Building an 11s Commodore as cheaply & smartly as possible

Building an 11s Commodore as cheaply & smartly as possible

Author: Steve Bennett

This article aims to show you how to build a sub12s Commodore cheaply that you can have fun racing at your nearest drag strip.

Step 1 - Purchase the car.

Find ideally an SV8, VY Berlina or Calais automatic LS1. The Berlina & Calais have softer suspension and often the Calais and Berlina have been treated a bit better than the other models. The softer suspension means they will push the nose up better and put more weight on the rear types. The VY has better rear end geometry than the earlier models and this will avoid you needing to install a camber kit in the rear end.  It is better though if the car has a LSD centre in its diff though. So watch out for that.

These are listed on redbook as being valued at $7,500 - $9,500 for km typically between 150,000 - 275,000.

Step 2 - Source and install the parts

-Required is a full exhaust with metal cats. There are not huge differences in performance, mostly just sound. There are pros and cons related to the differents sizes, but we prefer 4 into 1s and mostly anything IS better than the HSV headers.

-Cam upgrade with dual springs, moly pushrods - also install new lifters since these cars have done high km now and their lifters are old. This will also require new head gaskets and head bolts.

-A stall converter is required. We import a very effective USA brand that helped our car do 1.500 60 footers and even did 1.57 60 footers in our last low budget ls1. Its mandatory that a good trans cooler is also fitted.

-It would be better to also install 3.45 or 3.73 or 3.91 diff gears. The 3.45 are more common to source second hand cheaply. Our preference is 3.73 as it is low enough when matched with a good high stall converter and will have enough legs if you want to go much faster later.  On our last low budget ls1 the car ran 11.8 with 3.07 (standard diff gears) and a high stall , then later when the diff gears were swapped to 3.91 the car only ran 11.7.

-Get the car dyno tuned. Our White VX when it was an LS1 dyno was around 270 rwkw and it ran a best of 11.7/114mph at full weight with a 1.57 60 footer.

Step 3 - Source the right tyres.

We recommend chaser 15" rims and Mickey Thompson Drag Radials part 3752R. These will give you up to 100 passes at the strip and we have run as fast as 1.52 to 60 feet on them in a Commodore. Keep it simple by just changing the rear tyres as you can then drive to the track , change the rears and race or even drive there with them on. The moment you change to needing to swap all four tyres you then make the preparation at the track much harder and your support crew needs to be larger to store the street wheels while you race.

Step 4 - Test the car

 Test the car at the strip and see if it requires any suspension changes. This is where the softer suspension in the Calais and Berlina may be an advantage. If you havent ever raced with drag radials before, you will be amazed at how the car will launch if you warm the tyres up just right. They need around 20 psi cold at the strip. If you drive there with them on have them at 35psi and let the air out at the track. The basics of the burnout are get the tyres moving fast before you move out of the wet pre-burnout area. The real burnout happens when the tyres are on the dry track. Get the car into 3rd gear in the water and try to only push the throttle once (no blurting on and off the throttle). Burnouts in 1st gear will not work and will also risk damaging your cars limit slip diff. If one tyre grabs the track and the other one doesn't your LSD wilkl be damaged. The way to prevent this is to have your tyres both spinning fast and then they will less likely grab the track. Aim for 140kph+ in 3rd before you hit the dry track and then try to get 1-2s in the dry before you let off the brakes and drive your car outward with both tyres blazing!