Australia’s homologation specials: HSV VL Group A SS Walkinshaw

In 1987, newly created specialist racing and road offshoot HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) took over from where Peter Brock and HDT left off after Brock’s infamous polariser debacle. 

The first car HSV rolled out was the underwhelming SV8, shortly followed by the HSV VL Group A SS Walkinshaw, a car polarising for opinion not crystals. Built to take on Bathurst, the car was based on Holden’s mid sized Commodore.

Aerodynamic development kept the wing design moving higher and higher until it became a defining feature. Almost every other panel had a skirt or some addition to aid in aerodynamics resulting in an edgy, aggressive muscle car ready to take on the world. 

At a time when everything was going soft and rounded the Walky stood out for its dramatic and confronting body kit. You either loved it’s wild side or loathed it’s crassness and most leaned towards the latter. Funny how distinctiveness is now celebrated in an age of same-same styling as we celebrate it today.

As much as the car was about the styling, it was also about the 5L V8 pushrod engine with twin throttle bodies pumping out a modest 180 kW (241 hp), a figure most hot hatches would snigger at today. However no hot hatch will ever generate the same sense of occasion the Walkinshaw has. Those twin throttle bodies gave a lot of character to the engine especially when the second opened up and there was certainly plenty of work left in the engine to reach much larger horsepower figures. 

Image: Trade Unique Cars

The 16” wheels were of average size for the day with many swapping them out for larger 17 or 18” wheels. 

In standard trim the Borg Warner T5G gearbox was up to the task but when owners started to modify their cars and pump huge power and torque figures through, the gearboxes would often fail although there were solutions to the problem out there.

Inside the Group A really shows it’s age with the basic VL Commodore interior never far from the surface. You’re greeted with plastic creaks and a cloth trim with very little applied styling but this is a car that was developed at the back end of the VL’s model cycle with the much newer, larger, and more modern VN Commodore waiting in the wings. Once you’re driving however, you won’t give two hoots about the interior as the huge bonnet scoop out front dominates the frontal view while the wing out the back reminds you this thing was built for blasting down Conrod Straight at Bathurst. 

Image: Trade Unique Cars

Then there’s the sound. It’s pure muscle car without the gurgles of carb fed monsters of the past. It’s brutal, punchy, and honest with no fake crackles or pops modern cars are inflicted with. Pump up the power a bit and slap on an exhaust and it’s nigh on V8 perfection.

Watch and listen to Hunter Holden dealer principal Adam Kaplan drive the crap out of his Group A racing replica. Turn the sound up, you won’t be disappointed (the music soon fades out):

In racing, the Walkinshaw was moderately successful. It did take a Bathurst 1000 win but not a series championship, overshadowed by the Ford Sierra RS500s of the day. 

Image: Peter53au

The Group A was initially limited to a run of 500 and after some initial sales success was extended to another 250 which then took an eternity to move.

In 1997 and with 30,000 kms they could be had for $35,000. What are they worth now? Depends on the originality and kilometres but anywhere from $100,000 AUD to $340,000. The Walkinshaw will go down as one of the greatest Australian muscle cars ever. 

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At Privateer Garage we love products with great design, and experiences that are memorable and bring together the tactile nature of print through books and other media, an appreciation for photography, a nod to heritage and style inspired by classic pieces, and travel stories which feed the bug.

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