Alan Martens’s quad Weber-fed HDT VC Commodore

Brock's VC HDT Commodore saved the great Aussie muscle car's bacon and this show-stopper has the balls, brakes and balance to make it tastier

Photographers: Tony Rabbitte

He may have found what he always wanted when he bought a very straight, stock HDT VC Commodore but Alan Martens had no idea it was only the start of a quest that, in the end, would leave no bolt unturned in his search for trophy-winning perfection. His love for the flash Holden’s style has melded with his urge to tinker, getting him a street machine that’s unmistakably HDT but so much better – better on the eye and better on the road.

First published in the October 2002 issue of Street Machine

“It was just one of those things,” reckons Alan. “The car never needed a rebuild but I wanted to tidy it up, splurge on a new paint job and have a real nice looking street machine.

“I was going to use it as a second car because it’s just a toy. When I bought it I kept it for 12 months, then when the time became available I decided, right, I’m going to repaint it. So I stripped it down and went to Dave Johnson at Cruisin’ Panel.”

That’s when Alan’s humble plot went awry. Dave corrupted Alan, making all sorts of suggestions. Really good ideas, thought Alan and they got a bit carried away, welding all the engine bay’s seams, making sure the flares fitted perfectly and laying on Dulux Palais White paint. Dave had an excellent canvas to work on, which helped.

“The body was perfect,” says Alan. “When the body was stripped Dave just couldn’t believe it. There was no rust in the car at all. No repairs, no rust, just perfect.”

Eighteen-inch Simmons rims and a meaner ride height finished the big picture for the Commodore, maintaining the classic Brock look. The rest was all details – thousands of them. Literally every bolt and screw was replaced with new ones, as was the trim, rubbers, the lot.

“I really didn’t want to cut corners,” says Alan, “so if something didn’t need replacing but was bordering on it then I replaced it anyway. When it came down to the engine, Grant at Brisbane Engine Balancing said, well, how much do you want to spend? I said around about $6000, I just wanna freshen up the engine.”

Grant Jenkins was as bad as Dave. He pushed Alan’s buttons, and the next thing Alan knew he had a $12,000 engine sitting in the car. Like everything else, it got out of control. How about quad Webers for sheer wow factor?

Well, they breathe pretty good too, helping the now 355-cube engine push 300hp through the wheels. Internal goodies include Harrop stroker crank, VN conrods, ACL pistons and moly rings. The motor is topped with modified B-cast 460 HP heads with 1.94-inch inlet valves and 1.6-inch exhaust. The Crane cam gives 0.546 inches lift and 244 degrees duration. Ignition is HEI. Spent gas streams out through Pacemaker extractors and a twin 2.5-inch stainless steel system, then out a pair of three-inch stainless mufflers. Upgrades to the lubrication, fuel and cooling systems keep everything working happily.

Bob Grant prepped a street/strip Stage II shift kit for the Turbo 350, running a 3000rpm stall and spinning the two-piece tailshaft into a 10-bolt 3.55:1 diff.

“The more it got out of control the more I got excited,” admits Alan. “I went the extra hog. For a couple of hundred dollars more I’d do something different, buy something better. It was never supposed to be like that.”

He held back inside the car, though. The original interior was in top nick, except that the carpet was knackered, so Alan made it perfect, only changing the gear knob and fitting a stereo.

Handling was critical for Alan, who likes a car that gets in and out of a corner with finesse. That’s one reason he liked the HDT Commodore, a car with great handling potential. Adjustable stainless-steel upper control arms, two-inch King springs on Koni shocks, new bushes, a 30mm front sway bar and a VN SS rear sway bar keep the Brock on the black stuff. She stops extra well too, thanks to 330mm DBA discs and AP Racing four-pot calipers all round.

Alan reckons the ride is beautiful and even though it’s a serious show car the drive is irresistible, so he’s out in it about once a week.

