Home » Three Project Cars Worth Holden On To: Members’ Rides

Three Project Cars Worth Holden On To: Members’ Rides

Holden Mr Ts
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Other countries’ car cultures are always just similar enough to ours that it feels like staring into an alternate universe. Autopian member FlavouredMilk’s Australian garage is no exception, as it includes two cars beloved around the world—a Honda Del Sol and a Mazda Miata—and a rad Holden VK Commodore that includes a lot of Peter Brock-era Holden Dealer Team goodies. Today on Members’ Rides, we’re off to the cool place that loves racing big V8 sedans.

(Welcome to Members’ Rides. This is the weekly feature where we look at people who became members of the site by signing up here and parting with a little of their hard-earned dough to keep The Autopian going. Our plan is to do these every week! Today it’s Ayrton’s turn!)

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FlavouredMilk works as a mechanic, so naturally, all three have been in various states of project car-ness over the years. The Miata is his pride and joy—a daily driver that’s “barely practical,” but that gets the job done. The Del Sol was supposed to be a fun short-term project that’s taking a bit longer than usual, which is something many of us can empathize with. The Commodore, meanwhile, was passed down from FlavouredMilk’s dad, who’s been deep into cool Holdens for years.

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Possibly the best parental gift ever: a cool V8 Holden in a great color.

For better or for worse, FlavouredMilk’s family Holden predates nine-time Bathurst 1000 winner Peter Brock’s infamous special-edition box of rocks, but its backstory is almost more interesting than that of a standard Brock Commodore you could drive off a dealer’s lot. It’s actually a bit of a sleeper, if a bright yellow car can be one. It was upfitted for police duty with many of the same modifications that went into the official Brock Commodores, but wasn’t ever given any of the badging or designation as such. I’ll let him tell you the full story from here.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m located in Brisbane, Australia, usually I’d praise it, but it’s too damn humid right now. I’m an automotive tech that’s been spinning spanners on everything from flathead Dodges to Continental GTs for the last decade. I’m hoping to shift my path again and get back into working on the local MX-5 crowd’s cars again. I had a good stint being the favoured mechanic for the local crowd, something I miss quite a bit.

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How did you get into cars?

With a name like Ayrton, I was born into cars and car culture. There’s no way I wouldn’t be. My father was my biggest early inspiration, owning numerous HDT [Holden Dealer Team, as in, the marque’s primary racing team of the era that also modified road cars through its Special Vehicles arm—Ed.] VK Commodores, plus providing me with gaming consoles and Gran Turismo. I caught the bug before I could walk.

After I moved out of home, I started an apprenticeship as a mechanic and I’ve been spinning spanners ever since. I’ve bounced around from Euro specialist and performance shops, and then started doing vintage and classic restoration and maintenance. You’d think that’d be enough, but my spare time is filled with fixing my own cars and getting myself out on track, whether virtually or in reality, and yes, my track car of choice is my daily driven MX-5. Unwise, but fun as hell.Screenshot 20221024 170748

What’s your current lineup?

1990 Mazda MX-5: Daily. I’ve owned my MX-5 for around eight years now. It’s been my barely practical daily for that entire time and I’ve also somehow found the time to modify it to bring it closer to a longtime dream. It still has the baby 1.6-liter B6 engine, however, it’s now running Toyota 4AGE ITBs with a Haltech ECU. The rest of the modifications are platform and handling mods, as they should be for one of the best drivers’ cars to ever grace the tarmac.

My approach to modifying it has always been focused on handling. I changed the wheels to get a wider track and more tyre on the road. I lowered it (with actual aftermarket parts, not a grinder), fitted a half-cage for rigidity and taught myself the ins and outs of performing full four-corner wheel alignments. I must have tried dozens of different alignment setups until the car felt exactly right and behaved exactly as I wanted. I’ve put that car through a lot of “trust exercises” and it was always up for it.

