The number plate on Matt Jukic’s wild Commodore ute doesn’t lie. It’s got an appetite — an appetite for destruction!
As featured in NZV8 Issue No. 1 — June 2005
Judging by his number plate, Matt Jukic likes eating people for tea. As I was scheduled to go for a ride with this guy, it’s fair to say I was a little worried about who he was. On meeting him, however, it becomes obvious that it’s not him who has the unhealthy appetite, but the wild 2001 Holden VU SS ute he has spent the last few years building to perfection.
Most people can only wish their dreams could come true. Matt’s, on the other hand, actually did. Around three years ago he had a dream about a white SS ute. Not just any ute, however — this one was tubbed, with nitrous and a giant supercharger for motivation. Dreaming things like this is about as far as it would go for most of us, as buying – let alone modifying – a brand new SS is generally out of reach. But Matt knew what he wanted and knew where to get it.
The very next morning, before the doors were even open, Matt was at Moyes Holden. As you would expect, the staff were happy to sell him another vehicle, but would not believe what he told them he was going to do next.
“I want it blown, and it’s gonna have nitrous — I had a dream about it!” The only other requirement Matt had for the ute at this stage was that it must be tubbed and run on huge rubber.
Most of us would be pretty happy with a brand spanking SS, at least for the first few months. Not in this case, though. After leaving the dealership the first place the vehicle stopped was Blackjack Engineering, which would soon commence a build of mammoth proportions. And the first question asked? Proof of ownership, please. And fair enough, too — who chops up an SS with just delivery kays on the clock?
“I want tubs, and I want them biggie-sized,” was the request to Chris, the proprietor of Blackjack, well known for his chassis fabrication expertise. Never being one to turn down a large project, Chris was quite happy about having the chance to chop up a vehicle with dead straight panels, let alone without a speck of rust on it.
At this stage, they decided that to do things properly would require serious chassis work, in the form of a custom half chassis. To do this, Chris and his team set about removing the entire floor of the tray, before fabricating some intricate bar work with four-link–style suspension below.
Providing the required diff travel would be a set of QA1 adjustable coilovers, and since they were being used at the back, a matching set was the perfect ingredient for the front.
Although the standard Holden diff is nothing to be laughed at, Matt and Chris both knew it was about to receive an absolute thrashing, so it was promptly replaced with a Ford nine-inch. Inside the Ford casing are now Strange Engineering axles and an ultra-tight 3.9:1 LSD centre.
With the hard work completed below, a factory-looking deck was produced, complete with a pair of tubs that could also be mistaken for factory, such is their quality of finish. What is most definitely not stock, however, are the 15x15-inch rear wheels, which rely on 29x15.5-15 Mickey Thompsons for stickability. Up front are matching Arrow wheels, this time in a more conventional 17x8-inch size complete with 215/40R17 Dunlop rubber.
Hidden in behind the stunning front rims are Wilwood four-piston calipers and appropriately-sized discs, while the standard brakes have made do at the rear.
In standard trim, the VU SS ute made good power, when compared to most vehicles — but good power was not what Matt was after. He wanted extreme power, and a supercharger of giant proportions was going to get him there.
Rob Penman happens to know a thing or two about making extreme power, so a visit was made to his Rob Penman Motorsport workshop and a deal was done. Many people would say Matt was a fool to revert to comparatively old technology, but these people would also probably call him an idiot for hacking up a brand-new vehicle.
Dart blocks are known to be among the best in the business, and we all know there is no substitute for cubes, so the basis of the engine build was to be a 400ci Dart-blocked small block Chev. Rob and Matt both knew a block alone wouldn’t create an indestructible power plant, so an order was put in for eight JE forged pistons and eight extra-strong Eagle rods. The whole assembly would rotate on an Eagle crank and be tied together with ARP fasteners to create a bottom end capable of handling well in excess of 1000hp. Next on the ingredients list was a pair of suitable heads, which in this case are Pro Topline items complete with Yella Terra roller rockers, which receive their instructions from a blower-grind cam. It goes without saying that the intake and exhaust valves are all of gigantic proportions in order to flow as much as the supercharger can feed in.
Supercharger, you say? Unless you have an aversion to looking at the photos with this article, you will no doubt have seen the larger-than-life supercharger poking its head from the large cut-out in the hood. The blower itself is none other than a Weiand 6-71 which has its charge cooled by a TBS water-to-air intercooler. The barely-visible cooler is sandwiched between the blower and the intake of the motor, and is kept cool from water stored in a large stainless tank behind the cab, from which it is pumped via braided lines.
To keep up with the blower’s huge appetite for air, an equally-large fuel system was next to be installed. Starting with an under-deck fuel cell, pump gas is fed from a single in-tank pump into a large surge tank. From here twin Bosch pumps feed into an Injection Perfection hat-type injection set-up through screeds of braided line.
To ensure spark is not blown out by the forced charge, and to fire the beast into life, there’s an Australian-sourced MSI ignition set-up with matching custom coil. As with all other wiring in the engine bay, all the ignition leads have been cleverly hidden along the side of each of the HPC-coated Edelbrock rocker covers.
