It takes all types to populate Street Machine Drag Challenge, from big block-powered, leaf-sprung drag missiles to boosted late-model sedans and chrome-bumper oddities. And if you’re Mopar fanatic Phillip Hortis, you turn up in a gorgeous Hemi six-powered VG Valiant.

First published in the September 2022 issue of Street Machine

Not only was Phil’s Val the only Mopar to participate in Drag Challenge Weekend 2022, but it did so with near-unmatched style.

Phil has been chipping away at a ’68 Dodge Charger since 2006, but the Mount Waverley Mopar nut couldn’t say no to this VG when it popped up for sale in 2018. “The Charger has been a nightmare, as it’s totally custom and requires a lot of work,” Phil explains.

With numerous setbacks and completion timeframes stretching out by the month, he set his eyes on finding a car he could enjoy in the meantime. “I found a relatively clean VG in Mount Martha owned by a teenage girl whose father had passed it down to her,” Phil says. “She wanted a more modern car with all the bells and whistles, and I wanted a VG, so the timing worked out well and I purchased the Val.”

Phillip’s son Zac tackled the Heathcote Park legs of Drag Challenge Weekend 2022, splitting road duties evenly with his dad. “It was a really good event, and a good time to bond with my son,” Phillip enthuses

The sedan was cruised as a stocker for a few months, before the performance bug got to Phil once again. “I couldn’t ignore the potential of the car anymore,” he laughs. “I put the Dodge on hold for 18 months while Luke [Kinsmore, of Luke’s Custom Fabrications] and Peter Haravitsidis got to work on the VG. They smashed out quality work in record time, and a year-and-a-half later, I was enjoying the overhauled VG on the Melbourne streets.”

This rapid turnaround was helped along by the VG being in good shape to start with. “It was very original and in great condition for its age, with minimal rust,” Phil says. “We pulled it completely down, blasted it, and did a complete nut-and-bolt restoration.”

The massive custom-fabricated airbox is fed by 4in piping. There’s also a custom accessory drive arrangement up front to power the Vintage Air a/c system, while the Rod Shop power steering runs an electric pump

While the DNA Paints Spilt Blood-coated panels make for a gorgeous spectacle, the real action starts under the bonnet. Known for his killer aspirated 855hp XY (SM, Oct ’20), Peter’s biggest contribution came in the form of a stonking fuel-injected Hemi six (Mill of the Month, SM, Dec ’21). Built on a grout-filled block with machining by Dandy Engines, the powerplant runs Scat H-beam rods hooked to a new standard Hemi crank. They’re paired to forged slugs from Special Piston Services with Hemi 5.7 rings, for an 11.8:1 compression ratio.

The cam is a Crow solid-roller, with Yella Terra 1.73 rockers and Ferrea 6000-Series valves in a CHI alloy head. “The motor was initially built with 55mm Webers, but it was a bit rough around the edges and had some flat spots like most carby motors,” says Phillip’s son Zac. In their place, Peter set up a trio of Jenvey Heritage 48mm DCOE throttlebodies on a Redline Weber manifold. The UK-made units feature LSA injectors and are managed by a Holley Terminator X ECU.

The Jenvey Heritage throttlebodies help retain the classic Weber look without the ultra-finicky tuning procedure, and aren’t too bad in the efficiency stakes. “All things considered, the economy is fantastic,” Phil says of the set-up. “We did Drag Challenge Weekend with just under three full tanks.” According to engine builder Peter Haravitsidis, there’s enough injector for a future E85 swap

The remainder of the fuel system comprises a Walbro 460 in-tank pump pulling unleaded 98 dinosaur juice from a custom, 75-litre baffled alloy tank. Oiling is handled by a Savy Motorsport external pump and custom eight-litre sump, while a Race radiator with dual Maradyne thermo fans keeps things cool both on street and strip. Strapped to the Dandy dyno, the combo laid down an impressive 420hp at 6500rpm.

