LS-powered 1979 Z/28 Camaro & Holden VT Commodore

When your first car turns into a bit of a strip animal, the solution is to get a cool old Camaro to cruise the streets

Photographers: Nathan Jacobs

This article on Elias Tikfessis’s Camaro and Commodore was originally published in issue #6 of Street Machine’s LSX Tuner magazine, 2016


THERE are some people in the car scene that “churn and burn” through cars all the time, and then there are those that are in for the long game, changing and developing their cars, improving them both in the looks and performance department. There’s no doubt Elias Tikfessis is in the latter bunch when it comes to his VT Commodore which started out life as a lowly Executive model, which – gasp! – had wind up windows. It wasn’t long before Elias was on the case: “It was my first car. It started off converting it to electric windows, then we put the Monaro bumper bar and the S-pack body kit on it. Then it went to a supercharged V6, then the LS,” says Elias.

The love affair with this has been a lengthy one, and at times expensive, but he knows precisely where to lay the blame: “It’s all my dad’s fault! He’s the one who bought me the blower for the V6. He came home with the M90 supercharger and from that day it was: ‘I need this, I need that.’ The supercharger cost $850 back then, but because we needed to get all these extra parts – because we didn’t do any research about bolting it on to the Ecotec – I ended up spending another $3000 buying all the running gear out of a wrecked car.”

It was eventually sorted out thanks to a lot of help from family and friends, with the car back on the streets and making a few runs down the quarter-mile. Even with the V6 the car was no slouch, punching out 250rwkW and running 12.6 quarter-miles before cracking a head. That was all the excuse Elias needed to upgrade to an LS, and he didn’t stuff around, going for a 4-inch stroker version using a Manley crank that stretches the capacity out to 416ci or 6.8-litres for the youngsters.

“It was your typical P-plater car: lowered, rims scrubbing, exhaust dragging, then once I started racing I couldn’t have the low and hard suspension. So, we went from being really low and scraping mufflers over speed humps to jacked up so we don’t scrub slicks. It was a big transformation”

It wasn’t all plain sailing though with Elias struggling to keep the all-alloy block from moving around and suffering a few failures, but he’s pretty sure they’re on top of it now. The rest of the engine is all top-notch stuff; Callies Ultra rods, JE forged pistons and MAST Motosports LS7 heads topped with one of their 4500 series single plane manifolds. The considerable amounts of E85 get dumped through 60lb/hr VDO injectors and an Accufab 4500 throttlebody has no problem keeping up the air flow with a 2128cfm rating.

Elias was a pretty good customer for MAST Motorsports, purchasing the rocker covers, LS7 heads and the two-piece, internally CNC’d single plane manifold. The throttlebody is an Accufab unit rated at 2128cfm

There’s a built TH400 with a BTE transbrake, drum, sprag, input shaft, rear roller-bearing housing and even BTE oil. The IRS has been beefed up with an M80 Truetrac centre, 3.9 gears and G-Force Stage 2 driveshafts and stub axles and hooks up well with the 255 ET Streets.

The six-point cage and five-point harness isn’t just for show. When you’re running into the 10s at over 130mph you need to start thinking about safety. There are the usual gauges to keep tabs on things as well as an Innovate AFR gauge

“The one full quarter-mile run I’ve done it went 10.6@132mph with lots of wheelspin. The week after I went back with brand new tyres and it went one-tenth quicker in the 60-foot but it broke a reluctor wheel during the run,” says Elias.

No doubt this car is destined for very low 10s and might even dip into the nines, and with the help – and a bit of friendly competition – from the family, it’s a case of when, not if: “It’s a bit of an addiction. With me, my dad, my uncle, my brother and my cousins, we’re all into cars and we’re all competitive. We constantly compare times, it’s a competitive racing/car enthusiast family.”


While they’re nowhere near as popular as the first generation Camaros, they’re still a good looking rig. And let’s face it – who doesn’t love a T-top?

“My dad’s got a ’67 Camaro, and I’ve always loved Camaros so the plan was – once I ran the numbers I wanted to run with the Commodore – to transfer everything into an older car. We went to Sydney to look at a Camaro but that was a dud, then we went to an importer to get some parts for dad’s Camaro and I saw this ’79 in the background. I was in the market for a ’70-’73 model, but I saw the rear end, the T-tops and had to have it; I had a vision of cruising with the T-tops off in summer.

The Camaro was a good buy with decent paint and a brand new interior. Elias added the Z/28 stripes and Center Line Auto Drags for the perfect 80s throwback

It’s not the most collectible model, but you don’t see many of them on the street,” offers Elias.

It was a pretty tidy car, complete and running with a 350, Turbo 350 and 10-bolt, but Elias knew it wouldn’t stay like that for long: “I actually bought the engine mounts to convert it to an LS before he even said yes to the deal.” Elias cruised the car around for about six months but when it started to miss under load during summer, you know what that meant.

