THE LONG ROAD
TIM SALIBA’S 383CI VP COMMODORE ENDURED A DECADE-LONG BUILD FULL OF HIGHS AND LOWS, BUT HE LOVES IT ALL THE SAME
Years of hard slog have culminated in this exquisite 393-powered VP Commodore
NOT many folks can say that they still have their first car parked in the shed. But for 31-year-old mechanic Tim Saliba, it’s a gleaming, Ice Blue reality. “I first saw this car in 2000,” says Tim. “My sister’s boyfriend owned it. She then bought it for my brother in 2003. I remember being impressed by the five-inch monster tacho on the dash!”
Tim says that by the time he took ownership of the car in 2004, its condition was “stock and abused”. He went about fixing it up in earnest, giving it a new coat of paint, a fresh 304ci Holden V8 and T700, VL diff, HSV brakes and Simmons FR19S. The VP was well on the way to appearing as it does today. “It was clean-as and had chrome everywhere, but it was missing the smooth engine bay,” he says. “I wanted to be able to show off every bit of my car at shows.”
In 2007, Tim made his first steps toward achieving that goal, ripping out the engine and shaving many of the lumps, bumps and holes that littered the VP’S bay. He then bolted the Holden V8 back in, complete with a Torque Power dual-plane manifold and upgraded valvetrain hardware. But its new look didn’t last long.
Tim skipped TAFE one day and decided to go for a drive, but a noisy wheel bearing caused him to turn around and head back home. He knew he had to bite the bullet and began stripping the car down. It would be almost a decade before the VP would see the road again. “The whole rebuild is a bit of a blur now that I look back at all the countless hours, phone calls, blood, sweat and real tears,” Tim says.
As happens so often with the vehicles we feature, the initial plan for ENIOL8 was a little more humble than the car you see now. Tim started a dialogue with Tony at All Cylinder Head Services with regard to slipping a new cam into his 304ci, but that plan quickly changed. “Soon we were talking about a small 355ci stroker, and with each call, the combo got bigger,” Tim says. “By that point, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to let the rest of the car slide. I wanted the VP to match all the new trends and power I was seeing in the magazines.”
Plans changed so rapidly that Tim changed intake manifolds three times before going with a billet tunnel ram he saw at Bliss Custom Machining. “I’d worked my way through a series of single- and dual-plane manifolds, but the new engine I had really needed more air flow,” he
THE WHOLE REBUILD IS A BIT OF A BLUR NOW THAT I LOOK BACK AT ALL THE COUNTLESS HOURS, PHONE CALLS, BLOOD, SWEAT AND REAL TEARS
says. So Tim had Andrew at Bliss modify the design to remove the thermostat housing in favour of two –12 fittings and an electric water pump, as well as setting it up to run a pair of fourbarrel EFI throttles and injectors. Combined with a pair of 4150 alloy throttle spacers and custom one-piece air filter bases, the result is almost blinding.
Tim’s first engine combo made a very healthy 600hp with a static compression of 11.5:1 on PULP, but once it was back in the car and strapped to a chassis dyno, the mill lost oil pressure. “The engine was stripped and fitted with 14:1-comp Wiseco dome-top pistons and the cylinder port size was increased; capacity is now 383ci. It also runs on E85 now,” he says. “I spent some $10K with four different tuners. I could have bought a tow truck with the money I’ve spent on towing the car around!”
Tim finally struck gold with Joe at Hi Comp Performance. “I’ve had so many issues with driveability from what other tuners were able to do, but Joe was able to get it making healthy numbers at the wheels through the 5000rpm stall,” he says.
With so much attention given to the engine and driveline (which includes a built T400, aforementioned stall and VL Borgwarner rear end with 31-spline billet Moser axles and 3.89:1 gears), it’d be easy to forget about the rest of the car, but it’s now one slick-looking VP, dressed in a genuine HSV Senator kit and PPG Ice Blue paint. It’s come a long way from “stock and abused”. The body can sit pretty much flat with the ground thanks to the front and rear airbag kit, and every bushing, nut and bolt under the car has been replaced. Upgraded sway-bars, adjustable front castor arms and Panhard bar complete the picture.
Inside, virtually everything save for the floor and rooflining has been covered in shale leather, including the Momo tiller, four Recaro buckets, door trims, centre console and dash. It makes for a nice contrast to the blue exterior.
So has the effort and trauma been worth it? “Look, I spent $18,000 with one workshop, only to have to have all that work re-done. The engine failure hurt too,” Tim says. “But yeah, I love it.”
With a long list of trophies to the VP’S credit, including Best in Show at both the 2019 Australian Burnout Championships and Brashernats, and Best Street Machine at the 2019 Hot Rod & Custom Auto Expo, it’s clear that the judges love it too.
ENGINE: Commodore engine bays don’t come much cleaner than this. Fully shaved and also boasting boxed-in headlights, smoothed rails, smoothed radiator support and a fully sheet metal-lined underbonnet area, it makes the perfect home for the gleaming 640hp, 383ci high-comp Holden V8
ABOVE: Shale-coloured leather covers everything in here, including the door trims, dash and centre console. Four genuine Recaro buckets provide the seating, while an extensive audio set-up – including two large subs in the trimmed boot space – struggles to be heard over the twin 3in exhaust that dumps at the diff
ABOVE: This gorgeous billet tunnel ram set-up from Bliss Custom Machining was a custom unit with a deleted thermostat housing and made for EFI. It features twin 750cfm EFI throttles, 1000cc injectors, one-piece billet air filter hardware and custom hard lines – not to mention those bespoke throttle spacers that include Tim’s daughter’s name