> MICHAEL RYDER’S VN SS RUNS NINES WITHOUT THE HELP OF AN LS, TURBOS OR EVEN EFI
ACARBY-FED, 383-cube Holden V8 sounds like something from a bygone era in the modern day of turbo LS mills, but for Street Machine Drag Challenge combatant Michael Ryder, he couldn’t imagine his VN SS any other way. And given the car’s 650hp output, nine-second timeslips, 9000rpm gear changes and perfect street manners, who can blame him?
While he’s a tradie who tackles bathroom renos by day, Michael also builds seriously tough street and drag cars under his MR Racing Fabrication name from home in his spare time. “That means I’ve built heaps of turbo LS cars, RBS – you name it,” he says. “So I could’ve done that just as easily with this car, but I love my old Holdens and that’s why I love the VN the way it is.”
Michael has owned the car for around 10 years, and took on Drag Challenge in 2018 with a different combo. “That was the old 383, and what I didn’t realise at the time was it actually had a broken piston all week! That’s why we only ran 10s that week, but we still had a lot of fun.”
That 383 eventually let go on Michael in spectacular fashion at the Tuff Mounts Holden Nationals earlier this year, so it provided the perfect excuse to slot in the fresh 383 the car runs now. “The short block was already
WE NEEDED THE DRY SUMP BECAUSE WE’LL BE SPINNING THIS THING TO 9000RPM AT THE TRACK
assembled and ready to go, and the old engine literally destroyed everything when it let go,” Michael says.
The fresh donk was built both by Michael and his mate Chris at Chris’s Porting Service. The Vt-generation Holden block has been stroked out to 383 cubes thanks to a Scat steel crank with Callies Compstar H-beam rods and Diamond flattop pistons. Finishing off the bottom end is a Comp mechanical roller stick specced at 268/272@50 and .686in lift, along with a Savy Motorsport stagefive dry sump. “We needed the dry sump because we’ll be spinning this thing to 9000rpm at the track,” says Michael.
IT’S SUPER-EASY TO DRIVE ON THE STREET AND IS A DREAM ON THE TRACK
Sealing in the bottom end is a pair of hand-ported –9 Yella Terra heads, with a modified Torque Power intake manifold to suit and either a 1050cfm alcohol Dominator for racing or a separate 1050 Dominator that drinks 98 for street duties. “At Drag Challenge in 2018 I was running E85, but for street miles now I swap the carby over to run 98, because it’s easier to find and makes the car more streetable,” Michael says. “As for going carby, we did run injection for a while on the old combo and found that we ran faster with the carby set-up, so I’ve been sticking with that and it works really well for me.”
Michael estimates the new engine is good for around 650 horses, but doesn’t have an exact
Inside, a weld-in rollcage makes the VN track-legal for 8sec passes, and there are also plenty of mechanical gauges. “I put the Holley dash into it, but because we don’t have an ECU, it’s good to have the mechanical gauges as a back-up,” Michael says. “We can’t get the Holley dash to read rpm from the MSD Grid, so I’ve had to keep the old-school tach.” New-old-stock Holden trim was used to give the front racing seats a factory feel
figure, as he does all his tuning at the track. “With all my other customer engines I take them to an engine dyno, but because of the dry sump on this one it’s a lot of effort, so I just do it in the car for ease.”
Backing up the angry iron lion is a transbraked Turbo 350 ’box housing a Dominator 6200rpm converter that sends power to a nine-inch rear end with 4.56:1 gears. That may make it sound like it’d be a complete animal on the street, but Michael says it’s actually quite the opposite. “It’s super-easy to drive on the street and is a dream on the track. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years actually getting it out and testing it. It never gets hot, the exhaust noise is actually really tame for what it is and even with the converter it’ll just idle off of the lights and cruise around no worries.”
Drag Challenge 2021 was to have been Michael’s second crack at the event in his own car. Unfortunately, COVID has struck again and ruled out DC for this year, but Michael’s got a game plan for when the time comes. “This combo will be good for low nines, but for Drag Challenge we’ll dial it back a fraction and aim for mid-nines all week,” he says.
Here’s hoping we can watch him do just that next year.
In race trim, the VN wears 28x10.5 radials on the back and 26x5 R17s on the front; Michael uses a different set of wheels and tyres for street duties. Four-wheel Wilwood stoppers
The 9in rear end is accompanied by Viking coil-overs on all four corners to keep the VN tracking straight and true