Turbo LSX-powered 1984 Holden VK Calais

An addicton to power has seen Scott McCafferty take his VK Calais from Holden-mild to LSX-wild

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

This article on Scott’s VK Calais was originally published in issue #7 of Street Machine’s LSX Tuner magazine, 2018

WHEN your mate phones you, the words “Dude, I dropped a chassis on your car” are definitely not what you want to hear from them. But for Scott McCafferty, this mishap was the catalyst for major changes to his trusty VK Calais – and all for the better. It’s now an 800hp strip monster that will eat a quarter in under nine seconds. Of course, that wasn’t always the case.

“When I bought it in about 2003 it was owned by my mate’s uncle,” Scott says. “He’d bought a new daily and just parked it up behind a factory. I reckon I bought it at the right time, as I only paid $1200 for it.”

Scott’s 1200 smackeroos bought him a white-over-silver VK with 170,000km on the clock and a stock 304. After a couple of years on the road, Scott had moved from the stock five-oh to a tough 308, and then an injected 5.0-litre.

The bodywork was truly a collaborative effort, with a bunch of mates sanding down the body and Ozzy from Burn City Customs giving it the finishing touches. Ozzy also deleted the aerial hole and passenger door lock, and smoothed the engine bay

He would daily-drive it during the week – even carrying work ladders on the roof – then go cruising on the weekend. That is, until a letter from the Department of Transport turned up requesting his car’s presence at a police station for a full going-over.

All the bodywork occurred back in 2009, so when a rear tyre let go in 2017, scuffing up the rear quarter, Scott decided it was time for a freshen-up. The entire car was re-done, less the doors, by mate Brent, with Scott wiring up his car in return

“The injected 5.0-litre was getting a bit boring anyway,” Scott laughs. This phase of the car’s build saw it grow a V2 Vortech blower and move to a communal shed, which Scott rented with mates. It was then he got the call from his mate Scott Miles about the chassis hitting his car. “We’re still good mates now, as Scott promised to pay for the damage, and he did,” says, uh, the other Scott.

Ozzy from Burn City Customs sanded the car down, aided by a revolving door of helpers, although Scott himself wasn’t exactly ballast.

Scott was keen on a set of Weld V-Series drag alloys, but their beadlock rear rims started at 10in wide. “I didn’t think we’d have the space, so I bought the V-Series centres and mated them to 9.5in Max Dumesny beadlock rears.” A bit of faffing about for Scott, and it may have been for nothing: “Once the tubs were done, I realised 10s probably would fit in there!”

“I got in and did the shit jobs nobody else wanted to do, those bits when you get a bit of sandpaper and scratch away at a corner for hours,” he says.

It took less than 12 months between the chassis-dropping incident and the killer jet black paint being laid on by Ozzy. He also smoothed the bodywork, a must for the colour chosen. That was in 2009, but it never ran with the Vortech-blown 5.0.

“The car’s wiring was just butchered,” Scott explains. “I ended up rewiring it from front to back by myself.”

Scott then found a 6.0-litre L98 to go in, aspirated and improved with a VCM13 cam, tie-bar lifters, single-plane manifold and four-barrel EFI Hardware throttlebody. The conversion was simple, as everything Scott needed was off-the-shelf from companies like Tuff Mounts, Pacemaker and Mal Wood Automotive.

Scott’s LS conversion was made easy with mounts from Tuff Mounts, a starter relocation kit from Mal Wood Automotive and, originally, a set of off-the-shelf LS-into-old-Commodore Pacemaker extractors. With a re-tuned factory ECU, the L98 was a reliable jigger and returned a solid 10.5 quarter at 133mph, but the boosted LSX knocked almost two seconds off that, with an 8.72@159mph

Scott cruised the N/A LS for about four years, indulging in skids and merriment at events like Easternats, but the itch to go faster soon took hold.

“You can thank my mate Matt for that,” Scott laughs. “He’s the one that got me into drag racing. The car was always reliable and I ran a personal best of 10.5@133mph aspirated, but the power bug bites and just keeps on biting; the faster you go, the faster you want to go.”

“A lot of guys do big-cube stuff; like, 400-plus cubes,” says Scott. “Mine is 388; it runs the standard stroke but a 4.125in bore size.” Scott’s reasoning is sound: he wants revs, and lots of them. “I’ve only revved it to 6800rpm so far, but it’s got heaps left in it. I’ve kinda run out of camshaft at this point!”

Scott reversed some factory headers and found a cheap Garrett GT42 turbo.

“We had partially fabricated the exhaust set-up when a mate offered me an LSX block,” he says. “That is when the whole build changed.”

The LSX block is much tougher than production-car versions, but being a bare item it forced Scott to go hard on strong internals: “I shipped it off to Powerhouse Engines for the rebuild.”

