This HT Premier has been a tough street car for decades. When Todd Chandler bought it off his mate more than 15 years ago it was a going concern, looking very much as you see here but powered by a tough small-block.
This article on Todd's HT Premier was originally published in issue no.4 of Street Machine LSX Tuner magazine
Todd, who hails from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, cruised the wheels off the car and ran as quick as 11.00@121mph at the drags. But when he started hanging out with Michael Lobie of LUBE UP VH Commodore fame (SM, Oct ’16), he soon discovered that turbocharged LS engines are the way, the truth and the life.
“I went for a ride in Lobie’s turbo LS VH and it just changed me,” Todd says. “I started building a tougher small-block for my car, but I weighed up building a turbo LS and it turned out it’d be cheaper.”
Aside from outright performance, street manners had a fair bit to do with Todd’s decision to move away from the old Chev. “Where I’m from, we’re a long way from the strip, so we do more street driving than anything,” he says. “The small-block was pretty angry and the noise it made was great, but my daughter wouldn’t go near it and I was sick of attracting cops. I didn’t want anything poking through the bonnet. The LS just made sense across the board.”
Todd sourced an LS2 and delivered it to James at LS Industries, who fitted a set of JE pistons and Callies Compstar rods to the factory crankshaft for added toughness under boost. The cam is a Camtech hydraulic-roller, while the heads are LS3, ported by Shane Alex Engines and fitted with PSI double valve springs. The factory LS2 intake manifold was loaded with 1600cc injectors and fronted by a 102mm throttlebody, and the mill was mounted using a set of conversion engine mounts and a modified VE sump, with a C-section welded in to clear the HT’s factory steering box.
The turbo system was custom-built using a set of VE HSV log-style headers with the ends lopped off, feeding a crossover pipe that heads to the turbo flange. The turbo itself is a BorgWarner S480, and the stainless dump pipe is four inches in diameter, heading to the same twin three-inch exhaust system the car has always had.
The car runs a cheap and cheerful Vulture blow-off valve and wastegate and cut-and-shut intercooler, but an upgrade to a Turbosmart ’gate is on the cards.
“We made 600rwhp pretty easy, then turned it down to 550rwhp on 10psi,” Todd says. “We just put a new S480 turbo on with a bigger rear wheel, so hopefully it’ll make a bit more now. It runs on pump E85, and there are no holes cut in the car at all because I wanted to be able to take it back to an aspirated Chev if I ever decide to sell it. They’re getting to be worth pretty good money these days.”
There’s a nine-inch diff out back with 31-spline axles, an Altra 9 centre and highway-friendly 3.55:1 gears. The Turbo 400 transmission runs a 3500rpm converter and a transbrake, purely because one of Todd’s most cherished pastimes is powerskidding like a champion.
The car runs 255/60/15 tyres on 15x9in Weld AlumaStar wheels, but suspension-wise it’s pretty stock – factory leaf springs with slapper bars and Competition Engineering shocks on the rear, and standard coil springs with Pedders 90/10s on the front.
The paint and bodywork is in exceptional condition considering the car was first put together at least 25 years ago. “I’ve got a picture of the car fully built at 1992 Powernats, trimmed and painted exactly as it is now,” Todd says. “It’s held up very well despite now having a couple of minor marks from being driven.”
After an engine and driveline transplant, new fuel system and plenty of wiring and fab work, Todd’s Prem is a completely different car. “It used to scream at 3800rpm down the highway with the old small-block, but now it’s happy to poke along on 3000rpm,” he says. “It uses about 20 litres of E85 between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, and I drive it there often to go to Harry’s [Diner] and all the other cruise nights that go on down there.”
The mission was to build a race car, a Powercruise car and a street car all in one. “I wanted to be able to take the family to the beach, but also go to drags and run a decent number,” Todd says. “I didn’t want something that was a pain to drive on the street. Sometimes I miss the noise the old set-up used to make, but not when the cops are around. The way the police are these days it’s hard to drive these cars at all, let alone if you have a fast one.”
Todd’s Prem is a killer example of the great results you can get from a street-legal, budget-conscious boosted LS combo. “We’re hoping it’ll run somewhere in the nines, but I doubt that I could have built a nine-second small-block for the same money,” he says. “The next step is to build an iron-block LS engine so we can twin it up and make some good power. You can never have too much.”