“In the wide open spaces down my area, we’ve got some really good double-lane roads and early on a Sunday morning there’s not a lot of traffic on the road, so you get it to yourself. I whack the stereo up and away I go.”

He avoided the stone chips and is winning trophies. Among others, it has won Car of the Show at the All Holden Day in 2000 and 2001, class trophies at the Brisbane Hot Rod & Street Machine show in the same years and drove away with the class and Grand Champion prizes at the Cleveland Auto Spectacular.

“When I display the car I lay a chequered-flag matt on the grass,” says Alan. “I usually try to display the car the same every time. Some people just park their cars and open the doors – I couldn’t do that. People pay their money to have a look and I like to set up the car and show them what it’s like.”

The car’s popular with the people as well as the judges. And word has spread, sometimes in ways that make Alan laugh.

I went the extra hog. For a couple of hundred dollars more, I’d do something different, but something better

“My eldest daughter is 15 and of course when she first started telling her friends, especially the boys, that her dad’s got this VC Commodore that he shows and he’s winning trophies, they didn’t believe it until they actually saw it down at that Cleveland Auto Show, being a local show.

“She’s the toast of the school now. She was coming up to her birthday then and all these boys were trying to get an invitation because they just wanted to talk to me about the car.”

They’d have found Alan out in the garage, working out his next detail change. He knows that eventually the car will have been around the shows for long enough that it’ll be stale, but he’s keeping it as fresh as possible in the meantime. He wants people who’ve already seen it at other shows to find something new every time they look over it.

After our photo shoot he and Andrew Ruhland replaced the rings off the top of the dip sticks with custom aluminium knobs that Andrew turned up, and gave the gear shift’s T-bar the same treatment.

“If you can come up with a lot of these things for shows you’re going to win a lot of extra points,” says Alan. That’s how the red and white chequered flag scheme came to decorate the sump, a unique touch that’s quite different from the more common chrome or polished finish. On the other hand, he doesn’t lose sight of the real world he and the car like to play in.

“I built the car to drive it and that’s why it’s just stone-guard underneath and not paint. It’s a lot easier to look after.”

On the road or in a show, Alan loves his car. He’s not interested in another project because his HDT gives him all the joy a street machiner needs. You get the impression he’ll almost be relieved when it finishes its show duties, too, because he’ll be able to get out on the road give it more of what they both really want.


Every man needs a good garage. Alan Martens has one, and he’s getting another. The new one will be attached to the house, reserved just for his car, and will be bigger than a normal garage so Alan can walk around the Commodore even when all its doors are wide open.

“At the moment I’ve just got a normal double garage,” says Alan. “I don’t let my wife park her car in it for fear of my kids opening the doors onto the Commodore. The kids are not allowed in unless I’m in there.

“People come to the garage and find it’s every bit as clean as their house. I’ve got my tools on one side and all my cleaning products and all the other little bits and pieces I need on the other side, and a big corner-shaped stack of shelves. I’ve got the stereo set up so it cranks away. I just like tinkering in there with the music on. To me it’s relaxation after a hard day’s work.

“My wife doesn’t mind because she knows I am always at home in the garage.”


Number built: 500
Factory output: 160kW
Price when new: $19,800
Colours: Red, white or black
Stripes: Lairy


Colour:Dulux two-pack Palais White
Engine:Holden 355
Heads:Modified B-cast 460hp
Carbs:Quad 44mm IDF Webers
Gearbox:Turbo 350 with Stage II kit
Diff:10-bolt 3.55:1
Seats:Stock, velour trimmed
Carpet:Red cut pile
Stereo:Sony Xplod including 10-inch sub and five-channel amp
Discs:DBA 330mm, two-piece, slotted
Calipers:AP Racing four-piston
Suspension:King springs, Koni shocks
Wheels:Simmon OM, 18×8 front, 18×9 rear
Tyres:Kumho Ecsta, 225/40/18 front, 265/35/ZR18 rear