Home-brewed turbo 355-powered VL Commodore

Tim McGrath bought this VL Commodore for just $6500 when he was 17 years old

Photographers: Ben Hosking

“This was my very first car, which I purchased at 17 for $6500. It was completely standard at that time, so I began a slow and steady process of upgrades as I could afford them as an apprentice, while still using it as a daily driver.

First published in the October 2022 issue of Street Machine

I started with a chip and cam package fitted to the original Nissan six, which was fun for a while. Then I stumbled across an original Walkinshaw V8 motor and its matching five-speed ’box via a mate. I purchased it for a measly $2000 and slotted it into the car.

I fitted a Haltech ECM and got a tune done to refine it and chase a few extra horses, and it then made 222rwhp on the dyno. I drove and enjoyed it like this for years as my daily.

After some time, I grew tired of the aspirated motor and decided to bolt a turbo to the Holden 5.0-litre. Over the next few years of Friday and Saturday nights, I custom-built a complete turbo set-up in my home garage, including the turbo mounting, exhaust manifolds, intake pipes and all the other upgrades around an E85-compatible fuel system and cooling to support it.

The finished product made an impressive 550rwhp with nothing more than the turbo on E85. The motor was still completely unopened at this point. I enjoyed it like this for quite a while, wailing on it mercilessly at many Powercruise events.

But at one Powercruise, I leaned on it hard on boost at the top of fifth and blew both head gaskets. That was the catalyst to start the 355ci stroker motor build that I’d always wanted to do.

That build took a long time, but it yielded some good gains in the end, as it now makes 645rwhp and 885lb-ft of torque.”