Harrop-blown, Holden 355-powered VP ute

Josh O'Brien's blown Holden-powered VP ute is a nine-second Drag Challenge veteran

Photographers: Chris Thorogood, Shaun Tanner

Josh O’Brien is one of the originals of our Drag Challenge marathons, having campaigned his striking bright-orange VP ute at just about every event we’ve run. Not only is he a stand-up legend, but his VP is unusual in the fact that you won’t find an LS or small-block Chev between the rails, but instead good ol’ Holden power. “It’s a factory V8 car, but that LS stuff just doesn’t do it for me anyway,” Josh says. “The Holdens just sound better, and my goal for this car has always been to run an eight with a two-bolt block.”

First published in the December 2022 issue of Street Machine

As we write, Josh is super-close to that goal, with his PB sitting at 9.0@151mph. It’s taken quite a bit of work and different set-ups to get to that point, as choosing the Holden-powered path does come with its fair share of hurdles. “I can definitely see why people go down the LS route; you can buy anything for them and it would’ve cost me a heap less,” Josh laughs. “The old ProCharger combo is a good example; there was so much one-off stuff made for that set-up, and that just makes it really expensive.”

Josh did a good chunk of his Drag Challenges with that ProCharger, before switching up to the Harrop TVS2650 screw-type blower it has now. “An offer came up that was too good, so I made the switch,” he says. “The rest of the engine is basically the same and so is the peak power, but it does come on stronger with the Harrop.”

The mill consists of a Holden block using a cast 355 crank, Scat rods and RaceTec pistons. Sealing all that in is a pair of CNC-machined Yella Terra Dash 9 heads, fed with corn juice by 2000cc injectors and controlled by a Holley Dominator ECU. With 17psi of boost, the donk is good for 670rwhp on the rollers.

Completing the driveline is a Turbo 400 ’box, and a sheet-metal nine-inch diff wearing 275 radial-clad rims shoved under a pair of mini-tubs.

Josh is quite sentimental about the car, as it’s been in his family since day one. “My uncle bought it new, and then I ended up buying it off him after I drove it around for a little while,” he says.

His history at Drag Challenge has been a bit chequered over the years, but his love for the event has never wavered. “I’ve probably finished about 50 per cent of the Drag Challenge events I’ve been in, and it’s usually little things that give me grief,” he says. “Like this year at Drag Challenge Weekend, we broke a shaft for the oil pump. Because it’s a Chrysler big-block pump, I couldn’t just get parts anywhere, which is why I make sure I carry as many spares as I can.”

When we spoke to Josh, it was just two weeks out from the 2022 running of Drag Challenge, but unfortunately that’s had to be postponed to early next year due to the wild Victorian weather. However, being a wise head, Josh’s ambitions for his next DC campaign remain as simple as ever. “I just want to finish,” he laughs. “People get a bit too caught up in the speed game and forget how hard it is out there on the road. So I’ll be looking for that eight towards the end of the week, but finishing is always a win for me.”

Once Josh gets that eight, that’ll probably be the end of duties for this car. “It’ll get semi-retired after that,” he says. “I’ve got a few other things in the works – but we need to get that eight first!”


Class: Haltech Radial Blown

Engine:355ci Holden
Blower:Harrop TVS2650
ECU:Holley Dominator
Heads:Yella Terra CNC Dash 9
Camshaft:Comp Cams solid-roller
Crank:Cast 355
Oiling:Chrysler big-block pump
Fuel:2000cc injectors, twin pumps
Cooling:PWR radiator
Exhaust:Twin 3in system
Transmission:Turbo 400
Converter:TCE, 5800rpm
Diff:9in, 35-spline, 3.7:1 gears