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I know it’s overused, but there’s a reason that people crack on about Jinba Ittai [Mazda’s concept of “horse and rider”—Ed.] when talking about the MX-5. The performance mods came last, with the aftermarket ECU and that set of Toyota Black Top individual throttle bodies. The power change wasn’t huge, but I never expected it to be. I did it for the responsiveness, for the sound and so I could throw that barn-door style air flow meter over my shoulder and never think about it again.20221023 124805a

1985 HDT VK Commodore: Long-term project. My father passed this car down to me for my 21st birthday. Dad bought the car back in the ’90s as its third owner. He was always a big fan of the old Commodores, having had an automatic 6-cylinder VC, then this yellow VK, followed by a silver HDT SS, a silver BT-1 and a Group A “Blue Meanie.”

Many of these would be referred to as “Brock Commodores” in Australia, but “Brock Commodore” is a bit of a colloquialism, as officially they’re HDT Commodores. HDT is probably most akin to what Shelby is to Ford over in the States. They did the work for the Holden race cars and modified production cars for the public.

Dad sold the others off over the years (notably, he sold the Group A for $25K the week prior to Peter Brock passing, which went back on the market within a month for $110,000), but he always wanted to hand the yellow car down to me.

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Every project car needs at least one box inside. This one has cool yellow stitching!

The yellow VK has a unique history, being sent through the HDT factory for all the police pack modifications, which is essentially identical to the work done for the HDT SS/Group 3, but it wound up going to the public market instead of police. I believe it was once destined for the New South Wales police force, but never made it there. Either way, it was never given the official HDT build plates or included on their register.

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The first owner purchased the Group 3 body kit and changed the wheels. After Dad picked it up, he had the interior redone and used it as a weekender and local show car, which he always took me out to, so there’s huge sentimental value there.

Sadly, with everything going on over the last few years, I haven’t had a chance to bring it back to life. The car really deserves a nut-and-bolt restoration, but at the least, I’d love to get it on the streets in the next few years.Resized Received 304001390608587a

1994 Honda Del Sol: Short-term project. I was gifted this car as a thank you for helping a friend get his Golf R32 back on the road and was only intending on swapping out the blown head gasket and tidying it up as a second daily to provide more time to modify the MX-5. I soon learned that the B16 engine was unsalvageable, but as fate would have it, that same friend unfortunately wrote off a 1996 Integra DC2 VTiR.

As much as that sucked for him, it provided me with an entire extra car of the same platform to take for parts, including a fairly healthy B18 engine. I got both cars in to the workshop and pulled the whole front subframe out and swapped them over. The initial goal was just to swap over the brakes and send it, but sadly, it has become a stagnant project. I think it’s been close to two years since the engine went in.

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Work in progress.

Life got in the way, something I think many of us have felt since the pandemic. During the swap, I cursed myself with my own impatience and managed to bend the shift linkages on both the Integra donor car and the Del Sol which really took the motivation out of me, but it’s really not far off from being finished. I’ve got to fit the replacement fuel tank I bought, swap over the rear suspension arms and brakes from the Integra, and then hook up the hoses for the brakes, cooling and fuel, and it should (in theory) start straight up. I’ve just had other things to prioritize over a project, but I’m still very keen to get it on the road.

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I’ve set myself a June 2024 goal, so we’ll see how that goes. I’ve got to move my partner’s Accord out of the way of the Integra first. It’s been dead in front of our garage door for a few months with a faulty fuel pump relay. With 545,000 km on the clock, I’m impressed that’s the only real issue at the moment. That car is such a trooper, it’s even made a trip from Brisbane to Hobart and back!

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Two Miatas at the same time!

We love a good daily sports car ’round here. What drew you to the MX-5?

I fell in love with the idea of them long before I even had my license. I spent a huge part of my childhood playing racing games like Gran Turismo and Forza, and I was always drawn to the little soap-bar-shaped roadster. When I first got to drive one, I fell in love all over again. My previous car was a ’93 Ford Festiva that had zero redeeming qualities, so jumping behind the wheel of the MX-5 was honestly life-changing.

The first one I drove was the first one I bought. I knew straight away that it was the perfect car for me, even though this one was a bit rough and rode on chopped springs. I had that one for a year before getting into an accident and before I’d even heard back from my insurer, I’d purchased my second (and current) MX-5. Insurance did actually fix that one and I ended up stuck with two for a while, haha.

