kaBOOM's Holden VL Calais


Well-Known Member
Jun 29, 2006
Adelaide, South Australia
Sorry for being so rude and not posting pics and specs of my cars, but the VL was without its front end and i didn't have any pics of it (besides engine bay pics!) that would do the old thing justice.....I'll post up some pics of the Alfa's later......


....and its my day to day car, so it doesn't get lavished with as much love as it should

The Good version is here:


O.K for those who don't know this is a Holden VL Commodore Calais. Calais means luxo spec with lots of 80's velour (and no it doesn't smell of spermacide!), power windows, central locking, cruise control, extra lights....basically all the stuff we find in the modern "wheelie bin" However the best bit are these cool flip up headlight covers.


They are not popup headlighs, but they just cover the top half of the light, so they are quite useless......but cool! :) The only other car I've seen with a vaugely familiar system is a Alfa Romeo Montreal. Still knowing Alfa Romeo they probably only work after a few "Hail Marys"and some Holy water is put on the electrics.....enough said!

--> Boreing history stuff <--

To the Europeans on this forum the car probably looks a little familiar. The car is infact based on a 1980's Opel Reckford that is much wider and stronger. Holden (GM here) at first tried adapting Australian engines to a normal Reckford body shell.....and you can probably guess the result...a few of the Prototypes where ment to have "folded up" so under the outside skins the car is totally diffrent.

The VL Commodore was the last version of the so called "compact" Commodores, however it is interesting (and sought after) for the decision to get (GM) involed with Nissan (around 1983) in the development of a new strait 6 cylinder engine that we now know as the RB. All 6 cylinder versions of the production run where powered by a Nissan RB30E or RB30ET engine. Yep kids its (sort of) a Nissan Skyline engine. The VL Commodore turbo combined with a 5 Speed gearbox and a curb weight of just 1265kg is a bit of a rocketship.

One advantage of Holden useing a Nissan engine was getting out of the hole that they had dug themselves in regards to emmisions. The old Australian designed and built L6 "202" which powered the VK Commodore (before the VL) was a terrible engine and couldn't be adapted to run on Unleaded fuel so the Nissan engine made perfect sense.

The best bit tho, is because of the Nissan driveline, you can put almost any RB engine and gearbox combo in you want. RB26DETT? No problem sir! 4wd has been done, IRS conversions the lot...

Now I owe it to everybody to be impartial and point out the shortcomings of the VL Commodore:

-Dodgy rear axel design, I'm going to hunt down and kill who ever designed that.....nggggggg
-Dodgy front end suspension design, geometry? Geometry whats that?
-When the car does break away, it doesn't understeer or oversteer....it "wondersteers" You simply cannot pick in which direction its going to go!
-Calais Nose cone, you cannot get it to line up with the guards and bonnet. It is physically impossible without modding it. Its not a result of poor build quality but poor design.....
-The whole body (top end) is way too weak, it shatters rear left window facia's. Look at any VL drag car and look at the rear left corner. I think this is not related to the torsional ridgity of the body shell, rather the rear upper suspension support. For some reason it doesn't feel like there is much body flex, its much better than say most Alfa Romeos.
-Electric window switches catch fire and have a mind of their own....spooky....
-The whole car is about as aerodynamic as a brick. Yes even with that sloopy nose. Even the aero kits don't cure these problems, its acually related to the windows on the door haveing those stupid frames. The VN with its flush fitting glass is much better dispite haveing a greater forntal area. All modern cars have flush fitting glass for better aerodynamic properties.
-The front seats, while confortable on a long journey and nice on rough roads have as much lateral support as a block of ice.....as soon as you even start to turn in, you slide off. Infact your arse will break traction on the seat before the car lets go. I think this is why VL's have such a back rep in the cornering stakes. Its the friggen seat....
-The radiator mounting position.......the highest point in the cooling system is actually in the motor. Thats why they crack heads.
-At high speed the car doesn't feel like its attached to the road.....infact the steering doesn't feel like its attached to the front wheels at anyspeed!

--> End of the Boreing history stuff <--

....Now onto my car.....

My car is a 1987 model, that started life with a normal non turbo RB30E engine and a 4 speed electronic automatic (Nissan/Jatco) transmission. Over the years it has been a test bed and had so many motor conversions its not funny (all by me!)......

The automatic gearbox also blew up (it wasn't my fault...honest!!!!) and was replaced by a 5 speed gearbox out of a Nissan R32 Skyline GTS-T. That went bang too and I threw in a "borrowed" Nissan A31 Cefiro 5 speed. That actually survived (I had to give it back you see) and a in desperation a Serries 3 Nissan Bluebird was bolted to the motor. For some reason it didn't blow up (if I killed it I was walking...enough said!) and in the end I made a hybrid box from a S14 Silvia 5 speed and the remains of my R32 Skyline gearbox. The advantage of this is that it closes up the first 4 gears and makes 5th a huuuuuge overdrive. In tecnical talk, the countershaft drive gear was changed over. In that phase several engines came and went, virtually every type of RB turbo engine has lived in my poor cars engine bay for at least a little time :p

Now out back the poor factory LSD no longer works....well it sort of works as it should once every three corners! Last time I opened the oil drain on it a lot of metal shards came out...so in true Australian tradition "Shee'l be rite mate!" I put more oil in it and forgot about it...(come on guys its a day to day car!)

