Some would say that Mike Bari likes cars. Others would say he loves cars. I would say he has a downright dirty filthy lust for cars. Mike has been around V8-powered vehicles for most of his life. He has pedalled some pretty quick rides since his sick habit began, including a tubbed HQ ute, a nine-second street Capri, a GTS Monaro and countless Commodores. His current daily driver is a six-speed VZ Crewman. Mike is the owner of Autocare Services in Penrose, Auckland, and specialises in mechanical servicing and repairs, so he’s no stranger to what makes a car tick. Whether it is modern or classic, original or highly modified, Mike has his finger on the pulse.
You would think with all the cars Mike’s had over the years that maybe he had managed to own his dream car at some stage. And he would agree that many of his cars were what dreams are made of, but he had a yearning for something else. Mike wanted to get a mid-’80s Commodore, but it had to exude a pure grunt attitude while still being street-able. The VK was a model Mike had long admired, and had already drawn up mental pictures of what he would do when he found the right one.
He decided to browse the pages of Trade Me to see what was up for grabs. Finding this particular VK in Whitianga, Mike decided it was the one. After all, being a one-owner car with the old four-cylinder motor in it, the price was right and the body was tidy. Naturally the motor and most remaining running gear would be ditched in favour of a much tastier combination, so this VK was the perfect sacrifice. As you see it here in the pages of NZV8, the VK was a nine-month build. Clearly Mike doesn’t muck around.
The old motor was given the flick and the remainder of the car was literally gutted to create space to work his magic. Knowing the VK was going to be a powermonger, the old front and rear ends had to be sorted quick smart. The front end was equipped with an adjustable sway bar, and the rear was set up with an adjustable track locater. Meanwhile, Koni shocks were utilised at all corners. The front struts are coil-over adjustable units, and the rears are also adjustable, with spring plates.
With all that power, braking would obviously be an issue, so VZ callipers were fitted to 330mm rotors and mounted to alloy hats. VZ callipers are also used in the rear, with VN Group¯A vented rear rotors. Stopping is now in no way an issue for the VK, although Mike still prefers to be moving forward as fast as possible.
Before going too much further, Mike decided to get the engine bay prepared for the ‘slightly modified’ 304ci, PFI, so he smoothed the firewall and ran new brake lines and trans cooler pipes.
A Little Crazy
Then it was time for that 304ci motor to get some serious attention. The block was blueprinted before being filled with stock pistons, rods and crank. A Crane cam found a new home in the top end, along with new roller rockers and springs. All the mains and head studs were also replaced. Mike had some mid ’90s PFI heads rebuilt, and put them to work.
Sitting on top of it all there’s a Max Wedge inlet manifold that is the foundation for the Weiand 6-71 blower. The blower is set up to deliver 11psi of boost, and when I asked Mike if it was under-driven or over-driven, he replied, “Under-driven”. So I asked “How much by?” His response was, “I don’t know; it does good skids and it goes like snot, what else matters?” Then he just laughed maniacally down the phone until I hung up, wondering if he was actually a little crazy.
Mike now grips onto a Momo steering wheel and selects gears with a B&M Pro Ratchet shifter. A couple of Auto Meter gauges have been installed to keep an eye on boost and fuel pressure when Mike’s giving the VK the boot. The remaining factory gauges have been modified to read the V8 as opposed to the old four-cylinder donk, thus making sure Mike doesn’t end up contributing large sums of cash as a part of the police quota (although it apparently doesn’t exist. Yeah right). As far as sounds go, Mike proudly admits he has done a half-arsed job of installing a stereo.
He got as far as fitting some Pioneer speakers and a Fusion amplifier, but realized he wouldn’t really use the stereo much, so the factory cassette deck remains. Mike rightfully points out, “Who gives a shit about listening to music when I have a supercharged 304 to listen to?” Fair enough comment, I reckon. So it would appear that the VK is finally complete. Can life now return to normal? No way. Though work and family consume much of Mike’s spare time, there is always a plan for the next ride to grace the shed.
And many beers to be consumed while hanging out with mates and turning spanners. No sir, I don’t think there is any immediate cure for Mike’s sick habit.
Fuel from the VN fuel tank that’s been fitted is pulled up through half-inch fuel lines by a Mallory 140 fuel pump. A billet fuel filter cleanses the fuel before feeding a hungry pair of Silver Series 600cfm double pumpers. Kicking the 304ci into life is a full MSD ignition package including distributor, coil, leads and an MSD6BTM. Once the VK is on the streets and being given a bit of encouragement, the gasses push through a pair of Pacemaker headers into 2.5-inch pipes, which then feed into a single three-inch exhaust with Lukey mufflers to set the tone.
