When Holden Special Vehicles’ VL SS Group A Walkinshaw was launched to a stunned public in May 1988, many race fans wondered how 27 pieces of fibreglass stuck to a VL Commodore (rumoured to have added 65kg to the base model’s weight) was ever going to be competitive in the Australian Touring Car Championship. However, HSV rose to the challenge by powering the Walky with a fuel-injected, twin-throttlebody Holden V8 that made a claimed 180kW (241hp).
First published in the February 2023 issue of Street Machine
Fast-forward over 30 years and people still argue over the Walky’s styling. What they can probably agree on, though, is that 241hp is chicken feed these days, which I guess is why Trent Blainey saw fit to stuff 1800rwhp worth of twin-turbo LS into his Walkinshaw replica.
“I’ve always had fast street cars but never anything like this,” Trent begins. “I’d been keeping an eye on the drag scene for a while – I actually took my wife Fleur on our first date to Calder Park! She’s a Holden girl, and for both of us, the Walkinshaw was a bucket-list car.”
Trent was inspired to throw the book at the VL after his business, Total Workz, carried out the paint and panelwork on Paul Hamilton’s 600-cube XA Falcon (SM, Jan ’23). So, once he finally tracked down a suitable base for his Walky build, he tapped Adam Rogash at MPW Performance to get things cracking.
“Adam and I instantly clicked,” Trent says. “Within a week of owning the VL, my team at Total Workz had the thing stripped, bagged and tagged and then dropped on Adam’s doorstep in Dandenong!”
It might be easy to dismiss this Commodore as just another tough, tubbed street car with a monstrous LS in it, but closer inspection reveals that it’s stacked to the hilt with wild custom engineering and fabrication trickery to make it an insanely quick radial-tyred street car.
“We’ve been able to manage every aspect of this build in-house, save for paint and trim, which has allowed us to really control the quality,” Adam Rogash explains. “We use shop cars like my VK to pressure-test components and refine our tuning and racing offering, so the combo in Trent’s car is basically a more modern, refined version of the one in ALLSHOW,” he continues, referring to his VK Commodore that’s been a mainstay of Street Machine Drag Challenge.
Getting a radial car to hook is a science unto itself, relying heavily on finite adjustability throughout a network of intricate suspension components. “I said to Adam that we wanted maximum extension and maximum adjustability to be able to tune the car for any track, be it here or abroad,” Trent says. “We’ve chatted about racing overseas – taking the family to the US and doing a Drag Week-style event where four-door cars aren’t as common.”
To that end, underneath the Walky you’ll find a custom, lightweight K-frame up front, from which hang adjustable arms and Viking coil-overs. The whole car is stiffened up thanks to the rollcage inside and the custom chassis connectors underneath, forcing the front and rear ends of the VL’s monocoque chassis to talk to one another.
The rear end boasts most of the eye candy though, with a nine-inch hanging from an adjustable four-link set-up, strung with Gazzard Brothers coil-overs and kept on the straight and narrow with an MPW-fabricated track locator.
All of this meant that on Trent’s first time driving the car in anger, the Walky cruised to an 8.7@157mph timeslip on a 275 radial. But don’t mistake it for a thinly veiled race car; Trent and the VL were in the midst of their first Drag Challenge as we went to print. Not that the car’s street cred needs any validation, as the opening cruising shot for this story attests.
“For as long as Trent is learning to drive and maintain a car at this level, there’s no point adding the race-car stuff like methanol or a solid-roller cam just yet,” says Adam, who goes on to explain that a clever combination of tried-and-tested parts help make an eight-second street car a reality these days.
John Pilla of Powerhouse Engines was tasked with bolting together the donk, starting with a Dart block, which Adam praises as the strongest on the market. The crew also opted for a Dart CCW crank to overcome the LS mill’s notoriously harsh harmonics, which works with Oliver rods and custom JE forged pistons to sit the LS at a snug 427 cubes.
Moving north, a custom-ground MPW hydraulic-roller cam conducts the symphony, but Adam is understandably tight-lipped about the specs. “It’s round with lumps!” he laughs, before explaining that they’ve developed the cam to be able to survive endurance drag racing events like Drag Challenge with minimal maintenance – and without chewing out other valvetrain components.
