BACK IN BLACK – 1982 VH COMMODORE

It’s undergone quite a few changes in the 21 years he’s owned it, but Shane Platts’s VH SL/E Commodore is still his first love. Like all first loves, it has ripped out his heart a time or two, but it’s a bond that’s tough to break.

“I bought it with my dad back in 1998 when I was 16,” the West Australian says. “The paint was shit on the roof, boot and bonnet, so we just ripped into it in the shed. Neither of us had any idea how to paint. Dad had some painter friends and we sort of did it over the phone, asking questions. We repainted it in the original blue and silver and I drove it around like that for a couple of years.”

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It was running a factory 253 and auto, but Shane was dead keen on getting into the burnout scene. “I’d been looking at burnout stuff from the age of five, watching it on VHS videotapes,” he says. “I painted it purple and silver and that’s when I put the first of many 308s into it.” It wasn’t that they kept blowing up; Shane was just chasing more power.

“I wanted to step it up again, so that’s when I went to a 355 stroker combo, but that kept smoking big-end bearings all the time, so I bit the bullet and decided it was time to go Chev.”

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Shane’s first Chevy combo was a 383 with an 8/71 and a couple of 750cfm methanol carbs on it, hence the MR METH plates that the car still wears. But that first foray into the world of blown methanol engines wasn’t without drama.

“It was back in the day when we would just dump the exhaust at the diff,” Shane recalls. “I had an exhaust fire and it melted the whole arse-end of the car.”

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All those teething problems were eventually sorted and Shane skidded the VH for years. Then he went to UBC in 2011, finishing in the Top 10 but melting a piston in the process. If you were at the event but can’t remember the car, that’s because it looked completely different, sporting a candy pink paintjob. Shane’s not sure what he was thinking when he decided on the colour, but suggests he may have watched too many Clint Ogilvie burnouts.

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After that, the Commodore sat in the shed for a couple of years before Shane decided to redo the car for Summernats 26. “It was the end of September and a heap of guys from Perth were going across, so I got in the shed and started stripping the paint off it,” he says. With the event just three months away, you’d think Shane was just going to throw a jam job on the car and call it done, but nope, that’s not what happened at all.

Almost two of the three months were used up doing panel and paint. With three paintjobs under his belt, plus a little bit of formal training, Shane was confident enough to paint the car black. “After the first paintjob I did with my old man, I went and got a panel-beating apprenticeship,” he explains. “I did it for a year but realised it wasn’t the job for me. I love doing it at home, but I didn’t want to do it for a full-time job. I’ve got heaps of mates now who just go: ‘Can you just paint these quarter panels for me?’ Over the past 20 years I’ve taught myself, and I don’t want to talk myself up, but I’m all right now.”

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The paintwork wasn’t the only job Shane tackled in the very short lead-up to Summernats. He’d always wanted to go to Summernats and was keen to rock up with a completely new car. “I chopped the boot floor out, put rails in it, rolled up some tubs and did all the rear suspension in between putting the new motor together with Derek from Paulik Engines. It was last-minute, and I only fired it up as I was putting it on the truck. When I got to Summernats it didn’t even have a tune; I hadn’t put it on the dyno or anything, so I just cruised around, didn’t even do a burnout.”

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Shane didn’t muck around with this new engine, starting off with a Dart Little M block filled with Eagle rods, Diamond pistons and a Lunati four-inch stroker crank. The small-block isn’t so small anymore and now measures up at 427ci, and you’ve got to fill up all that empty space somehow, so a set of AFR 220 race-ready heads make sure the 8/71 doesn’t suffer any restrictions. The Enderle ‘barn door’ injector hat is a cool touch and a refreshing change from the aptly named Big & Uglys out there. The exhaust side is just as impressive, with 2.25-inch primaries on the four-into-one headers feeding into a twin 3.5-inch exhaust.

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The rest of the driveline is as you’d expect, the bulletproof and time-honoured combination of a Powerglide and nine-inch. Chris Dimoff at DTM Transmissions put together the ’Glide with all the good bits and Steve from Converter Services sorted out a 3500 stally. Phil Purser at Final Drive filled the diff with 35-spline axles and 3.0 gears to make sure there’s plenty of wheel speed on the burnout pad.

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The car also copped a new interior, with the luxurious SL/E-spec velour making way for cream leather. Troy at Southside Motor Trimmers worked his arse off getting the car done in time for Summernats, retrimming a set of VT Commodore buckets that have had their headrests removed. The rear seat was custom-built to fit around the tubs, and the dash and console vinyl was sprayed to match the leather. An Auto Meter tacho and trio of auxiliary gauges keep tabs on everything, and a Billet Specialties wheel replaces the iconic single-spoker.

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After sinking many thousands of dollars into the VH and just making it to Summernats 26 by the skin of his teeth, and with a bub on the way, Shane needed a bit of a break from the car. Five years later, he’s been enjoying fatherhood too much, so the car’s been tucked in the shed waiting for the spark to reignite.

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I want to put a datalogger on it and a dry sump, but I’m 50-50 on whether I ever do a burnout in it again,” Shane says. “I still love watching it, especially Flinty’s stuff on YouTube, and I follow everything that’s going on, but I don’t know which way I want to go with it. Maybe I should put it back on the road. I didn’t care when I was between 20 and 30 years old. It was either pay bills or do burnouts, so it was do burnouts. Priorities have changed now.”

Oh well, maybe seeing it in the pages of SM will light the fire again, and even if it never sees another burnout pad, I’m sure Shane’s little bloke would love to cut some laps in MR METH.

Words // Boris Viskovic 

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