The world’s biggest sport compact drag event was the main focus of my whirlwind trip to Queensland last month, but before I even set foot on Australian terra firma, I knew I needed to bring back at least one feature from the Land Down Under. A machine that truly captured the essence of the Brisbane Jamboree, and the unique car-building culture that its foundations have been built upon.
With more than 200 vehicles lined up to race, the majority of which were fast, powerful and beautifully presented, I certainly had my work cut out for me. But from the moment I saw Spot On Performance & Fabrications’ workshop wagon hunker down on its haunches, then disappear down the strip set to a sweet turbocharged, Japanese six-cylinder soundtrack, my mind was absolutely made up.
As I alluded to in my J23 coverage, cross-bred creations like Spot On’s wild-eyed green machine are in no shortage in this corner of the world. What I really like about this particular marriage though, is the mix: one part stock-chassis 1987 Holden Calais VL, one part hard-tuned turbocharged Toyota 2JZ. And some nitrous oxide to boot.
Apart from the Calais’ ability to turn rubber to smoke at the slightest provocation – something that rightfully earned it the ‘Biggest Burnout’ award at this year’s event (and previously too I might add) – the fact that it turns 8-second quarters put a smile on my face. Based on the reception the wagon received every time the loud pedal was mashed and the rear tyres lit, I wasn’t the only one wearing a grin.
The Holden VL is a popular tuning platform in Australia, with two schools of modification generally applied. More likely than not, owners stick with the original script born from the country’s long history of touring car racing by the way of GM-Holden or Chevrolet V8 firepower. On the other side of the coin, are those who prefer to build on Holden’s association with Nissan in building the VL, and go to town on the RB30-based engines the six-cylinder versions were factory-equipped with.
The latter is where the story behind the Calais wagon actually begins, as the two guys behind Spot On, Andrew Coles and Danny Lansdowne, originally worked on the VL when it was a street car owned by their friend Josh Sawyer and running a turbocharged Nissan RB30 engine.
Josh had plans to develop the package for drag racing, but nothing ever really came to fruition until the idea of a joint venture between the three was floated a few years ago. Once that happened, the VL quickly evolved from a tough RB-powered streeter to a serious 2JZ-powered quarter mile contender.
Cutting up the chassis in favour of tube framing was never on the agenda. Instead, Spot On retained the Holden’s factory chassis and bodywork (save for the hood scoop, and Lexan side and rear windows) and fit 10.5-inch wide tyres under the rear end to satisfy its chosen class regulations.Building an 840whp powerhouse
As you can see, a little work was undertaken in the engine room too. Given the Holden VL’s official tie to the Nissan RB, the Toyota 2JZ-GTE might seem a little out of place here, but using a heavy old Holden wagon from the late ’80s as a base, the build was never going to be about conformity. For a machine capable of cutting low 8-second quarters with relative ease, the engine set-up is remarkably uncomplicated.
The 3.0-litre six-cylinder bottom still retains its factory-spec crankshaft, and save for a 20-thou overbore, hone, and a grout-fill to the Welch plugs (to reduce the cooling system capacity and strengthen), the block has only been upgraded with JE forged pistons and Spool 4340 rods. Up top, the DOHC 24-valve cylinder head features a mild port job and Crower drag-spec camshafts fitted with adjustable gears.
It’s the turbo, however, that commands your attention, but you probably already figured that out for yourself. Fed from a custom Spot On intake pipe that sucks fresh air from the void left by removing the driver side headlight, the Garrett GT47R sits on a Spot On exhaust manifold, with boost controlled through a TiAL 60mm wastegate.
The GT47R is a good match for the 2JZ, but right now – with 33psi jammed through it – you could say it’s hardly breaking a sweat. The second power adder in the equation comes in the form of a big purple bottle of ZEX nitrous oxide, but unlike the giant Garrett compressor which force-feeds the engine all of the way through its brutal powerband, the N2O is only used to build boost on the transbrake with a short, sharp shot of gas.
Methanol might be the fuel of choice for Australia’s quickest and fastest 2JZ-powered machines, but the Spot On Calais gets the job done on high octane Powerplus E85+. Although the 110+RON ethanol-based fuel runs cool, a large PWR intercooler plumbed up front via Spot On custom pipes helps keep intake temperatures to a minimum. Given how warm it gets in Queensland, the engine needs all the help it can get.
