The car that saved Holden

A top car can get even bet­ter with a makeover, writesGRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Letters -

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


EL­E­GANT long­wheel­base sedan from a clas­sic Holden era.

Room for im­prove­ment: HSV got its hands on the States­man and cre­ated the SV90.

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