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.


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