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    HARDCORE S54 E30 Thunder from Down Under

    SKIN DEEP #S54-swapped E30. Words and photos: Chris Nicholls. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and Andrew Burke’s home-built, DIY-painted E30 is exactly the reason why.

    “Why are you shooting that little thing?” says a passer-by during the shoot. I casually pop the bonnet and see his eyes widen. “Jeez, there’s some work gone into that,” he says, before firing off a few photos on his phone and walking away. This sort of thing happens several more times during the shoot and it’s easy to understand why.

    From a distance, this is just another E30 track car. The matt black paint, done as a last resort after troubles with the painter, is hardly the last word in beauty and the stock M Tech II body kit isn’t going to set anyone’s world alight either. No, things only get interesting when you get close. It’s then that you see the custom Forgeline wheels and fat, circle-track StopTechs and imperial-sized AP Racing J-hook discs (chosen because imperial gear is cheaper than metric). Next, you peek inside and notice the #Motec M800 ECU sitting on a custom carbon plate on the floor. And the oil lines for the Peterson dry sump kit running next to it. And the Motec C127 colour dash logger and Tilton pedals. It just doesn’t stop. Finally, you pop that aforementioned bonnet and see the immaculate S54 with carbon cover and CSLreplica intake nestled in-between the strut towers, surrounded by Goodridge Teflon hoses and a Peterson oil pressure primer pump. If ever there was a car to prove that sometimes, the opposite of the idiom ‘beauty is only skin deep’ applies, this is it.

    The back story of this Australian E30, as you might suspect given the engineering involved, started several years ago (six to be precise) when owner-builder Andrew Burke picked up this 325is to be a street-registered track day build. Having got tired of risking his E92 335i road car on the track, he thought back to a 1989 E30 brochure he got as a kid and decided that would be a better bet. As most builds do, things started off small. Some H&R springs and Bilstein Sport dampers, rebuilt stock brakes and bolton exhaust, a short shifter and new Recaros did the trick for six months, but one track day at the wonderfully nicknamed Haunted Hills circuit (actually Bryant Park) in his home state of Victoria, Andrew noticed puffs of blue smoke on overrun thanks to some keen-eyed photographers. “That was all the excuse I needed to go ‘Oh, this motor could potentially have some kind of small issue in the next three, six, nine, 12 years, I should probably just swap the engine out right now’” he laughs.

    Thus began a long and involved process of finding and fitting a new motor. Having decided a resto-mod approach was best, he settled on an S50 and sourced one from the UK, but all was not well. “As all UK motors are, it was covered in corrosion, all the aluminium bits were all pitted from the salt and whatever other calamities occur over there in the middle of winter, so I didn’t do a whole lot with it other than strip it down to a short block and basically sand blast all the things,” Andrew says. Having cleaned it up, he found it still good enough to use, so left it standard internally and got to work fitting it. On went an E34 sump and 12° angled double-shear shift rod to get the now-twisted stock G250 five-speed to work with the AKG DTM shifter, some custom-made exhaust manifolds from Andrew Nicholls at Meridian Motorsport and a VFT E36 DTM-style carbon air box specifically designed to fi t S50s in E30s thanks to a notch cut into the back to clear the brake booster. To ensure that it all ran, Andrew cut and re-connected the stock harness himself and fitted an Alpha N ECU chip.

    However, while he may have cleaned it up, it turned out the engine’s not-so-perfect appearance was rather more indicative of its condition than first thought and sure enough, the number five journal went at a Winton Raceway track day in true S50 style. “A $350 tow truck ride home later [Andrew not having a trailer at the time and Winton being two hours from central Melbourne] we were sitting in the garage, the old man and I, saying ‘Well, we’re going to have to fix it, I guess’”. Andrew admits that even at that point, the idea of fitting an S54 came into his head, but he wasn’t quite ready to quit on the idea of an S50-engined E30 yet, especially having done so much work to make it fit.

    Thus, he decided that, rather than throw everything away, he would build a proper race-spec S50 and see what happened. Sadly, it’s here that Andrew suffered the all-too-common “bad workshop experience.”

