Billy Shelton’s SICKEST VL cracks the sevens

Billy Shelton's VL Commodore is a show and go champion once more

Photographers: Chris Thorogood, Dave Reid, Ashleigh Wilson, Tim Nicol

Billy Shelton and his VL have a achieved quite a bit since the lockdown build appeared on the August 2021 cover of SM.

The pair took out the Red CentreNATS Grand Champion gong that year and won the same award at Rocky Nats this year. In between, there has been some quite sucessful roll racing and drag racing too.

Now, Billy and crew chief Paul Butler have smashed the seven-second barrier, during Winter Warm Ups testing at Willowbank Raceway on the weekend. Despite the computer knocking out some timing in an attempt to keep the front wheels on the ground the VL ran a best of 7.98-seconds at 173mph!

The guys will be back this weekend for the Winternationals, aiming to run a 7.89 over the quarter and a 4.99 over the eighth-mile.

UPDATE, 9 April 2023:

Billy and SICKEST have taken out the Grand Champion gong at Rare Spares Rockynats 2023. Billy placed in the Elite Top 10 in the show judging, including a second place for Top Engine Bay.

Billy aced the driving events (drags, motorkhana and grass driving) to nail the win, which he dedicated to the guy who put the VL together, Paul Butler.

Paul had a great weekend all ’round, taking out the Pro Class drags in his SR20-powered Gemini and running the first six-second pass in Rockynats history. Go team!

Update, 5 September 2021:

Billy and SICKEST have taken out the 2021 Red CentreNATS Grand Champion gong in Alice Springs, by just one point over WA’s Nigel Warr. Read the full story on the car below and check out full coverage of the Grand Champion chase here.

First published in the August 2021 issue of Street Machine

HELPING out your friends is an integral part of the car enthusiast life, and Billy Shelton’s immaculate VL build started off exactly that way. While his SICKO HQ Monaro (SM, Nov ’07) is going through a bare-metal rebuild, he and a team of mates have turned out this killer first-gen Commodore, packing a 1000rwhp turbo LS and immaculate detailing everywhere you look.

Billy and his mate Paul Butler of PB Automotive started off with a 90,000km-old, RB30-powered ’86 Commodore SL that Paul hadn’t got around to rebuilding. The pair then pushed through COVID and a crazy 12-month timeline to debut the eye-bashing sedan at the inaugural Rockynats. It was only meant to be a cheap project to have some pressure-fed fun in – until Billy’s OCD kicked in.

“We were in the process of building Billy’s SICKO Monaro when COVID hit,” Paul says with a sigh. “We were unsure how long the show scene would be affected, so our plan started with Billy buying my VL Commodore – which had sat in a Longreach storage yard for 10 years – as well as the turbo LS from my TX Gemini coupe so I could build him a budget street/strip car to have some fun with.

“To say it got out of hand is an understatement. Billy is hardcore into the show scene, so he wore me down to make what you see today.”

We’re no strangers to hearing the familiar tale of street car builds being made nicer little by little until the owner accidentally winds up with a show-winning machine ready to take scalps at the track. Given Billy’s past with the 630hp small-block in his HQ, SICKEST was never going to be thrown together or sport Sloppy Mechanics-style junkyard speed parts.

“Just before Christmas 2020, Billy hit me with his revised plan of unveiling the VL at Rockynats, which was Easter 2021!” Paul says. “The car was already painted in our custom-mix Sicko Red and the engine had been installed, but I decided it needed to come apart to be flow-coated if it was going to Rockynats. This was so it would be of a standard I’d be happy to have unveiled.

“We pulled the VL apart again and flow-coated everything, with Nathan Hunt helping paint it so I could concentrate on the rubbing, blocking and buffing. There were long hours in the final week to get the paint up to scratch, and we couldn’t have done it without Nathan’s help.”

Paul fitted a tube front end from Spot On Performance to get the weight down, while the rear end was tubbed to the rails and the standard triangulated four-link arms were replaced with adjustable chrome-moly items. A triangulated link bar and Enemies Everywhere anti-roll bar were also added.

