The intense Holden–Ford rivalry has spawned some of the most brand-loyal supporters in history. That hasn’t stopped most Holden supporters from shunning the Commodore VL, though, writing it off as cheap Japanese plastic — its reputation not helped by the fact that, upon release, there wasn’t even a V8 option. That is a shame because — aside from the minor cooling system air-lock issue that plagued the Nissan RB30–powered VLs — the cars were reasonably equipped, and well engineered for their time.
The VL enjoyed a decent production run before being superseded by the VN, and eventually became very affordable on the second-hand market. However, most Holden fans wouldn’t care, and would rather save their pennies for a Torana, HQ, or ‘proper’ early Commodore, but Shyam is not your average Holden fan — sure, he’s into his Holdens, but, first and foremost, he’s into cool cars. He thinks VLs are cool, and, as far as he’s concerned, that’s that.
Before ‘BOSDOG’, Shyam owned a VL BT1, powered by a Holden 308 V8. Unfortunately, it was stolen. That put Shyam in the position of needing to look around for his next car.
“One of my mates [Chris Speedy] told me, ‘You’d better not get a Mitsi or a Skyline,’ so I asked him why not. He says, ‘Because you’ll just be another bloody Indian in a Mitsi or a Skyline!’” Shyam laughs, “Well, I liked the VL, and found another one, into which I wanted to put an LS-motor.”
That LS-into-VL plan was going well until a mate — yep, Chris Speedy again — convinced Shyam that he should really go down the LS turbo route. Shyam doesn’t do things by halves, and, having committed to this slight deviation in plan, the ball was soon rolling, with an end goal of building a 1000hp streeter.
Cody Scott at Protune was tasked with building an engine that would support 1000hp on pump gas, and has delivered the goods — a 408ci V8 based on a cast-iron LS block and filled with Wiseco forged pistons, Eagle H-beam rods, and a full ARP fastener kit. The LS block’s factory six-bolt mains are great, but when it comes to the extreme abuse that this engine is going to be subject to, you’ll understand why something as rock solid as this bottom end combination is the bare minimum.
The monster motor was bolted to a Hughes TH400 transmission with a 3500rpm stall converter — despite the best efforts of Shyam’s friends to steer him towards a Tremec six-speed manual. As the TH400 was already planned to go behind the naturally aspirated LS motor, it made sense to use it behind the even more powerful turbo motor. While a six-speed manual would have made for an awesome driver’s car, the TH400 is a seriously tough unit, properly built to handle the stresses of the drag strip — reassuring, given the ultimate goal for the car is to run a nine-second quarter-mile, whilst fully street legal.
The tough hardware theme continues under the rear quarters, with a rear end that reads like a who’s who of the best aftermarket parts manufacturers. The diff isn’t just any old Ford nine-inch, but an F9 fabricated housing with three-inch axle tubes and walls quarter-inch thick. A Strange aluminium third member holds a Truetrac 31-spline carrier, with Motive Gear crown wheel and pinion, Currie billet pinion support, and billet chromoly yoke. Currie 35-spline axles round off the package, and ensure that there is no weak link at the rear, other than the tyres. The final drive ratio has been lowered to 3:1, as the car’s quarter-mile passes came a bit too close to the rev limiter in top gear with the old 3.55:1 gears.
The rear end also features a trick four-link set-up, done by Shyam’s mate, Zac Wilkinson, with custom mini-tubbing — also done by a mate, Scott Webb — to accommodate the 20x10.5-inch rear rollers. Come drag time, they’re swapped for some widened steelies on proper drag tyres, but the 20s are the rims BOSDOG normally wears.
Shyam came across the Showwheels KWC013 rims a few years ago, and asked his mates what they thought. The reply was a universal, and resounding, “No! It’s gotta have Simmons.”
Some time later, whilst on holiday in America, Shyam found himself visiting the Showwheels USA office, where he began to give the KWC013s some serious thought again. As if by chance, a mate rang him from Aussie, going on about how he could grab him a set of 20-inch Simmons for a good price. Shyam threw caution to the wind and declined, instead ordering the Show wheels, and has never looked back.
Well, that’s not quite true, actually. He did look back, and, while he liked what he saw, the rears really needed an extra inch of dish. Just one inch would do it. As it turned out, that extra one inch of dish came at a cost — the cost being the standard rear wheel tubs; hence the car’s rear-seat area being taken up by that pair of very well presented mini-tubs.
The mini tubs are just one part of an interior that, while looking extremely tough, also manages to be extremely well detailed. Plush Mercedes-Benz carpet has been laid down over the floors, with quilted suede accents bringing a notably European influence into the mix. The unexciting factory VL gauge cluster has been tossed into the bin in favour of Auto Meter carbon series gauges, which perfectly complement the B&M Pro Ratchet shifter and immaculately fabricated roll cage — good for 9-second quarter-mile passes.