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Sadly, this is why there were two Miatas at the same time.

What’s the current status of the Holden project?

I sadly haven’t made any progress with the VK as of yet, there’s about 1200km between myself and the car and I don’t want to bring it up here until I have safe, long term storage for it, ideally somewhere I can also spin spanners on it. It has been off the road since 2007 and hasn’t run since 2016 or so when I fired it up while down there visiting my family. It was in great condition when it came off the road, so the work needed is only things that deteriorated from letting it sit. The plan once it’s here is to do all the rubbers and fluids and anything else required to pass a roadworthy inspection and to just get it out on the road again, I’ve never had the joy of driving it out on the roads, so I’d love to spend some time with it before I consider stripping it right down and restoring it properly.

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What’s in your dream garage?

Dream big, right? The Shelby Daytona Coupe would be right at the top for dream cars, but I want to collect some of my favourite Mazdas from over the years, an L10 Cosmo, basically any of the RX-7s and I would give anything to get my hands on the MX-5 NA Coupe concept.

Thanks, Ayrton! If you’re a member and want to be highlighted, please check your email for a link to a survey you can fill out. If you don’t want to be featured, that’s also fine. Go here and join today!

All photos by FlavouredMilk.

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Strangek
Strangek
4 months ago

Nice write up, that’s a cool fleet you’ve got going there!

Toecutter
Toecutter
4 months ago

NA Miatas actually do make for great daily drivers. They’re quality-built, fuel efficient, reliable, easy to park, inexpensive to insure, and parts are relatively inexpensive and easy to locate replacements as needed. For somethin to get you to work in back, as far as old used cars go, it’s fairly easy to live with. It’s rare that a car is occupied by more than one person, so having room for two is a nice bonus.

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
4 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

There’s a reason I often refer to them as glorified Lasers. It’s a sports car body plopped on an economy car driveline, what’s not to love?

Also, it used to be fuel efficienct, the Haltech and ITBs definitely changed that.

Parsko
Parsko
4 months ago

I’ve felt like I’ve known you now for a while via Discord, but this was a GREAT write up and read. Thanks Stef and Ayrton!

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
4 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

It’s great to have it all condensed into a linkable article. I do worry at times that I get repetitive talking about them, especially because of the stalled state of the VK and Del Sol, hopefully future updates involve actual progress, ha.

Toecutter
Toecutter
4 months ago
Reply to  FlavouredMilk

A Del Sol as unmolested as yours is an extreme rarity here in the U.S. Too many have ben destroyed by ricer culture.

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
4 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I’ll stay quiet about the butterfly door hinge kit sitting in the passenger footwell then…

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
4 months ago
Reply to  FlavouredMilk

That big ol’ yellow brute is glorious. I hope you get it up & running soon.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
4 months ago

Reading about someone who daily drives a Miata convertible kind of makes me question my life choices (like having kids, marrying a large person, and living in a cold, snowy climate).

Chronometric
Chronometric
4 months ago

Love those Miata ITBs. I had a driver ed student once with an NB with ITBs. It sounded glorious at 7000 RPM.

Last edited 4 months ago by Chronometric
KITT222 aka The Vibe Guy
KITT222 aka The Vibe Guy
4 months ago

Lovely cars, but may we never forget that time he tagged everyone in the Discord.

Alec Weinstein
Alec Weinstein
4 months ago

I think I saw the bobcat in the background of a few of the pics

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
4 months ago

I could never have guessed this would be how I got my 15 minutes of fame, but damn, I guess I’ll take it.

Parsko
Parsko
4 months ago
Reply to  FlavouredMilk

THAT GUY!

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
4 months ago

Performance mods last, after handling.
Wise he is, beyond his years.

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
4 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Daily driving the car definitely helped guide me down that path, it’s a lot easier to do platform mods in an afternoon than it is any serious engine work. The reason I finally bit the bullet on the ITBs was because it spun a big end bearing and I had a car to borrow for a few weeks, so I knuckled down.

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