Holden VC Commodore Project: Post-Mortem - Our Shed

By: David Morley

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Man discovers rust free Commodore Hold the front page Man discovers rust free Commodore Hold the front page

It drove okay on the way home, but all would be revealed when Morley put the VC Commodore up on the hoist

Buyer’s remorse: It’s an all-too common condition. There are several causes. Sometimes it’s brought on by buying the wrong make and model for your needs. Other times, the cause is paying too much for what you got. Yet other times, the malady is simply the result of accidentally swapping useful cash for a pile of crap.

If you’re a smart buyer, you’ll take the time to make a full inspection of the car in question and leave nothing to chance. I’m not that guy. Especially when it’s a two-grand Commodore that’s destined to be bashed into hay-bales and revved stupid at every opportunity in the name of budget motorsport (assuming such a thing exists). I just wanted to tape the unregistered-vehicle permit to the windscreen and get the hell out of the seller’s driveway before he changed his mind. Or I changed mine.

Hardly -an -oil -leak -to -be -seen .-Hardly

She's pretty oil-tight. Hardly an oil leak to be seen. Hardly...

So it wasn’t until me and Project Duckshit were back at the Melbourne Bloke Centre that I could stick the brown VC up on the hoist and have a good scratch around and see what I’d REALLY bought. It didn’t take me more than a few minutes with a torch and screwdriver to establish that I’d scored a good `un. In fact, the only thing I didn’t pick in the bloke’s driveway was the small crack in the floorpan where the driver’s seat outside runner flexes and stresses the metal over the years. As it goes, this caused minimal buyer’s remorse. Also, I reckon just about every VB/VC/VH Commodore left in the world would have the same crack in the pan. And, since it’s a simple weld-up fix, I’m anything but bothered.

Active -exhausts -are -clearly -not -new .-Here 's -one -with -active -tinworm

Dud mufler. Active exhausts are clearly not new. Here's one with active tinworm

But what else did my post-mortem show up? Pretty much all good news and not much in the `bad’ column. On the good side of the ledger, the car is remarkably straight and has no rust. Anywhere. None. Nothing, Nada. Zip. (Which almost makes it too good to sentence to a future life of punishment as my race-car. Almost.) The engine is tight and doesn’t blow smoke, run rough or leak oil and it starts easily first hit of the key. This is good, because it more or less means I can use the stock engine with just a carby, some pipes and maybe a camshaft, and get racing earlier than I could if I had to wait for a new engine to be assembled in my brother’s workshop where about a thousand paying-customers’ engines would doubtless jump the queue.

Stuffed -and -(barely )-mounted

Well-stuffed engine mount to go

The gearbox and diff are also leak-free and run quietly, suggesting that they’re sound. But we’ll see. The gearshift feels tight but smooth, and the clutch doesn’t slip. Its friction-point is well defined and feels to be in the right spot in the pedal’s travel.

Most significantly, this car steers like a brand-new 1980 Commodore (stay with me). There’s no power-steering (nor does it need it) but it points accurately and holds a line better than many a newer car. Yeah, the standard placky wheel is awful but Momo does a nice fix for that, and it remains that the drive home revealed the nicest steering early Commodore I’ve ever driven , thanks to its brand spanking new rack.

This -used -to -be -a -diff -drain -plug .-Somebody -did -this .-I-wish -to -hurt -them

This used to be a diff drain plug

So what’s wrong with the Brown Bomber? Little things, mainly, and stuff that I would replace anyway in the transformation from Grandad-spec Commy to trophy-hunter. The seat-belts, for instance are frayed and faded but will be replaced by a harness anyhow. The engine mounts are stuffed but they were destined to be replaced by solid mounts, too.
There are a few worn suspension bushes, but since I’ll be going through the whole car and replacing every one with urethane bushes, that is of no consequence either. And the rusted rear muffler? Ha! Who cares when the plan is to run a straight-through system that exits in front of the rear wheel, side-pipe style.

You -really -shouldn 't -be -able -to -see -daylight -through -the -floorpan .-But -it 's -just -a -c -rack .-They -all -do -that .-Honest

Floorplan stress 101. You really shouldn't be able to see daylight through the floorplan. But it's just a c-crack. They all do that. Honest

The plan from here on in is to get the thing ready to be CAMS logbooked (and we’ll detail that process as part of this journey we’re all taking) which involves adding the safety stuff like a roll-cage, race-seat and harness. Oh, and all the other ‘little’ bits and pieces like an ignition cut-out, bonnet pins, tow-hooks… You know the drill.

Doing the full fluid and filter change will have to wait until I can remove the fill plug from the diff. Some moron has mullered the head of it so badly, another moron has welded something on to it to undo it. This moron will have to come up with something similar, but I won’t be dopey enough to re-use the damaged plug like moron two did.

No ,-said -the -roadworthy -inspector ,-I'm -a -frayed -knot

A high-mileage seatbelt, anyone?

But before any of that happens, the Commy is going on a diet to see how many kilos we can ditch to improve that torque-to-weight ratio. First, the heavy-as-lead air-con goes and then we work backwards, stripping the interior of non-essentials. Of course, the REAL next step is to down tools, pick up the CAMS Manual of Motorsport and get a handle on what’s required. No point tearing something out that then has to be replaced.

Other important decisions need to be made. Stuff like wheel and tyre sizes (the answer isn’t as obvious as you’d think) and whether to make the suspension soft and supple or rock hard (again, it aint always the obvious choice for a hillclimber). And where does the battery mount? And can the radiator be moved back a few inches for a more centralised mass?

Bring it on!

 

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