With the understated theme going on inside, the most eye-catching piece of interior decor is, without question, the two big nitrous bottles — oh, yeah, on top of the huge 408ci donk and equally enormous turbo, the car’s also packing a 100hp nitrous shot. Originally these were finished in a satin black that complemented the rest of the interior, but one of Shyam’s mates told him that, since he’s always drinking Heineken, he might as well vinyl wrap his car’s bottles accordingly. Shyam wasn’t 100 per cent sold on the idea, but, since the wrap could be easily removed if it didn’t do anything for him, he went ahead — suffice to say the kegs are now one of BOSDOG’s defining features.
Further rearwards, the boot features an unbelievably clean fuel system, with a black fuel cell and some black braided steel fuel lines taking pride of place in the centre, and that’s it. No messy wiring or fuel pumps tarnish the immaculate boot space, but if they did, it’d be just as impressive a sight. A 1000hp-target requires an appropriately sized fuel delivery system, and this begins with a pair of Bosch 044 fuel pumps, through an Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, ASE fuel rails, and 1000cc injectors.
A whole catalogue of high-performance parts adorns the motor, actually, most notable of which is the Steve Murch–built Holset HX52PRO turbo. This sits on some intricately crafted exhaust manifolds built by Mike at Sinco Customs, completed by a TiAL 60mm wastegate. The pressurized intake charge is kept cool via a custom front-mount intercooler with custom intake piping — featuring not one, but two TiAL blow-off valves — and ending up through a FAST 102mm throttle body, with integrated nitrous plate, and matching FAST intake manifold.
So, what exactly does this level of build get you? Well, BOSDOG has taken out a plethora of awards in the V 4&Rotary Nationals ‘Tough Street’ category, including: Wheels, Engineering, Build Quality, Brakes, Suspension, and Engine Bay. On top of this, the car has run a 10.6-second quarter-mile on its ‘low power’ tune. A 10.6 on low power, you ask? At the time of writing, the car is only running 10psi of boost, but is still managing to produce a phenomenal 670hp at the rear wheels, and on pump gas, too. That’s BP 98 octane, not E85, in case you were wondering. How impressive is that? In the not-too-distant future, the car will be sent for a high-boost tune, with the objective of making 1000hp on pump gas. Shyam and the Protune boys are adamant that Shyam will reach his target, so it’s almost a given.
Despite the mega power and the sheer quality of the build — one of the most Aussie-like show-quality builds we’ve seen in New Zealand — Shyam’s not afraid to drive the Commodore hard. In stark contrast to the sparkling clean exterior, much of the rear undercarriage is caked in rubber — a by-product of BOSDOG’s furious burnouts, both on the skid pad and on the Meremere Dragway staging lanes.
The car’s not only let loose on the track, either, as Shyam is quite fond of driving it on the street. It’s what the car was built for, and it excels at that, too, with exemplary road manners and drivability. With an ever-increasing power figure, an ever-increasing number on the odometer, an ever-increasing build-up of rubber inside the rear tubs, and an ever-increasing trophy stash, Shyam’s VL is an unquestionable winner. You can say whatever you like about VLs, so long as you’re prepared to be proven wrong by the big boss dog.
1987 Holden Calais VL
- Engine: 408ci LS, iron block, full blueprint and balance, Wiseco forged pistons, Eagle H-beam rods, ARP fasteners, chromoly pushrods, double-row timing chain, FAST intake manifold, FAST 102mm throttle body, Holset HX52PRO turbo, custom exhaust manifolds, twin TiAL BOVs, TiAL 60mm external wastegate, 100hp nitrous shot, twin Bosch 044 electric fuel pumps, Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, 1000cc Injector Dynamics injectors, factory Commodore VZ ECU, relocated coil packs, Meziere water pump, Melling high-volume oil pump, Griffin radiator, custom front-mount intercooler, transmission cooler, oil cooler
- Driveline: Hughes TH400, 3500rpm stall converter, F9 fabricated nine-inch diff housing, Strange aluminium third member, Truetrac 31-spline carrier, Motive Gear ring and pinion gears, 3:1 final drive ratio, billet chromoly 1350 yoke, billet Torino large-bearing housing ends, 35-spline Currie axles, Currie billet aluminium big-bearing pinion support
- Suspension: Strange coilovers, custom four-link
- Brakes: Commodore VZ brake booster, Wilwood four-piston calipers, 290mm rotors, 11-inch low-profile rotors, internal drum-style parking brake
- Wheels/Tyres: 20x8.5-inch and 20x10.5-inch Showwheels KWC013, 235/30R20 and 275/30R20 Nitto Invo tyres
- Exterior: Deleted aerial, custom paint
- Chassis: Mini-tubbed rear
- Interior: Racetech fixed-back bucket seats, Sabelt six-point harnesses, Sparco steering wheel, B&M Stealth Pro Ratchet Shifter, Auto Meter gauges, chromoly roll cage, Heineken vinyl-wrapped nitrous bottles, Mercedes Benz carpet, Alpine head unit, Alpine 6x9-inch speakers
- Performance: 670hp (at the wheels), low boost tune (10psi), 10.6-second quarter-mile
This article was originally featured in a previous issue of NZV8. Pick up a copy of the edition here: