FIFTEEN years ago, HSV’s top-spec 285kW Grange rattled off a high 13-second quarter-mile, which wasn’t bad for a car with all the cushions. But Josh Calgaro’s 2003 Grange has run a PB of 8.96 at over 250km/h! Having said that, this level of performance hasn’t come easily or quickly.
Josh bought the car from a mate in 2005, who’d modified it almost from new. “It was a pretty quick car back in the day,” the Canberra local says. “For what it was, it was a pretty good thing and I fell in love with it.
“I started playing around with exhaust and tune and converters and all that stuff. Then around 2012 I went to Powercruise and began playing with blowers.”
Since then Josh has broken about eight gearboxes, a diff, a couple of blowers and an engine, including one time he destroyed a gearbox and diff with the same squeeze of the throttle! That’s in addition to the time, effort and outlay involved in fitting – and then upgrading – said engine, gearboxes and blowers. The rear tub work has also been done several times – first when Josh wanted a set of 22s for cruising, and again when the four-link rear end went in.
“Mate, few people understand how much stuff I have broken in this car,” he sighs. “Can you imagine what it feels like to have a blower lunch itself and spill all through your engine? And then to have the replacement, shipped from the USA after a three-month wait for warranty inspection and approval, do exactly the same thing?
“It happened at the same revs, the same boost and the same power level.
It was the first full run [on the dyno] and bang! – the blower fell to pieces again. I was just about in tears, just about broken. I was over this shit!”
Sometime between blower number two and blower number three, the Grange’s original 5.7L LS1 was replaced with a 7.0L (427-cube) LSX crate motor. But even that hasn’t been drama-free; it dropped a valve while Josh was doing a skid at Winton Raceway in Victoria, and then it dropped oil pressure when a ball bearing from one of the blown blowers ended up in the oil system.
You might think Josh couldn’t win a free kick in a pub brawl, but there was light at the end of the tunnel. “In the end I knew where the car was progressing,” he says, and that started with a trip to BK Race Engines in Sydney. While Bill Kaglatzis has built plenty of crazy high-horsepower engines, this would be his first ‘big’ LS build.
“For us, it wasn’t about building an LS; it was about building an engine,” Bill says. “Sure, each engine design has its own quirks, and we learnt stuff during the build, but it’s shown us there’s plenty of potential.”
Displacing 7.0L, or 427ci in the old money, it’s built from an iron Dart LS Next block that has a few internal tweaks to make it a better foundation for ‘omigawd’ horsepower than a stock block. Unlike a standard GM block, the crank tunnel sees the oil first in the Dart item, with oil galleries set up to prioritise feeding the main bearings before the lifters. The Dart block also rocks conventional four-bolt main bearing saddles, and features better windage and control of internal crankcase pressure to make for less turbulence inside the block due to crank and piston movement.
After losing an engine to oiling woes, Josh was sure he wouldn’t make that mistake again. The Grange now wears a comprehensive dry sump system to ensure full pressure is always maintained no matter what rpm or g-forces are enacted on the car. A Moroso dry sump-spec pan sits on the bottom of the block, feeding the ARE pump with a Peterson can that holds far more oil than a stock wet sump equivalent.
The crank is a Callies, a favourite brand of BK’s, and Callies also turned out a special-order extra-beefy set of rods for Josh’s combo, while the pistons are Diamond units. The heads are big-port Brodix items, loosely based on the deep-breathing LS7 design, and they’ve been stuffed with top-shelf parts like Manley valves, PAC springs and T&D shaft-mounted rockers.
The big Holley Hi-Ram intake has been plumbed with 2400lb injectors.
Josh has two fuel cells for the Grange: the street-spec 57-litre cell is swapped for a 10-litre one for racing, as less fuel means less weight and less flammable stuff when on-track. The big –12 fuel lines feed a mechanical fuel pump piggybacked off the dry sump system’s oil pump. From there, the injector plumbing is hard-lined.
Surprisingly, the car has a distributor rather than the LS engine’s coil-onplug ignition set-up. It’s an MSD dizzy hanging off the front of the donk with a belt drive, while the motor management system is courtesy of an American BigStuff3 unit, a simple comp-style system that is a favourite of Bill’s.
The engine’s big lungs and a boost-friendly sub-9:1 compression were required due to the switch from blown to turbocharged induction. A pair of Precision 76/75 turbos on custom steam-pipe manifolds were added, along with Turbosmart wastegates, custom four-inch lightweight aluminium piping, a Plazmaman intercooler and fat 100mm pipes. While it can rev far harder, up past 8000rpm, Bill saw 1242hp at 6500rpm on conservative boost!
“We’ve only had 15psi in it so far,” Bill chuckles. “Obviously we spent some time with it on the dyno before we went out [to Sydney Dragway] and we’re just gathering data and trying to figure out what to do to make it go fast.”
There are no more gearbox woes – $15K worth of built GM TH400 threespeeder will do that! It’s the product of Al’s Race Glides. “It’s been in there the past two or three years and it hasn’t missed a beat,” Josh reckons. You can bet he’s happy to say that after the number of ’boxes he’s blown up!
The present set of wheel tubs and McDonald Bros-sourced four-link rear end – no more IRS – were installed at the same time.
The car ran 8.94 on its first attempt at a proper drag strip run. “It weighs just under two tonnes,” Bill says. “There's a lot of rpm left and we’ve got another 10-15psi to chuck at it too!”
“Oh mate, I’ve been through the wars with this one,” Josh says. “There have been a lot of variations with it, a lot of work and updates – but there’s also been a lot of fun, too.”
After all that pain and heartache, it’s great to see Josh still able to look on the bright side. Hopefully we see him finally get the big barge deep into the eights! s
Colour: Custom-mix grey
Block: Dart 427ci LS Next Crank: Callies Rods: Custom Callies Pistons: Diamond forged Cam: Bullet Heads: Brodix castings, T&D shaft rockers, Manley valves, PAC springs Intake: Holley Hi-Ram Turbochargers: Twin Precision 76/75, Turbosmart 60mm wastegates Ignition: MSD distributor, Jesel belt and distributor drive Oiling: ARE dry-sump pump, Peterson dry-sump can, Moroso pan Fuel: Waterman mechanical fuel pump ECU: BigStuff3, AMS-1000 boost controller Cooling: Custom PWR radiator, Meziere electric pump Intercooler: Plazmaman 2000hp core, 4in aluminium piping Exhaust: Custom steam-pipe manifolds, twin 3.5in system
’Box: TH400 by Al’s Race Glides Converter: TCE 4000rpm Diff: Race Products braced sheet-metal 9in, Strange centre, full spool, 40-spline floating axles Rear end: Customised McDonald Bros four-link, Pro9 anti-roll bar, QA1 coil-overs Brakes: AP Racing rotors and sixpiston calipers (f), Wilwood rotors and four-piston calipers (r)
Rims: Simmons FR; 22x8 (f), 22x13 (r) Rubber: Pirelli P-Zero; 225/25 (f), 335/35 (r)