“It’s got a brand new interior that came with the car; it’s even got that brand new leather smell to it. The dash has been converted to 1978 because ’79 has more of a square shape. I put the Dakota Digital gauges in it and the steering wheel is from a ’69 Camaro”

It seems you don’t need too much of an excuse to #lsallthethings in the Tikfessis family but, it wasn’t all roses: “After getting it running the crank angle sensor wire melted, after that a lifter got stuck and lost oil pressure a week before my wedding, so we took the motor out and rebuilt it on Melbourne Cup weekend.

Apart from the nitrous solenoids, it could almost be a factory installation. Almost. The fresh engine still has the run-in tune, but even that’s good enough for 288kW at the tyres

The Camaro is a much milder combo than the Commodore but you can’t just slap in some tired old stocker. The 6.0-litre has been upgraded with some shaved LS3 heads and intake manifold fed through a Procomp 90mm throttlebody. There’s a pretty stout Comp Cam in it with 231/247 duration and 624-thou lift and. while it still throws around the stock crank, there are Eagle rods, ARP rod bolts and SRP forged pistons making sure everything is strong enough to handle a dose of nitrous when the time comes.

A shiny new 9-inch was put in place because the old 10-bolt would not have been up to the task. With 275s, mono leafs, Caltracs and Competition Engineering 50/50 shocks, it should hook up pretty well

The Turbo 400 has had a manual valve body and clutch kit put through it and the launches are helped considerably by the 3800rpm BTE 10in converter. The old 10-bolt got the flick too, replace with a 9-inch filled with 3.9 gears and Mark Williams 31-spline axles. With its generous rear wheel wells, the Camaro wears bigger 275/60/15 rubber than the Commodore and with a set of mono-leaf springs and Caltracs, it should hook up pretty well. It hasn’t been down the track yet, but Elias has no trouble keeping up with low 11-second cars – up the legal speed limit of course.

At some stage the car had a blow over in the original white, so the paint hasn’t been touched, but Elias did add the Z/28 stripe kit. Combine with the 15×5.5 and 15×8.5 Center Line Auto Drags this car may well have graced the pages of SM in the 80s – but it probably would have had a blower and a couple of carbs sticking out the bonnet.

“I’m going to go down the boosted path with it. I’ve got a 403 I’m building and I’ve always wanted to have a turbo car, but because I did such a neat job fitting the LS in there I’m going to put a Magnuson or new Harrop 2650 on it. I’ve had a few fabricators look at it, but they’ve said they’d have to massage and grind this and that, but I’m not interested in doing that. I’ve got a fair bit of space between the manifold and the bonnet, so I reckon it will all fit underneath.”

1979 Z/28 CAMARO

Type: 6.0-litre Gen IV
Inlet: LS3 manifold
Throttlebody: Proflow 90mm
Heads: Shaved LS3
Cam: Comp Cams 231/247
Pistons: SRP forged
Conrods: Eagle with ARP rod bolts
Exhaust: Modified HQ Pacemaker, 1-3/4in, 4-into-1, twin 3in exhaust, Magnaflow mufflers
Ignition: LS1 coils, ICE leads

Box: Turbo 400, manual valve body
Converter: BTE 10in, 3800rpm stall
Diff: 9-inch, Truetrac, 3.9 gears, Mark Williams 31-spline axles

Springs: mono leaf with Caltracs (r)
Shocks: CE 90/10 (f), CE 50/50 (r)
Steering: VT Commodore power steering
Brakes: Standard (f), VS discs (r)

Rims: Center Line Auto Drag 15×5.5 (f), 15×8.5 (r)
Rubber: Nankang 165/80/15 (f), M/T ET Street 275/60/15 (r)


Type: Gen IV LS3 6.2-litre
Capacity: 416ci
Inlet: Mast Motorsports LS3 4500
Throttlebody: Accufab 4500
Heads: MAST Motorsports LS7 285
Valves: 2.20in (in), 1.60in (ex)
Cam: Custom solid roller, 279/288
Pistons: JE forged
Crank: Manley 4.00
Conrods: Callies Ultra
Radiator: Standard with B&M oil and trans coolers
Exhaust: Pacemaker 1-7/8in, twin 3in exhaust
Ignition: LS2 coils, ICE leads

Box: Turbo 400, transbrake
Converter: PTC 8in, 5700rpm stall
Diff: M80 Truetrac, 3.9 gears, G-force driveshafts and stub axles

Springs: FE2 (f), FE1.5 (r)
Shocks: Pedders 90/10 (f), Pedders 50/50 (r)
Brakes: DBA slotted rotors (f&r)

Rims: Weld RTS 15×4 (f), 15×9 (r)
Rubber: Nankang 165/80/15 (f), M/T ET Street 255/60/15 (r)