Suicide-door Holden VE SS-V ute

With a turbo 403ci stroker LS up front, race car underpinnings and a Summernats elite-winning finish, Peter Robson's VE ute is one of Queensland's coolest streeters

Photographers: Ben Hosking

HAVING a killer ride to cruise your beaches, pubs and cafes is one of the foundations of the street machining hobby. But the path from boring stocker to something that rattles the windows at the local RSL is often fraught with setbacks and project scope-creep. The Sunshine Coast’s Peter Robson knows this all too well, having not actually intended to build his VE ute into the stunning beast that won Top Elite Ute and Top Elite Engine Bay at Street Machine Summernats 32.

“I always wanted a clean street car,” says Peter. “I bought the VE in 2009 with 30,000km on it and drove it for 500km stock-standard. I said to myself that I’d keep it standard for a year, but that lasted two weeks before I pulled the engine out to cam it and do the headwork. Then I did the TH400 because I killed the stock auto, and it really went from there. It wasn’t meant to get out of hand!”

We should be glad Peter’s build did get out of hand though, as UDLO5E blends tough engineering with classic street machine styling tricks, wrapped in a tasty modern package. However, the first six years were lost to a shop that Peter reckons shouldn’t be let loose with Lego, let alone someone’s pride and joy.

“My old man had an HQ Monaro and it all went from there,” says Peter of his love of GM iron. “I had a VR Commodore sedan I built with a Vortech V-trim-supercharged Ecotec V6 making 500hp. That was good, running 12.5s on the quarter, and that’s pretty much where I started building my own cars”

“I’d received the car back from the previous so-called fabrication, paint and panel shop in what was apparently finished condition, and I realised it was actually embarrassing,” he sighs. “So, two years ago I decided to completely strip every nut and bolt out of the car, even going to the point of cutting the rear guards off, as they had been badly warped and heat-affected by the last shop. Luckily there was light through the tunnel and things turned around after going to Chris and Brian at CS Engineering, who fixed all the bad fab work.”

This included setting up the suicide doors and shaved handles, a smooth sheet-metal tray and hidden fuel cell, smoothed engine bay, reverse cowl-equipped bonnet, new rear wheel tubs to fit the 24×12-inch Intro billet rears, and a Pro9 four-link rear end with a sheet-metal live-axle diff replacing the stock IRS. Luke Kestle from Motor Fab on the Gold Coast then built a weld-in rollcage that tucks tightly against the ute’s cabin.

CS Engineering made a custom door in the sheet-metal tray to access the Aftermarket Industries fuel cell hidden under the floor. The brake booster and master cylinder were also hidden in the smoothed engine bay

“I dressed the car up with the HSV body parts so it didn’t just look like an ordinary Commodore,” Peter explains. “The suicide doors and reverse-cowl give it a unique look, and I wanted the wow factor, like the hidden fuel cell in the tray.”

Matt Jones from Dr Jones Bodyworks sorted the panels, ready for Dean Lewis to lay down the creamy custom bronze Glasurit two-pack. This bodywork even included cutting the heat-warped rear guards off and replacing them with new items.

So, with the bodywork sorted to trophy-winning condition, Peter’s attention turned to the motor. While he had been happy with his cam-and-heads-combo alloy six-litre, the scope of the car’s build moved on and meant Peter needed to be serving a spicier sort of chicken.

As Peter looked to smooth the engine bay out, the stock LS coil packs had to be relocated off the rocker covers and out of eyesight. They now live under the front end, tucked up out of the way near the stock radiator

“UDLO5E is going to do shows, drags and dyno; it’s a mixture of everything,” he explains. “It’s on a run-in tune at the moment, so it only makes a soft 700rwhp with 9psi boost and a slipping converter, but it will take 25psi and is built to make over 1000hp.”

The heart of the combo is an LY6 Gen IV iron six-litre LS, built into a 403ci monster by Nick and Sammy from NJCLSX Performance. Inside are CP pistons, a Callies crank and K1 rods, while the NJCLSX team installed one of their custom-ground cams with Comp lifters topped by a set of CNC-ported rectangle-port heads, and a sheet-metal intake by Shaun’s Custom Alloy.