    After searching around for a well-regarded builder, he thought he’d found one in a former Team JPS BMW factory race engineer in New South Wales, but while the specs were suitably serious, complete with 11.6:1 Wossner pistons, Pauter I-beam rods, 296° cams, Supertec Inconel valves and the current Peterson dry-sump system (designed to avoid ever spinning a bearing again), it “never made any real power.” “Without going into too much detail, it just fell on its face above 6000rpm,” he says. Worse still, it didn’t even last that long. A mere 500km of track work later and Andrew was sitting on the side of the Winton tarmac with two holes in the block from a rod and rod bolt respectively, oil pouring out everywhere and his car partially in flames thanks to starting a grass fire underneath it. The worst part? A postmortem found the likely cause to be poor assembly.

    “As I pulled the bits off the motor so I could get it out of the chassis, I found one of the ARP rod bolts was poking through the block on the exhaust side. I didn’t see it originally as a result, but it was poking through with all of its threads still intact. So it was not like the bolt snapped – it was like it completely unscrewed itself – and I can’t imagine a bolt that’s designed to be torqued to yield, if it was properly fastened, would have come undone. End of story. So that was that, which was a bit unfortunate.”

    Unfortunate indeed, and at around AU$30,000 (£17,000) for the engine, expensive. Andrew adds that figure doesn’t even include the cost of ancillaries fitted to deal with the extra power, the current 8x17” Forgelines, the previous SL6R and SL4R Wilwood calipers and discs (since replaced by the StopTechs because Andrew bought another road/track E30 he wanted to put those on), the custom-built AST two-way adjustable coilovers (again, since replaced by custom MCS two-ways) and several other mods besides. However, Andrew wasn’t prepared to throw it all away, so after convincing his wife he “wasn’t silly,” he pulled the trigger on a mint S54 with just 18,000 miles on it out of a wrecked Californian Z4 M.

    Being so new and from California, this motor was in stunning shape. There was no dust behind the water pump or alternator pulleys and even the internals, which Andrew inspected when he pulled off the sump to fit the Moroso dry sump pan, were unvarnished.

    Given he had no money to put new internals in it, this worked out perfectly. Plus, the S54 made more power stock than his built S50 anyway, so in it went, with only a Karbonius CSL-replica air box – fitted because the StopTechs meant he no longer needed the booster – a Racing Dynamics carbon engine cover, new custom exhaust manifolds (again from Andrew from Meridian, who by then had moved on to start his own venture called Trackart) and a few other mechanical pieces like an Eisenmann exhaust needed to make it work. At the same time, Andrew realised that to actually run the thing (especially given he was keeping Vanos and drive-by-wire), he would need to upgrade his dash from a set of Stack gauges to a Motec logger to ensure the necessary input and output numbers, and after contacting Jason Ingram at Advanced Motorsport Electrics to do the concentrically-wound, DR25 heat-shrunk harness and install it, he got it tuned by Lee at Melbourne Performance Centre and brought it up to Broadford State Motorcycle Centre for a shakedown, which is where we did the shoot.

    His impressions of the car now it’s finished (bar a cage)? “I was thrilled with the way that it handled and the way that it stopped even back when it had the second S50… but I was deeply disappointed on some level that it didn’t make as much power as I was expecting. It was certainly fast enough, but it never felt brutal, I guess. Whereas the S54 is still not crazy by any means, it just feels a lot more angry. It feels significantly more powerful.” Given this first shakedown was conducted at only half-throttle, that’s a brilliant portent and suggests that when this E30 is finally unleashed, its unassuming looks, combined with all that power and handling, will mean the opposition won’t see it coming.

    “If ever there was a car to prove that sometimes, the opposite of the idiom ‘beauty is only skin deep’ applies, this is it”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #S54 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-E30-S54 / #BMW-S54 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E30 / #Bosch / #BMW-E30-S54B32

    ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 , #Karbonius CSL-replica dry carbon air box, #K&N air filter, #Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, #Bosch-044 fuel pump, #Aftermarket Industries swirl pot, #MagnaFuel dry break billet fuel filters, #NGK-Platinum plugs, Setrab 19-row oil cooler with -16 fittings, Roush Yates carbon catch can, Peterson R4 dry sump pump, #VAC-Motorsports mount kit, #C&V HTD belt drive with VAC/ATI fluid harmonic balancer, -16 feed and return oil hoses, -12 scavenge, #Peterson scavenge filters, -10 pressure feed to VAC Motorsports oil manifold, custom #Moroso dry sump oil pan, Peterson single-stage remote oil primer circuit, Peterson billet four-gallon dry sump tank with custom #CNC bracketing, dual breathers and 100 micron filter screen, Canton billet five micron oil filter on pressure stage, #C&R-Racing oil filter housing with provision for secondary oil cooler circuit in rear of car, #Wix-Racing 51222R filter, Goodridge XF 910 and Brown and Miller (BRMS) Teflon hoses, VAC-Motorsports lights, accessories and alternator pulleys, ATI damper by VAC Motorsports, AKG-Motorsport Group N engine mounts, #Racing-Dynamics dry carbon engine cover, Trackart custom equal-length exhaust manifolds and custom 2.5” exhaust, Eisenmann E36 M3 rear box, Motec-M800-ECU , #Motec SKN dual CAN knock module, Advanced Motorsport Electrics custom concentricwound wiring harness with Kevlar tracers, Raychem boots, Souriau and Autosport connectors

    TRANSMISSION #G250 five-speed manual gearbox, #AP-Racing 7.25” twin-plate clutch and lightened cro-mo flywheel from E36 M3 R, AKG DTM shifter, PPF axles, re-balanced OE driveshaft, OE diff with extra clutch packs, Z3 M housing, custom transmission mounts and subframe reinforcements


    CHASSIS 7.5x17” ET20 (front and rear) #Forgeline-SO3 wheels with 235/40 (front and rear) Nitto NT-01 tyres, VAC Motorsports 90mm studs, #Motorsport-Hardware cro-mo nuts, 3mm spacers (front), Motion Control Suspension custom two-way remote reservoir coilovers, #Eibach 60mm springs, AKG Motorsport polyurethane, #Treehouse-Racing and custom #Delrin bushes, custom Trackart T45-based cro-mo front strut brace, custom front arb and mounts, Dave Stillwell rear anti-roll bar with custom mounts and reinforcement, full Aurora rose joints, #StopTech STR43 calipers (front and rear), #AP-Racing J-hook fully-floating discs, custom Motorsport Connections Teflon braided lines, Performance Friction PFC01 pads (front and rear), custom-machined 7057 T6 rotor hats

    EXTERIOR OEM Tech II kit, custom bi-xenon headlights based on TRS projectors and 3D printed adaptors, rear lights lightly tinted with Diamond black

    INTERIOR #AKG-Motorsport Delrin shift knob, AKG Motorsport DTM shift lever and short-shift kit, Alcantara gear gaiter, #Tilton 600 Series pedals, Tilton -4 fluid tank, #Speedflow lines, Tilton billet brake bias adjuster, Tilton fluid bias and balance bar adjuster, #Motec C127 dash logger, Recaro SP-A Kevlar V8 Supercar special edition seat, VAC Motorsports billet rails, Sabelt Ultralight harnesses, Personal Grinta 330mm wheel, Lifeline Group N boss with custom spacer, custom carbon panel behind wheel for light controls, custom Trackart harness bar, custom aluminium scuff plates

    THANKS Andrew at Trackart for the exhaust, brake cooling duct, harness bar and strut bar fabrication work, Marcos at Motorsport Connections for the Speedflow bits and hoses, Jason Ingram at Advanced Motorsport Electrics for the incredible work on the harness and Lee Burley at Melbourne Performance Centre for the dyno tuning

    Carbon engine cover and replica CSL carbon air box make this S54 even sexier.

    Single Recaro SP-A Kevlar V8 Supercar special edition seat.

    “After convincing his wife he “wasn’t silly,” he pulled the trigger on a mint S54 with just 18,000 miles on it out of a wrecked Californian Z4 M”

    / #Motec-M800 ECU mounted on custom carbon plate.

    Swirl pot, pump and filters mounted in boot.
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    OLD DOG NEW TRICKS
    With a turbo’d S54 stuffed into its engine bay, this E21 has an eye-watering 1000whp to play with.