With the engine bay now full, detail work was performed to clean up the visuals when the hood is lifted. The bay was de-loomed and braided lines used throughout to maximise that clean appearance.
A triple flow radiator with twin fans hides nicely behind the grille, and keeps the fire-breathing V8 at consistent temperatures whether cruising the street or being driven hard.
Behind The Twisted Mind
Harnessing the power from the blown 304 required a tough trans, and a Turbo¯350 was the choice made. The Turbo¯350 was shift kitted, and has a 3500rpm stall converter. This spins the driveshaft into a Ford nine-inch rear with an Eaton Detroit Locker with a 3.5:1 ratio and 28-spline VN axles. Mike would have to give the VK a fair bit of grief to destroy this combo, and he gives it a go from time to time but hasn’t killed it — yet.
Although the VK body was relatively straight, it was in no way up to Mike’s standards, so he decided to send it around the corner to Autocare Panelbeaters to be sorted out. But not before he made a few changes. Mike knew he would put more rubber under the guards than the factory ever intended, so he semi-tubbed the rear to allow room for his proposed tyre choice.
Once happy with his modifications, Mike let Shane Fletcher take care of getting the body straight, before laying on the Holden Phantom Mica hue. The result is a 100-mile deep shade of black which can be used as a mirror to do your hair when getting ready to have a few beers in town with the boys, er, I mean to serve as a screen to watch Toy Story with the kids at home while drinking lemonade. Yeah, that sounds better.
With the body back and looking a million bucks, it was time to sort out a wheel and tyre combo. Mike already had a good idea of the look he wanted to achieve with a classic set of polished FR¯Simmons, so it mainly came down to what size wheel to go for. After tossing the coin a few times the 19-inch option came up the winner. Hankook was the sole tyre of choice, with 225/35R19s wrapped around the 19 by 7.5-inch rims on the front, and 275/30R19s taking care of the 19 by 10s out the back.
Mental Health Check List
Right, now, what to do next? Check the list. Chassis. Check. Suspension. Check. Supercharged engine. Check. Body and paint. Check. Wheels and tyres. Check. Interior. Aha.
Yep, that old interior needed to get the once over. Well, most of it did, anyway. The old front seats were thrown to the side and new Recaro buckets now take pride of place.
Mike decided to have the interior completely trimmed in tan. Colin at D&G Auto Upholstery was the man for the task, and he got stuck in and did a minter job. The Recaros were stripped and re-covered, and while at it the head rests from the rear seats were lopped off to increase vision out the rear window.
1987 VK Holden
Engine: 304ci (4997cc) Holden, blueprinted, Crane cam, PFI heads, Max wedge inlet manifold, Weiand 6-71 blower, Mallory 140 fuel pump, Silver Series 600cfm carbs, MSD distributor, coil, leads, MSD 6BTM, Pacemaker headers
Driveline: Turbo 350, shift kitted, 3500rpm stall converter, Ford nine-inch rear, Eaton Detroit Locker, 28-spline VN axles, 3.5:1 ratio
Suspension: Adjustable front sway bar, Koni coil-over adjustable shocks, adjustable track locater, adjustable coil-over struts with spring plates
Brakes: VZ callipers, 330mm front rotors, alloy hats, VN Group A vented rear rotors.
Wheels/tyres: 19×7.5 and 19×10 Simmons FR rims, 225/35R19 and 275/30R19 Hankook tyres
Interior: Recaro bucket seats, tan retrim, Momo steering wheel, B&M Pro ratchet shifter, Auto Meter boost and fuel pressure gauges, Pioneer speakers, Fusion amplifier, factory radio/ cassette deck
Performance: Approx 550Hp
Age: 3476 Beers
Occupation: Owner Autocare Services (Penrose)
Previously owned cars: Tubbed HQ ute, a nine-second street Capri, a GTS Monaro and countless Commodores
Dream car: 1978 Lada Niva
Length of ownership: 10 months
Build time: Nine months
Why the VK? I had been wanting a new streeter for a while, and a VK was always on the list to do one day.
Mike thanks: His wife Traci and their kids Madison and Caden, Shane Fletcher, Keith Hughes, Richard Tuthill (for having a less cool car than Mike’s), Carl Jensen, C&M Performance (09¯525¯3928), Pete at ADL Mt Wellington (09¯573¯5717), Autocare Panelbeaters (09¯634¯1840) and Autocare Services (09¯525¯1508)
Words: Ricki Wood Pics: Jared Clark