While Matt was on the quest for HPC-coated engine bay parts, he also decided that pretty much all the driveline components and suspension arms could also do with the shiny treatment. Even the twin three-inch exhausts which dump just behind each rear wheel received HPC coating, inside and out.
With this much brawn, it was going to take some serious brainpower to make sure the whole operation would run at all, let alone perfectly and producing maximum power. Taking care of that business is a Microtech LT8 ECU, which not only controls air–fuel ratios but also keeps an eye on timing, boost, and nitrous injection. The suitably over-the-top nitrous set-up is none other than a two-stage NOS arrangement supplied from twin tray-mounted tanks, which fires directly into the intake system through anodized fittings.
With a set-up making as much power as this, looking after it was always going to be high priority, so a plethora of Auto Meter gauges have been added inside to ensure Matt knows what’s going on at all times. And, to ensure the dashboard still looked the part, all standard gauges were also replaced with Auto Meter’s finest.
Large coolers for engine and transmission oil have also been added, in pursuit of mechanical longevity, and these help the beautifully-crafted alloy radiator to keep the angry motor cool despite what the Auckland traffic throws at it.
As you may guess by the transmission cooler, this ute’s an auto, and whether you love or hate autos, that was exactly what Matt wanted. Starting with a GM TH350 case, all the internals have been replaced by stronger aftermarket items and a manual valve body. The beauty of the trans is that until the car hits the 3000rpm stall converter you could be excused for thinking the stock engine and ’box were still in place. That is, of course, unless Matt is attempting to push the pedal through the floor, in which case the best way to look at where you’re going is through the side windows. Despite all the super-fat tyres’ best efforts, the ute has a distinct dislike for heading in a straight line.
The vehicle’s crab-like movement is kept in control through a Simoni steering wheel, which Matt has only one hand on as the other is firmly clenched around the B&M shifter.
Throughout my experience in the vehicle I was quite glad he’d decided to replace the standard seats with Jamex buckets, and that four-point Sabelt harnesses were firmly keeping me in them.
With the windows down, the sound of the supercharger whining away paired with the tune of the exhaust is quite possibly the best sound in the world. This, of course, did see us pulling into the local Caltex at one stage on our journey — no surprise considering how thirsty the engine is. What was a surprise, however, was the young ethnic fellow behind the counter who muttered only “Aliens … weird,” while raising his eyebrows at me.
I wouldn’t say the aliens airbrushed along both sides of the vehicle were weird at all. Sure, the rest of the paintwork is still fridge-white so the aliens could be a little unexpected, but what the aliens do allude to is the fact this vehicle does not like to calmly eat its prey — it is far more likely to rip it to shreds beforehand.
At first glance it’s impossible to see just how much time and attention to detail has gone into every single alien on the vehicle. Steve Levine was more than happy to carry out the paintwork, though, as making your mark on a vehicle with presence such as this could never be a bad thing.
By the time the vehicle was completed it had spawned developments far beyond Matt’s original vision, but without a doubt he’s encompassed all the things he saw as necessary. Huge tubs, big blower, street cred with strip power. Without a doubt this vehicle has something for everyone, which is only made clearer by the amount of looks it received when out on the street. Make no mistake, though — even though it may be sleepily idling around your town, this is one vehicle that will truly eat you for tea. Don’t waste your gas unless you’re packing more than Matt’s 900hp.
2001 Holden Commodore VU SS
Engine: 400ci small block Chev, Dart block, Eagle crankshaft, Eagle rods, JE forged pistons, Comp Cams blower camshaft, Pro Topline heads, Yella Terra roller rockers, TBS water-to-air intercooler, Weiand 6-71 supercharger, BDS injector hat, NOS two-stage nitrous system, twin Bosch fuel pumps, MSI ignition, custom Injection Perfection coil, Microtech LT8 ECU, twin three-inch exhausts, alloy radiator, alloy transmission cooler
Driveline: GM TH350 three-speed auto, manual valve body, 3000rpm stall, B&M shifter, Ford nine-inch diff, Strange Engineering axles, 3.9:1 diff ratio
Suspension: QA1 front coilovers, four-link rear, QA1 rear coilovers
Brakes: Wilwood four-piston front calipers, standard rear brakes
Wheels: 17x8-inch and 15x15-inch Arrow Wheels three-piece alloys
Exterior: Steve Levine custom airbrushing
Chassis: Custom back half
Interior: Jamex bucket seats, Sabelt four-point harnesses, Simoni steering wheel, Auto
Meter gauges, Auto Meter warning lights
Performance: Over 900hp
Driver: Matt Jukic
Previously owned cars: 2003 GTO, 2004 GTS Monaro, two SS utes, 2003 GTS four-door, 2000 GT Lotus Esprit, 2003 ClubSport, ’86 Corvette, supercharged Trans Am, Ducati 900 Supersport, and many more
Build time: Two-and-a-half years
Length of ownership: Two-and-a-half years
Thanks to: Rob Penman, Blackjack Engineering, Steve Levine, Al’s Blower Drives, Western Auto Electrical, Ben