Velkovski Brothers Drag Challenge VS ute

Kris and Rob Velkovski wanted a parts hauler that could also do Drag Challenge. This 900hp, turbo LS-powered VS ute is the result

Photographers: Chris Thorogood, Shaun Tanner

Brothers Kris and Rob Velkovski are no strangers to building top-notch street cars, with Kris’s RB30-powered LC Torana (SM, Mar ’03) and Rob’s RB26/30 LX hatch (SM, Jun ’15) just two shining examples. So we really shouldn’t be surprised that their take on a simple but well-built Drag Challenge weapon is a nine-second, turbo V8 VS Commodore ute making a casual 900hp at the hubs.

First published in the September 2022 issue of Street Machine

The boys stumbled upon the ute for an absolute steal, and made their money back before they’d started throwing the new driveline in it. “It’s a 2000 factory manual V8 Olympic Edition, which had been traded at a rural car dealer,” says Kris. “We only paid $1500 for it, and by the time we sold the original driveline we were well ahead. We wanted something we could do Drag Challenge with and also get parts for our other builds, so a ute was perfect.”

While some might crack it over the boys pulling apart a manual Series III VS V8 ute, it’s hard to stay mad when you see what they replaced it with. Kris got hold of a 5.3-litre iron-block LS for a measly $500, and sent it to Jimmy from Autovision to get it ready for bulk boost. The standard crank was retained, swinging Molnar rods and CP pistons. A new boost-friendly stick from Marshall Custom Cams was slotted in, along with CNC-ported 241 cathedral-port heads and a stock LS1 intake manifold. “We went with the turbo LS because it’s the easiest and cheapest way to get a lot of power, and it’ll make it easy to get parts during Drag Challenge if we need to,” says Kris.

Three Walbro 525 pumps and 1650cc injectors keep the 5.3 topped up with corn juice, while air comes courtesy of the GTX45 hairdryer hidden under the passenger side of the front bumper. “We like to keep the bays clean on our builds, so it was a good way of keeping heat out of there and just doing something a bit different,” Kris explains.

Before the boys slotted in the new heart, they had McDonald Brothers Racing complete all the big fab jobs, including the super-neat chrome-moly rollcage, nine-inch rear end and rear anti-roll bar. “Apart from the anti-roll bar, the rear suspension is all still Commodore stuff, and so far it’s working,” says Kris.

With the car back, the boys then turned it around in six weeks from a roller to a runner. It makes 900rwhp on 24psi through the Powerglide trans, with a Holley Terminator X EFI for brain-power.

The boys had the car ready to go for Drag Challenge 2021, but for obvious reasons that was rescheduled to October this year, so the ute didn’t get its first hit-out on track until Summernats Slam at Heathcote a few months back. The test was a big success, giving the brothers a solid baseline to work from. “It went 9.50 on its very first pass, and the 60-foot was pretty rubbish because the converter was too tight,” says Kris. “Plus, the 255 radials are actually off my brother’s hatch, so they’re about seven years old, but with tyres so hard to get right now, it’s all we had.”

With those minor issues remedied, Kris and Rob are looking to get another test in with the ute before hopefully running eights at Drag Challenge later this year. “We’ve already got the converter sorted, and the car did everything else we wanted at Slam,” Kris says. “We’ll go to a test day shortly and try and drop that PB. If we can run an 8.9 at each track during Drag Challenge, we’ll be happy.”


Class: Haltech Radial Blown

Engine: 5.3L LS
Inlet manifold: LS1
Heads: LS 241 cathedral-port
Camshaft: Marshall Custom Cams
Pistons: CP
Rods: Molnar
Crank: Standard
Turbo: GTX45
ECU: Holley Terminator X
Ignition: LS3 coils, ICE leads
Fuel: Three Walbro 525 pumps, 1650cc injectors
Exhaust: 3.5in
Transmission: Powerglide
Converter: Dominator 3500rpm
Diff: 9in, 3.0:1 gears, 35-spline axles