430kw of su­per­charged V8 power in a Colorado ute – yes, it’s nuts!

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS - Story & Pho­tos: Dean Evans


to. The red devil on the right shoul­der is whis­per­ing evil in­struc­tions into your right ear. A few quick blips and the thun­der­ous br-r-r-r-u-mmm of a big ca­pac­ity V8 cracks off nearby con­crete walls, in­duc­ing a sly, evil smile.like vis­it­ing New York-new York Ho­tel Casino in Las Ve­gas, the sights and sounds are all deeply fa­mil­iar, but the lo­ca­tion is to­tally for­eign. This is a dirty big V8; in a Holden Colorado; and it’s su­per­charged! But un­like the Ve­gas ho­tel, what’s dif­fer­ent about this beast is that it to­tally looks and feels like it be­longs there in ev­ery way. It’s an un­holy union with a heav­enly re­sult, that turns a solid, pop­u­lar and quick Holden Colorado into some­thing that is em­bar­rass­ingly su­per­car quick, laugh­ably easy to drive, and as re­li­able as a stan­dard ver­sion, be­cause - to quote Ben Kenobi - it is… ‘from a cer­tain point of view’. We dis­cov­ered two is­sues ago that the Colorado Z71 is the quick­est of the four­cylin­der ute group, when it dom­i­nated the drag rac­ing com­po­nent of our Ute-lympics test, be­ing sub­stan­tially faster than both Ranger and Hilux. But the Colorado ‘GTS’ takes it up not just a step, but the whole lad­der: it’s in­sanely fast with su­per­car sounds and the com­fort of a high-rid­ing dou­ble cab ute. This awe­some cre­ation is the work of Sil­verdale-based Ex­treme Con­ver­sions (EC), an hour north of Auck­land, by busi­ness part­ners and mates Di­rec­tor Heath Moy and Sales & Mar­ket­ing Man­ager Rick Grant.

With a fam­ily tra­di­tion of Hold­ens and Com­modores, this was a nat­u­ral fit for Heath, and with Rick’s Chevy pas­sion, and a shared love of LS en­gines and speed, the guys have spent re­cent times putting to­gether this, the Ex­treme Con­ver­sions Colorado GTS #01. It’s the first of its type in NZ, with a hand­ful of sim­i­lar con­ver­sions proven and suc­cess­ful in Aus­tralia. This is no back­yard build – run from their Sil­verdale me­chan­i­cal work­shop, the EC Colorado is ba­si­cally a repli­ca­tion of what HSV would do to a Colorado if it could. Cost and pro­duc­tion num­bers prob­a­bly don’t bode well for a man­u­fac­turer to change en­gines for a sports model, but for smaller com­pa­nies like EC, it’s the ideal chance to show­case the ul­ti­mate 2018 ute. At a time when the HSV’S Maloo has taken its last breath, this Colorado ‘GTS’ has timed its run per­fectly, ready and able to take over the man­tle as the Gen­eral’s fastest ute.


The build starts with a ‘donor’ Colorado ute. “It doesn’t have to be the Z71,” ex­plains Heath. “A cus­tomer can choose any spec level he wants, any 4WD Colorado from 2012 on, though a 2WD con­ver­sion is in the works. “We can build a to­tal sleeper, or some­thing bold and brash – even V8 an HSV Sportscat! “We used the Z71 for our car to show­case it,” added Rick. The EC Colorado GTS is ba­si­cally built to ‘fac­tory’ specs. The 2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylin­der is re­moved, which the cus­tomer can sell or use for spares. Im­pres­sively, there isn’t a huge weight dif­fer­ence be­tween the heavy cast iron block tur­bocharged diesel en­gine, and the al­loy block V8, re­sult­ing in min­i­mal af­fect to over­all weight, han­dling or bal­ance. To com­pen­sate,

Want­ing a thrill-ride for the en­tire fam­ily? The LSA su­per­charged V8 con­ver­sion also fits the seven-seat Trail­blazer SUV!

and re­duce front roll, Ex­treme fits heav­ier Dobi Sport front springs, which raise the front end 75mm, level out the rake, and min­imise the ef­fect of any added weight to the front end. In its place is a brand new GM ‘crate mo­tor’ LSA su­per­charged V8, and match­ing six-speed auto via a cus­tom trans­fer case, ba­si­cally repli­cat­ing the driv­e­train as seen in the HSV GTS. On cus­tom en­gine and gear­box mounts, the V8 low­ers into the large en­gine bay like it was made for it, thanks partly to a GM lowengine sump. There’s a fac­tory wiring loom, cus­tomised to suit, two-piece heavy duty drive­shaft and fully engi­neered and com­plied safety loop. The base ex­haust is a two-into-one three­inch sys­tem, us­ing LSA cat­alytic con­ver­tors and the same four oxy­gen sen­sors, and emits a meaty rum­ble; though the guys are also working on an op­tional bi-mo­dal sys­tem, sim­i­lar to the HSV sys­tem, that qui­etens it at the touch of a but­ton. There’s no doubt it’s a V8 at idle, a rum­ble whose pitch is flat­tened a lit­tle by the su­per­charger. An­cil­lar­ies are where just as much work is, but vi­tally, it’s kept as ‘GM’ as pos­si­ble. The ECU was moved from the right to the left side of the bay; there’s a fac­tory air­box with an up­graded lid, Bosch air-flow me­ter, and a four-inch feed pipe; though Heath, ever the per­fec­tion­ist, is aim­ing to pro­duce a moulded pipe to com­plete the fac­tory look. Cus­tom up­per ra­di­a­tor hoses, GM fil­ters, GM clamps, hoses and fit­tings and even oils con­tinue the fac­tory theme, with a re­vised fu­elling sys­tem re­quired for the change from diesel to pre­mium un­leaded, in­clud­ing all the emis­sions equip­ment, and a neat lit­tle re­minder sticker in the fuel flap that PULP is the juice.

