Young gun Zach Gallahar’s VK Calais

16-year-old Zach Gallahar blew minds at Summernats 35 with his powerhouse VK Calais

Photographers: Shaun Tanner

There aren’t too many L-platers out there with an 811rwhp, turbo LS-powered VK Calais to their name. What’s even cooler about Zach Gallahar’s example is that he did a tonne of the work himself, starting when he was just nine years old!

First published in the May 2023 issue of Street Machine

What’s your family’s background in cars, Zach?

Our family has a mechanical workshop, but COVID sort of stuffed it. Now, it’s become a part-time workshop/hobby shed, with a few customers’ cars we’re trying to finish off in between me playing footy, working at McDonald’s, or doing my VCAL course.

How’d you come to own the VK?

Dad bought the car when I was three. I always wanted it, and when I was nine, he said I could have the keys and do whatever I wanted with it. But even before then, I was always tinkering with cars.

Was it a good base to start with?

It was a rough car when Dad got it. He had a white VK with an injected five-litre, which he bought when I was one year old, but the body was too far gone. He found this one in Bayswater, bought it as a shell and basically put all the injected stuff in it.

Not long after I got the keys at the age of nine, we had an LS come in from a mum whose son was doing burnouts, and she just said, “Can you take the car?” Which started the way of going down the LS platform.

That engine bay looks pretty tough!

It’s a cast-iron 5.3-litre with stock rods and pistons; nothing fancy. It’s got a Paul Rogers ’Glide, an SDE converter, and a nine-inch from Dad’s VK.

It ran 3.9:1 gears in that, but I changed it to 3.5s. The whole build owes us about 30 or 40 grand. You don’t need to spend big bucks to build a car.

The interior looks pretty slick, too.

It’s Copper tan, all original apart from the front seats and the carpet. It’s the original Calais pattern. I’d been hoarding VK Calais seats, and lucky I kept them, because the trimmer mixed and matched stuff to make these ones good.

It’s got bits and pieces of old-school and new-school. The steering wheel and gauges are from Dad’s VK.

You took it to Summernats, right?

Yeah, the car got dynoed just before Christmas. Dad had to walk away until it was done! I would run down and tell him what it was making. The first dyno run at Summernats made 811hp at the rears, but when we did the second one, it started pushing water, as the radiator cap wasn’t holding pressure.

If we did one more run, we would’ve made it to the Horsepower Heroes final, so we kicked ourselves afterwards that a simple Chinese radiator cap could cause so many issues!

Did you get much help from family and mates during the build?

Dad helped me wheel-and-deal stuff with people we knew. A guy from the local footy club painted it, and Jason Kenny with LS1PWR [VN Commodore] helped with all the engine and turbo side.

Von Brothers Engineering did all custom fuel lines, MSD leads and custom coil relocation. There’ve been a lot of people helping and giving me ideas. I’ve tried to work it all out and build it all myself; I watch a lot of Scotty [Taylor on Carnage], Hackshop Garage and The Skid Factory to get ideas from.

The bloke I’m doing my VCAL auto electrical course with is 73, and he showed me how to wire the car from front to back, so I got to do that myself and we ironed out the bugs. I’m trying to get money together for a new engine set-up now.

Why’s that?

We took it to Heathcote just after the photos were taken, and it ran a 9.5, but then it blew up on deceleration after the line. It smashed a rod to bits.

Dad was in tears, but shit happens! I’ve got a new iron block now, and I want to run an eight next with the big boys.

Bugger! Sounds like you’re well on the way to eights, though.

It’s pretty good considering it’s all on stock springs and suspension; there’s nothing fancy underneath.

My younger brother’s got a VQ Caprice with a turbo LS now, with my old turbo from my car. Dad says it’s all-out war!

Aged around 21 or younger and have a neat ride? Send some pics and info to: Young Guns, Street Machine, Unit 9/3-5 Gilda Court, Mulgrave, Vic 3170, or email high-resolution images (1mb+) to: [email protected].