Pro street big-block VC Commodore SL/E – PROVC1

Built as a drag car in the 90s, this VC SL/E has been reborn as a fierce street-legal cruiser

Photographers: Troy Barker

WE’RE very much in favour of heavily modified Aussie cars that straddle the line between streeter and full-blown drag car here at Street Machine. Frank Russo’s fatty-powered PROVC1 Commodore is all that and more, while being completely engineered and street-legal.

First published in the December 2021 issue of Street Machine

It’s a story that started way back in 1989. “Mum and Dad bought the VC SL/E for me when I was about 21 years old,” Frank says of what was then a Nocturne Blue, 253ci-powered, optioned-up Commodore.

Straight up, young Frank did as any self-respecting late-80s revhead would – he whacked on a set of Convo Pros and cruised it hard and often. At some point he even swapped out the maligned thongslapper for a mild 308.

By ’94, Frank blew up the ‘never late’ donk, and with the drag scene absolutely pumping, he was keen to play with his own dedicated racer. The VC was just the ticket. Carmine and Dino from CDS Engineering were tasked with making Frank’s dream a reality.

Then something unexpected threw a spanner in the works. “Adelaide drags stopped in 1999, closing down for 11 years,” Frank laments. “So the car sat half-built, and I couldn’t get it regoed either.” Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Frank built other toys during the wait, and kept his ear to the ground.

By 2016, a notable shift in SA rego and engineering had occurred, so a plan was hatched to turn what was supposed to be a purpose-built drag-car back into a legal streeter.

The CDS team was again employed, this time to undo a bunch of their own mods and add the legal requirements. This included swapping the fibreglass boot and bonnet for steel items, and adding wipers, bonnet hinges and catch, demister, handbrake, and full exhaust and emissions hardware. In addition, all those quick-release panels for easy between-round maintenance at drag meets now needed to be solidly fixed and sealed from gases and vapours.

However, quite a few previous alterations were kept, including the tub work. In the late 90s, CDS sneaked the dog-leg and inner frame forward 100mm while maintaining all of the factory catches and latches in order to fit the massive tubs. It’s an impressive job that only the eagle-eyed will pick. “They’re magicians,” Frank says. “Remember, this was done in the late 90s, too!”

Back in ’97, Frank stumped up for a tough 454ci Chev and Powerglide that had proven 9.90s under its belt. The big-block is set back in the bay for optimal weight transfer and the firewall nudged back 100mm to accommodate. More recently, Paul Pavlou Motors freshened up the mill before pumping out 440hp with 700ft-lb of torque on the chassis dyno. “And that’s with the 4000rpm converter slipping!” Frank says.

Yet it’s the vibrant blue exterior that’s the real eye-catcher of this build. The VC first copped a lick of Banzai Blue back in the 90s, but after the extensive modification and panel swapping required to get PROVC1 legal, a fresh coat of PPG paint was laid on the newly tightened panels by Seaton Crash. SL/E cues were also re-introduced by blacking out the number-plate and window surrounds, and the car was then finished off with a mix of new-old-stock and refurbished original trim pieces.

Inside, the VC’s back story is well celebrated. There are mountains of fabricated alloy, fronted by a pair of ADR-compliant Velo racing seats and a Momo tiller. The whole shebang is encased in a rollcage with a removable front section.

Now that PROVC1 is a buttoned-up road-goer, Frank has zero interest in making it a true pro streeter. “I’m not interested in drag racing; the car’s gone too far and the paintjob is too good.”

The Commodore debuted at Adelaide’s Extreme Auto Expo in January 2021 and took home Toughest and Top Engineered in the Tuff Street category. By April, the car was ready for rego inspection and passed first time – that’s a bragging right in these parts!

PROVC1 has since become a regular in the Adelaide scene, with Frank determined to make up for the time the car sat languishing between two worlds. Even before this photoshoot, he had racked up some kays.

“It’s worked out nice,” he says. “This car has been in my family a long time – I really wanted Mum to see it finished; unfortunately Dad didn’t get to as he passed away in 2013. I’ll drive it to Extreme Auto in November, and I’ve booked into Summernats and hope to make the Top 60.”

Seems like PROVC1 is destined to be driven, not hidden.


FRANK’S upping the ante on his next build, slotting a twin-turbo, 632ci big-block into a 1955 Chev Sport Coupe. Built by Nelson Racing Engines in the States, the Chevrolet-based package pumps out an astronomical 2500hp, though Frank will detune it for its intended street duties. Now that the mill has been shipped to Australia, CDS can slide the powerhouse straight into Frank’s ’55, which rolls on a full Art Morrison chassis.


Paint: PPG Banzai Blue
Brand: 454ci Chev LS7 big-block
Induction: 950 Quick Fuel E85 carb
Manifold: Dart
Heads: Alloy Bowtie
Camshaft: Herbert Cams roller 
Pushrods: Manley
Valves: Manley
Conrods: Crower Sportsman
Pistons: Arias
Crank: Crower
Oil pump: Moroso, High Energy sump
Fuel system: E85, MagnaFlow pump
Cooling: Custom three-core alloy radiator, 300mm Ron Davis fans 
Exhaust: Custom headers, 3in custom system, MagnaFlow mufflers
Ignition: MSD 7AL, MSD crank trigger
Trans: Powerglide, full-manual, transbrake
Converter: Dominator 4500rpm
Tailshaft: Custom 90mm
Diff: 9in, 4.11:1, Romac floater, 35-spline axles
Front: 2½in-lowered Pedders springs and shocks
Rear: Parallel four-link, 2½in-lowered Industrial springs, AVO shocks,
anti-roll bar
Brakes: VT discs and calipers (f), VS discs and calipers (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
Rims: Weld Racing; 15×7 (f), 15×10 (r )
Rubber: Mickey Thompson; 26×8.0 (f), 29×15 (r )

Mum and Dad; Carmine and Dino Stefanucci at CDS Engineering; John and Chris at Seaton Crash Repairs; Karl Butler at Next Level Auto Electrical; Daniel Whatling at Adelaide Trim Worx; George Avaro; Daniel Bodjo; Adrian Springetti; Peter at Motorsports Fabrication & Welding for the alloy fuel tank; Sot Kavuki for engineering; Dino at Colour Touch Systems; Don for the alloy polishing