THE HEART AND THE HARDWARE
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.