96: CORRUPTING POWER
BERGEN RAIKES WANTED TO BUILD HIMSELF THE BIGGEST, BADDEST, AND FASTEST V8 IN TOWN. RECKON HE’S NAILED IT?
— AN HSV LIKE NO OTHER
The big fella couldn’t keep Bergen Raikes down after his highly modified VX Commodore was written off. Yeah, when faced with an insurance company that wouldn’t pay out, he took ’em to small claims and got his money after a ninemonth struggle. Money’s nice, but, when you’re a young man filled with testosterone, it’s not quite as nice as owning the meanest V8 in town.
“I decided to buy another, only bigger, better, and faster,” Bergen says. “When I picked it up, they asked me if I wanted a warranty. I said no because, as soon as I drove out the gate, it’d be void because I’d start modifying the hell out of it.”
A man of his word, Bergen got down to business, ripping out the Walkinshaw gear that had previously been fitted to the car. His first addition was a set of Di Filippo four-into-ones. Being a stainless-steel fabricator by trade, Bergen built a twin three-inch exhaust out of T304 stainless, plus Adrenalin R mufflers — all polished to absolute perfection. Then, to finish the job, he took it up to Eastern Automotive Performance Centre in Auckland for a Magnuson MP2300 blower and all the rest — everything a daily-driver needs, right? Apparently not, as Bergen tells us, “I drove it daily for about a year, and even though it sounded good, the car just didn’t have that staunch get-thef**k-outta-the-way kind of attitude!”
To fix that problem, he pulled it to bits with a plan to modify pretty much everything that it’s possible to modify. He started simple, installing Whiteline sway bars, Tein adjustable coilovers, and big Foose wheels, but the stock exterior was a constant thorn in his side.
He began by de-lensing the tail lights — a labour-intensive job, ensuring that each light was completely watertight. The same went for the front end, as he carefully heated and pulled the headlights apart to paint the surrounds a hellish red — and he was only just getting started.
“I liked the front bumper, but didn’t like the aftermarket ones, so I just chopped out the lower middle section, replaced it with a sheet of
aluminium propeller plate, and hand-drilled 150odd holes,” he says, while the hexagonal plastic mesh from the bottom was installed behind the upper grille, the openings of which were enlarged. With the HSV looking meaner than a bouncer at 3am, Bergen then called on Nathan from Ndub Designs to finish the job off, and the matte black 3M vinyl wrap sure does it!
Think he’d be ready to call it a day? Think again — as soon as he got inside, he realized that he’d also need to fix the stock interior, which was a big no-no in his eyes.
“I came up with the idea of having a spiderweb on my roof, coming down all six pillars, but a spiderweb needs a spider — what better to use than the redback, which has the same colours as the car and comes from the same place?” he says.
The web was stitched in by Dave at Normanby Upholstery, who also re-covered the steering wheel in red leather, before Wendy at In Style Embroidery was let loose
on the rest. She sewed the spider into the head lining, and did a heap more embroidery, from the under-bonnet work through to the ‘HSV’, ‘Chev’, and ‘Supercharged’ emblems inside. “The theme being the spider pulls together all the great attributes that these emblems stand for, uniting them as one and creating a beast that only God himself can tame and drive!” Bergen excitedly explains. “I changed the personalized plate from ‘I LIT UP’, which was on my old Holden, to ‘GODS V8’ because I thought it suited it more, and because I am an ex-member of the Exclusive Brethren church and thought it would be funny to do a bit of shit stirring!” he laughs. “They are not allowed to do these extensive kinds of mods to their cars!” ‘Extensive’ is definitely the word for it, and nowhere is this more evident than in the way Bergen has treated the most important part. As powerful as the supercharged LS3 was, a few things were still letting him down. Wanting some good old-fashioned blower whine, he binned the serpentine belt and pulley assembly, and had his mate Brad design a bunch of toothed pulleys in the Solidworks CAD programme. Once the CNC machine spat out the three-piece pulleys, Bergen had what he wanted — 95dB of blower whine to overpower the 91dB exhaust. Sounding old school wasn’t enough, though — “I’ve always wanted a big bug catcher hanging out of the hood, but didn’t like the generic three and four butterfly design, so I started sketching and came up with this crazy design like something out of Alien vs. Predator,” he says. Bergen started by using cardboard as a template. When he was happy with it, he cut the pieces out of 3mm aluminium and welded it all up. Fibre bog was used to finesse the shape, before the whole thing was hydro dipped in a carbon-fibre finish — and, yes, it’s totally functional. The addition of Aquamist water–methanol injection was a no-brainer for the power levels Bergen was chasing, and he fabbed up a sevenlitre tank to mount in the boot, with the injection pump mounted to the other side. He also converted the cooling system to run a Davies Craig electric water pump (EWP), which saved a ton of room and helps to eliminate hotspots in the allalloy engine by running after shutdown. The trick engineering included a 240V preheater, to keep the oil at 60°C when the car isn’t in use, minimizing engine wear.
“That’s why I also installed an oil-scavenge pump mounted to the side of the gearbox. At the flick of a switch, it will bring the oil up to pressure within a few seconds,” Bergen explains.
Having spent more than 3000 hours on the project — about 600 of which were spent on the intake and 250 on the gauge cluster — Bergen was stoked to take out the Best Modified and People’s Choice awards at the Taranaki Holden Show at the end of 2016. However, he had yet to achieve the power goal he’d quietly set himself when he started. “My intention was to make 1000bhp,” he says. With the small blower pulley giving 18psi of boost, he made 670hp at the wheels, without water– methanol injection or further advancing the timing. However, the fuel pressure was dropping off around 4500rpm, the driveshaft wanted to break free, and the two-bar MAP sensor couldn’t cope. “Mike from Diesel and Turbocharger Services said that I needed to put in a stronger driveshaft, bigger fuel pump, and a three-bar MAP sensor,” Bergen tells us. “Back into the shed it went, with the intention to do just that, but some circumstances in my life led me to buy a 61-foot ketch sail yacht with intentions of sailing the world.” Needing to get the HSV to a drivable state, Bergen drew up different pulleys and had them machined and anodized. This pulled the boost back to 11psi, which was enough for 550hp and 457lb·ft at the wheels.
“Now, the beast is running beautifully, with so much more power potential if retuned with water– meth and the necessary parts to get it to 1000bhp. Sadly, it’s now up for sale to help fund my roundthe-world trip,” Bergen reveals.
We’ve got to hand it to the guy. He did what nobody else would do in modifying a late-model HSV this much, and he’s about to do it again by sailing into the great unknown. Maybe he wasn’t quite right about God being the only one able to tame this car; it might just need someone as crazy as Bergen Raikes.