VL Group A tribute built by prison inmates

This VL Commodore Group A tribute was built by the insiders at NSW’s Junee Correctional Centre. Now it’s finished, you can win it

Photographers: Luke Hunter

OLD-time crooks lived by the words: ‘If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime,’ but it might have been worth stealing a pack of Tim-Tams to have been involved in the rebuild of this ripper 1986 VL Commodore SS Group A tribute. It’s the result of the awe-inspiring efforts of inmates at Junee Correctional Centre in southern NSW. Yep, blokes in jail. And you can win it!

This Commodore is the third giveaway car to be rebuilt at Junee: a Holden Monaro and One Tonner have both been resto-modded and given away in support of charity in recent years.

And don’t for one second think working on cars such as this is simply something that inmates are told to do to keep occupied. There’s been a decade-long partnership between the GEO Group (which operates the centre on behalf of the NSW Government) and TAFE NSW. Within the boundaries of Junee Correctional Centre is a well-equipped, stand-alone TAFE campus, complete with automotive/industrial spray booth, and even though they are guests of Her Majesty, the inmates who worked on this car are all signed-up TAFE students.

“The TAFE programs give the inmates the opportunity to get practical hands-on skills,” explains Trevor Coles, Junee’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Manager. “But a project like this really lifts the level of motivation.”

Peter Holt, Junee Correctional Centre Industries Manager, explains more. “The car is an important tool for the delivery of the TAFE qualifications such as panel beating and spray painting, small motors, and welding. Junee also offers courses in woodwork and building and construction. Doing something such as this is an inspiring way of putting what they’ve learned into practice. And then we get to show it off!”

To that end, the tops-looking Permanent Red Group A tribute cruiser has been displayed at Henty Field Days, Thrashernats and the annual Bathurst Supercars event, with punters able to buy tickets to win it.

A factory VL V8/auto, the car was found in Victoria by Holt, and the purchase was financed by the GEO Group Australia, with supporters chipping in with product.

“We put together a proposal for sponsors and most of them jump on board straight away, as they can see the benefits,” says Holt. “The support along the way has been terrific. HDT has given us lots of stuff, as well as DeBeer, and Rare Spares has been amazing. It all helps.”

Under that terrific HDT-enhanced body and DeBeer Permanent Red paint, the Commodore has been repowered with a 355-cube iron lion. The Ingrams Automotive-specified and machined mill is based on a VN with its better-breathing symmetrical-port heads. With a Scat stroker crank, 10.5:1 squeeze, Pacemakers, 750cfm Holley Brawler on a dual-plane Edelbrock air-gap manifold, and a Camtech bumpstick, the poky result is 494hp on Ingram’s engine dyno – so it’s far more than just a cruiser. Behind is a built TH700 four-speed auto.

The engine was of course a highlight of the build and another opportunity for education. After respected Wagga-based engine builder Chris Ingram machined and prepped the components off-site, he attended the Junee centre and supervised the students as they assembled all the goodies.

The interior was one of only a few aspects of the car’s metamorphosis that was done off-site; it’s the work of local trimmer David Huthwaite.

Now it’s complete, you can win this terrific Commodore VL SS Group A tribute. It’s being raffled in support of the Country Hope charity, which provides support for families of kids who have been diagnosed with cancer and other chronic illnesses.