In the end I got sick of this constant change and decided to build a final engine for the poor thing. The plan was to build a Hybrid RB30/25 which in english is a Nissan RB30 Block (3 litres) with a 24 Valve twincam head from a Nissan RB25 Stuck on top of it. To top this off a Supercharger was to thrown in the mix rather than the normal turbocharger. I looked at useing a RB26 head so I borrowed both heads and did a bit of a look at them. The RB26's valves are no bigger than the RB25's and the only other top end diffrences where the solid lifters on the RB26 head, bigger cams and fancy rocker covers. So I saved the $2000 (a major sticking point...lol) odd and didn't have to go through the hassle of selling an unused RB26 bottom end off to sombody (note to self sell that RB25 bottom end....) The RB25 head I used also came with variable valve timeing, which after lots of swearing I actually got to work! :) :) Static compression ratio was set at 8:1 with the benefit of hindsight I'd go for 9:1 next time.



The badge says 2500, but its 3 litres. You want proof, look at the relocated upper tensioner and the gap between the water pump and the head :p

So yes I then went through the fun and games of makeing a hybrid motor, with a Audi/vw timeing belt (yep) a bit of tig welding, a high powered angle grinder, extra tensioners and lots of beer later we have this. The electrical system is a wonder of the world with a R33 GTS-4 (4WD N/a Skyline) Loom mated to GM body loom with conversion boxes to make everything (like the tacho) work correctly. Still in the end I made up a new engine loom from scratch, because lets say it was a bit "messy". Relocation of the powersteering pump and all the plumbing with a new belt drive and tensioners and pully to clear the supercharger. Custom exhaust front pipe made from Mandrel bends and water injectors....


So it all went in it all works (with a few major/minor drama's), the exhaust is a bit loud, but I ran into some problem with the air con, since I live a climate that gets a "little" bit hot in summer I decided to leave it in....sadly the aircon lines ran through where my supercharger lives....so its cool air in the car or boost......since its a day to day car its cool air (yes I can hear you screaming cop out!) Speaking of which I have some new aircon lines I've got made up so I can have the supercharger and cool air....I'll get round to it in a few weeks (or months knowing me)

On the suspension front, well its all worked over, new springs (with diffrent rates) shocks etc. Modded suspension links and swaybar pickups. While its not that crash hot its at least predictable. Much better than before.....still I think I'll have to tone down the front swaybar rate it seems to plough into corners a bit too much.....it either plough understeer or snap oversteer....nice! BTW my idea of a good cornering car is a little diffrent to most people, but in the general scheme of things its not toooooooooo bad. The rear suspension springs are off a Alfa Romeo 75...

And yes the damn thing wants to go sideways.....it seems to have a magnetic atttraction to trees, (kanga)roo's (which are much harder and cause more damage than you think!) and powerpoles. Remember this is from the same people who gave you the Monaro ;)

Brakes are standard VL turbo items (Corvette) with a diffrent master cylinder to give me a bit more feel (7/8th) Normal rear disc brakes out back with the handbrake that only works 3 times before requireing a cable re-tension. Yep. Good on ya GM :S Still I take solice in the fact that the Australian built R31 Skyline of the same era's handbrake mech is worse, and every other local car sold here had the same setup! :rolleyes:

I have a pile of bits and pieces I've got to get around to putting in the car, one being a complete Mazda 929 V6 IRS multilink (I think I've deluded myself into thinking I can make it fit, yet another useless battle ) rear end and (more importantly) a Alfa Romeo 75 Power assisted steering rack in a attempt to at least give me some steering feel. However More steering feel means more steering kickback on really really bad Australian roads. Car companys make steering soft and give it no feel for a reason guys......However I'm wondering if the amount of steering feel you get is a function of the angle of the rack/colum, the amount and type of universals or the amount of Hydraulic assistance? I'm not sure, still a HDT Brock VL Calais I drove had wonderful feel. I'll have to get around to borrowing another set of front wheels to check if it is the tyres.....

And I riced out and got a badge of a Supercharged Toyota Crown.....I think I'm allowed to have one bit of rice!!!!


So yes its my lost cause car that I keep to get everybody upset and tow the Alfa Romeo on when it breaks down, I just love the scorn it generates from my mates with their Japanese boxes, and it is quick enough around the twisties to supprise and upset the odd person :p I'll get the camera out and take some happy snaps of that sometime....
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On a side note, since this kind of pertinent: Watched a show on SPEED channel (USA based motorsprorts programming) and I watched highlights from the 2006 Adelaide Rally! Beautiful area you live in, and one the fastest on the rally was a 1980 Holden Commodore. Car looked wicked when it went sideways.

And that was interesting info you posted! Thanks!
Great write-up! ... It seems that an entire Smurf village was slaughtered inside your car. :p

*OCD ON* The auto brake pedal reveals the car's history! *OCD OFF*
Great write-up! ... It seems that an entire Smurf village was slaughtered inside your car. :p

*OCD ON* The auto brake pedal reveals the car's history! *OCD OFF*

Hahaha I never did think of that :D lol, the photo makes the interior look so much brighter than it is.....so whatcha reckon I put a smurf doll with a hangmans noose on him and hang him on the rear vision mirror?

Yeah, do you know how much fun it is to convert a pedal box from auto to manual IN THE CAR? Still given this cars mixed GM/Nissan heritage some parts to do the conversion are very very rare, for example the cluch master cylinder......uh......I have a spare kindney here and are willing to swap for a spare one :p

I've got to get some good piccys of the Alfa's tho......