    Jørgen Aune’s got an addiction to old-skool BMWs, big engines and big turbos. There was only one way his E21 project was going to turn out, and we love it… Words: Ben Koflach Pics: Arild Dyrkorn.

    I’ve been interested in cars all my life,” explained 27-year-old Norwegian, Jørgen Aune. “I grew up on a farm, so I began to drive at 13 years of age on the fields. My first car was a Datsun 120Y that I owned with some buddies, but BMW has always been my favourite brand. My first BMW was an E21, which I shared with a friend. I fell in love with the six-cylinder noise and the E21’s looks.

    “Then I had an E21 323i with an M30B35 engine, E30 M Tech interior, Brock B1 wheels and LSD. After that, I had an E30 325, into which I put an M106B35 turbo engine. I put a huge truck turbo on it and ran it with about 400bhp at the wheels through an E30 M3 dog-leg gearbox.

    “I studied industrial mechanics, and this enabled me to make the turbo manifold and rebuild the intake, as well as make many other custom parts. A couple of cars later, I had an E30 again, this time with a S38B36. I decided to turbocharge it, so bought forged pistons and rods, as well as a Borg Warner S475 turbo. I made the intake plenum, turbo manifold and all the other custom parts required to make the engine fit myself. I also made the car into an M3 replica using only original BMW parts and painted it Daytona violet. It had 802hp at the wheels at its peak.”

    Gulp… well, while some of us can claim to have messed around with various project cars in our time, Jørgen’s really got stuck in at the deep end since the start. With his fabrication and engine-building skills, as well as the fact that he now works in a bodyshop, you could say that he’s got all the areas covered. You could, in fact, say that his entire car history has built up to building his latest E21, which is one of the most comprehensive and best-looking first-gen Threes we’ve ever seen.

    “I decided to build this E21 when I felt that the E30 M3 rep was done,” Jørgen told us. “I was either going to rip the E30 apart and rebuild it or sell it and use the money to build a new car. I wasn’t sure what I’d use as a new car, but the ’78 E21 320 sitting outside my garage did cross my mind – it was in very bad condition though, so I went to Kristiansund in October 2010 and bought this ’82 316 for 3000 kroner.”

    Not one to waste time, Jørgen immediately set to work on his new project. “The car had been standing outside for around seven years, so the floorpan was rusty, as were the rear fenders and trunk,” Jørgen explained. “It really looked bad but was still better than the 320!” The first thing he did was strip the E21 right down to a bare shell, giving him a clean pallet to work from, as it were. Then he started to cut away the firewall and transmission tunnel to make space for the engine and gearbox. “The plan at first was to use an S38B36 turbo again, but I decided to go for the S54 when I found one very cheap,” he explained.


    Having driven the somewhat front-heavy S38 E30, Jørgen was keen to make this project a little different, too. The engine was mocked-up in the engine bay, though placed 30cm further back than usual to even up weight distribution. This meant that he had to build a new firewall and gearbox tunnel to allow fitment of the chunky E39 530i gearbox he intended to use. Next up, he moved to the rear axle as with a target figure of 800bhp he needed something stronger to equip the E21 with. “I used the entire rear suspension from the E28 535,” Jørgen said. “Naturally it was too wide, but I narrowed the mounts to make it fit. E28s are 80mm wider at the back, so there was very limited space for wheels in the arches.”

    Jørgen’s solution? He cut the rear arches out and then welded them back in with extra metal to make them 40mm wider on each side, resulting in him having enough room to run monstrous 10x17s out back if he wanted.

    “The wheels were the first thing I bought when I started the project,” Jørgen revealed. “I like old-skool wheels and the AC wheels fit well on the E21.” We couldn’t agree more, and in 8.5x17” and 9.5x17”, with stretched tyres, they look absolutely spot-on. Having said that, since the shoot they’ve been sold. What will come next remains to be seen. Getting back to the car itself, if you’re somehow not impressed yet, then you’re about to be…

    “For the front suspension I modified E34 M5 control and caster arms to fit the E21’s chassis.” Jørgen said. “I welded new brackets and mounting points to the body, all of which were raised up so that the geometry wouldn’t be affected; the plan was always to have a low car!” This level of forward thinking and clever fabrication is something we don’t often see – Jørgen’s entire E21 is a feast of details both above and below the skin. “I then bought an RHD E46 M3 steering rack. The E21 and E34 have the rack behind the wheels, whereas the E46 has it in front of the wheels – a left-hand drive E46 rack would have meant that I’d have reversed steering, so I mounted the RHD rack upside down!”

