Nissan RB30-powered 1976 Holden Sunbird

Just like your Nanna's Sunbird, but with a 700rwhp RB30ET

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

With a 700rwhp turbocharged six-pot, this is one very pissed-off Sunbudgie

This article on Patrick’s Sunbird was originally published in the July 2017 issue of Street Machine

THE often maligned four-pot-powered Holden Sunbird has long been regarded as the poor cousin of the Torana family, but Patrick Gill’s example is about as cool as they come. Many a Sunbird has been ‘converted’ to six- and eight-cylinder Torana trim over the years, but instead, Patrick decided to rock the nanna-spec Sunbudgie theme loud and proud, right down to the venetian blind, bumper over-riders and pensioner peak.

Patrick was reluctant to tub the car, so the boys set about squeezing the biggest tyre into the standard arches that they could. A custom-length diff teamed with the perfect offset 15×8 Weld wheels meant that Mickey Thompson 255/60/15 radials fit a treat. The rear inner guards were simply ‘clearanced’ with a hammer, and the guards were lipped

With Weld big-and-littles and 255-wide Mickey Thompson drag radials, it might be a bit of a stretch to call the car a true sleeper, but the contrast of the modern pro street wheel-and-tyre combo against the old-school styling and factory-fresh body and paint works far better than it has any right to.

Pop the bonnet and you’re confronted with a mega-horsepower Nissan RB30 nestled in a show-quality engine bay, with an 82mm BorgWarner turbocharger dangling off the side. An RB with a sizeable turbo in a lightweight Torana body makes for a formidable street and strip package, and few people know this as well as Melbourne’s Velkovski brothers, Kris and Rob. A chance friendship with the brothers is what set Patrick on the path to RB righteousness.

“I’m from Perth, but my work moved me to Melbourne for a few years, where I met the Velkovski boys through the building industry,” Patrick explains. “I had a few cars during my time in Melbourne, but eventually it was time to step it up and build something old-school. Kris told me he had the perfect little Torana for the build.”

The car in question was this Sunbird, which had been hiding under a cover in a back alley in the ’burbs until Kris spotted it on Gumtree. It had been fish-oiled when it was stored, and as such was in pretty exceptional condition for its age. Kris had put it away for a rainy day, but was happy to on-sell it to Patrick as the starting point for his project.

The tail-end of the ’cage, battery box and a well-sized fuel cell are the only items of note back here. Magnafuel and Bosch fuel pumps live under the boot floor, and keep the go-juice up to the thirsty six-banger

“At first I was thinking about a little small-block or a really basic RB; nothing over 300hp or so,” Patrick says. “But then Kris offered me a 1000hp RB engine package, and that started the downhill spiral! Those who know the Velkovski brothers know they never do things by halves.”

Kris and his brother Rob tackled the build, with Patrick helping out where he could. The motor and ’box came out of a nine-second VL wagon and was originally built by Kanaris Engines. It runs H-beam rods and CP forged pistons swinging off a factory crank, with a custom-grind camshaft up top, spinning inside a ported factory head. The JPC intake manifold is fronted by an XF Falcon throttlebody, and Kris and Rob switched to a smaller exhaust housing on the 82mm BorgWarner turbo before installing it in the Sunbird. The ’Glide is fitted with a 4000rpm converter, and the rear end is a shortened nine-inch with 35-spline axles. It’s a stout yet streetable combo, providing an impressive 725rwhp on 40psi of boost.

The car’s body and paint are completely factory, but a couple of finishing touches were required to really nail the nanna-spec Sunbird look. Patrick bought the venetian blind on eBay, while Kris was able to source the front sun visor locally. “There was talk of doing the full rotisserie rebuild thing, but the further we got into it, the cleaner we realised the car was,” Patrick says

Moving on to the aesthetics, there was precious little required to achieve a look that turns heads every bit as much as a big-buck paintjob. “Aside from a small amount of rust in the radiator support, it was a really solid car,” Patrick says. “The bodywork and paint is exactly as it was when Kris sold it to me; all we did was smooth and paint the engine bay.”

Everything’s bone-stock in here, aside from the obvious, of course! The factory interior was in remarkable shape, and only the bare essentials have been added. A six-point ’cage, smattering of Auto Meter gauges and a TCI Outlaw shifter are the only deviations from OEM hardware

The level of detail under the bonnet comes as something of a surprise, given the car’s slightly weathered exterior. It’s been sandblasted then neatly smoothed, and every conceivable surface has been restored – painted, polished or somehow coated.

The engine bay has been smoothed and painted in gloss black. A Wilwood master cylinder is plumbed to brakes of the same brand. The attention to detail is impressive, but the eye is always drawn to that monstrous 82mm BorgWarner snail. The RB30 boasts forged internals and has proven to be worth 725hp at 40psi on a chassis dyno

“The engine bay was primed and painted in metallic gloss black, as was the engine itself. We kept the heater box because it gets cold down in Melbourne!” Patrick explains. “We gave the engine a cosmetic overhaul, with every nut and bolt anodised or chromed and the rocker cover painted the same black as everything else. Anything that could be changed to make it look better was done.”

Much like the body and paint, the Sunbird’s interior was in great original condition. The boys treated it to new carpet and replaced the slightly torn seats with a set of pristine stockers, but the door cards, dash, headlining and steering wheel are all factory fitment. A TCI Outlaw shifter was fitted within a factory console and the cabin is dotted with Auto Meter instruments, while the six-point AGI rollcage is built to ANDRA requirements.

Which is rather important, considering that Patrick has his sights set on eight-second quarters with the car. It’s been to a Fast Friday meet at Calder Park, but it left so hard that a spring unseated itself and parted ways with the vehicle. A follow-up trip to the Holden-Powered Nationals at Heathcote saw a couple of niggling issues that prevented the car from laying down a decent number. But with the cumulative experience of Kris and Rob at play, it’s only a matter of time until Patrick’s Sunbird takes flight!


Colour: Factory Brown

Brand: Nissan RB30
Induction: JPC intake manifold, XF throttlebody
ECU: Haltech
Turbo: 82mm BorgWarner turbo
Head: Ported single-cam
Camshaft: Custom grind
Conrods: H-beam Argo
Pistons: Forged CP
Crank: Factory
Oil pump: N1 billet gears
Fuel system: Magnafuel 750 lift pump, Bosch 044 main pump
Cooling: Custom four-core radiator, twin 10in fans
Exhaust: Custom 4in stainless dump pipe, 3.5in stainless exhaust system
Ignition: ICE

Gearbox: Powerglide
Converter: 4000rpm
Diff: 9in, 35-spline axles

Springs: King Springs (f), custom (r)
Shocks: Monroe (f & r)
Brakes: Wilwood (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood

Rims: Weld Racing; 15×3.5 (f) 15×8 (r)
Rubber: Nankang 165/80/15 (f), Mickey Thompson 255/60/15 (r)