In its current configuration and ‘safe tune’ via a MicroTech LT-16C engine management system, the 2JZ is pushing 840hp to the rear wheels, so it’s quite easy to assume that close to 1000 rampant ponies are being generated at the crank. That’s a lot in anyone’s language, but according to Andy and Danny – both guys well-versed in high horsepower engine building – right now they’re only scratching the surface of its capabilities. As they get more of a handle on the VL, extra boost will be progressively fed into the straight-six until 50psi-plus of the good stuff is flowing through its veins.
Whatever the pair end up throwing at it in the future, they’ve got a good base to work from. The chassis runs straight and true, and a quick peak underneath the wagon reveals a driveline that’s been designed and engineered for utmost strength and reliability.
See what I mean? What begins with a Mark Stevens Motorsport race-prepped two-speed GM Powerglide transmission rounds out with a custom nine-inch rear end featuring a Strange Engineering center with 3.55 gears and bullet-proof 35-spline axles.
Race Products full floater hubs in 7075 billet aluminium are also used, as are Weld Racing Alumastar 2.0 wheels front and rear – the latter measuring 15×10-inch and wrapped in 28.0/10.5-15 Mickey Thompson ET Drag slicks.
According to Andrew and Danny there’s still a little bit of set-up work to do, but with quality gear throughout, including QA1 coilovers at all four corners, progress is made with every squirt down the strip. At J23 the team’s efforts were rewarded when Danny set a new PB of 8.34 at 164mph (264km/h).
Gunning for 7s
As you’d expect in a build of this nature, the interior fit-out is purely functional. Along with the obvious gutting, there’s a Wilwood pedal box in the mix, along with a host of Auto Meter gauges, a Turbosmart e-Boost II electronic boost controller/meter and a Stewart Warner drag tachometer with shift light. The guys could have easily bent-up an alloy dash, but I kind of like the fact the original and oh-so-’80s plastic panel has been retained. It’s a nice tie-in to the wagon’s 95 percent factory-true bodywork and original – although now slightly deranged – DNA. For those of you with a keen eye, yes, that is women’s lingerie hanging from the parachute release mechanism. A lucky charm perhaps? I forgot to ask…
Once first gear has been engaged and Danny’s holding it on the trans-brake, boost pent up behind it, one single pull-back on the B&M Pro Ratchet shifter is all it takes to get the VL down the 1320. More of Spot On’s fabrication talents can been seen in the custom switch box that’s been positioned at easy reach.
Although the Calais started out life as a high-spec tourer, there’s little need for a map book in the glove box these days. Instead, it’s the perfect place to house the engine’s aftermarket electronics, including the MicroTech ECU and a pair of M&W PRO-Drag6 capacitor discharge ignition units.
There’s little place for passengers, but still plenty of room for luggage throughout the expansive interior space, should the need ever arise. From this angle you get a good look at the hand-formed steel mini-tubs required to sufficiently house the 10.5 tyres, and the ANDRA-spec roll cage that was fabricated in-house.
An aluminium race seat and harness between bar work beats leather-wrapped chairs any day, right? The guys at Spot On certainly think so.
As unlikely as the combination of Holden station wagon, a nitrous-assisted Toyota 2JZ and drag racing might seem, bearing witness to the outcome at very close range is what drew me towards the machine in the first place. See for yourself through this clip from a pre-Jamboree test session from the guys at DragImportMedia.
On the hunt for quick ETs and faster trap speeds, the limiting factor of the set-up is the stock chassis. In saying that though, with improved launches out of the hole, quicker 60-foot times and that extra 50 percent boost pressure I was talking about, Danny is confident that a high 7-second pass is totally attainable in the current configuration.
Given the PB pass I witnessed Danny reel off at J23, I don’t think it will be all that long before this mean, green machine substantiates the claim. In the meantime, Spot On has a brand new straight-liner to concentrate on – this time with Andrew on smoke duty. But that stroked and twin turbocharged 427ci Chevrolet LSX-powered LJ Holden Torana will have to wait until my next visit…