    Completing Jørgen’s innovative and effective setup is a set of fully adjustable XYZ coilovers, which were actually designed for an E30 but have been custom-fitted to E34 M5 struts to tie in with the rest of the setup. The brakes are also from an E34 M5 – it really is a comprehensive setup, and is governed by an OBP bias-adjustable pedalbox, as well as the all-important hydraulic handbrake.

    While the welder was out, Jørgen addressed the rotten parts of the boot floor and floorpan. He also fabricated a custom eight-point roll-cage, which not only triangulates to the front suspension turrets but is linked to the rear subframe and diff mounts, creating a seriously rigid and strong shell. The spare wheel well was removed, while everything was measured up and prepared, where necessary, for the pile of parts Jørgen was waiting to fit.

    Before adding anything else, though, all of the sound-deadening and other clutter was stripped right back, meaning that a thick coat of stunning Space grey could be applied, both inside and out, having been prepped by Jørgen and his friend Per Egil Hendset, with Frode Øyane applying the paint. AC Schnitzer mirrors and an Alpina front lip were also dropped off at the painters, too. “Since I love the looks of E21 I didn’t want to put on much styling,” Jørgen pointed out.


    With that completed, the E21 ready to be built back up into the spectacle that it now is. Beginning with the interior, thanks to that pedalbox and a custom steering column, Jørgen has been able to fit the seats nice and far back, assisting weight distribution and easing the fitment of parts around the custom bulkhead. The seats he opted for were Sparco buckets, which along with sixpoint harnesses and a Sabelt steering wheel make for a rather purposeful inside. The dashboard is the original E21 item, though the standard clocks have gone. In their place sits a neat sheet of aluminium with only the vital readings to ensure Jørgen knows the state of the engine’s vitals when attacking at full pelt.

    In the boot you’ll find a 40-litre alloy fuel cell, along with a pair of Bosch 044 pumps and an Aeromotive filter, all designed for one thing: maximum performance. Which is just as well, considering the work Jørgen’s put in under the bonnet. As already mentioned, he’d managed to pick up an S54 nice and cheap, but there was no way it was going to stay anything like standard. “When I started the engine mods the plan was 800 horsepower at the wheels,” he grinned. “I built the engine myself. It took about a month. Once I’d received all the parts I needed the job was easy.”


    The block itself has retained the standard 3.2-litre capacity, though understandably Jørgen saw it fit to upgrade the internals using forged Pauter rods and pistons from CP Pistons, which give a compression ratio of 9.0:1. ARP main studs finish the bottom end. The head also remains in standard specification, although it was completely overhauled and bolted down with ARP studs, too. The VANOS was blanked off with JAAS Performance plates. Even the original headgasket remains; it’s a real testament to just how strong the OEM components can be.


    Where things have really been stepped up is in the gas flow in and out of that head. In case you didn’t guess, that lowered compression ratio isn’t just for the sake of it – it’s to allow huge amounts of forceinduced air into the cylinders. This comes courtesy of a sizeable Precision 7675 billet turbo, which is low-mounted on a custom JAAS Performance manifold. Out the back of the turbo is a custom JAAS 4” exhaust, while the intake tract goes from the turbo to a custom intercooler, which is actually quite well hidden in front of the radiator. From there the air is forced into a custom JAAS intake plenum. With all the crackle black powdercoating and the fact that Jørgen has chosen to retain the standard engine cover, it’s a surprisingly OEM-looking installation.

    Managing the boost pressures comes down to a 75mm PPF dump valve and a 60mm PPF wastegate, while the fuelling is taken care of by huge 1680cc Bosch injectors as well as an Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, all linked up with neat AN8 lines and fittings. Governing the whole lot is a Elektromotive Tec GT standalone management system, while cooling has been left to an alloy radiator, electric water pump and electric fan.

