HDT-inspired Holden 355 stroker-powered 1985 VK Commodore

They say experience is the best teacher. After the build of his VK Commodore, Mat Hood has enough for two cars

Photographers: Peter Bateman

Mat Hood had to do most of his VK Commodore twice but it all came good in the end

This article on Mat’s VK was originally published in the April 2013 issue of Street Machine

NO BUILD story seems complete without at least one brush with a dodgy tradie. But there are blokes like Mat Hood who for whatever reason seem to get shafted at every turn.

“From day one it seemed like everyone was out to screw me over,” Mat said. “At almost every step of the build someone did dodgy work, disappeared with my money or broke promises. Pretty much everything had to be done twice. If I’d spoken to the right people first up, I probably could have built two cars for the money I spent.”

It’d be hard to take after a while, especially when you consider every such setback halts progress and hurts the finances, but with encouragement from his mates and at times against his own better judgement, Mat put his head down and powered on.

To look at the finished product, you’d never know the grief it caused him. The classic HDT-inspired body is resplendent in Audi Europe Green, the engine bay is a thing of beauty and houses a stonking 470rwhp 355ci stroker, and the cabin is a melting pot of masterful metalwork and top notch trim. Then there’s that stance, with dished FR20 Simmons tucked well up inside mini-tubbed rear guards.

Any HDT-clad VK looks tough, but bulk dish, an arrow-straight body and a killer stance certainly help the cause. Subtle touches like the shaved fuel filler and aerial hole and the trick 4in reverse cowl bonnet seal the deal

At some point Mat’s luck took a turn for the better, and he attributes that to the input and hard work of his good mate Brian at MP Automotive: “If it wasn’t for Brian, the car would’ve gone to the wreckers.”

He assisted with most aspects of the car and, importantly, kept Mat motivated and focused on the end result, helping him overcome the adversity that seemed to plague the whole process.

As straight as the car is now, the body presented the biggest challenge. The first shop promised the world, then wrought such havoc in the engine bay that Mat almost pulled the pin then and there.

Instead of doing that, he enlisted Taverna Bros to comprehensively reconstruct the engine compartment, and Scott Wareham to tackle the panel and paint and bring the car back from the brink.

The bodykit is HDT Group 3 except the front bar, which is a Group A item, and the bonnet, which is a custom steel reverse cowl job by Jason Waye at Muscle Car Garage in Adelaide. It’s reminiscent of the genuine HDT item but clears the Harrop single plane-fed 355ci stroker.

Other body mods include a custom scuttle panel, deleted exhaust cut-out, shaved fuel filler and aerial hole and smoothed welds in the boot and door jambs.

The highlight of the interior is undoubtedly the custom lower dash, centre console and parcel shelf combo, though the saffrom leather-trimmed Maloo buckets, custom door trims and half ‘cage look a treat too

The custom metalwork extends into a cabin dominated by a full-length aluminium centre console that’s home to a DVD screen, billet switch gear, TCI shifter and transbrake button. Splitting two pairs of VE Maloo seats, the console extends back from the custom lower dash section and merges seamlessly with a sweetly sculpted custom parcel shelf. Custom door cards feature VE armrests and doorhandles, along with colour-coded fibreglass speaker pods.

A one-off instrument binnacle houses myriad Auto Meter instruments, visible between the spokes of a Billet Specialties Sniper steering wheel.

It looks sensational but the trimmer Mat originally enlisted drifted in and out of the picture until Trick Trim Customs took over and finished the job.

“A lot of people have buckets moulded into the rear bench but I’ve always wanted to have two completely separate buckets in the back. I’m really happy with how it eventually came up,” Mat said.

There were no such issues with the engine build, which was handled by MP Automotive. The stout 355 uses a Harrop crank, H-beam rods and Arias slugs for a rock-solid rotating assembly, with heavily ported VN heads running Manley valves and Isky springs up top, all driven by a custom-ground Wade solid cam, solid roller lifters and Crow pushrods. Fed a pump fuel/avgas blend by a monster 1000cfm Holley, the combo turned an impressive 350rwkW (469rwhp).

Extensive sheet-metal work includes a custom radiator surround, boxed headlights and smoothed inner guards and firewall

The engine is backed by a transbraked and manualised Turbo 400 with a 4800rpm Dominator converter, while the diff is a fully floating nine-inch with a chrome-moly housing, Truetrac 4.57:1 centre and 32-spline axles.

The rear end was another case of the disappearing tradesman but it now features a fully adjustable four-link with Strange coil-overs, and the guards are tubbed to the rails to create space for the 20×10 FR20 Simmons rims and 275/35/20 Falken hoops.

Having gone through the wars to get the car built, Mat now appreciates and values it all the more.

“It also feels good to offer advice to people who’re just getting into building cars. The best way to do it is to go to reputable shops and pay the big dollars — I found that out the hard way!”

The car debuted at Summernats 25 where it took out Best Engineered, Best Modified and 3rd Best Interior in the Street class, and was selected for Supreme 12 judging. Since then it’s also scored Best Holden at Auto Euphoria in Melbourne.

Despite the trials, Mat now plans to put together a mini-tubbed Torana for his car-mad missus, Katie.

“She’s been behind the wheel of the VK a bit lately and I think it’s created a monster — she gives me all my bad ideas these days!”

A big old Roots blower isn’t out of the question but the thrill of driving the VK on the street may just sway Mat’s plans towards an under-bonnet turbo set-up.

“I hadn’t been driving it much but I took it down the coast with a few other tough old-school cars and put a few hundred clicks on it, which was a great experience. I haven’t raced it yet and I honestly don’t care what it runs. I built it to cruise, look tough, perform well and rip a mean skid!”


Colour: Audi Europe Green with custom pearl

Brand: Holden 355ci V8
Induction: Holley 1000cfm carb, Harrop single-plane manifold
Heads: Ported and polished VN
Camshaft: Wade custom grind, solid
Conrods: H-beam
Pistons: Arias
Crank: Harrop
Oil pump: High volume
Sump: High Energy
Preferred fuel: Avgas/PULP mix
Fuel system: Holley 150 pump
Cooling: Four core alloy radiator
Exhaust: Pacemaker headers, custom twin into single three-inch system
Ignition: MSD 6AL, custom leads

Gearbox: Turbo 400, reverse-pattern manual valvebody, Kevlar clutch packs, transbrake, 4800rpm Dominator converter
Diff: Nine-inch, chrome-moly housing, Truetrac LSD, 4.57:1 gears, 32-spline axles, full floater

Springs: Custom Kings Springs coils (f&r)
Shocks: Custom coil-overs (f), Strange coil-overs (r)
Brakes: Cross-drilled and slotted VT discs and calipers (f&r)
Master cylinder: VK V8

Rims: Simmons FR20 20×8 (f), 20×10 (r)
Rubber: Falken (f) 235/35/20 (r), 275/35/20