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Black B-ute

A tough-looking Holden SS ute that packs a 383ci stroker kit, AP brakes and a custom interior. Who said utes are just for work?!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Holden VU SS ute
  • 383ci (6.3 litre) stroker with modified heads and cam
  • Tricked transmission and high rpm stall converter
  • Custom red interior
  • 20-inch wheels
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What would Australian tradespeople do without the Holden ute?

The chopped-back Holden is a trusted workhorse for thousands of plumbers, sparkies and tradespeople around the country. But there’s a whole lot more to it than that. The Holden ute is also one of the favourite indulgences for tradespeople who are part-time performance enthusiasts. Sure, you could buy a base-model Holden V6 ute but why deny yourself the opportunity to slip into a machine with bent-eight grunt and sex appeal?

Something like this one...

Click for larger image

Rhys X purchased this Holden SS ute in 2002 and has used it for work almost every day since. His initial impression of the LS1-powered beast was, in a word, “awesome”. In fact, during the early days of ownership, Rhys didn’t think much needed done to the vehicle except for fitting lowered springs and aftermarket wheels.

Ahhh, but then the LS1 tuning scene started getting into its stride and Rhys didn’t want to get left behind.

In the first year of ownership, Rhys gave the car a free-flow air intake, cat-back exhaust and custom ECU tune. You’d expect a solid gain from these mods, but back in those days, LS1 tuners were still wearing L plates - and Rhys got a dud package.

“It was just sh#@,” he says.

Fortunately, Rhys later crossed paths with Mark at Brisbane’s PowerTorque workshop and his SS ute received a proper retune. At last, the tweaked 5.7 litre V8 now made decent grunt – and Rhys wanted more and more!

Click for larger image

At this point, PowerTorque rebuilt the LS1 with an Eagle 383ci (6.3 litre) stoker kit teamed with 10.0:1 compression forged CP pistons. This is approximately the same compression ratio as factory so Rhys doesn’t have any problems with fuel octane at the bowsers.

Top-end breathing is phenomenal thanks to a Comp 242 camshaft fitted in conjunction with ported alloy heads. Bigger valves, Crane double-row valve springs, titanium retainers and a double-row timing chain are also installed.

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At present, the intake manifold is the standard Holden item featuring a Starr 84mm throttle body with a large ram-air duct directing induction air into its mouth. Air is filtered by a long, skinny K&N panel filter.

On the exhaust side there’s a pair of Pacemaker 4>1 headers, a twin 3 inch mandrel system with high-flow cats and rear ‘shotgun pipes’.

“It makes all the right noises,” says Rhys.

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The standard engine management system has been recalibrated using dedicated tuning software. The remapped management system controls a set of 36lb injectors (fed by a Walbro high-flow pump) and the standard direct-fire ignition system.

With a substantial amount of extra grunt now available across the rev range, the standard 4-speed auto transmission started playing up. Craig’s Autos rebuilt the trannie with a variety of trick bits and bunged in a 3800 rpm stall converter together with a shorter 3.9:1 LSD to really get the ute honking off the line.

Click for larger image

Rhys hasn’t taken the beast down the quarter mile but says that it should run a high 11 second pass - if it can find enough traction. As a guide, the car has recently run 410hp (306kW) at the wheels on a Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno with a tank of 98 RON pump fuel. Rhys says this equates to more than 500hp (373kW) at the flywheel, taking into account losses through the automatic transmission.

But Rhys isn’t interested in setting the car up for drag racing. As a result, the suspension employs King Pro-Sport coil-overs that are adjusted to give maximum visual impact and handling balance. Rhys says the rear sits around 4 – 5 inches closer to the bitumen compared to a stocker. A Whiteline heavy-duty strut brace is also installed.

Brakes are big AP Racing slotted discs and 4-pot calipers teamed with slotted DBA replacement discs and performance pads for the rear.

Rhys says part of the reason for buying a VU SS ute was its appearance – he loves ‘em! But some relatively minor styling enhancements take this ute to the next level of desirability. A VY HSV front-end, custom side skirts and rear bar work wonders – and those unique shotgun pipes look t-o-u-g-h. Equally as tough are the recently installed 20 inch Bonspeed alloys with 245/35 rubbers.

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Inside, Rhys has treated his ute to a full custom trim. You’ll find red suede on the dashboard and centre console, red velour roof lining and carpet, and matching leather on the doors, steering wheel, seats and gear selector and handbrake lever. Aftermarket pedals are also slotted in.

Rhys says the response and torque of the new stroker motor is incredible. Plant your right boot and any revs and the car lunges forward without a moment of hesitation. It has also proven 100 percent dependable – a perfectly docile and reliable street weapon.

Still, Rhys can’t help sniffing around at a few more mods.

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At the moment he is considering an individual throttle body set-up and maybe even more cubic inches. Of course, none of these go-fast antics give Rhys any personal enjoyment – in case the Tax Man asks, it’s all aimed to ensure Rhys is never late for work appointments...

The Holden ute. Could there be a better vehicle for combining work and play?


PowerTorque +61 7 3881 2379

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