Five unusual HSV’s

Holden Special Vehicles has earned an iconic status in the Australian automotive landscape over the last 30 odd years and has manufactured some of the country’s most impressive and fastest sports cars. However, as with most manufactures, not every single model has been a hit with the public and some won’t go down in history as ‘special vehicles’. Time has not aged the below cars particularly well, but none the less in this article we will take a look at three HSV’s that were on the unusual side.

HSV SV1800 Astra

The Nissan Pulsar… ah Holden Astra, wait no the HSV SV1800 Astra will go down as one of the least inspiring and unsuccessful HSV’s to hit the showroom floor. Powering the SV1800 was the all-conquering 1.8 litre four Cylinder Holden Family II engine which produced a mind-warping 79kw and 151nm. HSV took the Pulsar, added HSV badges, a Walkinshaw-esque ‘wind tunnel designed’ body kits and a HSV build plate. Only 30 sedans and 35 hatchbacks were ever sold, with the remaining body kits winding up as a special option for the regular Holden Astra.

HSV Jackaroo

For the HSV Jackaroo, designers took the regular Holden Jackaroo added an uninspiring body kit, velour trim and badges… and that’s about it. Less than 100 of the off-roaders were built, so perhaps as with many other obscure, short-lived cars if you’re an owner you may be wondering if you’re sitting on a gold mine. Guess again. The HSV variant of the Jackaroo will likely net you somewhere in the region of $5-7K (very marginally more than the Holden variant). Off-roaders bemoan the lack of a V8 or a supercharger that would have undoubtedly ensured the Jackaroo lived up to the HSV reputation of being ‘special’.

 

HSV Challenger

Chances are that you’ve probably never heard of the VN Challenger, only the most diehard HSV fans will remember the 50 ‘dolled-up’ Executive Commodore’s that were put together for the Holden dealer group in Canberra. Features included body coloured wheel covers and bumper bars, pin stripes, a HSV grille taken from the SV3800 and Challenger decals and the only colour option was ‘Alpine White’. While the Challenger itself is not particularly unusual, in fact if anything it’s far too ‘usual’ to be considered a ‘special vehicle’, it’s the reason behind its production which is strange. In the early 90’s, HSV produced a number of short run models to coincide with motoring events and other reasons they saw fit, including the Challenger as well as the DMG90, SVT-30, 8-plus and Plus-6, none of which quite reached the lofty heights of many HSV’s that followed.

Have you owned any of the above HSV’s? Or maybe you have a story about one of the many other HSV’s that have hit showroom floors over the last three decades? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

The $312,000 Monaro

A pristine condition 1970 Holden HT GTS350 Monaro has been sold at Lloyds Auctions on the Gold Coast last month for a whopping $312,000. Eclipsing the previous record of $310,000 set in March, this ‘pride of the fleet’ becomes one of the most valuable Monaro’s ever sold at auction. Features include impeccable Platinum Metallic paint, a mere 119,000km on the odometer, a two speed powerglide automatic transmission and of course a 5.7 litre 350 Chevrolet engine. With the sale of this iconic Australian car, we decided to take a look back at the HT GTS350 Monaro and discuss why it holds a special place in the hearts of Australian motoring enthusiasts.

The HT Monaro was introduced in 1969 to much fanfare and whilst the minor design changes including the bonnet scoops and bold bonnet stripes were well received, it was the introduction of the 350 Chevrolet that got the punters excited. Not only was the GTS350 a winner with the public, it left a fair mark on the Australian racing scene as well, where it experienced almost immediate success on the track.

In 1969, in its first year under the management of Harry Firth, Holden Dealer Team GTS350 Monaro’s took out the top and third step of the podium at the Hardie Ferodo 500, piloted by Colin Bond/Tony Roberts and Peter Brock/Des West respectively. The Monaro would also go on to take out the 1970 Surfers Paradise 12 hour race driven once again by Bond and Roberts as well as the 1970 Australian Touring Car Championship driven by Norm Beechey. Beechey’s feat was made even more impressive as a result of an 8th place finish at Calder Park, a DNF at Warwick Farm Raceway and a DNS at Symmons Plains. The Monaro would go on to race a further two years in the ATCC before the ‘supercar scare’ of 1972 rendered the Monaro ineligible for the newly developed Group C production class.

Whilst the HK GTS327 Monaro was a great car and may have been the first to take up the fight to the GT Falcon, it didn’t quite hit the nail on the head in terms of usability. It was the GTS350 which propelled the Monaro to levels at the very least equal to that of the Falcon GT. Power outputs were comparable between the Holden and Ford marquees whilst acceleration and top speed figures were almost identical. The GTS was a second faster to 50mph, however only a shade faster to 100mph (20.1 to 20.6), ensuring the Holden v Ford rivalry raged on.

