Jason Brown’s VR Commodore BT1

How to build a traffic-stopping street machine and not get hassled by the man

Photographers: Helmut Mueller

Want to make maximum, grab-ya-by-the-goolies impact with your streeter? You could bolt a highly-polished metal mountain onto your engine or get the gas axe out and reshape your ride into a glorious custom. Problem is, you will need a fist full of bucks and a heap of engineering smarts and approvals if you want avoid the heat on the street. If that sounds all too hard, you can still pull plenty of looks just by getting the car’s paint and stance on the money. Start with a late model car (V8 of course) and it will be ultra practical, too!

First published in the November 2002 issue of Street Machine

This was Jason Brown’s approach to building his ex-chaser VR Commondore. Being his daily driver, Jase was not concerned with making wholesale mechanical changes, he just wanted to stand out from the crowd, and what better way to do that than with a candy apple paint job!

Candy is just about the most glorious paint available to man. You start by laying down a few metallic silver base coats, then maybe five coats of $400-per litre candy, followed by a few coats of clear. The clear is then rubbed back dead flat and a final ‘flow coat’ of clear is applied. Straight off the gun, the result is as deep as the ocean.

However, Jason warns that candy paint is not something to be approached lightly.

“Not only is the paint itself very expensive, but you will also need to buy a special catalyst and reducer to go with the candy,” he says. Then there is the question of labour. “You need to spend a lot of time in the spray booth to get it right, as the colour changes with every coat you apply. It’s also difficult to apply to curvy shapes, such as bodykits.”

Another factor to consider is that if you scratch it, the repair costs will be triple normal paint.

“To be honest, if a customer asked me to do a candy paint job on a car, I’d try to talk them out of it,” he grins. “If they were very committed to getting the right result and had plenty of cash, then nothing comes close to the impact of candy paint. I’ve had Commodore owners who ask me what type of car it is, as the colour has just thrown them that much.”

Getting the right effect also meant removing all the black plastic trim from around the doors and repainting it. Jason reckons this is a fairly simple process, apart from the rear screen area.

“This is the one place on these Commodores that always looks tatty and is a pain to fix, so most people don’t bother.”

The mouth watering goodness continues when you pop the bonnet or slide into the driver’s seat.

“I started off simply wanting a nice daily driver, but once I had chosen the paint, I knew we had to do the engine bay,” Jason says. “Once we saw the paint on the car, we just had to fit 18-inch wheels. It just snowballed out of control.”

To do the interior, all the dash components were removed from the car, plastic primed, painted in candy and hit with a coat of clear.” Then came the fun part, carefully reinstalling it all, and when that was done the interior copped an HSV-inspired treatment with leather imported from Connelly in the UK.

The engine bay was a ton of work to get right and Jason had to paint the VT engine cover twice, because too much paint accumulated in the bolt holes.

“When I tightened the bolts, the paint twisted. It took three lots of paint stripper to get it all off!” he says.

Contrasting with the sweet candy is some silver with gold pearl detailing to the rocker covers and ‘bunch of bananas’ inlet manifold. Jason also fabricated a cover to hide the battery and some of the wiring.

Paint aside, the VR is like any other well-built Aussie sports sedan. The V8 is basically stock with the exception of a VS cold air intake and single 2.5-inch exhaust system with dual tips. Pedders springs slam the car two inches closer to terra firma and combine with sports shocks and a strut brace to make the handling more Garth Tander and less Sydney taxi. Stopping power has been upgraded with twin spot VT calipers and discs.

Sensational sounds come courtesy of a Clarion head unit with TV display, twin 4040 Rockford Fosgate amps, a pair of 12-inch Earthquake subs, Focal splits and two Focal 6x9s.

“I built this car to keep and to use as my everyday car and I intend stick to that plan,” Jason says. “I wouldn’t mind fitting competition brakes and an aviation fuel filler, but that’s as far as I’ll go. I wrote off my previous car, a show-standard HQ, so I’d like to hang on to this one for a while!”

The judges and crowd at the Adelaide Holden and Ford Show & Expo agreed the VR is a sweet piece, as it rolled away with First Non-HSV Commodore, First Post-‘78 Commodore and Second People’s Choice.

Jason has another interesting paint project to keep him busy at the moment.

“We are doing up my brother’s van in high-flake silver, like a speedboat. The finishing touch will be ghost flames in a special House of Kolor paint called Kameleon Kolorchange Flake. This stuff shifts colour in light, so when the sun comes out, these sparkly flames will just leap out.” If that kind of intensity appeals to you, give Jason a call at Torquay Auto Service on (03) 5261 3004.

Candy is dandy

So who was the genius that invented candy paints? According to our US custom correspondent, David Fetherston, three Californian customisers can be collectively given the credit.

“George Barris, Mel Pinoli and Joe Bailon all came up with the same idea over a period of time,” he says. “It was all very secretive back then, so determining exactly what went on is difficult. George got the idea in 1950-51 when he was mixing colours one day and found the gold metallic, red and clear made a very interesting combination with a unique colour depth.”

Whatever the history, there is no doubt that candy paint became a sensation. When Joe Bailon applied candy apple red to his ’41 Chev coupe, the car took out 18 trophies in its debut year including Most Elegant at the 1952 Oakland Roadster Show.

The car pictured above is a 1954 Oldsmobile custom also built by Joe and coated in candy apple red.

1994 VR Commodore BT1

Colour:House of Kolor Candy Apple Red
Engine:Holden 5.0-litre
Exaust:Single 2.5-inch system
Engine covers:VT
Transmission:Turbo 700
Diff:3.08:1 LSD
Trim:Connolly Scarlet leather
Stereo:Clarion, Focal, Earthquake, Rockford
Rims:18×7.5-inch DTM
Rubber:Falken ZE-326