New GM pul­leys, ten­sion­ers and three GM belts are used, in­clud­ing the cus­tom brack­ets needed to re­lo­cate the air-con­di­tion­ing com­pres­sor. There’s a larger ra­di­a­tor for im­proved cool­ing, with twin elec­tric fans in place of the me­chan­i­cal fan, a trans­mis­sion cooler, and a change to the charge cool­ing, the Colorado now us­ing a more space-ef­fi­cient wa­ter-to-air in­ter­cooler in lieu of the fac­tory air-to-air in­ter­cooler. All this cool­ing has clearly paid off: “Even stuck in traf­fic,” re­calls Heath, “the gauge sits just above half, be­fore the fan kicks in. In the diesel, it sat just un­der a quar­ter... so it’s just where it sits with the V8.” The best part is that ev­ery­thing works. It sounds ob­vi­ous and easy, but it’s far from it, with the Colorado GTS start­ing, run­ning and per­form­ing ex­actly like a ‘stan­dard’ car: no check en­gine lights, the hill de­scent con­trol works per­fectly, as does the tip­tronic se­quen­tial gear shifter. There is one caveat, how­ever, as the diesel-scaled tachome­ter only spans to 5000rpm, but the petrol en­gine spins to 6600rpm; though it’s an auto, and re­tains the rev lim­iter, so that isn’t an is­sue. Stop­ping power is im­proved a lit­tle with Bendix brake pads, though a Har­rop con­ver­sion is avail­able, and was fit­ted just af­ter the pho­tos. The LSA con­ver­sion kit is ac­tu­ally four pages long, and in­cludes things like a new starter mo­tor and al­ter­na­tor, list­ing ev­ery com­po­nent from GM bolts to the LSA badges. There’s even a full 10,000km, six-month war­ranty, 40-litres of pre­mium fuel and a full wash, vac­uum and de­tail. It’s al­most like buy­ing a new car again. A true drive-away pack­age, this is the ul­ti­mate per­for­mance dual-cab ute, and one that is fully con­fig­urable and cus­tomis­able. The show car, for ex­am­ple, uses Holden flares for a fat­ter but fac­tory look, but there’s a range of op­tions from shocks, springs, in­te­rior up­grades, brakes, wheels and tyres, such as the 20-inch BG Wheels and Cooper tyre pack­age fit­ted to this car. Su­per­charger pul­ley changes can even reap more power, if 430kw just isn’t enough! The con­ver­sion can be done to new or used Colorados, and Ex­treme Con­ver­sions does ev­ery­thing prop­erly, us­ing ei­ther fac­tory or top qual­ity com­po­nents, from the GM en­gine, down to Wurth wash­ers and bolts.

But one of the big­gest achieve­ments for the com­pany is the com­pli­ance plate af­fixed to the en­gine bay, one of the hard­est parts of the build ac­cord­ing to Heath and Rick. The full ba­sic con­ver­sion takes around 4-6 weeks and the fit, fin­ish and end re­sult is typ­i­cal of any show­room model. The Colorado GTS is de­signed to ap­peal to the pre­mium ute buyer, one who doesn’t flinch at $100,000 for an op­tioned up V6 Amarok, an ac­ces­sorised Ranger Wild­trak, or even the HSV Sportscat ‘+’ buyer who wants the per­for­mance befitting of the tra­di­tional HSV brand. From $45,000+GST for the drive-in/drive­out kit, on a man­ual LTZ (the cheapest du­al­cab), that equates to around $108,000 for a ‘brand new’ V8 Colorado Lsa-pow­ered ute. And that is a mighty ve­hi­cle. Even look­ing used, take a three-year old Colorado which are on Trademe for around $30-$40k, and the re­sult is a 2015 Colorado worth around $75-$85k. Want a thrill-ride for the en­tire fam­ily? The con­ver­sion isn’t just for Colorado, ei­ther EC is also able to con­vert the seven-seat SUV Trail­blazer sib­ling. Kids play­ing up? Nail the throt­tle and they’ll quickly snap into line!


