Ray Elia's stunning VN Commodore Group A tribute

Ray Elia is back with a supercharged street car that has instantly earned a spot among Commodore royalty

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Bonnet Up Wm

Ray Elia’s name may well be familiar to Street Machine readers, as his white VK Calais, KNGHDT, was featured alongside his brother Tony’s blue VK in Street Machine Commodores in 2018. But as beautiful and tough as that blown 355ci Calais was, Ray’s latest Commodore, this stunning VN known as KING GRP A, is a real game-changer.

First published in the December 2022 issue of Street Machine

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Side Wm
The Simmons FRs measure 22x8in up front and 22x11in under the rear. The centres and outer lips have been chromed, while the inners have been colour-coded in Durif Red. The front suspension set-up has been tweaked to pull the wheels in, allowing the car to achieve full steering lock even with its low stance

“I’m really critical of the cars I build,” Ray says. “This car, however, I can’t stop looking at. It’s perfect to me; I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Ray and his brother Tony grew up car-mad in Sydney’s western suburbs, and while Ray longed for something V8-motivated, his conservative father tried to steer his sons towards ‘safer’ cars. “He wouldn’t let me buy a V8 Commodore, but he let me buy an S14 200SX,” laughs Ray of the Nissan dubbed 3KUOUT, which shot him deep into the heart of the Auto Salon scene.

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Rear Angle 2 Wm
There’s been plenty of effort put into making the VN one of the smoothest second-gen Commodores around, deleting things like the door locks, fuel cap and even the brake light from the rear spoiler. The underside of the bonnet and boot were also completely smoothed, and the whole thing was lathered in nostalgic Durif Red by Basser at 2SUS Custom Resprays

And while it’s easy nowadays to dismiss the lairier-than-thou Auto Salon era, the hyper-competitive nature and rigorous judging criteria of those events did foster plenty of young, talented car builders. “It’s given me an insane attention to detail, and a love of clean engine bays,” Ray explains. “Some guys build drag cars or skid cars; I build show cars. I love everything about show cars; they’re just so ‘extra’, but my show cars always have to be useable, and they’ve got to have plenty of power for the street.”

As the amount of tough VK street cars rose exponentially over the years, Ray traded KNGHDT for a big bag of cash and tried to tell himself that he was out of the modified car game. He got behind the wheel of a VF GTS (granted, tweaked to make over 750rwhp!), but found the clinical sterility of the modern muscle car deathly boring. “It was so quiet and smooth! Nothing squeaked or rattled,” he laughs. “A month later I bought a faded blue VN from Wollongong, and the process started all over again!”

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Front Wm

With a firm vision of what the VN was to become, Ray drove it straight to see the Godfather of custom Commodores, Damien ‘Chubby’ Lowe of Lowe Fabrications. “Damien had done some work on the second build of my VK, and I knew he could tackle everything from fabrication to powdercoating to final fit-up all in the one shop, so we could keep the quality consistently high,” Ray says.

“It was a bit of a bucket,” laughs Chubby of the VN’s condition when it arrived. “But to Ray’s credit, it had barely any rust, and he arrived with a really clear vision. Before I knew it, the car was stripped, degreased and we were cutting out the firewall.”

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Bot
The boot is a lesson in practicality but is in keeping with the many clever elements integrated into the build. The fuel cell doesn’t compromise boot space, and behind the panelling you’ll find the relocated battery with an external charge point for when the car is in storage. The underside of the bootlid has been smoothed and turned in to a showpiece

Ray knew he wanted the VN to be something unique, starting with the stance. To get the desired lowness – and to allow for the removal of the factory strut towers – the boys replaced the factory front end with one of Chubby’s independent front suspension set-ups. They also tubbed the front in order to tuck those huge Simmons wheels up under the guards.

In keeping with Ray’s love of clean engine bays, KING GRP A’s bay is super-smooth, with the tubs flowing seamlessly into the custom flat firewall and wrapping around at the front to meet the modified radiator support panel and boxed headlights and chassis rails.

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Bonnet

It’s about as wild a bay as you’re ever likely to see in a second-generation Commodore, and allows your eyes to focus on the hulking chrome mass of motor that’s been pieced together to scratch Ray’s horsepower itch.

"I'm really critical of the cars I build. This car, however, I can't stop looking at. It's perfect to me"

“I was just sick of Holden 5.0-litre engines leaking oil,” he says of the 308’s notoriously porous rear main seal. “Every 355ci stroker I’ve ever built leaked oil, so we went with a 6.0-litre LS for this build. Bang-for-buck, you just can’t beat them.”

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Under 5
Ray is the first to admit that they might have got a little carried away under the car! A Lowe Fabrications IFS set-up replaces the factory front suspension, allowing plenty of space for the huge Simmons wheels. The suspension was powdercoated in-house by the Lowe team, while the engine block and driveline were painted to match the exterior

Internally, the LS2 hasn’t been overworked, with Ray briefing engine builder Matt Sims to keep it streetable, reliable and able to run on pump fuel. Aside from a set of rods and pistons, the biggest deviation from factory was the inclusion of a blower-friendly Kelford cam, mated to LS7 lifters.

