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

Street Machine - - CONTENTS - STORY & PHO­TOS BEN HOSK­ING

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

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