V12 Holden VL Calais in the build

Bored with RB-powered VLs? How does a twin-turbo Toyota V12 sound?


WE RECENTLY put the call-out on our Facebook page for readers to submit their project cars to potentially be featured in the In The Build section of the magazine. We got a whole crop of killer cars, but one build in particular really caught our attention: Dave Gates’s VL Calais that he’s slamming a 5.0-litre Toyota V12 into, along with twin turbos for good measure.

It’s refreshing to see a VL with something other than an RB or LS under the bonnet, which is largely what drew Dave towards doing the swap. “I got it from my brother and was originally just going to restore it, but then I looked at it and decided to do something a bit left of field and different,” he says.

Dave has a history of playing around with Japanese toys, which is how he stumbled across the Toyota 1GZ-FE V12 mill from a Toyota Century. “I was in Japan hunting for parts for GT-Rs and stuff, and ended up buying three of these engines,” he says.

The process of fitting the long V12 into the VL was actually a fairly simple one, with only minor modifications needed considering the size of the engine. “We mocked it up, and, oddly, it sat pretty much perfectly in there,” says Dave. “The big sump fits well, and we didn’t have to do any major modifications to the car until we cut the firewall for where the Turbo 400 bellhousing sits.”

The V12 isn’t just getting slotted in as a standard unit, either. So far Dave has sleeved the block, thrown in a set of custom forged rods and JE pistons, and it’ll be getting force-fed by a pair of GTX3076 turbos. He’s currently in the process of drawing up a custom CNC intake manifold design.

Dave says the project hasn’t been as complicated as you may think. “Even though there’s no off-the-shelf parts for a project like this, these engines are a bit of a Toyota parts bin,” he says. “A lot of stuff is the same as 1UZ, 3SGTE, and funnily enough Camry V6 as well, so parts aren’t actually that hard to get if you know what to look for.”

Brains will be provided by a MegaSquirt MS3 Pro ECU, and Dave plans to run it on PULP 98. “I’m only shooting for around 600rwhp; I’m more building this car to be a good solid cruiser than a full-blown race car,” he says. Along with the aforementioned Turbo 400 trans, the driveline is rounded out with a beefed-up version of the BorgWarner diff.

As for the VL itself, other than the engine, the car will largely be retaining its original Calais guise. Dave gave the body some love and a respray in the factory colours a few years ago, and the interior will remain largely standard as well. “The bonnet will have to have a six-inch cowl to fit the engine, but other than that I wanted to keep it as standard looking as possible.”

Dave is hoping to have the car finished, engineered and registered by Drag Challenge 2022, but has no real ambitions for numbers down the strip. “If I could get it done by then and make it through the week I’d be happy, but I don’t have any numbers in mind at this stage.”

We’ll be keeping an eye on Dave’s progress with this mammoth project, and we’re super-hopeful to see it at Drag Challenge in a couple of years’ time!