Holden-powered VN SS wins GJ Drivelines Outlaw Aspirated at Drag Challenge

Michael Ryder dominated his class at DC22/23, bonnet disaster and all!

Photographers: Shaun Tanner, Chris Thorogood, Street Machine Archives

UPDATE: Michael brought his screaming Lion-powered missile to compete in GJ Drivelines Outlaw Aspirated at Drag Challenge 2022/23, and shot to the top of the class table right off the bat with a 10.40@134mph.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows on day one, though, with the VN’s bonnet coming loose and smashing into the windscreen mid-pass. Undeterred, Michael and his crew headed to Bendigo for new glass to stay in the game, before running a pair mid-6s over the eighth-miles at Portland and Mildura to stay firmly on top of the cohort.

Michael bettered his day one pass back at Heathcote on day four, with a 9.94@136mph. His day five ET was 9.746-secs, finishing the week almost six seconds clear of Katrina Read in her XF Falcon, with a 43.146-second cumulative total.

Grant Grech’s three-pedal LX hatch slotted into third, followed by Jake Hards in his HQ Monaro.

John Kerr’s epic Mercury Comet was knocked out on day one with mechanical dramas as the only DNF in the small class.

As for The VN’s mangled bonnet? Michael’s got a solid background in panel beating, so he’s well-placed to get the car looking schmick again before we know it.

The story to here

A CARBY-FED, 383-cube Holden V8 sounds like something from a bygone era in the modern day of turbo LS mills, but for Street Machine Drag Challenge combatant Michael Ryder, he couldn’t imagine his VN SS any other way. And given the car’s 650hp output, nine-second timeslips, 9000rpm gear changes and perfect street manners, who can blame him?

First published in the November 2021 issue of Street Machine

While he’s a tradie who tackles bathroom renos by day, Michael also builds seriously tough street and drag cars under his MR Racing Fabrication name from home in his spare time. “That means I’ve built heaps of turbo LS cars, RBs – you name it,” he says. “So I could’ve done that just as easily with this car, but I love my old Holdens and that’s why I love the VN the way it is.”

Michael has owned the car for around 10 years, and took on Drag Challenge in 2018 with a different combo. “That was the old 383, and what I didn’t realise at the time was it actually had a broken piston all week! That’s why we only ran 10s that week, but we still had a lot of fun.”

That 383 eventually let go on Michael in spectacular fashion at the 2021 Tuff Mounts Holden Nationals, so it provided the perfect excuse to slot in the fresh 383 the car runs now. “The short block was already assembled and ready to go, and the old engine literally destroyed everything when it let go,” Michael says.

The fresh donk was built both by Michael and his mate Chris at Chris’s Porting Service. The VT-generation Holden block has been stroked out to 383 cubes thanks to a Scat steel crank with Callies Compstar H-beam rods and Diamond flat-top pistons. Finishing off the bottom end is a Comp mechanical roller stick specced at 268/272@50 and .686in lift, along with a Savy Motorsport stage-five dry sump. “We needed the dry sump because we’ll be spinning this thing to 9000rpm at the track,” says Michael.

Sealing in the bottom end is a pair of hand-ported –9 Yella Terra heads, with a modified Torque Power intake manifold to suit and either a 1050cfm alcohol Dominator for racing or a separate 1050 Dominator that drinks 98 for street duties. “At Drag Challenge in 2018 I was running E85, but for street miles now I swap the carby over to run 98, because it’s easier to find and makes the car more streetable,” Michael says. “As for going carby, we did run injection for a while on the old combo and found that we ran faster with the carby set-up, so I’ve been sticking with that and it works really well for me.”

Michael estimates the new engine is good for around 650 horses, but doesn’t have an exact figure, as he does all his tuning at the track. “With all my other customer engines I take them to an engine dyno, but because of the dry sump on this one it’s a lot of effort, so I just do it in the car for ease.”

Backing up the angry iron lion is a transbraked Turbo 350 ’box housing a Dominator 6200rpm converter that sends power to a nine-inch rear end with 4.56:1 gears. That may make it sound like it’d be a complete animal on the street, but Michael says it’s actually quite the opposite. “It’s super-easy to drive on the street and is a dream on the track. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years actually getting it out and testing it. It never gets hot, the exhaust noise is actually really tame for what it is and even with the converter it’ll just idle off of the lights and cruise around no worries.”

Drag Challenge 2021 was to have been Michael’s second crack at the event in his own car. Unfortunately, COVID has struck again and ruled out DC for 2021, but Michael’s got a game plan for when the time comes. “This combo will be good for low nines, but for Drag Challenge we’ll dial it back a fraction and aim for mid-nines all week,” he says.

Here’s hoping we can watch him do just that in 2022.


Class: Pacemaker Radial Aspirated

Engine: 383ci Holden
Inlet: Torque Power Pro Paw
Heads: Yella Terra –9
Camshaft: Comp Cams roller
Pistons: Diamond flat-top
Rods: Callies Compstar H-beam
Crank: Scat steel
Ignition: MSD grid, ICE dizzy and leads
Fuel system: MagnaFuel ProStar
Cooling: Alloy radiator, FG Falcon fan
Transmission: Turbo 350
Converter: Dominator 6200rpm
Diff: Extreme 9in, 4.56:1 gears

Best DC 2022/23 Pass: 9.99@136mph