Maintenance definitely was front of mind for Trent when he and Adam colluded on the turbo manifolds, though. “I knew I wanted the manifolds down as low as we could get them to keep heat out of the bay while still being able to change the plugs,” he says.
The fuel system that feeds the hungry LS is nothing to sneeze at. The boot-mounted fuel cell gravity-feeds an Enderle cable-driven fuel pump, which was chosen for more than just its flow capabilities. “Being cable-driven allowed us to place it anywhere, and it meant that I didn’t have several huge electric pumps stressing out my charging system,” Trent explains.
“The minute the car goes 7.99, we’ll convert it over to methanol,” adds Adam – hence the 16 whopping Siemens 2400cc injectors lurking underneath the Plazmaman billet intake manifold. “On methanol, we obviously won’t need the intercooler, but the quality Plazmaman cores don’t represent a restriction, so we’ll leave it in place for when Trent g∂oes back to pump fuel on the street,” Adam continues.
The car made the journey between MPW and Total Workz a few times during the build, and on one of the stays at Trent’s shop, the Walkinshaw bodykit was fitted and the iconic Panorama Silver hue was laid down. “I’ve got some of the most amazing tradesmen on my team, including my right-hand man Dan Simpson, and we really wanted to use the car to show what we can do,” Trent explains. “We’ve got a fibreglass composite side to the business, which really lent itself well to fitting the Walky bodykit – we’ve got around 250 hours in fitting that kit perfectly!”
The kit has also been extensively modified to make it as light as possible without detracting from the Walky’s unique appearance. “I’d be really interested to see how far we can push the car while keeping the original Walky styling,” Trent says. That sentiment that flows into the cabin, where hardcore race components have been seamlessly integrated alongside factory Walkinshaw-inspired trim.
At the time of writing, Trent and the VL were in the middle of Street Machine Drag Challenge, where they set a new PB of 8.0@175mph on Day One! And he’s adamant that the car maintains perfect street manners despite its earth-turning power output. “With the street exhaust on, unless you knew what you were looking for, you’d be hard pressed to tell,” he beams, understandably proud of his bucket-list build.
1987 Holden VL Commodore
|Paint:||PPG Panorama Silver|
|Type:||427ci Dart LS|
|Induction:||Plazmaman intake manifold, Nick Williams throttlebody, Plazmaman front-mount intercooler|
|Turbos:||Twin Precision 76mm, Turbosmart 50mm wastegates|
|Heads:||Powerhouse Engines LS3 Powerheads|
|Pistons:||JE forged, 9.5:1 comp|
|Crank:||Dart CCW crank|
|Fuel system:||16 Siemens Deka 2400cc injectors, Enderle cable-driven fuel pump|
|Management:||Haltech Nexus R5|
|Cooling:||PWR custom radiator, CVR electric water pump, SPAL thermo fans|
|Exhaust:||Custom MPW turbo manifolds, dual 3.5in MPW exhaust|
|Ignition:||Haltech IGN-1A coils|
|Gearbox:||Turbo 400, transbrake|
|Converter:||Billet PTC bolt-together|
|Diff:||Race Products 9in, full-floating 35-spline axles, 3.25:1 gears|
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES|
|Front:||Viking Crusader coil-overs, adjustable chrome-moly lower arms, chrome-moly K-frame|
|Rear:||Gazzard Bros coil-overs, four-link, track locator|
|Brakes:||Wilwood 330mm rotors and six-piston calipers (f), Wilwood 280mm rotors and four-piston calipers, custom handbrake (r)|
|Master cylinder:||Wilwood, Tuff Mounts booster-delete bracket|
|WHEELS & TYRES|
|Rims:||Weld V-Series; 17x4.5 (f), 15x10 (r)|
|Rubber:||Mickey Thompson front-runners (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 275/60R15 (r)|
Adam Rogash and the MPW team; Total Workz; my right-hand man Dan Simpson; my wife Fleur.