It’s what we all came here for, and the Colorado GTS does not dis­ap­point! Start­ing the ute is a sim­ple plea­sure, the gauges sweep­ing their fac­tory start-up rou­tine, and the rat­tle of the Du­ra­max diesel mak­ing way for the rum­ble of the big V8. The ex­haust tips are a long way from the driver, but there’s a melodic throb of a V8 that en­com­passes the cabin, with­out be­ing in­tru­sive – un­less the driver wants it to be. Se­lect­ing drive and mov­ing off should come with a slight warn­ing, as the mus­cle mem­ory of driv­ing a diesel takes a mo­ment to adapt to the ea­ger­ness and ur­gency of a su­per­charged V8. It isn’t dif­fi­cult to be smooth at all, but small prods launch the Colorado from stand­still with a moun­tain more speed: yes, the 500Nm @ 2000rpm from the four-cylin­der is im­pres­sive, but when 740Nm is avail­able, it’s like com­par­ing a chee­tah to a Chi­huahua. The steer­ing is a touch heav­ier, maybe five-per­cent, but it’s for­got­ten af­ter a few kilo­me­tres, and the growl of the V8 is mu­sic to the ears as it cruises around town. Floor the throt­tle, from al­most any speed, and the nose lifts and the en­gine changes from pas­sive and purring to a wild an­i­mal, roar­ing as revs thrash through the range, the six-speed slid­ing be­tween gears. In­ter­est­ingly, the V8 is the dom­i­nant sound, and like the GTS sedan, there isn’t a howl or whine of a su­per­charger pump­ing boost, just a clas­sic, mus­cle car-like growl­ing bark from a V8 that let’s ev­ery­one within 50 me­tres knows this def­i­nitely isn’t the stan­dard 2.8-litre four-cylin­der. We power up a hill on 100km/h zoned B-road, and it gets the at­ten­tion of a farmer or three as the thump­ing sound hits like a wave. It’s im­pres­sive con­sid­er­ing that its 430kw is only 10 per­cent down on a cur­rent Aus­tralian Su­per­car racer – and this is a road le­gal, fully com­plied dou­ble-cab ute with five seats!

Its 0-100km/h time is just 0.8 sec­onds off the HSV GTS! Did we just test New Zealand’s fastest dou­ble-cab ute?!

The sim­ple fact is the Colorado drives like, well, a mix be­tween a Colorado Z71 and an HSV GTS. There’s aren’t any sur­prises in drive­abil­ity, it starts with a twist of the key, runs with­out fault, and sets the stan­dard for what a 2018 ul­ti­mate per­for­mance ute has be­come. We’ve saved the best for last: how fast is it? With our VBOX tim­ing gear locked on to satel­lites, we di­alled up the key tar­gets for 0-60km/h, 0-100km/h and the stand­ing quar­ter­mile. Hav­ing rolled off these num­bers with the stan­dard Z71 re­cently, we had a base­line to work with, plus the abil­ity to com­pare it to the HSV GTS, which is nat­u­rally faster, be­ing a sedan and 300kg (15 per­cent) lighter. With trac­tion con­trol dis­abled, 4H mode en­abled to min­imise any wheel­spin, and the throt­tle loaded to around 2000rpm against the brake, the Colorado GTS un­leashes its fury: it lifts the nose, sinks the rear and roars past the limit of the tacho, au­di­bly singing be­yond, with a slick shift around… no, wait. We had to check the video, as the GTS just man­ages to tick over 100km/h in first gear, in just 5.2 sec­onds! A lit­tle shocked at the num­bers, we tested it again, with the same 5.2 show­ing on the dis­play. Not only is that al­most HALF the time the stan­dard Z71 takes (10.2 secs), it’s just 0.8 sec­onds off the HSV GTS! Did we just test New Zealand’s fastest dou­ble-cab ute?! Of course the ac­tion pow­ers on through sec­ond and third gears, with the Colorado pil­ing on the speed, both its size and aero­dy­nam­ics fight­ing against the en­gine, but as it crosses the quar­ter-mile, the num­bers are equally as­ton­ish­ing: 13.6 sec­onds at 168km/h is a time that HSV would have been happy with for its Club­sport just a decade ago. Of course this kind of per­for­mance comes at a price, and with the GTS claim­ing 15.0l/100km, and the stan­dard Z71 get­ting around 10l/100km, the heav­ier Colorado GTS was never claim­ing to be an econ­omy car, with Heath in­form­ing us that around 16-20l/100km is quite nor­mal. But if fuel cost is an is­sue, you’re prob­a­bly not the tar­get de­mo­graphic. If ul­ti­mate per­for­mance in a dou­ble-cab ute ‘is’ your tar­get, then there is noth­ing like the Ex­treme Con­ver­sions Colorado GTS. It’s high oc­tane V8 juice. Con­tact: www.ec-nz.co.nz

Fac­tory Holden flares pump up the looks, while keep­ing it in line with the ‘fac­tory’ ap­pear­ance.

Ig­ni­tion on, the gauges run a full di­ag­nos­tics check be­fore re­turn­ing to nor­mal, just like the stock set-up, with­out fault codes or lights.

The rat­tle of the Du­ra­max diesel four-cylin­der makes way for the rum­ble of a 6.2-litre V8

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