Josh Stewart’s LSA-powered VL Commodore

The build of this VL Commodore helped Josh Stewart cope with the challenges of a debilitating medical condition

Photographers: Charlie Sant

By the time he was in his mid-20s, Josh Stewart had sampled widely from the automotive buffet. He’d owned stanced JDM vehicles and drift rockets, a few mini-trucks, and a handful of makes and models from the Australian domestic market, tallying upwards of 30 cars. “They were all fairly basic bolt-on builds like wheels and suspension,” Josh says. “I’d never even done an engine swap!”

First published in Street Machine’s Yearbook 2023

Keen to increase his car-building chops, Josh was ready to get serious about building a street machine, which is how the VL Commodore you see here came to be. “I owned the engine and seats for this build before I even owned the car,” he chuckles, before admitting that a VL wasn’t even his preferred base for a build. “I actually wanted to build something HQ Holden or earlier, but I was scrolling through social media one night and ended up buying a VL [before this one] that needed way too much work. This one popped up out of Victoria and was really neat, so I sold the first one, and days later this car was sitting in my driveway. In hindsight, I should have left it alone!” he laughs.

Josh had been an auto electrician for eight years and had always worked on his own cars, but a multiple sclerosis diagnosis meant he’d need some outside help for this build. “Dad and I did the diff swap and I started to strip the trim myself, but I fell over a couple of times and was starting to struggle, and needed a wheelchair,” says Josh of the hurdles he was now facing.

Josh’s family and friends rallied to get the remainder of the driveline installed, fitting an LSA up front using a host of Castlemaine Rod Shop components, but not before Troy from Warspeed Industries fitted a few choice aftermarket parts to help the LSA pump out a conservative and ultra-reliable 516hp at the hoops, via a built Turbo 400 and a nine-inch rear end.

“Fitting the LSA was really easy; with the [Rod Shop] conversion kits, they basically drop straight in,” Josh says. Rod Shop K-frame spacers were employed to get the supercharged LS donk under the bonnet, which work just fine for a standard engine. However, as Josh started hot-rodding the boosted bent-eight, adding spacers to keep the supercharger cool, the engine eventually broke free of the bonnet line, necessitating a BF Falcon bonnet bulge.

The car was then shipped off to have the fabrication completed, and as Josh continued to deal with his MS, he shifted his focus from hands-on builder to designer and project manager, delegating tasks and spending hours sketching various elements of the build, including the wild custom trim.

“I knew things like fabrication and paint were going to take a while, but then COVID hit and it really blew out the timelines,” he says. By the time the car was painted and rolling, and therefore painfully close to being finished, the global pandemic meant that it crawled to the finish line due to sitting at the trimmers for around a year.

Still, Josh says the quality of the interior made it worth the wait. “It was actually Troy at Warspeed who put me onto Benny at Southside Stitching,” he says. “It came out great; I couldn’t be prouder.” The wild custom cabin uses four VF GTS buckets, hand-formed door trims, and a full-length centre console covered in caramel tan leather. The result is a classy, comfortable cockpit that elevates the overall build while not being at odds with the VL’s understated exterior.

“I’d sit here for hours and draw different trim details and send them down to Benny, and we’d talk every day about bringing the ideas to life,” Josh says. “It was a great way to stay involved, and keeping my mind occupied definitely helped with my mental health.”

Fate came knocking when a local car club organised a show raising funds for sufferers of MS. In a flurry of activity, Josh rallied the troops and got the car there, and was rewarded for his efforts by taking away Best Interior and being selected as one of the top three cars at the show.

“It was great to see the car out in the sun and getting such great feedback about the paint, the trim and the build. It was a really good motivator,” says Josh, whose focus is now squarely on finishing the engineering process and getting the car on the road to enjoy his years of hard work.

“I won’t build another car to this level, but I’d like to build a cruiser,” Josh says. “Something to keep my mind active.” Sounds like he hasn’t completely closed the door on building that HQ he was originally searching for all those years ago!


Paint:Hyundai Young Gun
Brand:GM LSA
Induction:LSA supercharger, VCM front drive cover, 87mm throttlebody
Camshaft:VCM 55C
Oil pump:Melling
Fuel system:Xspurt 1000cc injectors, two Walbro 525 fuel pumps
Management:E67 ECU
Cooling:South Coast Radiators
Exhaust:Castlemaine Rod Shop headers, custom dual 3in exhaust
Ignition:MSD leads
Gearbox:Turbo 400, manual reverse-pattern valvebody
Converter:Shift Rite 2800rpm
Diff:Castlemaine Rod Shop 9in
Front:XYZ coil-overs
Rear:Viking coil-overs, four-link
Brakes:XYZ 355mm discs and Wilwood six-piston calipers (f), XYZ 320mm discs and Wilwood four-piston calipers (r)
Master cylinder:VT Commodore
Rims:Intro Twisted Vista II; 20×8.5 (f), 22×10 (r)
Rubber:225/35R20 (f), 265/35R22 (r)

My family and friends who helped along the way; Troy at Warspeed; Benny at Southside Stitching; George at JGN Autobody; Jason at TI Performance; Damien at Lowe Fabrications; Joe at Nap’s Tuff Street Customs.