Brad at BPR Fabrication set up the Garrett GTX4718R turbocharger on a set of fabricated headers, blowing into a five-inch dump pipe and four-inch system. A Haltech Elite 2500 ECU controls the show, with E85 supplied from the Aftermarket Industries FC1200 cell to the Bosch 2000cc injectors, while a Plazmaman air-to-air intercooler lives behind the Maloo front bar to chill intake charge.

A TCI 3800rpm converter is matched to a reverse-pattern TH400 three-speed auto, replacing the stock six-speed 6L80E. Down the back the Pro9 sheet-metal diff was filled with 35-spline axles and 3.5 gears to provide a more stable platform for the ute than the stock independent rear end, once the boost is turned up and set to kill.

“I was going to run an LSX block, but Nick from NJCLSX explained my options and so we went with an LY6 truck block,” Peter explains. “I told the NJCLSX Performance guys from day dot that I wanted to drive this car on the street and not overheat, and the LY6 has everything an LSX block has”

Peter debuted UDLO5E at Summernats 32, where it scored a place in the Elite Hall and the prestige of being one of the new builds in the Meguiar’s Unveil.

Peter had Ash Mason from Wiring & Tuning Solutions tweak the Haltech Elite 2500 for run-in, and UDLO5E will have headed back to Ash by the time you read this to go for a big number. With up to 25psi blowing through the iron LY6, Peter is hoping to see around 1000rwhp

“I think I had six hours to get to scrutineering, so it came down to a real crunch,” he says. “But when it was unveiled and it got those awards, it just made my day. Any award was huge payoff for all the hard work we put in.”

Being the bloke behind Robbo’s Custom Upholstery has its advantages; Peter knocked up his own interior for the ute. Maloo seats were custom-trimmed in black leather and suede. The stock gauges were replaced by a Racepak dash and gears are clicked thanks to a TCI shifter, while a weld-in rollcage will keep Peter safe when he hits the track

While he is stoked about the tinware, Peter is firm that the VE was built for a different purpose.

“I’m enjoying it as a street car and I’m not afraid to get it out,” he says. “After MotorEx I drove it out of the show and an hour into the suburbs just to enjoy it, and I drove it at the photoshoot too. I’ve never driven a car with over 700hp, and it’s just mind-blowing.

“I’m happy to do roll racing, Powercruise, private track days. I don’t want people thinking it isn’t a street car. It’s all mod-plated and legal, so there’s no worries. It’ll be out once a week, 100 per cent!”


Paint: Custom Glasurit Bronze

Type: Chevrolet LY6 403ci
Induction: Shaun’s Custom Alloy sheet-metal
ECU: Haltech Elite 2500
Turbo: Garrett GTX4718R
Heads: CNC-ported Gen IV rectangle-port
Camshaft: Custom NJCLSX Performance
Conrods: K1
Pistons: CP
Crank: Callies
Fuel system: 2000cc Bosch injectors, AI FC1200 cell
Cooling: Factory
Exhaust: Custom manifold, 5in dump, 4in stainless system
Ignition: Factory

Gearbox: Reverse-pattern TH400
Converter: TCI 3800rpm
Diff: Pro9 9in, 35-spline axles, 3.5:1 gears

Front: XA Pedders coil-overs
Rear: Pro9 four-link, AFCO coil-overs
Brakes: Wilwood six-pot discs (f), Wilwood four-pot discs (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood 1in

Rims: Intro billet; 22×8.5 (f), 24×12 (r)
Rubber: 245/35 (f), 295/25 (r)

Chris Spicer and Brian Boon at CS Engineering; Dean Lewis and Matt Jones at Dr Jones Bodyworks Paint & Panel; Nick and Sammy at NJCLSX Performance; Chubby Lowe at Lowe Fabrications; John Lang at Pro9; Ash Mason at Wiring & Tuning Solutions; Omar Ali for helping with wiring; my mate Brendon Haddon; Brad Pantic for the turbo kit; John Williams and the family