The car that saved Holden
A top car can get even better with a makeover, writesGRAHAMSMITH
THE VQ Statesman saw the return of the long-wheelbase models to the Holden range after an absence of six years. Holden was emerging from a troubled period where it was in real danger of failing. Had it not been for a huge rescue package by GM head office in Detroit in 1986, Holden may have gone out of business.
The rescue, along with some clever local planning that resulted in the VN Commodore in 1988 and the Commodore-derived VQ Statesman two years later, ensured the company would not only survive, but prosper going forward.
The VQ Statesman was hailed as the best locally produced car ever, which made it the perfect base for an HSV spin-off such as the SV90.
EVEN the best cars can be improved and so it was with the VQ Statesman once HSV got its hands on it and created the SV90.
The SV90 was one of the first models to emerge from the fledgling HSV outfit as it embarked on an expansion program to create three main model streams.
One was based on the Commodore, another on the Holden longwheelbase models, and the third on the ute.
HSV built on the base Statesman and gave it an injection of its Commodore performance, like that of the SV89 model.
The Statesman came with Holden’s fuel-injected 5.0-litre V8, but once HSV added its dual exhaust system, cold air intake, and some other tweaks its power jumped from 165kW to 182kW.
Underneath, HSV took the Statesman’s suspension, which included IRS independent rear suspension for the first time in a locally produced car, and lowered it 20mm and made it tauter.
The objective, according to John Harvey, then HSV’s guiding light from a product sense, was to create a sportier feel than the Statesman without compromising the ride quality expected of a long-wheelbase prestige model.
ON THE LOT
THE trade reckons the SV90 is worth $8000-$10,000, but use that as a guide.
HSVs fall into the ‘‘special interest’ area so their values aren’t always determined by the normal used-car value system.
For a start, fewer were built — 150 or so — and fewer came on the market as a result so the normal system for determining the value of used cars is harder to apply with accuracy.
IN THE SHOP
IT’S a Holden, so expect the same niggles as you would from a similar car coming from the main Holden assembly line.
The HSV cars were, in fact, built by Holden, then shipped to HSV, where they were ‘‘enhanced’ with all the things that made an HSV special.
Holden build quality wasn’t the greatest at the time. They were still in the transition from the 1980s, when production quality was probably at an all-time low, to the mid1990s, when they began to get it right.
Holdens of that era were renowned for their poor paint quality, which can be seen in the faded, blotchy VNs and other similar models on the road today.
There’s only one way to fix damaged paintwork like this, and that’s to repaint the car. That’s an expensive option so don’t buy a paint-damaged car lightly.
The engine and auto gearbox are rugged and reliable if not particularly sophisticated.
Look for oil leaks around the engine that might need fixing for a roadworthy, and watch for sloppy shifts from the transmission.
Many HSV cars are well looked after so shop around for one that has been pampered rather than settle for one that has been thrashed.
IN A CRASH
LOOK to sheet metal and lots of it for protection in a crash in the SV90.
It’s a big, solid car that will stand up well when it comes to the crunch, which is good because it doesn’t have things like airbags to soften the impact.
AT THE PUMP
IT HAS a V8, so it is thirsty. Don’t buy an SV90 and hope it will be as economical as a small four-cylinder model. It won’t be. Expect 15-18 litres for 100km if driven with a light foot, more if you can’t keep your right foot under control.
The Holden V8 will convert to LPG without problem, but I am against that option on a car like the SV90. In my view, adding LPG takes away from the car’s originality, and its value, and that’s an important thing with an HSV.
DEAN Mostert found himself addicted to the styling of the HSV VN/ VQ models, so he snapped up the tidy SV90 he stumbled across after selling the VN HSV’6 that was his first car.
Other than a fresh respray, it was fully original and had 147,000km on the odo. It has the optional leather trim and a few other goodies.
THE BOTTOM LINE
ELEGANT longwheelbase sedan from a classic Holden era.
Room for improvement: HSV got its hands on the Statesman and created the SV90.