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Candy Man Can

An ultra neat 10-second VL Calais that fell into place as easy as a pre-schooler's jigsaw puzzle...

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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When collecting information for assembling a feature car story it's common to hear an owner's tale of woe. "The diff kept breaking," "they couldn't tune it any better," "it cost me an arm and a leg," and, of course, "the bloody thing's always keeping me poor!" Matt Handcock of Melbourne, however, doesn't have that problem. It appears that his streetwise 10-second VL Calais was built on a never-ending wave of good luck. "It was a build up that was meant to be," he'll tell you...

When Matt purchased this Serries 2 VL Calais turbo around four years ago, the only thing it had to do was stay in a holding pattern in the family garage. He had big plans in store. Matt had already owned a triple carb'd LC Torana, but he knew that if he wanted to jump into something quicker, it'd make things a lot easier if he had a turbo'd car. The turbocharged VL Calais made perfect sense, because both Nizpro and JPC were just starting to push the VL chassis to some highly impressive times.

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The S2 Calais's previous owner had already given it a little bit of lovin' - like a set of 17-inch wheels and a full body kit covered in candy burgundy paint. Matt didn't think much of the kit, however, swiftly removing it and installing new Calais mouldings to make a neater look. Under the bonnet everything remained stock. Though, since it was linked to the rare factory 5-speed, the car was quicker than your average Calais turbs with a slushbox.

It's only been in the last year that Matt's wheeled the Calais out into the sunlight and set about making it haul arse. Keen to find out about what's needed to make a VL fly, he started hanging out in places like Nizpro and JPC. He was j-u-s-t about to make a major financial move with one of these companies when be stumbled across an absolute gift in the local Trading Post. It was the engine, trans, ECU and intercooler package out of George Kossivis' white VL Calais (see "Thunder Clouds" ) - all for under half what it would cost to build it up from scratch! Matt was on the phone by 8 that first morning and beat a whole hoard of callers to the big sale. Hardly able to believe his luck, Matt became the very proud owner of a 10-second power train - all for a lousy 10 grand! As he says, "I couldn't get the money out quick enough!"

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What he got for his 10k was a JPC-built RB30ET motor with prep'd rods, dished 7.0:1 Cosworth pistons, chrome-moly rings, a mildly ported and polished SOHC head with heavy duty valve springs and a JPC-spec camshaft. Also carried over was the custom T4 turbo and the 43mm external wastegate on a JPC exhaust manifold. The intake manifold, too, is one of JPC's babies. It sees the stock VL-T bottom section of manifold flipped upside down and equipped with a custom plenum volume. A 65mm Ford throttle body is mounted at the front, accepting flow from the polished intercooler seen hanging down below the bumper. Note also the JPC custom twin filter turbo inlet - which is said to allow another 2 psi boost on its own.

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Also included in the purchase was the engine management and trans. A fully programmed MicroTech MT8 ECU came wired to a set of six Mazda 13B turbo injectors (hung off a custom rail), and the motor was bolted to a mega-strong trans - which is a RaceMatics-enhanced Trimatic teamed with a 4000 rpm stall converter.

It was a package that had already proven itself good for an incredible 320kW at the wheels (on 29 psi boost and Avgas and measured on a Dyno Dynamics) and a 10.50 ET at 130 mph...

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Prior to squeezing all that hairy muscle under the hood, Matt welded the seams in the engine bay and cleaned up a lot of areas where Holden had taken shortcuts. With the engine then "dummy fitted", the car was sent off to Harrison and Solimo Paint and Panel, where the existing candy paint was carefully colour matched. The right mix was then applied throughout the engine bay as well as over the top half of the body. Just to freshen it up.

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Matt didn't have to come up with much more stuff to complete the 10-second package. One area that did need to be addressed, however, was the fuel delivery system. No worries though - a mate fabricated a swirl pot which is now linked to twin Bosch high-flow pumps. Add to this a mandrel 3-inch exhaust system, a Borg Warner 4.11:1 mini-spool rear end and some HPC'ing and that's driveline game, set and match. Easy.

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Then, like Matt hadn't used up his fair share of luck already, he went on the search for some new rims. Low and behold, he scammed a second-hand set of Simmons FR18s from one of Nizpro's VL turbo customers! As you might have guessed, another handy saving was enjoyed. These were then rapt with new 235/35 and 265/40 Falken tyres.

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Something that still remains for Matt to finish is the rest of the interior (or perhaps he's just waiting for another killer buying opportunity?). The S2 Calais trim has already been treated to Recaro seats (trimmed to match the factory trim), a BES turbo timer, Momo wheel and Autometer gauges for boost, oil pressure and engine rpm (together with a shift light).

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There's also a B&M Prostick shifter tied to the Trimatic tranny - but don't look to closely at how it's been mounted. Like we said, the interior is yet to be finished! But note how all the fingertip switchgear is still in tip-top condition - that's not surprising since this car is yet to clock up 100,000 genuine kilometres. It's barely learnt to walk.

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Most recently on the Calais' timeline, it was sent off to JPC where it was equipped with a MSD ignition booster and had the wiring tidied up. This was all the final work that needed to be done before making the car's maiden track debut. After waiting for an age in the Calder Park drag line-up, Matt made a flying debut pass - a 10.70 at 128 mph. Not bad for a first run... The only problem was, the car was running out of fuel. And we don't mean the motor was running lean at the top-end - Matt hadn't taken along enough C16 race fuel to make another pass! One run was all that the car could manage. D'oh!

But that would have to be the only bummer in the whole of this killer Calais build. To crown it all off Matt was able to transfer the STOCK 6 number plates that had been used on his old LC Torana.

Jeez, talk about fate.


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+61 3 9465 2244

+61 3 9335 1011

Matt sends a big thanks to his mate Wayne, the guys from JPC, his parents for lending out the garage and his girlfriend Renee.

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