    “I’m very happy with the engine,” Jørgen said. “The only problem we had was the cam adjustments. The first time we had it on the dyno the powerband was terrible. But after a little adjustment together with Geir Haugen from Bjørnstad Cars we dyno’d it again and it was much better providing a wide powerband and peaks of 1000hp and 675lb ft of torque at the wheels at just 2 bar of boost! It blew my mind!”

    There’s certainly one thing for sure – with the level of re-engineering and performance that this E21 boasts, it’s got to be one of the best in the world. In the pursuit of such lairy specifications it could have easily ended up looking like something from a horror movie, but with a clear love for the original 3 Series, Jørgen’s respect for simple styling and engineering, it’s become a real spectacle.

    The interior may be built for purpose, but it looks really good, too!

    A lot of work has gone into this E21, and it really shows…

    JAAS Performance

    Check out the spec list and you’ll see a number of parts on this E21 that were made by JAAS Performance. Well, you may be interested to hear that it is in fact the title under which Jørgen and his good friend Anders Skei operate. The pair fabricate all sorts of incredible components, as can be seen from Jørgen’s E21. Anders is a BMW fanatic too, as it happens, though he chose Toyota 2JZ power for his E34 M5. With 894bhp at the wheels, it’s no slouch!

    I built the engine myself. It took about a month. Once I’d received all the parts the job was easy.

    DATA FILE #BMW-E21 / #BMW / #BMW-E21-S54 / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #Elektromotive / #Bosch

    ENGINE: 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #BMW-S54 / #S54 , forged CP pistons for 9.0:1 compression ratio with heavy-duty wrist pins, forged #Pauter con rods, #ARP 119 headstuds, ARP 2000 main studs, original head overhauled, VANOS removed with JAAS Performance blanking plates, original head gasket, #Precision 7675 billet turbo, 60mm PPF wastegate, JAAS Performance custom turbo manifold and 4” exhaust, #JAAS-Performance custom intake plenum with 75mm #PPF dump valve, custom intercooler, #Elektromotive-Tec-GT engine management, Elektromotive ignition coils, #Moroso ignition leads, twin #Bosch-044 fuel pumps, Bosch 1680cc injectors, AN8 fuel lines and fittings, Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, Aeromotive fuel filter, 40-litre fuel cell, alloy radiator, electric water pump, electric fan, custom oil breather tank, S38B36 flywheel, custom engine mounts to move engine 30cm rearward

    TRANSMISSION: E39 530i gearbox, adjustable short-shifter, #Tilton triple-plate clutch, custom gearbox mounts to move 30mm rearward, #JAAS custom propshaft, customised E28 535i rear axle and driveshafts, welded E23 745i diff with 2.91 final drive ratio

    CHASSIS: #AC-Schnitzer-Type-1 Racing wheels, 8.5x17” front and 9.5x17” rear, 215/35 and 225/35 tyres respectively. Custom-mounted E28 535i rear arms and hubs, custom mounted E34 M5 front control and caster arms, lower suspension mounting points all raised 40mm, XYZ E30 coilovers (custom welded on to E34 M5 struts at front), flipped E46 M3 RHD steering rack, custom steering arms with M14 uniballs, E21/E10 hybrid steering column, polybushed throughout. E34 M5 brakes all-round using 315mm front discs and 300mm rear discs

    EXTERIOR: Full respray in #BMW Space grey, rear arches widened 40mm each side, #Alpina front lip, #AC-Schnitzer wing mirrors, clear indicators all-round

    INTERIOR: Firewall and gearbox tunnel custom made, spare wheel well removed, custom eight-point roll-cage including links to front turrets and rear subframe mounts, Sparco seats, SRS six-point harnesses, Sabelt steering wheel, OBP pedalbox with adjustable brake bias, hydraulic handbrake, all sound deadening removed and interior repainted BMW Space grey, original E21 dashboard with #Autometer gauges (tacometer, boost, oil pressure, oil temperature, water temperature)

    THANKS: Anders Skie, Gunnar Heggset and Ole Buvarp for the wiring, Per Egil Hendset for his help with the prep work before paint, and Frode Øyane for the beautiful paintwork
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    JEKYLL HYDE #Holden-Commodore VY SS #Holden-Commodore-VY SS / #Holden-Commodore-VY-SS

    The transformation of Todd Arnold’s VY SS, in his own words, has been “a Jekyll and Hyde scenario” – except less murderous and destructive! Story by Ben Hosking. Pics by Ralf Schubert.

