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Project BAD SV6

A work vehicle needs to be cost effective, it doesn’t need to be dull, boring and under powered.

The aim of this exercise was to build up a cool work vehicle that would not only do the job it was intended for, but also look hot, go hard and operate as economically as possible.

Choosing the right work horse

The main purpose of this vehicle is to carry camera equipment and crew to over 200 modified car photo shoots per year for approximately four years. It will clock up around 70 - 80,000kms per year and will have around 300,000kms on the clock by the time it is due to be replaced. Right from the outset economy was paramount.

Street Commodores Magazine
X Force Exhausts
Pacemaker Headers
SS Inductions
Photography by Rabbitte

After careful consideration we chose Holden’s SV6 Commodore Sportwagon as our vehicle of choice. There were a number of reasons for the decision.

1. If it aint broken, don’t fix it!. Our previous two work cars were V6 Commodores and between them we clocked up over 700,000kms with hardly a breakdown. They both proved to be super reliable vehicles and very fuel efficient. Basically you couldn’t kill ‘em.

2. Added to the above the VE Sportwagons are a good looking style of a vehicle that lend themselves well to customising and we were hearing good reports about both the fuel efficiency and performance of the 3.6 SIDI motors.

3. It was the end of model runout for the Series 1 so there were some very good deals to be had. In the end it was a no brainer and we have been very happy with the car so far.

The 'gangster look' concept

It was never our intention to 'compete' with the cars we are photographing but rather to create a professional looking image in the eyes of the general public while photographing modified cars on location.

The car was ordered in Phantom Mica (metalic black) for photographic reasons. A black car is least likely to reflect in the paintwork of the car being photographed especially while doing car-to-car tracking shots. Although it's the hardest colour to keep clean it is by far the most practical colour for the car's intended purpose.

The first step was to lose that ‘everyone’s got one’ look. To get the Sportwagon to stand out from the crowd we approached Mild to Wild down in Wagga Wagga to wave their magic. Originally I wanted 22x10 inch wheels and get her sitting on the deck but Jesse advised against it for practical reasons. We settled for 20x8 inch Zenetti Masquerades in black with a machined face. They dropped her down a couple of inches with a set of Kings SL springs. Not quite as low as I would have liked but low enough to give the wagon a tough stance none the less. To finish off the ‘gangster look’ M2W applied a layer of 20% dark tint to all windows which compliments the mandatory black paintwork nicely.

Another thing that attracted us to the SV6 as opposed to the base model Sportwagons was the fact that they are almost identical in appearance to the SS. The only visual differences being the badging and the SS has quad exhaust tips as where the SV6 has duel tips. Debadge and upgrade the exhausts and you wouldn’t know which model you were looking at until they both fired up.


SV6 vs SS

We have been asked on occasion as to why we didn't go for the SS Sportwagon as opposed to the SV6 with some V8 enthusiasts claiming that there is very little difference in fuel consumption and purchase price.

In reality there was quite a substantial difference in both. On average the SV6 consumes between 3 and 4 litres per 100km less than the SS. Given that petrol is currently around $1.50 per litre this would add up to a saving of approximately $16,000 over the life of this particular car, and that's just in fuel. In our case based on the deal we were getting on an SV6 there was approximately an $8,000 difference in the purchase price between an SS and SV6 Sportwagon. Now factor in the interest on that $8,000 plus increases in fuel costs over time along with higher insurance premiums and it wouldn't be unreasonable to envisage a $30,000 saving over the working life of the car. Personally, I'd prefer to reinvest that saving into a private V8 project rather than the running costs of a work truck

Performance enhancements

I got talking to Liam Quirk, editor of Street Commodores magazine. He had been road testing an SIDI SV6 a week earlier and was impressed with the overall performance. Liam asked me if I’d be interested in working with Castle Hill Performance on a performance upgrade article that they were looking at doing for the magazine. They were all curious to see what gains were obtainable from these relatively new SIDIs. Naturally I agreed, why wouldn’t I?

The first step in the process was to get her on the dyno and see what she’s making at the tyres from the factory. It ran close to what Dale predicted.

Next we removed the entire exhaust system and outlet manifolds. Then the guys fitted a set of Pacemaker headers. There is a common misconception that the SIDIs cannot be fitted with extractors because of ports built into the engine’s cylinder heads. This is not the case with the SV6. The SV6 runs the 3.6 litre motor which can accept extractors. It is the 3 litre motor that cannot.

Once in place, a 2.25inch X-Force full stainless steel exhaust system was assembled and then fitted. A new pair of catalytic converters were customised to fit this particular vehicle during the fit up.

With the exhaust upgrades taken care of it was now time to look at improving the quality of the air intake. The guys fitted an SS Inductions Growler cold air induction system. This was a fairly simple system to fit. It was basically just a matter of replacing the original air box with the Growler unit and then cutting a hole in a cowling underneath the front of the car and installing an air dam to direct cold air from underneath the car. This is something that can be handled by the DIY enthusiast and the Street Commodores article will show how it's done.

The final step in the process was to do a custom tune. Dale punched keys on his laptop, while watching graphs and things move up and down on the monitor while periodically running the car on the dyno presumably to test his ‘tweaks’. Finally he said, "yeh I’m happy with that".

The moment of truth

Finally it was time to see if Dale had succeeded in corrupting my mistress and turning her into a bad girl. After letting the motor cool down for half an hour or so he gave her another run on the dyno. This time she made what Dale described as an impressive gain in rear wheel horsepower. Dale seemed to be pretty happy with the final results so that was good enough for me. A gain of near 40 rwhp is not a bad effort from a stock 3.6 litre V6 engine that’s really just been allowed to breath. It makes you wonder what one of these things would be capable of once the after market gurus start releasing turbo kits and things for them.

But it’s not over yet. Remember that this car needs to earn it’s keep, so a gain in horsepower is useless to us if the fuel efficiency of the SIDI has been compromised. We know that prior to the upgrades she would go from Sydney to the Gold Coast on a single tank of fuel. Will she still?

Dyno figures and HP gains

See Street Commodores magazine Issue 190 - November 2011 for details.

Fuel efficiency tests

We have conducted a series of fuel efficiency tests under various driving conditions and the results have been very impressive. We certainly haven't lost fuel economy, if anything we may have even gained a bit. See the Street Commodores article for the test results.

Acceleration test 0-100km/h

We are still testing but the acceleration stop watch times that we are getting are pretty bloody impressive for any naturally aspirated V6 Commodore yet alone one that is pushing near two tonnes of dead weight! The final figures will be published in Street Commodores and the dash mounted video will be uploaded to Youtube in due course.

Future modifications

We have been approached by a major car audio manufacturer with an offer of sponsorship. We are still in the planning stage in regards to the audio set-up but we’ll keep you posted as things progress.


Special thanks

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the following companies for their help and support throughout the project so far.

  • Street Commodores magazine
  • Pacemaker Headers
  • X Force Exhaust Systems
  • SS Inductions
  • Castle Hill Performance Centre
  • Mild To Wild
  • Meguiar's


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