This article on Andrew Chao’s VE SS-V Commodore was originally published in issue #6 of Street Machine’s LSX Tuner magazine, 2017
WE SEE plenty of cammed, blown or turbocharged cars, but it’s rare to find one that has been all three! It took three evolutions for Andrew Chao’s six-litre VE SS-V to wind up the ’bagged, 470rwkW monster it now is. And to think it all started off as a stock-standard daily driver!
“I have cousins and friends from Soutern California who visited earlier in the year and, being from where they are, they see some pretty mental cars,” Andrew says. “After taking them for a few squirts in FATSSV, it’s fair to say they went back with fond memories of what our car scene is about!
“I purchased the car as a six-speed automatic around five years ago, to use as a daily driver when I had a heavily modified R33 Skyline GTS-T,” Andrew says. “But, as time went on, I found myself driving the Skyline less and less. I sold the R33 and started to get serious with the build of my VE.
“Initially I cammed the V8 with the 228/232/114 stick, but soon progressed to the Harrop 2300 supercharger, which made 400rwkW. After a few months I got bored of that power and decided to step it up.
“I wanted to go back to my Japanese roots and turbocharge the V8, but I didn’t want big shiny turbos hanging out in the engine bay attracting attention. It was Adam Rogash from MPW Performance who got it perfect.”
The bottom end of the L98 six-litre is stock, save for a scavenger bowl in the sump for the oil return from the turbos, and a GM high-volume oil pump. Andrew replaced his stock rectangle-port heads with some Higgins CNC-ported units, filled with Manley dual valve springs, while Morel tie-bar lifters and VCM moly pushrods work on the 228/232 cam.
FATSSV isn’t just a tough mechanical combo. Andrew added a bonnet scoop from a Camaro ZL1, moulded in and raised up 1in, along with AeroCatch flush-mount bonnet pins. Boost Cartel provided the front splitter, side-skirt extensions and rear spats, while a VE HSV Senator donated its bobtail spoiler. The bumper and accents were carbon-wrapped, and WRC quad projector headlights were installed
MPW made custom low-mount manifolds to place the twin Garrett GT3076R turbos near the bellhousing, paired with twin Turbosmart Ultra-Gate 38mm external wastegates with screamer pipes and a twin three-inch exhaust. Boost is controlled via Turbosmart dual-port Kompact blow-off valves and an e-Boost Street electronic boost controller, while the stock 2bar MAP sensor remains.
Behind the 20×10 and 20×11 Koya SF04 wheels are four-pot AP Racing calipers front and rear, clamping RDA slotted and dimpled rotors. Andrew loves his cars slammed, so air struts from Air Ride and Shockwave have been installed in the front and rear respectively. They are inflated by a pair of Viair 450C compressors, blowing into a five-gallon tank with FAST Big Red valves and controlled through a Dakota Digital electronic management system
Andrew chose to run boost-friendly E85 fuel, but his in-tank ZL1 Camaro fuel pump and Bosch 1150cc injectors just can’t supply as much as the motor wants, so he plans to upgrade this with a pair of externally mounted Bosch 044 pumps and surge tank. Even with only 10psi blowing through the PWR 600×300 front-mounted intercooler, the VE made an impressive 470rwkW.
The air suspension system is stealth-mounted behind a false wall in the boot
“One challenge was trying to maintain the stock appearance under the bonnet, while still having it punch out near-on 500rwkW,” Andrew says. “We gutted the MAF sensor and airbox, and ran the intercooler piping through them with the blow-off valve in the airbox.
“When we ran it up on the dyno for the first time it came onto boost and stripped the splines off a brand new clutch. It was a bittersweet moment of having to fork out another few thousand for a new clutch, but sweet in the sense that the car was going to be the exact animal I wanted when given the stick.”
“After going through the phase of polished top-mount turbos and chrome-engine-bay-everything in my R33, I saw no value whatsoever in that stuff for the VE,” Andrew says. “I decided I wanted to do something different; I wanted to create the ‘reverse-reverse-sleeper’. From the outside it’d be expected to be quick, but pop the bonnet and it looks stock as a rock. When the light goes green, however, the other car gets its doors blown off!”
Interestingly, the VE had been running a standard 6L80E six-speed auto, but Andrew changed it to a Tremec TR6060 from an HSV GTS; the auto couldn’t handle the blown donk with 400rwkW, so it definitely wasn’t going to last with the turbo set-up!
“Having the car converted from the standard auto to the manual was a fairly straightforward process, mechanically,” he says. “However, having it all integrate seamlessly was a real challenge, from getting the reverse-lockout solenoid working to having the electronic modules talk to each other. But we got there in the end, and now it’s completely indistinguishable from a factory manual.
“I avoided going down the path of a two-speed or three-speed [auto], mainly due to wanting to be able to cruise along at 110km/h for long periods without having to stress about it. Sure, they would’ve been a stronger option, but I could see myself getting bored without that third pedal.”
After destroying one clutch before Andrew even got a full power run on the dyno, FATSSV now relies on a single-plate Exedy Carbon-series clutch, with a Truetrac LSD in the rear with shorter 3.45 gears, courtesy of Harrop. It makes for quite a potent package in the VE sedan, something Andrew is enjoying.
The cabin copped plenty of HSV GTS parts, including the steering wheel, dash cluster, triple gauge binnacle and the seats, which were retrimmed by Incharge Automotive. Andrew fitted DRiFT boost, oil temperature and pressure gauges, an OBDII reader, MSD shift light and Dakota Digital suspension controller, while the interior accents were carbon-wrapped to match the Commodore’s exterior
“Off boost, the car is quite docile and tame, and – if it wasn’t for the spooling of the turbos and the ‘whoosh’ every time you snap the accelerator shut – you’d think it was just a mild-mannered cammed V8,” Andrew says. “That said, the camshaft, diff gearing and clutch combo makes a mockery of anyone who tries to drive it like a normal car. If you don’t engage the clutch and blip the throttle when exiting a corner, the car will kick, buck and shudder. Other than that, it’s perfectly fine for A-to-B driving and will happily tow the bikes or box trailer with no dramas.
“To me, the car is the complete package,” he continues. “The mods list isn’t huge, but all the parts chosen work together seamlessly to give you the performance and visual knockout. I’d like to think the car is a true representation of quality over quantity, where the quality of the parts is greater than having a quantity of parts aimlessly thrown at it.
“Car shows and the drag strip don’t interest me as much as Powercruise-type events, so I might not ever have timeslips or trophies to show for the work put in. Having said that, my goal in building the car was never to take home trophies or timeslips; it was built to cruise on the streets without having to worry about unclearable defects or EPA notices, while still being able to claim scalps and scare my passengers.”
Andrew isn’t done yet, either, as he is looking to fit a couple of Bosch 044 external fuel pumps so he can get some headroom back into his fuel system and push through the 500rwkW barrier. He is also considering putting together a 402ci forged stroker bottom end, which will see power jump even further.
HOLDEN VE SS-V COMMODORE
PAINT Holden Sting Red
Type: HSV Gen IV L98
Heads: Higgins CNC-ported L98
Turbos: Garrett GT3076R
Injectors: Bosch 1150cc
ECU: Stock, flash-tuned
Gearbox: Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual
Clutch: Exedy single-plate Carbon-series
Diff: Harrop Truetrac 3.45 LSD
Springs: Air Ride air struts (f), Shockwave air struts (r)
Brakes: AP Racing four-piston brakes (f & r)
Wheels: Koya SF04; 20×10 (f), 20×11 (r)
Tyres: 245/35 (f), 275/30 (r)