Holden 383 stroker-powered 1992 Holden VP Commodore ute

Sharp black suit wrapped around a knockout punch

Photographers: Tony Rabbitte

If you’re going to paint your ride black, you better not have anything to hide

This article on Carl’s VP ute was originally published in the March 2011 issue of Street Machine

BLACK. Feared and revered in equal measure. Get it wrong and an otherwise amazing car is trash. Get it right and a total stocker can look like an elite hall stunner. When a painter wants to show off his talent, black is often the hue of choice.

Carl Simmons, owner of Pro Image Refinishing in Bargo, NSW, painted his calling-card VP ute in Standox Deep Black the better part of a decade ago. The result was stunning then and still is today.

The ute is much more than a sharp suit, however. It’s also holding four aces in the form of a 383ci stroker pushing more than 400 ponies to the blunt end. This is no dyno queen either; it’s translated the power into an impressive 10.9@125mph timeslip at Sydney Dragway.

It’s actually been through a couple of builds under Carl’s custodianship, one of which wore a set of Simmons rims and packed a cranky 355ci until it ate a nodular iron crank.

“We lunched that one,” Carl says. “That crank snapped in six places! I started from scratch with this build.” Well, you’d kinda have to, wouldn’t you?

The new donk is full of the best names in the business, featuring brands such as Crankshaft Rebuilders, Scat, JE and COME. Running 12:1 compression, she’s on a strict high octane diet. Fuel is delivered via a VL Turbo lift pump, through a one-litre surge tank and Bosch Motorsport primary pump. The whole deal is managed by a Haltech ECU tuned by Michael Baghdadi of Mick’s Motorsport fame. The power dumps to the treads through a 5900rpm TCE converter, TH400 and 4.38:1 BorgWarner rear end.

Described by Carl as being in reasonable condition — painter speak for shitbox — when he picked it up, the ute was reputedly one of only two in factory black.

The engine bay looks a treat, with shiny COME manifold and Damien ‘Chubby’ Lowe intake pipe the highlights

He set about smoothing the engine bay, using colour coding to camouflage and beautify — instead of rewiring and relocating, a lick of paint means the fuse box, for example, is perfectly integrated.

To further clean it up in there, he installed a manual steering rack from a VL Commodore. That allowed him to ditch the factory power steering pump, which made a massive visual difference.

Eagle-eyed readers would have noticed the missing fuel filler; it’s now behind the access panel in the tray. The HDT Magnum body kit received serious plastic surgery, with the normally wavy ’glass now dead straight. The panel gaps are also spot-on, which is a hell of a task when dealing with fibreglass.

The HDT Magnum body kit, deleted tonneau and shaved fuel filler make for a smooth look. Old-school Convo Pros look suprisingly cool on the relatively late-model body

With bodywork, it’s often the things that average punters simply don’t notice or know about that make the difference between showstopper and also-ran. In this case, because the utes were built on the Commodore wagon platform, the tub job required a bit of creative thinking.

“The chassis has a dogleg, which gets in the way of the tubs. I trimmed that a bit, which meant I could bring the tubs out a bit further and make them symmetrical.”

Those tubs easily swallow the 275-wide Federal street tyres, with extra room for slicks at the track. The tray also features some other subtle body mods. The side panels rear of the tubs have been massaged, with driver and passenger sides now equal in size. With the tonneau never to return, the tie-down hooks were shaved, and the tray was drowned in the same gorgeous clear-over-black applied to the rest of the body.

The newest part of the car, the red leather trim contrasts strongly with the deep black duco. ANDRA-spec ’cage means no hassles at the track

Utes are always jacked up from the factory, so Carl’s got a serious altitude adjustment — three inches were chopped from the height using Pedders springs and Koni adjustable shocks. Nolathane bushes also got the nod, along with adjustable rear upper trailing arms to allow changes to the pinion angle for perfect holeshots.

At the other end of the strip, stepping on the whoa pedal activates VT-spec slotted front brakes, with slotted stock-sized rotors out the back.

Inside, Carl had been content with largely standard HSV fare for some time but he decided to upgrade it in a big way in 2010. Elite Custom Interiors handled the job, retrimming it in sumptuous red leather, suede and plush pile carpet. Luxo HSV pews contrast with the Street Car Fabrications moly ’cage, B&M Pro Stick and deleted console. It means business but looks damned good doing it.

With the ute now pretty much as he wants it, Carl has his eyes set on the next project.

“It’ll be an HK sedan. Mini-tubbed, detailed and smoothed bay, with detailed and painted undercarriage. More of a show car than the ute but still driveable enough for the odd weekend cruise.”


Colour: Standox Deep Black

Engine: Holden 383ci V8
Intake: COME twin throttle
Heads: COME alloy
Camshaft: COME solid roller
Crank: Crankshaft Rebuilders 3.75in steel
Rods: Scat 5.85in
ECU: Haltech
Ignition: Crane Hi-6, Crane coil, Magnecore 10mm leads
Exhaust: Custom 15/8in stepped to 17/8in four-into-one headers, three-inch dual system, Hooker mufflers

Gearbox: Turbo 400, full manual shift
Converter: TCE 5900rpm
Shifter: B&M Magnum Grip Pro-Stick
Diff: BorgWarner, Romac full spool, 31-spline billet axles, 4.38:1 gears

Suspension: Pedders springs 3in lowered, Koni adjustable shocks, Nolathane bushes, adjustable rear upper trailing arms
Steering: VL manual rack conversion
Brakes: VT calipers & slotted rotors (f), slotted rotors & stock calipers (r), one-inch master cylinder

Wheels: Center Line Convo Pro, 15×4 (f), 15×8.5 (r)
Tyres: Mickey Thompson 26×4.5 (f), Federal 275/60R15 (r)

Photographers: Tony Rabbitte