of other goodies. Now with a power house that had gone far beyond what he had anticipated, he wasn’t sold on putting it back into that same shell. “So I started looking at LH Toranas, thinking of something smaller and lighter, and even considered a Gemini,” he says. “I also looked at Robbie Ward’s old RX-2 from back in the day … but, ultimately, I ended up buying another VL instead.” Any VL owner will tell you that finding a clean shell is near-on impossible, as they’re prone to rust, but Hayden reckons that this one was an exception to the (almost) rule, so it was painted and the new engine was dropped into the bay within days. The plan was to run it as an H-pattern manual, but he changed his mind at the 11th hour and switched it for a Turbo 350 automatic transmission — fitted with a manual valve body, transbrake, and 2800 high-stall convertor for proper launches. And with a strong trans in place, the factory BorgWarner diff was yanked out and a Ford nine-inch fitted in its place.
Its first run was somewhere in the 14s with a lot of wheel spin, and, at each consecutive meeting, it went that little bit faster, finally breaking into the 10s with a 10.88s, which saw the call for a roll cage to be fitted.
“It took about six months before I decided to fit the cage, as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to just leave it how it was, being a street car, or put it in … I wanted to keep racing, so it had to be done,” Hayden recalls.
C&M Performance was handed the job of fabricating and installing a chromoly example, taking care to keep weight down and working within the car’s shape to ensure it was strong while remaining sufficiently hidden that a passing glance on the street wouldn’t notice it.
Though everything was in a constant state of development, Hayden
wanted to ensure it was always road legal, as it never spends long off the road: “I like to do some work on it, take it for a run to make sure it’s all good, then move on to the next stage,” he says, “and I’d rather have a car you can still drive on the street than something you can only use at the track … it makes sense to be able to use it all the time.” The switch from street to drag car only sees the 18x8inch DTM Hiro and Goodyear Eagles unbolted and a set of 15x4.5and 15x7-inch steelies with 26x4 and 26x10.5 Mickey Thompsons put in their place, while the exhaust is also removed in favour of side-exit pipe that feeds out under the passenger side.
The suspension set-up remains, as Hayden describes it, “pretty basic yet practical”. It originally ran Dobi lowering springs paired with shortened shocks, but again, going back to the Australian winning combos, the switch to a Pedders 90/10 shock meant the car got the boost up front that it needed to hold it there during launches off the line, and, as guys in Aussie run nines all day on them, they should see Hayden through the car’s on-strip life.
In part thanks to a recent switch to E85, power levels are now reaching upwards of the 400 mark — coming in at 410kW at the rears, to be exact — and, as the car’s best run of 10.3 at 121mph (195kph) was set on the older 300kW set-up running 98 octane, there is plenty in the car now to drop it into the nines. To assist with that goal, the diff ratio has been changed to 3.25:1 and the older Link Plug and Play replaced with a Holley electronic fuel injection (EFI) unit — coinciding with the 1680cc Holley EFI injectors and individual coils. The car since went 10.4s at 134mph (216kph), but further runs were delayed after the radiator hose snapped off and dumped water underneath the wheels when it neared the finish line at Meremere, which made for a hairy time after it went towards the wall and back the other way — going past 90 degrees — before coming straight.
With that kind of speed under its belt, we have no doubt that this VL will dip into the nines bracket soon — Hayden already has the ‘EASY 9S’ plate waiting to assume the mantle once it does.
SHOES WHEELS: Street — 18x8-inch DTM Hiro; drag — (F) 15x4.5-inch Steel, (R) 15x7-inch Steel
TYRES: Street — 235/40R18 Goodyear Eagle F1; drag — (F) 26x4-15 Mickey Thompson ET, (R) 26x10.5-15 Mickey Thompson ET Street R EXTERIOR PAINT: Resprayed in Voodoo Blue over Asteroid Silver ENHANCEMENTS: Factory
DRIVER PROFILE DRIVER/OWNER: Hayden Mason AGE: 27 LOCATION: Tauranga OCCUPATION: Mechanic BUILD TIME: Ongoing LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: Seven years
THANKS: Carl and the guys at C&M Performance for all their help in developing this car over the years, and my family and friends, for putting up with my car obsession
INTERIOR SEATS: M&H STEERING WHEEL: Factory INSTRUMENTATION: Holley EFI digital dash EXTRA: B&M shifter
PERFORMANCE POWER: 410kW (549hp) BOOST: 26psi FUEL: E85 TUNER: C&M Performance 0–400M: 10.36s at 121mph (300kW)