A manualised Torqueflite 904 auto with an SDE 4000rpm converter takes those horses and spins them down a three-inch tailshaft to a nine-inch diff with a Truetrac centre, 3.7:1 gears and 31-spline axles. It all sits comfortably in a McDonald Brothers four-link rear and a set of mini-tubs. The crew at Luke’s Custom Fabrications welded in a set of chassis connectors and torque boxes to shore up the chassis, and also turned the engine bay into a sheet-metal artwork.

Given Phil planned to do more than just quarter-mile dashes in the VG, there’s a brace of nice handling gear underneath, including a Rod Shop IFS front end, plus a rack-and-pinion steering kit with an electric pump. The car also features Viking double-adjustable coil-overs all ’round, along with Wilwood 12-inch discs with four-pot calipers.

“Like any build, we ran into some issues, especially around the amount of custom work on the car,” Phil points out. “A lot of it was because we had some afterthoughts, but no problem was so big that it couldn’t be overcome, largely thanks to Luke and Peter working together to navigate any issues that came up.

“We debuted the VG at Chryslers On The Murray in 2019,” Phil continues. “The car won Best VG and Top Five Oz, and then picked up the Sponsor’s Choice award at Chryslers By The Bay in the VE-VG category.” With the show circuit ticked off, Phil hit Heathcote Park Raceway for a spot of racing, belting out a best ET of 12.7 seconds.

That’s when Phil turned his attention to a crack at Drag Challenge Weekend, entering with 24-year-old Zac in the Speed Pro Six-Cylinder class. While the VG’s back-of-the-pack finish may look disappointing on paper, the car held its own admirably against a field of force-fed Barras, many of which were more than three decades the Val’s junior.

Inside are bucket seats by Cam’s Custom Automotive Interiors, a custom centre console, and ADR-approved retractable seatbelts mounted under the parcel shelf for a neat, unobtrusive look

“We went just for some fun and won the Quickest Mopar trophy – though we were the only Mopar there,” Phil laughs. Father and son came within a bee’s proverbial of hitting their PB in Mildura, running an 8.22@82mph across the eighth, which adjusts to a 12.78-second pass down the full quarter.

“The greatest achievement was getting through Drag Challenge Weekend, putting in nearly 20 passes over three days and covering about 900km. The car handled it like a champion thanks to Pete getting it right.”

With the Val now sporting gongs from both of Australia’s premier Chrysler gigs and one of the toughest drag-and-drive events around, Phil’s turned his attention back to finishing off the Charger. Pretty good motivation, if you ask us!

A Holley EFI 6.86in dash communicates with the ECU, sitting in a 3D-printed surround for seamless integration

PHILLIP HORTIS
1970 VG VALIANT

Paint:  DNA Paints Spilt Blood
ENGINE
Type:  269ci Chrysler Hemi six
Induction:  Triple Jenvey Heritage DCOE throttlebodies
Manifold:  Redline
Head:  CHI alloy
Valves:  Ferrea 6000-Series stainless
Cam:  Crow solid-roller
Pistons:  Forged Special Piston Services
Crank:  Stock Hemi
Conrods:  Scat H-beam
Fuel system:  Walbro 460 in-tank pump, baffled alloy 75L tank
Cooling:  Race Radiators, dual Maradyne fans
Exhaust:  Pacemaker tuned extractors, custom 3in single system
Ignition:  ICE 7-Amp PLUS, custom crank trigger
TRANSMISSION
Gearbox:  Manualised 904 Torqueflite
Converter:  SDE 4000rpm stall
Tailshaft:  3in
Diff:  9in, 3.7:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front:  Viking coil-overs
Rear:  Viking coil-overs
Brakes:  Wilwood 12in discs, four-pot calipers (f & r)
Steering:  The Rod Shop power rack-and-pinion
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Street Pro; 15×5 (f), 15×10 (r)
Rubber: 195/65R15 (f), 295/55R15 (r)

THANKS
Luke and Jesse at Luke’s Custom Fabrications for getting the body absolutely Mickey Mouse; Pete (BigRevKev) for building a cracker motor and ensuring the car had the right running gear to be a dream to drive on the track or the street; Troy Kinsmore for a killer spray; my family for supporting me in my passion and pitching in with design ideas

COMMENTS

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