Significant suspension improvements were made to the GTS350 over the regular GTS models with performance in mind. Stiffer shocks, a heavy duty stabiliser bar and rear radius rods ensured a much sportier ride whilst bearing a significant improvement over the harsh ride of the HK GTS327. The end result was a car suitable for the track whilst also being completely practical for day to day use. Interestingly, the GTS350 in manual guise was the first Holden that could be ordered with rally wheels.

The Monaro will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Holden fans, with the iconic coupe representing some of the most iconic designs in Australian automotive history. At Rare Spares, we love to hear your stories of Australian classic cars; do you own an early model Monaro? Or maybe you have your eye on a particular classic? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and let us know in the comments below.

Party up front, Business at the back – The best of Holden Performance Utes

As the production of Australian cars winds up, we will continue to take a look at some of the locally built cars that will be fondly remembered by the Aussie motoring community. In this installment, we look back on a few of the most memorable Holden performance Utes; cars that took business and mixed it with pleasure.

Although Ford is generally credited with designing the world’s first Ute in Australia with the Coupe Utility in 1934, Holden soon joined the world of Ute’s with their 48-215 (FX) Utility in 1951.

Designed as workhorses for Australian farmers and tradesmen, the humble Ute continued to evolve with handling and power improvements, however was never sold or intended to be a performance based vehicle. 

This all changed for Holden at the 1990 Sydney Motor Show, when Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) unveiled the VG HSV Maloo Ute.  Quickly becoming the star of the show the ‘Maloo’ (Aboriginal word for ‘thunder’) was powered by a 5.0-litre V8 engine with 180kW/400Nm and only available in Alpine White and Maranello Red to enhance its exclusivity. You don’t see many of these driving around today!

 Although Holden had been fitting V8’s to their Ute’s for many years, it was in 2001, with the release of the VU Series, that Holden upped the game with their own true performance model, being the VU SS Ute.  Based on an all new platform, the Holden team spent a huge amount of time optimizing the Ute for improved aerodynamics and reduced wind noise, and the result is a very smooth, flowing exterior design.  The VU Ute was fitted with a 225kw Chevrolet 5.7L Gen 3 LS1 Engine placed between the strut towers as well as what was a first in a Ute at the time, independent rear suspension. This added to the 17” alloys, sports seats and sports suspension. What did they cost at the time? $36,490.

 

HSV stepped up the game to another level with the VZ Maloo R8. A far more aggressive exterior design clearly differentiated the HSV enhanced Ute from the Holden performance variants. Fitted with the then new 6.0 litre LS2 V8 Engine, the VZ series also boasted 19” wheels and traction control.

In 2006, Aussie motorsport legend Mark Skaife set a world record with the VZ Maloo, clocking 271.44km/h on a closed road in South Australia and becoming the “World’s Fastest Production Pickup/Utility”.

 

As part of Holden’s continued marketing drive around the performance angle of its ever popular Ute range, a new marketing campaign was needed to launch the new VF SS V Redline Ute.  Holden decided to ship the Ute to one of the world’s most famous testing grounds, Germany’s 20.8km long Nordschleife. With high hopes and a vehicle test engineer behind the wheel, the SS clocked a blistering 8:19.47 around the 170 turn track, becoming the fastest Utility to do so. There was no official record given there was no ‘utility class’ but regardless, the time was an impressive achievement.

 

The Holden Performance Ute collection wouldn’t be complete without the final variant of the iconic Aussie vehicle. Enter the HSV GTSR Maloo. HSV decided to honour the performance Ute by sending it out with a bang and a model truly representative of performance in every sense of the word. Power was well and truly taken care of with the 435kw Supercharged LSA 6.2L V8 engine. A tuned HSV performance suspension package plus numerous electronic aids takes care of handling while stopping power is handled by the massive 6 piston calipers and two piece discs. 20” wheels and an aggressive styling package complete the head turning aesthetics.

Although it is a sad day to see the traditional Aussie Ute finish production, we will always have the memories of such an Aussie institution.

Vacation Nation - Looking Back at the Humble Holden Vacationer

As Aussie as thongs, meat pies and kangaroo’s, the humble road trip is an Aussie institution. Most of us will remember those drives in the back of the car as the family headed North, South, East or West to that holiday home, camp site or Uncle’s place somewhere up the road. No doubt those fond memories were re-created with the next generation, this time with you in the front seats!

With such a treasured pastime as the road trip, Holden were in tune with this fact, and playing to the feelings of freedom and good vibes of those holidays, launched specific ‘Vacationer’ models. This up-spec’d model would appeal to those looking at a special model that could make the long hauls across our vast nation somewhat more comfortable.

In 1972 the Holden HQ Kingswood Vacationer model was released. And what a beauty she was. Premium additions like a luxury centre arm rest and door to door carpets, chrome wheel trims and a selection of two-tone colour options, joined the 202 engine and tri-matic automatic gearbox with disc brakes.

The Vacationer model made appearances throughout the majority of the subsequent Holden line-up, culminating in the last appearance of the vacationer model in 1995 when Holden released the VS series. At the time of release, the VS Commodore Vacationer was $30,370 which in today’s money is $50,951.

What did you get standard for your money when ordering a new Vacationer in 1995? Air conditioning, power door mirrors, remote (keyless) central locking, power steering, power windows all-round, plus the all-important cruise control to gobble up those highway miles.

While we don’t think Holden will revive the Vacationer model any time soon, it was an interesting model that for many years was a reflection of the habits of a vacation nation!

Were you one of the many children who spent countless hours’ road tripping in the back of a vacationer? Or maybe you still own a Vacationer? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below!

The HSV GTSR W1 - History In The Making

As a final, explosive swan-song for Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) and its final iterations of specialist performance packages, the most powerful HSV’s ever will be launched from their Clayton base. Enter the GTSR and GTSR W1.

Many will be familiar with the GTSR badge, which last made an appearance on the eye-catching yellow and somewhat polarising VS GTSR in 1996.

After 30 years working with Holden it seems only fitting that HSV have revived the GTSR moniker turning up the wick to modify these jaw-dropping GTSR creations, culminating in what is Australia’s most powerful Aussie production car ever, the W1.

No stone has been left unturned in the process of transforming the car into a modern, mechanical work of art. At the heart of the W1 is a heaving beast in the form of the hand built, 6.2L, supercharged LS9, Gen IV alloy V8. Originally the powerplant for Corvette in the U.S, HSV had to widen the track and front guards to shoehorn the V8 into the Holden. And we are glad they did!

To protect the strengthened internals and suit the demands the engine will be placed under, a nine plate air-to-water cooled dry sump lubrication system is employed, which is normally a feature reserved for racing machinery and supercars. To suit Australian conditions, a beefed up cooling system was included, as was a larger supercharger intercooler and hi-flow water pump.

The GTSR W1 displaces a massive total of 474kw/+815Nm of tyre destroying power. HSV claim the W1 will hit 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds and reel off the quarter mile time in an impressive 12.1 seconds, making it the fastest production car ever produced in Australia, adding another title to its long list. If you are keen, for the record, you can also hit 98.5km/h in first gear.

In what some would say true ‘purist’ spirit, the new GTSR range is only offered in 6 speed close ratio manual format. Although no automatic option may put a few potential buyers off, HSV’s philosophy of building a road registered race car aligns with their choice to favour a manual. And with manual transmissions becoming rarer each year, and the car’s potential as an investment platform in the future, going manual is another smart decision by HSV on this front we believe.

The bespoke list of modifications is truly incredible, many only produced with the W1. There is an OTR carbon fibre cold air intake, custom gearbox input shaft and gearset, single piece forged flywheel, AP racing six piston calipers, specially designed rotors for cooling, 20” wheels that maximise cooling to the brakes and wheels are wrapped in Pirelli P Zero Trofeo semi-slicks.

With handling such a critical component of connecting the driver to the road, HSV’s ultimate creation has an all-new Supashock suspension system, modelled off Walkinshaw Racing’s Supercars. Combined with the HSV enhanced Driver Interface (EDI) a full range of electronic based drive characteristics can be optimised to your preference, including torque vectoring, stability settings, launch control, bi-modal exhaust and electrical steering weight.

The end result of all of these individual changes is a package that is more than the sum of its parts and something HSV and the Australian automotive market should be proud of. It represents what can be accomplished from Australian based manufacturers, providing a ray of sunshine in what is otherwise a somewhat glum period for Australian manufacturing and automotive market.  

Keen to get your hands on this piece of Aussie automotive history in the making? Unfortunately you are already too late. Once word got around of the impending launch of this incredible machine and the fact only 300 W1’s are ever being produced, orders flooded in, resulting in the car being sold out before it even hit the showroom floor. In fact, more than 500 additional orders were unable to be fulfilled, leaving many potential owners disappointed they would miss out.

Of course all this performance, exclusivity will come at a cost. How much? Well you won’t get any change out of $170,000. That may seem like a hell of a lot of money, but given its status as the most powerful HSV ever, the fastest production car ever built in Australia, the most technologically advanced HSV, and the final Holden HSV to ever be built, there are more than a few reasons to join history.

Will the HSV GTSR W1 become the next GTHO Phase III in the future, or is it overpriced for what it is? Let us know on the Rare Spares Facebook page.