    We get a few comments and suggestions about engine diversity here at Street Commodores. Most of the time you can tell it boils down to the commenter’s loyalty or preferred engine/model than to any real lop-sided coverage on our part. However, one recent criticism we encountered was that there were far too many LS-powered cars lately. “It’s all LS1-2-3 through 6 and if the cars didn’t come with one, they’ve been transplanted”.

    Well, without going back and counting, they’re probably right – but with very good reason: the LS-series of engines is like the injected 5L was when it first hit the scene in the late 1980s with the VN. All of a sudden ‘retrotech’ was born and conversions were happening everywhere. Perhaps the biggest difference this time around is that the LS-series just boasts so much power-making potential and West Australian Todd Arnold’s series-II VY SS is an excellent example of that.

    Todd bought the VY from one of the guys at West Coast Smash Repairs, who’d already repainted the car in its original Phantom mica – so it was sitting pretty and ready to do some cruising. “I originally purchased the SS as a daily after pushing two conrods out the side of the block on my VZ Maloo,” Todd says. “I planned to keep it stock, but that lasted about a week before I removed of the rear spoiler, fi t SL and SSL springs and bolted on some cheap china-chrome 20s. I drove the vehicle like this for a year with no desire to modify it anymore, as I had started building as LS1 for a VK project car I had.”

    Indeed, Todd, clearly pretty handy with the tools, began bolting together a fresh LS1 in his parent’s shed, but before long, he’d found a buyer for the VK shell leaving him with a new engine but nothing to bolt it into. You can guess what happened next.

    “After spending many hours in the shed, and turning my parents’ laundry sink from a beautiful white into more of a dark grey/black hybrid, the engine was complete,” he says. “With a few teething problems sorted by some friends it made 386rwhp, naturally aspirated.”

    “I kept it N/A and I had little to no desire to enter the realm of forced induction. With a 6in filter through the bonnet and a TH350, Sunday coastal cruises were moderately enjoyable.” But, as we hear so many times here at Street Commodores, it wasn’t long before the healthy 380rwhp combo grew a little wearisome and Todd found himself yearning for more – much more. “The initial stages of having a custom turbo kit designed and fabricated proved quite difficult (also mentally draining),” Todd says, “as my desire for the car was to keep the air conditioning and all the luxury features, but that clashed with the custom style manifolds.”

    After months of not having the car to cruise in due to it being in bits and pieces, Todd decided to take the car to the crew at Streetbuilt Racing where they quickly took to the project, ordering an ASE turbo kit and stripping out any unnecessary hardware in preparation. “In total, the turbo setup and fuel system took over 14 months, with certain highs and lows along the way,” he says.


    Let’s take a closer look at the combo and what helps it make 624rwhp on E85 and just 14psi. First off, as we began our story, the home-built LS1 was already making almost 400rwhp without the turbo kit and no serious internal modifications – no extra cubes, no extra compression, no head work.

    In the interests of longevity there are forged H-beam rods and forged pistons and the factory heads are held in place by ARP studs, but the majority of the mumbo comes from external influences – save for a big hydraulic roller cam and upgraded valve train gear.

    The most obvious is the billet 67mm Borg Warner turbo that’s pumping 14psi into the Edelbrock intake setup that features a Super Victor single-plane manifold and 90mm throttle. Fuel wise, there are two Aeromotive A1000 pumps out back drinking E85 from a 95L fuel cell and feeding it into the engine via dash-10 lines and 1000cc injectors. The combo retains the factory ECU and coils. Let’s see you get these kinds of numbers from a Holden 5L with the same amount of work.

    Being a fresh build, track time has been limited. However, Todd has run a best of 10.7sec @ 130mph so far and we reckon it won’t be long before the numbers get smaller. “The first drive was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had,” he says. “It’s a new car, a Jekyll and Hyde scenario.”