The real hero is the billet 8/71 blower, topped by an Enderle hat that’s been converted to a barndoor-style butterfly by Joe Blo. “I was originally going to go carby just like the VK, but because I wanted to take my kids in the car, the carbies just blocked out too much of my view, hence the EFI,” Ray explains.

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Engine Bay 3
The billet Blower Shop 8/71 atop a mild LS2 gives the VN a great balance between aggressive styling and perfect street manners. No stone has been left unturned in detailing the engine to the standard of the rest of the car; however, it’s not difficult to imagine how practical the combo would be for street driving

Engine management comes in the form of a Haltech Elite 2500, while the fuel system starts in the boot, where a pair of Walbro pumps hang inside a custom fuel cell and supply eight 1000cc injectors at the business end. “We added a flex-fuel sensor just in case the car got too hot and needed E85, but the radiator from South Coast Radiators keeps it so cold I’d prefer to stay on pump 98,” Ray says.

With the fabrication and driveline sorted, the boys got to work hanging the intricate bodykit necessary to give the VN some Group A attitude. “I was debating whether to go with a Group A or an Aero kit, but I decided that the Group A would be more timeless and give it a broader appeal,” Ray explains.

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Engine Bay 13

“I’d tossed up the idea of doing it black like the Tooheys 1000 giveaway VNs, but I’m pedantic with my cars being clean, and black is just too hard to maintain,” he continues. The only other colour any sane street machiner would consider is the Group A’s factory Durif Red hue, so the VN arrived at 2SUS Custom Resprays to have said colour applied.

“When the car arrived on the tow truck and backed up the driveway, I thought to myself, ‘This is just another day with Ray,’” laughs Basser from 2SUS. “Ray is always getting bored and buying things, but the VN was easily the biggest project he’s ever dropped on me.

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Interior
Inspired by US hot rodders, Ray set off a red suede and leather bomb in the cabin, and it coats every surface. The Devonish seats remain sans-headrests for the moment, while the stereo installation and leather floors draw from Ray’s Auto Salon days and contrast with more mature styling cues like the billet steering wheel and Dakota Digital dash

We shortlisted about five or six colours and did some spray-outs, but when Ray told me he was set on Durif Red I wanted to kill him! To his credit, it was the safe choice, and it keeps it looking factory.”

"I debated whether to go with a Group A or an Aero kit, but I decided the Group A would be more timeless"

Departing from the OE theme set by the bodykit and paint, the bright red trim glowing behind the glass is another throwback to Ray’s roots in the Sex-Spec era.

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Seats

“Trim makes a car, and I’d been keeping my eyes on what hot rodders in the States were doing with their interiors,” says Ray of how the wild custom cabin came to be. “I’d used the Devonish seats in a VS GTS-R replica I’d built and I knew they were comfortable, while some things like the leather floors we just chose for the ‘wow’ factor. The thought of putting standard Group A-style trim in it never even crossed my mind.”

The longer you look at the interior, the more you see the subtle custom touches bubbling to the surface. The full-length centre console is an easy one to spot, but how many of you noticed the satellite switches shaved off the gauge binnacle? Or the billet armrests and speaker grilles in the door trim?

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Dash 2

Ray debuted the VN at the Hot Rod & Custom Auto Expo in Sydney in May this year. “If we didn’t show it there, we’d have to wait until Street Machine Summernats, and I wanted to start driving the thing,” he laughs.

“It’ll be at Summernats 35, though. We’ll be entering the Elite class and trying out for Grand Champion, but then it’s back to street duties where it belongs, cruising with the family.”

Street Machine Features Ray Elia Vn Commodore Dash


Paint: PPG Durif Red
Brand: GM LS2
Induction: Joe Blo barndoor-converted Enderle hat
Blower: The Blower Shop billet 8/71
Camshaft: Kelford blower cam, LS7 lifters
Conrods: Callies Compstar 6.125in
Pistons: CP-Carrillo 11cc dished
Fuel system: Joe Blo EFI fuel rails, eight 1000cc injectors, custom fuel tank, Shaun’s Custom Alloy pump hanger, two Walbro pumps
Management: Haltech Elite 2500
Cooling: Custom South Coast Radiators brass-core radiator, CVR electric water pump
Exhaust: CAE 17 /8in headers, mandrel-bent 3in system, Hooker mufflers
Ignition: Relocated LS2 coils, custom leads
Gearbox: Turbo 400
Converter: Dominator 3500rpm
Diff: BorgWarner housing, 3.9:1 gears, billet axles, billet hat
Front: QA1 coil-overs, custom twin A-arm independent front suspension
Rear: QA1 coil-overs, adjustable four-link, custom Panhard bar
Brakes: 365mm PBR rotors and four-piston AP Racing calipers (f), 350mm PBR rotors and four-piston AP Racing calipers (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood pedal box
Rims: Simmons FR; 22x8 (f), 22x11 (r)
Rubber: Winrun; 225/30R22 (f), 295/25R22 (r)

Basser at 2SUS Custom Resprays; Damien at Lowe Fabrications/Chubby’s Garage; Darren at Advanced Custom Interiors; my brother Tony; Dean’s Auto Electrical; Matty Sims at Hitech; Callum at Adept Metal Polishing; Aaron at Memphis Metal Craft; my amazing wife for all the running around; the boys that worked late nights to make it happen.

Liam Quirk
Ben Hosking


Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.