This was mandatory work given the grout-filled 1053rwhp 5.7-litre LS up front, built by Peter Phillips Performance for Paul’s drag-spec, tube-frame Gemini. The tough Gen III copped plenty of good gear, including a Callies crank and rods set, CP slugs, custom-grind Lil Johns Motorsports hydraulic-roller cam, LS7 lifters and Melling oil pump. Trend pushrods and BTR valve springs handle head upgrades in the #241 cathedral-port castings, while the smoothed and painted Holley Hi-Ram intake has been squared-off with a 102mm Plazmaman throttlebody.

The hot sauce comes from a front-mounted Proboost GTX45 snail running without an intercooler, though it does have water/methanol injection set up in the Haltech Elite 2500 ECU.

“I’ve got a ProCharged small-block Chev, but I wanted to do an LS, so I got this engine without even having a car to put it in,” Paul explains. “We tested the set-up in a mate’s VH to make sure it all worked before we put it in Billy’s car. We’re basically out of turbo, as it’s only a mid-frame turbo, but it drives really well. The VL isn’t a full-blown race car; it’s meant to be a driver.”

Behind the boosted late-model small-block is a Vasco Powerglide and custom turbo-spec torque converter from The Convertor Shop, while a nine-inch packing all the fruit gets the four-digit power to the ground.

“I went roll racing the other day, and when we looked at the datalogs we realised I was only using 89 per cent throttle,” laughs Billy. “I still ended up in the top six, which isn’t bad. Since Rockynats I’ve done 57 hours of driving in it. I take it everywhere; I even do my quotes for concreting in it. I’ve never had a car like this!”

The judges at Rockynats clearly also felt they hadn’t seen a car like SICKEST before, rewarding it with a swag of tinware including Top Comp, Best Engine Bay, 2nd Top Paint and a Top 10 plate. Not bad for a “budget street/strip” build, but still not a patch on what Billy says we should expect from his rebuilt SICKO HQ Monaro when it debuts at Rockynats next year.

“SICKO will be off its head, but we’ll also have SICKEST there as well, and I want to go for Grand Champion in both of them,” he says with a sinister laugh. Billy sure has the car-building illness!

Update, 29 August:

Billy has been driving and racing the wheels off his VL since returning from Rockynats, with including two Willowbank test days and two Roll Racing appearances (including a podium spot) at Queensland Raceway. On Friday, Billy set a new PB in the car, to the tune of 8.390-seconds at 163mph!


Paint: Concept Paints Sicko Red
Brand: LS1 5.7L
Induction: Holley Hi-Ram, Plazmaman 102mm throttlebody
ECU: Haltech Elite 2500
Turbos: Proboost GTX45
Heads: LS1 #241
Camshaft: Lil Johns Motorsports custom-grind
Conrods: Callies
Pistons: CP Carrillo
Crank: Callies
Oil system: Melling pump
Fuel system: Siemens Deka 2433 injectors, Holley 890 pump and Holley 1800 pump
Cooling: Custom rear-mount
Exhaust: 4in stainless-steel
Ignition: Haltech Smart Coils
Gearbox: Vasco Powerglide
Converter: Custom Convertor Shop turbo-spec
Diff: Ford 9in, alloy bolt-through centre, Truetrac, 3.5:1 gears
Front: XYZ coil-overs, Spot On tube front end
Rear: AFCO coil-overs, triangular diff locator, Enemies Everywhere anti-roll bar, adjustable control arms, mini-tubbed
Brakes: Wilwood 320mm discs (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
Rims: Weld V-Series; 17×4 (f), 15×10 double-beadlock (r)
Rubber: Mickey Thompson Sportsman; 26x6x17 (f), 275/60R15 (r)

Paul Butler at PB Automotive; Nathan Hunt; Peter Phillips Performance; Nick Cooper at Coop’s Auto Electrics; Justin Simpson at Horsepower Solutions; North Coast Custom Trim; Adam at Red Devil Radiators; Jeremy Hassel at Weldworx; Todd Protheroe; Jeremy Platt; Concept Paints; Suspension Dynamics; my wife Michelle and kids Chase and Chloe