Flashback: Brad Keem’s turbo Hemi six-powered VH Charger

With 460 turbocharged six-pack ponies under its gleaming skin, this 10sec Charger is a national treasure

Photographers: Guy Bowden

I hear these types of women are few and far between, so I better hang on to her,” says Brad Keem about his wife, Valerie.

First published in the April 2007 issue of Street Machine

That’s because Valerie found this ’72 VH Charger. Back then it didn’t look anything like it does now — it was a bare shell, located with the help of the Victorian Charger Club. After a road trip to inspect the car in Albury, Brad had it on a southbound trailer. Good rust-free Charger shells are getting thin on the ground which is one of the reasons that Brad has stocked up, with three more joining the clan.

“My boys will probably want them in the future and there will be none around,” Brad reckons. Given the price of Mopar muscle these days it could prove to be a wise investment even if Brad’s two boys decide they don’t dig Mopars — the elder is two years old so Brad’s got a while to find out.

Some work had been started on the shell, with tubs and rear suspension already underway, so Brad sent it off to a local engineering firm for completion. The leaf springs now sit under the chassis rails and the wheel tubs have no trouble swallowing beefy 12.5in Mickey Thompsons and Center Line billets.

The rear needed some more modification later on, when Brad found that the new spring locations resulted in rather unpredictable handling at high speeds over the quarter-mile. That meant adding a modified Watts linkage to stabilise the mini-spooled and shortened BorgWarner rear end, which has helped in a big way.

Many would sneer at the fact that Brad is running a Borgy rear under the Charger but with 28-spline axles the diff is just as solid as a nine-inch. After all, there are plenty of 10-second VL turbos running the same rear end.

With the tubs and suspension sorted, Brad next took the body to paint and body man Dean Garner. According to Brad, Dean’s painted half the cars in his area. He works out of a home workshop, picking and choosing his jobs.

After prepping the shell and panels, Dean gave the Charger a hit in Saffon Pearl two-pack. Great colour choice as it turns out — the goldish-bronze pearl over the Charger’s swoopy lines makes for a stand-out ride.

Inside, Rix Upholstery covered the seats and door trims in buckskin vinyl, with a mix of Auto Meter and factory gauges to assess the engine’s comfort readings. Fresh tan carpet covers the floor and there’s a B&M Pro Ratchet to stir the strengthened Torqueflite 904.

While the shell was being painted, Brad was busy detailing and assembling the front suspension and collecting bits for the engine. One of the first pieces he bought for the donk was an STA centrifugal blower; using an ex-cop Torqueflite Hemi block and a set of cast 307 Chev pistons for low comp, he was making 280hp at the wheels at just 9lb boost. No fuel injection, just a 650 double pumper Holley modified for blow-through.

At the time it was great; the Charger ran 12.4s down the quarter and had everyone’s attention with the front-mounted intercooler peeking from under the front bar. However, the blower set-up was constantly slipping or throwing belts so after being prodded by a few mates, Brad decided it was time to go turbo.

Andrew Sanders from Specialised Power Porting owns an eight-second turbo Hemi Centura and happens to be a mate of Brad’s, so he helped select the GT42 Garrett turbo and 45mm wastegate, then built the pipes to match them to the side of the Hemi six. The guys also came up with a supplemental fuel system to feed methanol into the engine at boost.

“It surprised everyone — including me — and put up more than 420hp at the wheels on the same boost as the supercharger,” says Brad.

Finishing the new set-up just before Easternats 2005, Brad got to test it out against some of the quickest genuine street cars in the country. Out of 450 or so cars, Brad made it to the top 15 before the head gasket let go, prompting a full rebuild of the engine and fuel system.

Out came the stock rods and Chev pistons, in went a new set of Arias forgies and Scat H-beam rods. Stock Hemi six cranks are pretty solid so that was retained, though a Powerbond balancer was added; a full custom main girdle kit, which Brad came up with, keeps the bottom end together. Specialised Power Porting took care of the head and there’s a custom Wade turbo-grind cam to control the valves.

“There was very little information and few people who had messed around with blow-through carbies over here, so I looked to the States for information.” He found what he was looking for on the net, specifically at www.theturboforums.com.

“These guys are running seven-second streeters with blow-through set-ups so I thought they might know what they’re talking about,” says Brad.

With plenty of new information to hand, Brad sourced an Aeromotive A1000 pump, Aeromotive 13204 boost-referenced regulator and an Extreme Velocity carby hat. The old carby was sold and a new 650DP was prepped by Phil at Geelong Tune Up Specialists before the Charger tackled the rollers again.

At 11psi boost, the Charger went 460hp at the rear wheels — with a slipping torque converter. With a new converter, the same tune-up went 11.4 at the drags before Brad bumped up the boost to 13psi and dipped into the 10s — 10.9@127mph.

It’s still slow off the line; Brad says the old supercharger set-up pulled better 60-foot times but he’s looking to fit a transbrake to the Torqueflite to help build more boost at the start.

Since the Charger has now turned 10s, Brad has to look at a rollcage — he’ll be adding a new chrome-moly unit soon. With the transbrake making better 60-foot times, he’s hoping to improve his ETs at the current boost level before winding it up “a wee bit more”.

At the end of the day Brad is pretty happy with what he’s achieved so far. His Charger runs a 10-second six-pack on pump fuel and looks like no other car on the planet. You’d have to be happy with that.


Colour:Saffon Pearl two-pack
Engine:Hemi 265
Carb:Holley 650DP, modified
Turbo:Garrett GT42, 45mm Garrett wastegate
Manifold:Cain 4BBL
Heads:Cast iron, ported & polished
Pistons:Arias forged
Rods:Scat H-beam
Cam:Wade solid turbo-grind, custom cam support
Fuel system:Aeromotive A1000 pump, 13204 regulator
Ignition:MSD 6AL
Exhaust:Custom stainless turbo header, 3in mandrel system
Transmission:Torqueflite 904, TCI full-manual valvebody
Converter:Dominator 8in, 3200rpm
Diff:BorgWarner, shortened, mini-spool, 28-spline axles
Brakes:DBA slotted (f), stock drums (r)
Springs:Torsion bar (f), leaf with custom Watts linkage (r)
Shocks:Pedders 90/10 (f), Pedders (r)
Rims:Center Line billet, 15×6 (f), 15×10 (r)
Rubber:185/65 (f), M/T 28×12.5 (r)
Wheel:Boss billet
Seats:Retrimmed 770 buckskin vinyl
Carpet:Furry stuff
Gauges:Stock 770 plus Auto Meter
Stereo:Sony X-plod CD & speakers
Shifter:B&M Pro Ratchet

Andrews Sanders, Specialised Power Porting (03 5330 1123) for help with the build; Phil, Geelong Tune Up Specialists (03 5241 6655) for tuning; Repco Auto Parts; Apco Service Stations; Powerbond balancers; Rix Upholstery (03 5593 1660); Dean Garner, Moe, Tom, Dewy, Jack — and Valerie of course.