Daniel Woolhouse, more commonly known as Fanga Dan, is what we would describe as a prolific modifier. Get this man talking, and he can tell you stories spanning the last 15-plus years about building all manner of machines, and the crazy adventures which come with that. He has owned so many cars he could be classed as a used-car salesman, a state of affairs caused in part by the fact he is never content with any build, and always looks to go one better and improve on the last one he did. For the past 10 of those 15 years drifting has been the cornerstone of his passion, and he is damn good at it, too.
Ask any drifter what it’s like to have Fanga Dan chasing you, and they will say basically the same thing — something about not lifting, or he’ll drive straight through your door. His passion for the sport has not wavered over that time, and he’s continually pushed the envelope with each build — first with his Laurel, then the S15 and VZ Commodore, and now his 2010 VE Commodore. The VZ had proved a very successful project both on and off the track, helping make his name internationally, and taking home the D1NZ title in 2013. But after four years it was time to develop a new car, something to supposedly be his final drift build (though we doubt it will be).
If you’re Fanga Dan building your supposed last drifter, then you know it’ll be something special. As he’d learned so much with the VZ, the logical next step was its replacement, the VE. “I had seen what Holden did with the older chassis, each year reworking the guards and lights to create a new model, so the VE made sense, as it would future-proof it in a way for me. This was always meant to be a car that if I gave up drifting, I could go and do some other circuit events or something in it, so we went about the build in a slightly different way to what we would normally,” Fanga explained.
The team began piecing the build together in 2013 after purchasing a partly-built chassis, which already had a few, shall we say, juicy bits — an extensive roll cage, adjustable blade-type sway bars and V8 Supercar–spec AP Racing six- and four-pot brakes. As this was a slightly longer, wider and heavier chassis than the VZ, they were under no illusion that it wouldn’t be a challenge to get the car working like a drift car, but that’s the what keeps the FDC team interested in the sport. “To be honest, if I had stayed with the Silvias I still probably would have gone V8, but I would be bored of it by now, and stopped. At a time when most people were going to shorter wheelbases, for faster switching, we went the other way.”
Unlike most teams, which are afforded the luxury of using off-the-shelf steering-angle kits, Fanga’s VE is the result of a trial-and-error process, with the team making and testing their own. Although they found out there is a bolt-on kit available in the US for the Camaro, which shares basically the same chassis, at around $8000 it was well outside the team’s budget. “Our ones are similar to the billet ones from the US, but we have about 15 adjustment points. But the problem is that we don’t have the budget to just go hire the track and run all-day testing each of the adjustments. We have changed it a few times and will again before Australia, but having massive amount of lock isn’t always the best. Sure it’s a good insurance to not spin, but plenty of the guys in the US still spin and look at cars with lots of angle, you can see every little adjustment, and it’s costing them points from the judges.”
The engine, though it’s LS based, has gone through plenty of refinement, and the team is far from finished, as we found out the week we went to print. Fanga has been lucky that a Whangarei local, Zane from Chequered Flag Automotive, has stepped in to the help the team with its engines for both cars. What he pieced together was based on an LS3 block, with compression bumped to 13.4:1 thanks to Wiseco pistons, Eagle rods, flowed heads, and a custom-ground cam. The combination took the team a little while to perfect, with many hours spent on the GDS dyno getting the power curve to where Fanga wanted it. A few different cam grinds, different compression ratios, you name it, they have tried it. “We were trying to build a super-high-compression engine, around the 700hp [522kW] mark, but in the end we decided to just put together a lower-compression engine with the idea of adding boost, at that stage around round two of last season. But after dynoing it, we were happy with the power and decided to leave it for the season.”
The combination made 470kW at the wheels, but that has changed for now, with a Vortech V-1 supercharger firmly mounted to the side of the block. “I looked at all the types of boost: twin turbo would have had better response, but it puts a lot more heat into the engine bay. Also with the Vortech you can still run the car NA if something goes wrong at an event. To win a championship you have to finish each round. If I put in a top mount or turboed it, it wouldn’t run NA very easily.” After many hours on the phone to Vortech in the USA and Australia to get the perfect blower and mount kit, a blower arrived in New Zealand only days before the car was due to leave for the trans-Tasman battle in Australia.