The built LSX is topped by an Edelbrock Victor Jr intake manifold and 1080cfm four-barrel EFI throttlebody and is force-fed by a big S484 BorgWarner turbo. The heads are six-bolt, square-port jobs from Powerhouse Engines, while the pistons are JE, yet the crank is standard. Much power needs much petrol, with a trio of Walbro 460 pumps living in the custom-made fuel cell

John Pilla and the Powerhouse boys got to work, filling the GM Performance block with a stock LS crank, Manley rods and JE symmetrical pistons. A 242/238/115 reverse-pattern cam suits the S484 BorgWarner turbo and six-bolt square-port heads. The heads themselves were ported by Powerhouse and filled with REV hollow intake and stainless exhaust valves, with COMP dual springs and short-travel tie-bar lifters working with the Crow Race pushrods to handle the high rpm Scott enjoys.

“Once the car was painted, I decided that the old brown trim wouldn’t cut it anymore,” Scott says. “I sourced some Scheel seats, then got the lot retrimmed in cream leather by Tim Parsons at Sew Fine”

The 388-cube combo still breathes through an Edelbrock Victor Jr intake and 1080cfm throttlebody from EFI Hardware, though Scott replaced the reflashed stock ECU with a standalone Haltech Elite 2500 so the engine can not only be finely tuned but also datalogged, assisting with car set-up.

It has been tuned to run on flex-fuel, supplied from a custom fuel cell housing three Walbro 460 pumps to the eight Siemens 2200cc injectors up front, while Scott retained the stock L98 coils but relocated them under the dashboard and made custom MSD leads.

The Racepak custom dash handles all the telemetry, liaising with the Haltech Elite 2500 ECU to give instant readouts on speed, revs, oil pressure, oil temp, fuel pressure and more. It even displays air-fuel ratio and air intake temp, and can control the timing, pulling it back if the local servo delivers a dodgy batch of E85

So far the combo has made 600rwkW (805rwhp) on a chassis dyno, running 18psi. This was good enough for the car to run an 8.72@159mph.

“My best mate Jon from JR Modifications stepped in and fabricated a proper set of four-into-one exhaust manifolds out of steampipe,” Scott says.

“Then I sorta knew that it was getting pretty serious.”

Jon also gave the abused BorgWarner diff the flick; in its place is a solid nine-inch full of Strange and Altra 9 bits, narrowed and suspended from a pair of AFCO coil-overs. It sits behind a transbraked two-speed Powerglide, custom TCE converter and custom tailshaft. Jon again was the man for the unenviable task of installing tubs in an already painted car, using extreme care so as not to disturb the mirror-black finish.

Scott had the car done and dusted by 2017, but concedes that it will never be truly finished.

“I did an event at Calder and blew a tyre, leaving belt marks down a rear quarter,” he says. “One of the guards had a dent in it, so everything bar the doors got painted again, this time by my mate Brent.

“The motor and auto are the only things I really paid for and had nothing to do with, build-wise,” a proud Scott continues. “I’ll never sell it. Even if I have to park it for a while, it won’t be costing me just sitting there.”

With a tough stance and mean duco, it stands out from all the nanna-spec skid pigs and Brock-replica wannabes. We hope Scott stays out there for a while yet, blitzing quarters in the eights with a heart of pure, boosted LS goodness.


Dulux Jet Black tinter over Dulux Silver

Type: Chevrolet Performance LSX
Capacity: 388ci
Intake: Edelbrock Victor Jr
Induction: EFI Hardware 1080cfm four-barrel throttlebody
Turbo: BorgWarner S484
ECU: Haltech 2500 Elite
Injectors: Siemens 2200cc
Heads: Six-bolt ported rectangle-port
Pistons: JE symmetrical
Crank: Stock
Rods: Manley
Cam: 242/238, 115 LSA
Pushrods: Crow Race
Valves: REV hollow-stem (intake), REV stainless (exhaust)
Oil pump: Manley/Melling Select Performance
Ignition: Standard L98 coils mounted underdash with custom-made MSD leads
Fuel pump: Three Walbro 460s, Aftermarket Industries hanger, custom fuel cell
Exhaust: Custom steampipe 4-into-1 turbo manifolds, 4in stainless exhaust, Hurricane mufflers

Transmission: Transbraked Powerglide
Converter: Custom TCE
Tailshaft: GJ Drivelines chrome-moly two-piece
Diff: Strange Pro iron-case 9in, Altra 9 floating 35-spline axles, US Gears 3.5:1 gears

Suspension: AFCO springs and shocks (f & r)
Brakes: Slotted VT Commodore rotors with VT calipers (f), slotted VL with R31 Skyline calipers (r)
Steering: Stock

Rims: Weld V-Series 17×4 (f), Weld V-Series centres with 15×9.5 Max Dumesny beadlocks (r)
Rubber: M&H Racemaster 185/55 R17 (f), Mickey Thompson 275/60 R15 (r)