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.

When Plastic Becomes Classic – The New Historics

If you are anything like us, in the last couple of years you may have found yourself with a confused look on your face as you sit at the traffic lights or cruise down the highway on the weekend. 

 

In front of you is a car on Historic or Club plates that is absolutely not historic from your perspective!

Of course Historic and Classic are different things to different people and even definitions vary, but we would be safe to assume that most people view an XYGT Falcon, an original Mini Cooper, a Datsun 1600, a ’57 Chevy and a A9X Torana as classics, whereas Historic vehicles tend be 1940’s and earlier in our book.

As time marches on though, so does the rolling Historic/Classic/Club registration systems that have been adopted across the country. Most Australian States and Territories employ rolling 30 year Historic/Classic permit schemes, whereas Victoria and WA have a rolling 25 year cut off for Historic vehicles. SA has adopted an alternative philosophy, with a fixed date for cars needing to be built before 1/1/1979 to be eligible.

For the most part, these schemes rely on a club’s helping to administer the approvals and there are generally some additional requirements and technicalities across the states, however we would have to write a thesis to explain all the ins and outs for each state. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have some Australia wide regulations on these types of schemes! It may be a pipe dream, but we can always hope.            

It’s important to note that as we write this article, if we wind back time 30 years, it would be March in 1987. Even scarier however for the status of ‘Historics’ is that WA and Victoria are now accepting vehicles older than March 1992! As 1992 represents the newer wave of what is eligible in these states, we will focus on this year for the sake of simplicity; and for other states, take it as a sign of things to come.

As we scan our way across models released in 1992, a picture starts to emerge of the reality we are starting to see appear on our roads.

So what cars were built in 1992?

Starting locally, the Holden VP Commodore was well into production and everything from a Berlina to a rare VP HSV Maloo Ute could receive the historic treatment.

Over in the blue oval corner, Ford had just released the EBII Falcon GLi and in fact next month is 25 years since the EBII XR8 hit the showrooms.

The records show that after the Falcon and Commodore, the remainder of the Top Ten cars sold in Australia in 1992 are the Mitsubishi Magna, Toyota Camry and Corolla, Ford Laser, Toyota Landcruiser, Nissan Pulsar, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Lancer and the Holden Rodeo. Perhaps not all of these cars will meet criteria or will be approved, but from what we can see generally could be considered under the schemes in Vic and WA.

If money was no object, why not register a 1992 McLaren F1 road car?

Another shock has been was seeing imported JDM vehicles such as the Nissan Silvia and Skyline’s already running around on Club/Historic plates.

 

Hyundai X2 Excel anybody? Didn’t think so, but if you were keen the option is there!

The rest of Australia may be eyeing off 30 year old vehicles still, but if Victoria and WA’s schemes are anything to go by, we will be quickly shifting our definition of Classic and Historic, at least as it applies to registration.

So the next time you double take on a car that is very un-historic, consider the future. There will come a time when that VF commodore wagon in the garage might be ready……..scary thought!

Are you currently running a car on Historic/Club/Classic registrations schemes or eyeing off a model that is about to become eligible? We’d love to hear your stories and experiences in this area from around Australia.

Rare Spares Feature Car Story: Jarcon Moore’s 1975 HJ Panel Van

Rare Spares have been a supporter of the classic car modification and restoration scene for over four decades and are proud to witness the sheer number of enthusiasts who share in our passion. Rare Spares’ recent 40 Year Daily Driver Facebook Promotion has proven the place that classic cars still have on our roads. We recently spoke to promotion winner Jarcon Moore, who gave us the rundown on his beloved 1975 HJ Holden Panel Van.

When the Western Australian spotted a pale blue HJ Panel Van on the road on his way to TAFE a year and a half ago, it was love at first sight. A long-time lover of Holden’s and Panel Vans, Jarcon approached the owner, successfully negotiated a deal to take the popular Australian classic off his hands and has been using it as his daily driver since ever since.

 

I’m the third owner of the car; the second owner had it for 38 years. It was originally purchased by a demolition company from Melville Motors and was white in colour, before being repainted the pale blue it is today”, Jarcon says.

 

Commenting on the positives and negatives of using a 42 year old car as his daily driver, Jarcon notes the lack of air-conditioning and power steering. However, these things don’t really worry him and he’s quick to point out the Panel Vans ability when helping any family and friends who need to move things and the ease of general maintenance. Jarcon hasn’t encountered too many issues with the HJ and mentioned his favourite moment with the car was when he got his P’s and was finally able to drive it on his own.

 

“I don’t really have to worry a lot about the car, just some general maintenance here and there. I haven't had many issues as of yet other than a lot of rust, and on one day it decided to shut down twice, I’m still not sure of the cause.”

 

Jarcon hasn’t made any modifications other than converting it back to a column shift, and as far as what the future holds for the 42 year old HJ?

 

“I plan to restore it, put in a 308 as well as a four speed transmission and possibly turn it into  a Sandman look-a-like”.

 

As a reward for winning the Rare Spares 40 Year Daily Driver Facebook Promotion, Jarcon has earnt himself a $500 Rare Spares Voucher and a signed Rare Spares cap. We look forward to hearing how Jarcon’s restoration goes!

 

Do you still use a classic car as your daily driver? Or maybe you have a 1970’s Holden parked in your garage? Head on over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.