DRIFT­ING? Sure, there might be mad skills in hang­ing a car’s tail out at ex­actly 90 de­grees and melt­ing bi­tu­men, but with no need to get to a fin­ish line be­fore the next bloke, surely it’s a bit like kids at school be­ing given Cer­tifi­cates of Par­tic­i­pa­tion rather than First Prize? Not for Mel­bourne’s Brae­den Ken­drick. Hav­ing been busted too many times for street stunts, drift­ing seemed to him like a great way to have fun.

“I did all the dumb shit,” Brae­den ad­mits of his an­tics in his first car, a VH Com­modore SL/E. “Un­til one day, I col­lected a semi-trailer. I did a fair bit of dam­age. So I de­cided to go to the track. I liked the look of drift­ing. Nis­san Sil­vias and Sky­lines were the pop­u­lar cars, so I ended up buy­ing a Sil­via.”

Brae­den’s Sil­via was pow­ered by a tur­bocharged Nis­san SR20 DOHC four­cylin­der. “I de­vel­oped that ve­hi­cle over a pe­riod of about two years,” he says. “I put a lot of work into the sus­pen­sion and did maybe 10 track days un­til the SR20 blew up.”

Brae­den then bought an­other ’caged-out Sil­via shell, in­stalled his old car’s sus­pen­sion and shoved in an LS3 V8 crate mo­tor that was in­tended for his crash-dam­aged Com­modore.

But even­tu­ally, Brae­den de­cided the drift­ing­past-gum-trees sport of ral­ly­ing would be more fun. “With drift­ing, you drift five cor­ners 1000 times,” he says. “In ral­ly­ing you drift 1000 cor­ners once!”

The search was on for a suit­able car. “I wanted some­thing rear-wheel drive, and I love the early Com­modores,” Brae­den says. “I learned with the drift Sil­vias that you spend a lot of money and time do­ing a ground-up build. I’d just started my busi­ness [Fast Track Tow­ing

& Trans­port], so I had lim­ited time to ded­i­cate to build­ing a car.”

Of course, some­one else’s project can also bring some­one else’s prob­lems, but it can also be a great way to get a nice big pile of hard­ware at the right price.

“I bought this one out of South Aus­tralia. It had some good-qual­ity parts in it,” Brae­den says of the VK Com­modore you see here. It had been built with a later-model in­jected Holden V8, a six-speed Tre­mec T56 man­ual gear­box and a nine-inch diff. It also in­cluded the six-point rollcage with in­tru­sion bars: “With drift­ing, you slide onto a sand trap. In ral­ly­ing, you slide into a tree,” Brae­den rea­sons.

Since buy­ing it, Brae­den has in­vested more than 18 months of spare time giv­ing it a freshen-up. The Com­modore was stripped and painted in that clas­sic For­mula Blue by Ben at In­line Col­li­sion. The car re­ceived a me­chan­i­cal once-over, too: “The en­gine was al­ready in the car with that man­i­fold, but we went over the whole top end and val­ve­train,” Brae­den says. “It had a few bent valves. The ex­trac­tors had holes in them, too, which caused a few is­sues, so we had to fix a few things be­fore we tuned it.”

Brae­den isn’t sure of the V8 bot­tom end’s prove­nance – the freshen-up re­vealed only that the pistons were stock and there was a


roller cam – but Brae­den has an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ out­look. And it doesn’t seem bro­ken! “They’re a pretty tough lit­tle mo­tor,” Brae­den says, be­fore cheek­ily adding, “and they sound a heap bet­ter than an LS!”

One of the rea­sons for the en­gine’s tractabil­ity – Brae­den spins it up to 6800rpm – is the free­breath­ing COME in­take man­i­fold. Holden’s in­take man­i­fold works great on-road to around 5500rpm, but this one ben­e­fits from the big­ger lungs pro­vided by COME’S shorter-run­ner, big­ger-vol­ume and dou­ble-bladed piece. The cool­ing fan is now a thermo; it light­ens the load on the drive belt and re­duces the risk of the fan hol­ing the ra­di­a­tor in a mild fron­tend shunt. “A lit­tle tap onto a tree could push the fan into the ra­di­a­tor,” Brae­den ex­plains. “With ther­mos, there’s more chance you can keep go­ing.”

Frank at Allsparks tuned the car (lib­er­at­ing 200kw at the treads), with Peter from PET Rac­ing – a guru with Autronic ECUS – also in on the ses­sion. The re­sult is a rip­per on the dirt. “The five-litre, the six-speed and the nineinch with the 4.1s – it all works re­ally well as a com­bi­na­tion,” Brae­den says. “It drives re­ally well out of the cor­ners; if there’s a bit too much wheel­spin you can pop third and the grip and torque gets you go­ing.”

The sus­pen­sion – ar­guably more crit­i­cal in a rally car than in other comp cars – has also had a once-over and will be de­vel­oped fur­ther as Brae­den set­tles into the rhythm of ral­ly­ing. “Some blokes run a lot of caster; they de­stroy front caster bushes. They come loose; they’re dou­ble lock-nut­ted – some­times they’re re­placed ev­ery event,” he says. “Rub­ber is bet­ter for the car as it doesn’t shake the car to bits; it needs a bit of give. If the bushes don’t give, what does? It’ll de­stroy the car.”

So far, Brae­den has com­pleted one full rally. “It was about 130 kays of flat-out run­ning through the bush near Heath­cote,” he says. “That was called the Nis­san Night­moves – put on by the Nis­san Car Cub Aus­tralia. I’ve also done the first Vic­to­rian round of the Aus­tralian Ral­ly­cross se­ries at Win­ton. It’s a new se­ries and is a mix of dirt and tar­mac; you race doorto-door with five cars at once!”

Brae­den’s co-driver is Ari Pater­son. “I met him through the rally com­mu­nity,” he says. “He broke down one night and I gave him a tow. Since then, he’s put his hand up [to nav­i­gate].

“It’s an awe­some buzz,” he says of his cho­sen sport. “Fly­ing through the bush at mid­night, hel­mets on, fish­tail­ing; then there’ll be a group of 30 or 40 spec­ta­tors by the edge of the road in the mid­dle of nowhere. Even when you’re on a trans­port [non-com­pet­i­tive] stage, you’re out in the bush driv­ing through hills and val­leys. It’s ter­rific.

“But you know what?” Brae­den con­cludes with a chuckle. “It’s only a mat­ter of time un­til we bin it!”

RIMS: “They’re my favourite wheel,” says Brae­den of the HDT Aero wheels that he rooster-tails with. “When the in­ter­net was first in­vented, I was a lit­tle kid and the first-ever video I down­loaded was a bloke do­ing a burnout in an HDT VK with Aeros.”...

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