It takes something special to stand out in Australia’s ever-growing band of modified LS1s. But Steve Lemon’s VY Clubsport R8 has no problem achieving that – even when standing still.
Steve’s Clubbie is probably the first in Australia to use adjustable airbag suspension. At the touch of a button, Steve can raise the ride height w-a-y above standard (perfect for clearing gutters!) or drop it so low that the belly is just millimetres from the bitumen. Forget fully sik – this is fully pimp!
Steve has hauled out the original HSV suspension and whacked in airbag strut assemblies in the front and airbags in place of the rear coil springs. The system also uses a large capacity air tank in the boot which is pressurised by a pair of high-power electric pumps. Air is then distributed to the airbags via dedicated solenoids – one for each airbag. The whole tank, pump and solenoid system is arranged in the forward section of the boot – there’s plenty of useable boot pace remaining.
The pressure of left and right-side airbags is monitored using a pair of gauges mounted inside the centre console – the higher the airbag pressure, the higher the car rides. Steve says he typically sets the airbags to around 60 psi – this gives a relatively smooth ride along with a low (but relatively practical) ride height. The airbags can be pressurised up to 120 psi for maximum ground clearance and can be deflated for that hard-to-ignore belly-scaping appearance.
This is the remote control unit for the airbags. As you can see, you can raise or lower each corner individually, in pairs or all corners can be adjusted simultaneously – at the touch of a button you can pick how the car looks and rides. But Steve points out there are trade-offs with the system. Without question, the car handled better with its original suspension and the airbag system is relatively noisy – there are a few strange clunking noises yet to be sorted. Still, you soon forget about that when cruising around sunny Queensland attracting everyone’s attention!
And there’s more to this car’s appeal than just a pimped-out look – it’s also got the performance to avoid being embarrassed by whatever might pull alongside.
Although the 260kW factory output is enough to propel the full-size sedan into the 14s, Steve wanted more grunt than the usual playing-at-the-edges tweaks could provide. His one-stop solution was a Centrifugal Air Pumps Australia (CAPA) Stage 4 centrifugal blower kit. The Stage 4 kit comprises a Vortech V2 blower, a front-mount air-to-air intercooler (which uses a replacement front bumper frame as part of the plumbing), pod filter and Bosch blow-off valve. And, although not required due to the inclusion of an intercooler, Steve also went for CAPA’s pre-compressor water injection system.
Output is further enhanced with 4>1 Pacemaker headers and a Redback twin 3 inch exhaust. The fuel system has also been enhanced to ensure there are no lean-out problems when Steve puts the car through its paces on the circuit – ChipTorque on the Gold Coast has installed a surge tank fuel system along with an extra supply pump just to be safe. These combine with the 42lb injectors that were sourced from CAPA. With the factory management system re-flashed at ChipTorque and with up to 9 psi boost pumping, Steve’s HSV has no sweat roaring out 340kW at the wheels on a Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno.
The auto driveline features remapped shift points (to make the most of the engine’s new-found torque), a shift kit, modified servos and a 3000 rpm stall converter. The diff ratio has also been shortened from 3.08 to a lively 3.99:1 LSD. There are no official performance figures for the Clubsport at present but we reckon a low 12/high 11 second pass should be possible given enough traction.
Steve says there are a few other items he wants to address before getting into the show scene and stepping up business promo. The stock R8 wheels (as tough as they are) will soon be replaced, a Monaro bonnet will finds its way on as will modified front and rear bumpers and wheel arch flares. Oh, and the whole thing will be dressed in a coat of pearl paint – it’s kinda essential to have a respray if you want to promote a spray painting business...
The inside might also receive some attention down the track. For now, the cabin remains stock except for a boost gauge – and a couple of other pressure gauges in the centre console...
Steve is fully aware there are other HSVs out there that boast more power and have a longer list of mods. Certainly, the amount of money now being spent on these cars has shot through the roof. In contrast, Steve has invested in arguably the biggest bang-for-buck power enhancement and has broken new ground with the trick airbag suspension system. It just goes to prove innovative thinking can outweigh an overflowing wallet!
ChipTorque +61 7 5596 4204
PJ’s Custom Car and Truck Spray Painting +61 7 3255 5323