Damien ‘Chubby’ Lowe’s VB Commodore

Just like Ian Hazel’s HG Premier in the 80s and Ron Barclay’s HQ ute in the early 90s, Damien Lowe’s VB Commodore set the standard for his own generation of street machiners to follow

Photographers: Phil Cooper, SM Archives

While there have been wilder Commodores built, few are more iconic than Damien ‘Chubby’ Lowe’s VB (SM, Mar ’08). Chubby started on the car over 20 years ago when he fitted an injected 5.0-litre and applied a lustrous paintjob in Toreador Red.

First published in the January 2024 issue of Street Machine

“I was 16 when I bought it,” Chubby says. “It was a stocker, base-model Commodore. I put VN SS wheels and VL Turbo brakes on it and lowered it, and by the time I was 18, I’d bought a V8 VB SL/E wreck for the motor and driveline. Six months later, I bought VN heads, EFI manifold, cam and a MicroTech computer, and put that on it. I blew the M21 into the next century, so I put a T5 in it and pulled it down and painted it, put Momo Status wheels on it and had it trimmed. That’s when I took the car to Summernats for the first time, in 2000.”

The VB was an immediate hit, with multiple magazine features and show trophies, but Chubby had his sights on a bigger prize – the Summernats Top Overall Street award – and in 2007 gave the car a serious birthday.

This involved creating a super-trick engine bay design that has become his signature move – one that he’s applied to a stack of mates’ cars in the years since. This included deburring the block, heads and manifold, adding a stack of symmetry, and sheeting off large areas of the bay for maximum smoothness.

Inside, the standard dash was replaced with a stretched WRX item that rewrote the book on how modern interiors can be successfully incorporated into older cars. VT seats and door cards were similarly adapted, with a solid, suede-trimmed headlining above.

Thus equipped, the VB took out Chubby’s longed-for Top Overall Street gong at Summernats 21 in 2008. It was a hard-fought victory, however.

“At Summernats 21, we had a mad rush to get the car ready thanks to an engine bay fire in the lead-up,” Chubby recalls. “We got it going, but it wasn’t running 100 per cent, and I nearly didn’t take it – it was just breaking down after 3000rpm. The judges pushed me to do the driving events, so I took the risk and it paid off. I was over the moon. It was a dream come true driving down the burnout pad to get the trophy – it was full-on! That’s when I realised that we’d done it.”

The following year he returned to Canberra and put the Commodore into the Elite Top 60, and then drove the damn thing from Sydney to Perth for Motorvation. We’re talking four days and 4104km one way! Documented in Street Machine by then sub-editor Adam Morrissey (SM, Mar ’09), the trip sealed the VB’s status as a street-driven legend.

Since then, Chub has been busy building his Lowe Fabrications and Chubby’s Garage businesses and contributing to countless other builds, including Ray Elia’s stunning VN Group A tribute (SM, Dec ’22). Meanwhile, the Commodore has been in hibernation, but in 2018, Chubby blew it apart again for an elite-level, pro touring-style rebuild.

With the factory rails augmented by a full chassis, the VB will sit on the deck thanks to a set-up that includes a flat floor with exhaust cut-outs, a Kugel Komponents independent rear, and airbags all ’round. The front end is a brand-new Lowe Fabrications product – a double tubular A-arm arrangement with big brakes and an internal sway-bar that does away with the need for factory Commodore strut towers, opening up a raft of options for customising the engine bay while at the same time vastly improving handling, braking and steering.

Chubby drove the damn thing from Sydney to Perth for Motorvation. We’re talking four days and 4104km one way!

In order to achieve the right stance while retaining the 100mm ground clearance required for engineering, Chubby opted for oval-section exhaust tubing, and channelled the floor to tuck it up as high as possible.

Engine-wise, Damien is sticking firmly with plastic power, albeit modernised with a twin-throttlebody intake, Haltech Nexus EFI, twin rear-mount Garrett turbos and a T56 gearbox.

Even so, the revamped VB will remain resolutely street driven. “The car has never been on a trailer,” says Chubby, “and I don’t plan on changing that now.”

With work commitments, progress on the rebuild is slower than Damien would like. But rest assured, when it does finally break cover, it will be well worth the wait.