Plenty of other off-season changes have also taken place, including an upgrade to an R8 rear end, and Supertourer composite rear quarters. Sitting behind those quarters is a reworked fuel system. We actually shot the car pre season, and after a few taps into the wall, the fuel tank had taken a hiding in its current location. Fanga tells us it’s lucky it didn’t rupture. Ignoring the actual fire danger that would pose, it would also have taken them out for the round. Changes like that are another one of those things to take into consideration when hunting for a championship, and this season everything has been shifted deeper into the boot space. It’s all part of learning a car as you go, refining each component as you learn.
As you can probably tell, Fanga is taking his hunt for a fourth Demon Energy D1NZ Championship pretty seriously leading into the 2015–2016 season. But it’s what he is in the planning stages for that made us even more excited, as the team is eyeing up a trip to the USA in 2016, to contest a few rounds of Formula Drift.
Going against the world’s best will be a new challenge for the team. “We can’t afford to go over and do the whole season, as we would be basically doing it off our own backs, but I’d like to go over and do maybe two rounds that are close together. But it’s the logistics that are the biggest hurdle.” However that’s next year, and in the meantime there are six rounds of the national championship and the trans-Tasman challenge to contest. And that is where the team’s energy is focused for the time being.
It’s teams like FDC which have built New Zealand drifting into the sport it is today: their drive and commitment would rival that of any professional team in any form of motor racing. We hope this is not their last drift build, as we can only imagine what Fanga will come up with next. But in the meantime there are plenty of years of development left in the VE, and from what we hear, there are an exciting few seasons ahead.
2010 Holden Commodore (VE)
- Engine: Chevy LS3, 6000cc eight-cylinder
- Block: Forged Wiseco dome pistons (13.4:1 compression), Eagle H-beam rods, 25-per-cent underdriven crank pulley, factory stroke crank, Comp Cams CNC oil pump, Comp Cams double-row timing chain
- Head: Flowed heads, stainless one-piece race-series valves, MSL head gaskets, ARP main and head studs, Comp Cams custom solid lifters and valve train
- Intake: Holley high-ram EFI, 102mm throttle body, K&N filter
- Supercharger: Vortech V-1 Ti trim
- BOV: Vortech Mondo
- Exhaust: Custom-built four-into-one Genie headers, three-inch system, four-inch Flowmaster
- Fuel: Aeroflow pumps, fast injectors
- Ignition: Stock
- ECU: Link G4
- Cooling: Fenix radiator, Aeroflow power-steering cooler
- Extra: Aeroflow catch can, Aeroflow PS reservoir, Aeroflow overflow, engine loom by Mike T
- Gearbox: Tremec TKO 600, second-, third- and fourth-gear dog engagement conversion by the Gearbox Factory, remote shifter
- Clutch: Direct twin-plate
- Flywheel: Direct
- Diff: Winters 10-inch Quick Change full spool, modified subframe, G-Force 895kW (1200hp) axles
- Struts: Tein S14 Superdrifts customized by Ian at Autolign, Dobi race coils
- Brakes: (F) AP Racing six-pot calipers and rotors (R) AP Racing four-pot calipers and rotors
- Extra: In-cabin adjustable blade–type sway bars, adjustable Ackerman steering pick-up knuckles
- Wheels: Cosmis VCP 18x10.5-inch
- Tyres: TRI-ACE Racing Kings 265/35R18
- Paint: Full wrap by Ryan and Jon at Frankensignz Whangarei
- Enhancements: Tints by Brad at The Tint Shop, Whangarei
- Seats: (F) Racetech full containment
- Steering wheel: Momo drift
- Instrumentation: Auto Meter five-inch tacho, Link display
Power: 470kW at the rear wheels, tuned by Glenn Suckling at GDS Automotive
- Driver/owner: Daniel ‘Fanga’ Woolhouse
- Age: 32
- Location: Whangarei
- Occupation: Branch manager at Century Batteries
- Build time: One year
- Length of ownership: Two years
Thanks: A massive shout-out to my crew, Mike T, Logan, Jason and Vaughan, who spent many sleepless nights working on this car to make the build perfect, plus Zane from Checkered Flag Automotive Whangarei for letting me use his workshop and for all the hours he spent building the engine, etc. Without their support this wouldn’t be possible: Century Batteries, Kenny at Oversteer TV, Jeff Oliver Print Whangarei, GDS Automotive, Dad, Nicole, and all my family and fans.
This article was originally featured in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 227. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: