The HSV GTS-R W1. The underappreciated beast from down under.
An Aussie muscle car beats the Germans on track and drinks everything under the table.
I would like to start with a question. Have you ever heard of HSV? If you have, you are either an Aussie or a true fan of the big burbly V8. HSV stands for Holden Special Vehicles, basically Australia's homemade Holden version of AMG, RS and M-Sport. Where the Germans take soft, beautifully made, leather filled luxo-barges and turn them into hardcore monsters, HSV starts with a basic Holden Commodore. The Australians know it better as the best-selling car in the country from 1995 to 2010. It is everything from their police cars, taxis to what the Prime Minister used to be seen in. They made 2.3 million of them, not including any of the exported and rebadged Chevrolet and Pontiacs. 2.3 million cars for a country where the population has only just reached 25 million. To put that into perspective, they only sold 2.8 million Ford Cortinas in the UK. That is 1 Commodore for every 11 people compared to 1 Cortina for every 20 in the UK. Perhaps the biggest difference was that the Cortina came with a 4-cylinder and the Commodore always had an option of a big V8. Not surprisingly these were always the best sellers. The last Aussie made Commodore, the VF2, had a 6.2L, 425 bhp, 410 lb-ft naturally aspirated LS3 V8. This was the normal family car, and it came with a 6-speed manual and cost $47,990, or the equivalent of £26,725, less than any modern mid-sized front wheel drive hot-hatch.
HSV then got hold of it, added better suspension, brakes, an ungodly exhaust note and a supercharger to thump power up to 550 bhp and 509 lb-ft of torque in base Clubsport HSV trim. However, if that wasn’t enough, they also offered a mad GTS version with 578 bhp and 546 lb-ft torque. This was a rear-wheel-drive, manual, 5-seater, very comfortable saloon car with more power than a modern Nissan GTR and cost less than half as much. Madness. As with most muscle cars it was not a lap monster by any means, but at half the price of any German equivalent, and none of the American rivals being imported, the pace left most things for dead. In case you already didn't want one, it was also offered as a ute, the Maloo, or an estate, the Tourer.
But the GTS wasn’t even the shining light in the HSV line-up. In the final year of Australian made Commodores, HSV created the extreme but awkwardly named GTS-R W1. This was designed to show what could be achieved by the small team of just 150 people when there was no limit and no price barrier, just a muscle car for the track Australian-style. You now had the 6.2L LS9 V8 but this time it was re-tuned again to make an incredible 636 bhp and 601 lb-ft of torque, or more than a Ferrari 458 Speciale or a Lamborghini Huracan. In any world that is an incredible amount of power but it was somehow never the true headlines. It came as standard with 6 piston 410mm brakes, magnetic ride control, a six-speed manual gearbox, huge amounts of carbon fibre including a carbon fibre airbox, and even Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres. It was still a big heavy saloon car, 1850 kilos, but when put up again some of the best that the world had to offer, it beat almost everything.
The natural hunting ground for the GTS-R W1.
It was put in a head-to-head against an M6 Gran Coupe around Sandown Circuit and beat it by 1 and a half seconds and was only 10 seconds off the pace of a top spec V8 Supercar. During a track test at the Baskerville Race Circuit, it was faster than a 911 Carrera S, an M3 competition and a Nissan GT-R. That is serious competition and I strongly believe that this is a car that deserves far more international credit than it gets. It should be up there with the GT500s, the Demons, the Hellcats and the ZL1 1LEs of this world.
If you take anything from this, please let it be that Aussies can make truly amazing cars that can not only rival the Americans, but even the rest of the world. Let's celebrate them more than we do. I know and recognize that the future is electric but let's make sure that the vehicles from every country are saved and cherished for all to enjoy in the future. Especially if it happens to have a massive V8.