THE HEART AND THE HARD­WARE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - COVER STORY - JD

HSV “built” the first GTSR W1 with an LS9 in mid-2014 — on a com­puter at its en­gi­neer­ing of­fice in Clay­ton, Vic­to­ria. The ex­er­cise en­sured the race-bred en­gine would fit un­der the bon­net and pass crash safety stan­dards.

How­ever, this mon­strous en­gine could not be fit­ted on the pro­duc­tion line in El­iz­a­beth, South Aus­tralia.

HSV would have to per­form a heart trans­plant at its HQ in Clay­ton, Vic­to­ria, as it had done with the 7.0-litre W427 in 2008.

In March 2015 HSV ne­go­ti­ated with trans­mis­sion spe­cial­ist Tre­mec in the US to de­velop a unique gear­box as there was none in the GM world ro­bust enough to han­dle the power and torque.

Tre­mec fit­ted the gear set from the Corvette ZR1 in a gear­box hous­ing that would fit in a Com­modore.

Nor­mally a sup­plier would not even con­sider such a small spe­cialised or­der.

In Au­gust 2015 the first LS9 was in­stalled in a plain white GTS to start test­ing un­der wraps.

It took six months to get the LS9 to breathe prop­erly — via a be­spoke car­bon-fi­bre air­box made by the same com­pany that sup­plies Fer­rari. An­other 12 months was spent on com­ply­ing with stricter Euro5 emis­sions with­out los­ing power.

Mean­while the chas­sis team wanted to push the Com­modore to its lim­its. Wider front tyres, now nine inches to go with 10-inch­ers at the rear, needed new front fend­ers — plas­tic com­pos­ite pan­els saved weight, were quicker to de­velop than metal and didn’t com­pro­mise crash per­for­mance. V8 Su­per­car sup­pli­ers Su­paShock pro­vided the heavy duty dampers.

En­gine, gear­box and sus­pen­sion didn’t align in a test car un­til March last year — and even at that late stage, the project could have failed if any of the key com­po­nents did not de­liver.

The test team spent most of 2016 on eval­u­a­tion work, in­clud­ing tor­ture tests at Hid­den Val­ley race­track in the NT, go­ing through count­less sets of the su­per sticky Pirelli road-go­ing race tyres.

En­gi­neers, de­sign­ers and sup­pli­ers con­tin­ued to burn the mid­night oil into early Jan­uary. The fi­nal out­puts — 474kW of power and 815Nm of torque — were cal­i­brated on a dy­namome­ter last week.

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