We don’t feature a great many later-model burlers in Street Machine, but Glenn-john Tronc’s 1100rwhp true street VE SS-V wagon is a prime example of what it takes to get us to bend the rules.
First published in Street Machine’s Summer Special magazine 2023
Unsurprisingly, Wodonga-based Glenn is a big fan of fast wagons, and the VE embodies his ultimate vision of a show-quality car with the power to match the prowess. “I didn’t just want it to look good, I wanted it to have the go to match the show,” he says.
He’s had the car for a bit over five years now, starting with a factory manual VE SS-V wagon and building from there. “I originally got it because I just wanted a manual V8 wagon as a family-friendly daily,” he says. “It didn’t take long for us to cam the original L98, and the modifications just kept coming after that.”
One does not need to be well-versed in late-model Commodores to see that Glenn’s VE has had a significant makeover inside and out.
Let’s talk about the outside first. The wagon was painted Sting Red from the factory, which is very rare for a VE, and Glenn decided to build on that for its new colour. “The base is still Sting Red, with two layers of candy and then a gold pearl on top,” he says. “The bodykit is a genuine HDT one with VE Maloo side skirts, and at that time it was one of the few HDT wagons around.”
Finishing off the exterior is a set of custom-ordered Koya wheels – 20×9.5 in the front and 20×10.5 up back.
The interior is where the wagon really stands out though, and Glenn says its colour scheme intentionally has a Prancing Horse touch. “The red paint with the tan interior is a bit Ferrari-inspired, because it just works, which is why they’ve been doing it for years,” he says. “The diamond-stitch pattern on the seats is actually nicked from a 2019 Bentley Continental GT, and I wanted to have just enough without overdoing it.”
Glenn had Kurt from Meyer Design perform the interior fit-out and trim, but it was Glenn and the crew from Gricey’s Workshop who did the arty boot installation of the Air Ride airbag set-up and wooden flooring.
“For the airbag tank and lines, we took inspiration from old-school brewery taps and piping, and the flooring is just wood from Bunnings we cut to fit the wagon floor,” laughs Glenn.
Now, let’s get to the juiciest part: that 1100rwhp turbo LS! The original L98 was sold off and replaced with a 403ci LY6 iron-block LS built by Warspeed Industries. “The cammed motor was all right, but I wanted more, so I started stockpiling parts and got Troy [Worsley from Warspeed] to build me the short block, the goal being 1000rwhp,” Glenn says.
Warspeed punched the cubes out with a K1 crank, Callies Compstar rods and CP pistons. They also slung a Kelford camshaft in there and sealed the deal with a pair of CNC-ported LS3 heads.
Glenn completed the mill with a Plazmaman intake manifold, 102mm throttlebody and 1650cc injectors, before Darcy from KillaBoost Manifolds custom made the exhaust manifolds and took care of the fab work needed to create a suitable home for the mammoth 91mm Garrett GTX5533R turbo.
“Troy killed it on the short block, and, like all things mechanical on this car, I did the work with the help of the blokes at Gricey’s Workshop and Darcy from KillaBoost,” says Glenn.
The combo still uses the factory LS ECU, and, drinking E85 and breathing 16psi of boost, the car made 1129hp and 1032lb-ft to the hubs before running out of fuel pump. “It easily exceeded the goal of 1000rwhp!” Glenn laughs.
While you might be expecting a Powerglide or Turbo 400 under the tunnel, Glenn wasn’t interested in that idea; instead, the VE retains its original T56 six-speed manual with an Xtreme twin-plate ceramic clutch. “I just love driving a manual on the street, and I never built it to do quarter-mile times either, so that was another reason to stay manual,” he explains.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to have a crack, though. “The plan this year is to get some radials on it and race it,” he says. “I don’t have any racing experience, but I think it should go 10s.”
The rear end is still Holden IRS as well, using a Harrop Truetrac LSD with 3.7:1 gears and standard axles. “I wanted the axles to be the weak point, as they’re the cheapest and easiest thing to replace,” Glenn says.
Although the VE was built to be a show-worthy machine, that doesn’t mean Glenn is precious about how often it sees daylight. “I use it basically every weekend, and it did the 550km round trip to Summernats Slam at Heathcote earlier this year with no issues, even getting 9.3 litres of fuel per 100 kays on E85,” he says. “It’s pretty docile and easy to drive normally, and despite what people may think, it’ll also get up and go from 2500rpm with the big turbo.”
As you’d probably expect, the VE has cleaned up plenty of awards at car shows of late, and even made a decent impression at Street Machine Summernats 34 with a place in the Top 60. “That was really cool, and the judges gave me some pointers for where I can improve for next time,” says Glenn.
It’s a big accolade for a first attempt at a car of this level, and Glenn says he’ll always look to keep improving his dream machine. “I’ll always keep changing it in some way, and it’s super-cool that we built it all with local people and businesses, who I can’t thank enough.
Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible.”
2008 Holden VE Commodore SS-V wagon
|GM 403ci LY6
|Higgins CNC LS3
|Kelford, 117° LSA
|Custom three-core radiator
|ICE leads, LS coils
|Xtreme ceramic twin-plate
|Harrop Truetrac LSD, 3.7:1 gears
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES
|Air Ride coil-over airbags
|Air Ride airbags
|WHEELS & TYRES
|Koya SF06; 20×9.5 (f), 20×10.5 (r)
|245/35R20 (f), 275/30R20 (r)
Luke at LS Tuning & Performance; the team at Gricey’s Workshop; Darcy at KillaBoost Manifolds for the fab work; Kurt at Meyer Design for the interior; Chase from Zoo Performance; my wife Natasha