    “Off boost it’s comparable to a run-of-the-mill cammed LS1 – rough idle, aggressive note and a slow humming from the firing of all cylinders. The sound is enough to relax most people with oil and passion in their veins, Todd continues. “On boost the torque is evident with butt imprints into the leather seats, and horsepower carrying it through with speed once the tyres gain traction. The sound of the screamer pipe evacuating the wasted gases brings shakes to the knees.”

    Todd isn’t quite finished with the VY just yet. While he says if he had his time again he’d turn his attention toward a “steel bumper US muscle car”, he still plans to fit a bigger turbo and aftermarket heads to the LS1, whilst retaining the factory cubes. “There were moments when I wanted to just sell the car and move on, but the team at Streetbuilt wouldn’t let me and pushed me through till the end.” We’re glad they did!

    TECH DATA NITTY-GRITTY 2004 #Holden Commodore VY SS II

    OWNER: #Todd-Arnold
    MODEL: #2004 #Holden-Commodore-VY-SS-II
    BODYWORK: Reverse-cowl scoop, alloy wing
    COLOUR: Phantom, matte roof
    BLOCK: #GM-LS1
    ENGINE MODS: Prepped block, Manley forged H-beam rods, Mahle forged flat-top pistons and rings (10.8:1 comp’), Clevite bearings, Manley double valve springs, sheet metal rocker covers, dash-10 breather lines, Moroso catch cans, ARP head studs, Thunder Racing-spec’ Comp Cams hydraulic roller (0.610/0.615in lift, 242/248° duration, 110° LSA), Howards tie-bar lifters, Trend chromoly pushrods, Howards 1.7:1 roller rockers, Rollmaster double-row timing chain, #Moroso high-volume oil pump, 4-core VZ alloy radiator, 2- per cent under driven pulleys, Edelbrock Super Victor 4150 intake, 90mm Edelbrock throttle, Borg Warner S400 67mm billet turbo (14psi), 2x A1000 Aeromotive pumps (E85), Aeromotive reg’, 2x 100-micron Aeromotive fuel filters, 10-micron Aeromotive filter, 95L fuel cell, dash-10 fuel lines, 1000cc injectors, 2x 50mm Turbosmart BOVs, Turbosmart wastegate, 4in intercooler, custom intake piping.
    POWER: 624rwhp (465rwkW), 10.7sec @ 130mph
    EXHAUST: ASE turbo manifolds, twin-into-single stainless 3.5in system (turbo back), screamer pipe.
    GEARBOX: T400, 4500rpm All-Fast stall, reverse pattern valve body, trans brake, modified driveshaft.
    DIFF: 3.07:1 final drive, LSD, VT 4-bolt flange
    BRAKES: Factory
    SUSPENSION: King springs, FE2 shocks and struts
    WHEELS/TYRES: 15in Weld rims (4in front, 8in rear), ET Street rear tyres
    INTERIOR: B&M shifter, eBoost 2
    STEREO: Factory
    BUILD PERIOD: 3 years
    COST: $45,000 approx.

    CONTACTS:
    West Coast High Performance, Streetbuilt Racing, FED PSI, Final Drive Engineering, Alfa Motorsport, West Coast Smash Repairs, Unique Detailing, Rollin Industries, Joshua Lopreiato, Mark and Roni Arnold for their ever-continuing support, my wonderful girlfriend Tracy for accepting my passion, all my friends and family associated with the positive progression of the build.

    The combo makes 624rwhp on E85 and just 14psi.

    A 95L fuel cell full of E85 lives in the boot along with the relocated battery.

    “The first drive was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had,” he says. “It’s a new car, a Jekyll and Hyde scenario”

    67mm billet Borg Warner S400 turbo pumps 14psi into the relatively mild LS1.

    Being a nice, clean anthracite leather job, Todd hasn’t rushed to modify the interior of his SS and the only mods you’ll see in here (at least until he gets sent home to put a cage in it) is a B&M shifter and eBoost 2.

    The LS1 has been rebuilt, but retains stock cubes and its original crank, however forged H-beam rods, flat-top pistons and ARP head studs help ensure longevity. Most of the attention has been lavished on the intake and fuel systems where you’ll find two huge Aeromotive A1000 pumps sending E85 to the front end where a 67mm billet #Borg-Warner turbo pumping 14psi into the Edelbrock intake setup for 624rwhp and a 10.7sec ET... so far.
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