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Old 06-03-13, 17:21   #38
NZ_GTS's Avatar
Join Date: 15-07-04
Location: NZ, Auckland
Car: '87 VL GTS Cherry Black Mica with RB25DET inside
Trader Rating: (0)
Epic build story

2004 - When it all started...

I've always loved cars, but after owning a couple of boring sh1t boxes I decided it was time for something with a bit more grunt. Commodores have long appealed to me so I started looking for something in my price range. It was around this time that I stumbled upon this website, and that's when the trouble started... It was actually the cruelly named "Plastic Pig" - a.k.a. the Walkinshaw, that really got me hooked. Having moved to NZ from the UK I had never seen anything like the Walky before; I love the in-your-face styling so I decided that a Walkinshaw replica was my goal.
After a lot of searching and saving for a VL, I finally found one. The car was a relatively tidy RB30 manual owned by a Westie sheila who worked in a wrecking yard (no sh1t!). I went to see the car, and she took me for a drive, including high-speed motorway blast. Only after asking several times for a test drive did she let me behind the wheel. A week later it was mine.
My car is (was!) a VL GTS something the previous owner had convinced me that was special. Many hours of interweb searches followed to see whether I should mess with this 'rare' model. The searches turned up very little. From what I could tell it was a limited edition model built to try and move old stock (the release of the VN wouldn't have been far away at this time). Fairly common in NZ, I can hear the Aussies asking what the fcuk is a GTS? This is what I know; They were a limited run of 300 units. All the cars were single tone, red or white. They had a few exclusive parts such as a unique interior trim, Momo steering wheel, trick alloys, GTS badging (looks like a left over Monaro badge and it's date stamped 1978!),letter box grill, front lip spoiler and a rear bobtail. An 80s cool 'Commodore' taillight filler panel (also used on VK GTS's) rounded out the modifications. Rumours suggested motor and suspension tweaks, but both are false.
At this point, the car was pretty much stock save for the 16 inch OZ wheels and lowered springs. With the idea of a Walkinshaw firmly implanted in my mind, I started researching all I could about the body kit. Being young and naive, I thought the 114kW output of the RB30 was ripper, so the plan was to buy and fit a Walky kit, then repaint the car in Panorama Silver. However my plans ground to a halt when I saw the price of the body kit; $4000! - it was almost as much as I had paid for the car! I decided to rethink my plans.
At this point, I should explain that I had recently started a new job - a dream job you might say. I am an automotive photographer for a leading NZ car magazine, so not only do I get to photograph all the brand new cars released to the market, I also get to drive them. Until starting this job, I had driven about ten different cars in total. So my actual driving experiences had been fairly limited, and it would be fair to say that I was more interested in show than go. This job changed everything. Spoiled by driving new cars with four or five times the power of my Commodore I started to realise that a Walkinshaw replica with a stock RB30 simply wasn't gonna cut it. My savings went into overdrive as I realised that I not only wanted a quicker car, but also one that could handle. Using this site as my starting point, I started to look into engine and styling options. I decided that a six cylinder Walky would be blasphemous, so a V8 transplant would be in order. After drawing up a budget I realised there was no way I could extract what I considered to be reasonable power out of a V8 for the money I had to spend. I looked at adding a turbo to the existing RB30, but came to the same conclusion. I should point out that the NZ section on Calais Turbo was pretty quiet and only had a few members at this stage. There was bugger all info about boosting the RB30 in NZ, and my mechanic just asked how deep my pockets were! However, the RB25DET conversion had cropped up in my searches, and the more I read about it, the more I realised that this was the engine for me. With 205kW from the factory, and plenty of aftermarket parts available, the RB25DET conversion was a no brainer.
One of the biggest motivators for this project was that up until this point, my only mechanical experience was an oil change. This lack of knowledge frustrated me, and I realised that the only way to fix this was to throw myself in the deep end and attempt a ground up rebuild on the VL.

The GTS shortly after purchase

Interior trim was unique to the GTS. Speaker pods in front doors were one of the first mods I did. Pods were constructed from MDF and fibreglass

Moulded parcel shelf was also built by myself, and is still in the vehicle today

Group A rear spoiler was fitted at the same time the rear window rust was fixed. Also pictured is the unique taillight filler panel

GTS badge

2006-2007 - Stripping her bare

With a budget drawn up, and a 'healthy' savings account I purchased new daily driver - a well loved Honda Accord complete with tow bar. It wasn't flash, but it just had to last the six months or so that the rebuild was going to take. That was December 2006...
The more I surfed the net and read magazines, the more ideas I had, and the more my project evolved. I hate doing half ar5ed jobs, so the VL was going to be no exception. Christmas holidays came around and I got to work, stripping everything I could off of the car. I decided to go for a bare metal respray, so preparation for sand blasting began. A mate turned up with an engine lifter and we pulled out the old donk and pushed it into the corner of the garage, where it remained for the next few years - much to the annoyance of my mother.

The stripping begins

The old dirty thirty

Removing the RB30

Test fitting a dent free front guard

A rather empty looking engine bay

The long nights in the garage were one of the most enjoyable parts of the build. I would tinkering away into the small hours of the morning twirling spanners and sucking back beers. Everything I removed was bagged, tagged and stacked neatly into boxes. I have the unfortunate knack of being able to pull things apart and not being able to get them back together again, so I was determined the VL wouldn't suffer this fate! The last part of the stripping process was also the hardest; removing the doors. I'd read all the forum threads, followed all the instructions, bought the tool, but the b4stards wouldn't budge. It took a hell of a lot of hammering and swearing to remove them, and I absolutely destroyed the tool in the process, but after a few nights work, I finally had all four doors on the floor.

Interior out, new parts waiting to be fitted line the shed walls

Dirty drum brake diff awaiting removal

Reconditioned disk brake diff waiting to be fitted

Rear wheel well prior to painting

Fresh coat of underseal applied

Empty inside

I would have been much better off financially if I hadn't consumed so many of these on the job!

VL brakes binned

VT front brakes and adapter hubs fitted

Side by side comparison of VL and VT brakes.

First door off!

A very empty front end

All doors off!

First lot of parts removed

More parts removed!

Bagged and tagged!
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