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Blaze Of Glory: Hayden Wilby’s blown LS1-powered VT Commodore

17 February 2024



When Hayden Wilby got the opportunity to compete in the Burnout Masters at Summernats, he knew he’d have to bring his Commodore up to speed, and he might just have nailed it … 



Boy racers — two words that, through the early 2000s, would have struck a bolt of righteous anger through the heart of any watcher of the six o’clock news. At the time, the boy racer epidemic was just about one of the biggest issues facing New Zealand. It was a time before anyone rich or famous had made headlines for methamphetamine use, before the Christchurch earthquakes, before the global financial crisis, and well before the subsequent effects on the housing market.

It wasn’t that long ago, but it was a simpler time. Hell, you’d have struggled to buy a phone that could take photos, let alone use the internet anywhere other than at home or the office.

And, in those simpler times, there would have been no way a younger Hayden Wilby could ever have imagined owning something like this mental VT Commodore — never mind pouring a small fortune into building it in a few months in order to ship it off to Australia to do a couple of burnouts. Why would you go to the lengths and expense to do so, when midnight burnouts in industrial areas get the blood pumping just as well? He might not have known it at the time, but he was paving the way to this car all those years ago, in those much simpler times.


We’re not going to name names, but sources in the Wellington scene at the time reckon that Hayden always had V8s, even when all the young guys were getting around in modified Jappas. These days, most of those guys have grown up and moved on to good old-fashioned pushrod power, flying the flag that Hayden has waved from day dot. And since he’s always been partial to the odd skid, when Hayden decided that he’d get back into burnouts — legally — by entering the New Zealand Burnout Championship (NZBC), he’d only be doing it in a V8.

The old VT SS would have been a bit of a dream rig when Hayden was younger, and, when this particular example came onto the market, it ticked all the boxes: LS power; six-speed manual; and, most important, it was the right colour! The fact that it was way up in Auckland didn’t deter him, and, as soon as he’d hauled it halfway across the North Island, his legal burnout career began. Hayden put in the big kilometres, and accompanying days off work — a big ask when you run your own business — to travel all over the country, and, the better he got at getting the tyres off, the tougher the Commodore became.



The Holden’s first major revision came with the addition of a Holley tunnel-ram manifold and Enderle Big & Ugly injector hat, transforming the naturally aspirated (NA) LS into a rev-happy  animal. The next big change is the real reason we’re featuring it, though.

By the end of the second NZBC season, Hayden had finished up in second place, nabbing a Burnout Masters Golden Ticket — in plain English, an invitation to compete in the world’s premier burnout competition at Summernats in Australia. “Once I had the Masters ticket, I decided to go big and give her a makeover … it was never supposed to be this big!” he laughs.

Hayden’s number-one priority was a repaint; you don’t bring something beaten-up to represent your country on the world stage. Thus, Hayden chose Delta J Panel and Paint to sort a show-quality finish.

“I left the colour choice up to Dyson and Rixsta with only one rule: it had to be some form of orange or ginger. DNA El-Nino Candy was the colour they chose,” he says. “Many already know this, but she is named ‘NUTOUT’ for a reason. My wife is a fiery ginger that is always nutting out about the money I waste on cars, [and] with the Arcus Performance and Delta J upgrade, this car is now a perfect representation of her — a beautiful angry ginger!”


You can’t miss the Arcus Performance half of that equation either: a blacked-out blown mill that towers head and shoulders above everything. It’s a Warspeed top-end package, comprising a high-rise supercharger manifold, water-to-air intercooler, BDS 8-71 supercharger, and Enderle Big & Ugly injector hat with throttle-position sensor (TPS) keeping the Link ECU informed.

Hayden explains: “I hadn’t intended on adding the supercharger for Summernats, but once the original LS1 was stripped down, everything was in such good condition — which is hard to believe after the beating it took over the year — that I was able to talk Joel [Arcus] into putting my blower on it!”

That said, it probably wouldn’t have taken much, as Joel’s got a super-tough blown-and-injected Camaro burnout car of his own. Combined with his passion for GM LS engines, Joel was the ideal candidate to sort all of Hayden’s dirty work.



The LS in Hayden’s rig retains its stock rotating assembly, albeit with ARP fasteners and a double-row timing chain hanging off the Kelford blower-profile cam. It’s similarly straightforward at the top end of the long block — stock heads with double valve springs and upgraded rocker trunnions to deal with big revs and big pressure. To make it all work, a Link ECU has superseded the standard GM Delco unit, with standard LS1 coil packs and MSD leads proving to be more than up to it. But, as out of the blue as the blower addition may have seemed to those in the know, perhaps more surprising was Hayden’s decision to stick with the T56: “We also decided to stay manual, as it’s just more fun, plus, the Mantic clutch was still mint and it meant we were able to re-use it.”

That is a huge point of difference — and one that earns Hayden massive cool points — where Powerglide and Turbo-Hydramatic autos rule the roost in the world of burnout transmissions. While shock loading of the driveline is an obvious concern when abusing a manual box  in that manner, the driveline is far from stock, comprising custom one-piece driveshaft and Showtime Customs & Fabrication axles rated to 1000hp in the independent rear.



Showtime Customs & Fabrication also supplied the front drift knuckles and 50mm shortened rear arms, and, with BC Gold coilovers all round, it’s got more than a mean stance — Hayden’s even had it sideways on exhibition at the D1NZ National Drifting Championship. Plus, a well-sorted suspension set-up also means that he can fully utilize the grunt at his right foot around a tight burnout pad.

The Summernats pad at Exhibition Park in Canberra isn’t tiny, but it’s tight. It’s got a long and narrow run in and exit chute, and with the number of cars that lay rubber down in the Aussie heat, the surface is as sticky as a burnout pad can get. It’s the ultimate torture test for any car that makes the cut, and a world away from Hayden’s boy racer days, but that might just be his secret weapon. Those Aussies go alright, but they didn’t grow up hacking skids in the backstreets of Wainuiomata!



Hayden Wilby
Age: 39
Occupation: Owner, The Fitzroy Tavern and The Bottle-O Wainuiomata
Previously owned cars: 1973 Holden HQ, 1976 Ford XB Falcon (still own it), 1985 Holden VK Commodore, 1996 Holden Commodore SS, and many more
Dream car: XA coupe or Walkinshaw Holden
Why the VT? I originally bought the car to compete in the NZBC. The rebuild is due to taking the car to Summernats in Australia
Build time: Four months
Length of ownership: Two years
Hayden thanks: My wife Ruth and kids Mason and Charlotte, for putting up with my crazy burnout addiction; all the Fitzroy Tavern locals; Joel and Justine Arcus at Arcus Performance, for all their time and effort going above and beyond to get the car to this level; Dyson Jones and his team at Delta J Panel and Paint, for the killer paint job; the team at Honey Badger, for their continued sponsorship; Paul and Kory de Kort at Bridgestone Wainuiomata, for the ongoing support in dealing with my tyre-destroying problem; Carl Spence from Bruce Mills 2012 Ltd, for the constant use of the workshop and keeping my mechanicals sorted over the years, and putting up with all my crazy exhaust ideas; Rixsta Sammons, for the ongoing advice and getting me hooked up with Delta J Panel and Paint; Ricky and Jenn Ireland from the NZBC, for the opportunity to travel around the country doing burnouts legally; Brett Kenny from Rapanats Burnout Comp, for hooking me up with the track for the day so we could get the tune sorted; Josh and Vern at Tint a Car Wellington, for making sure my car always looks good, and for their love of Long Whites; Danny Wood, for all the good photos from day one; Mark Bradley at MB Kustoms, for the airbrushing work in the engine bay; and special mentions to Kaizen Works, Envied, Rixsta Photography, Showtime Customs & Fabrication, Prowear, The Bottle-O Wainuiomata, Adam at Crew Cut Hutt Valley, Grill N Grind, Pitstop Petone, All Fleet Services, Dan Purple, all the thirsty boys at Diverse Landscaping, the Hungry Dogs Snapchat group, all the people that have supported our fundraising for Summernats



2000 Holden VT Commodore SS
Engine: 5.7-litre GM LS1, stock bottom end, race bearings, ARP fasteners, double-row timing chain, Kelford blower-profile camshaft, chromoly pushrods, Cometic head gaskets, stock heads, double valve springs, upgraded rocker trunnions, Warspeed high-rise supercharger manifold, water-to-air intercooler, BDS 8-71 supercharger, Enderle Big & Ugly injector hat, 16 injectors, custom fuel rails, Teflon braided fuel hoses, alloy fuel cell, Carter low-pressure lift pump, surge tank, Holley high-pressure fuel pump, high-volume oil pump, baffled racing sump, Link Storm ECU, stock ignition coils, MSD ignition leads, custom headers, 3.5-inch collectors, twin mufflers, custom exhaust, custom radiator, custom fans, high-volume oil pump, baffled race sump
Driveline: T56 six-speed manual, Mantic 9000 twin-plate clutch, factory IRS diff housing, billet Tuff Mounts diff mount, full spool, Showtime Customs & Fabrication 1000hp axles, custom one-piece driveshaft
Suspension: BC Gold adjustable coilovers, Showtime Customs & Fabrication front drift knuckles, Whiteline front sway bar, Showtime Customs & Fabrication 50mm shortened rear arms
Brakes: Stock, hydraulic handbrake
Wheels/Tyres: 18×8.5-inch Weld RT wheels, 235/40R18 and 265/40R18 tyres
Exterior: HSV Clubsport bodykit, DNA El-Nino Candy paint
Chassis: Custom half-cage
Interior: OMP bucket seats, OMP steering wheel, Ripshift short-shifter, Hurst shifter with line-locker, Race Technology dash
Performance: Tyres off