Against the odds, HSV built the ultimate Aussie sedan. It debuted this week at $170K — but sold out a year ago
THE GTSR W1 is not just an engineering marvel — it’s a miracle Holden Special Vehicles even got to build it.
The first speed hump was the limited availability of its supercharged “LS9” V8, developed for the fastest-ever Chevrolet Corvette, the ZR1. The engine had gone out of production but General Motors had stockpiled some in the US.
Fortunately, high-ranking executives in Detroit were in favour of sending out Holden and HSV on a high note, initially releasing 150 engines. HSV eventually secured 295 for customer cars, plus six for development testing.
Numerous other obstacles threatened to stop the W1 in its tracks (see panel).
The new model, unveiled this week, is named in homage to HSV’s limited edition GTSR released in 1996, of which just 85 examples were made.
The W refers to Walkinshaw. The late Tom Walkinshaw was the founder of HSV and son Ryan now runs the company. And the 1 signifies the best car they’ve ever made.
Production starts in April and will continue into October — but all 295 are spoken for. Diehard HSV fans started placing deposits with dealers a year ago in anticipation of a special final edition.
HSV will hold back two or three cars to enable “frequent buyers” to go into a raffle to buy one if they miss out at their local dealer.
For those who missed getting into a W1, the GTSR sedan or GTSR Maloo ute stablemates may be an option.
In these, the LSA V8 has been bumped up to 435kW and they share the W1’s bolstered seats, bodywork, brakes and wheels but not the tyres, suspension or exhaust.
The Maloo is the cheapest ticket into a GTSR badge, priced from $96,990 — still an eye-watering price for a ute.
The GTSR sedan starts at $109,490 — depending on your enthusiasm, a power of money or a $60K discount on the $169,990 W1.
At Holden’s Lang Lang test track a month ago, the W1 clocked 4.2 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint (eclipsing the 4.5 seconds for the previous GTS benchmark), making it the fastest accelerating car Australia has ever produced. Insiders think there is scope to shave a fraction off that time.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
We had a brief preview drive of a camouflaged development car near HSV’s headquarters this week — and came away gobsmacked.
Given the suspension is twice as stiff as that in a GTS, there were concerns the W1 would handle bumps as badly as a skateboard.
However, the opposite it true. It could easily be used as a daily driver. The gearbox action is smooth, the clutch is light and it’s as easy to manoeuvre as a Toyota Corolla. This is yet another engineering feat, given the heavy-duty hardware.
This also may seem hard to believe but, with such a responsive engine in such an agile chassis (the sticky tyres and race-tuned suspension are key factors here), the GTSR W1 feels as nimble as a hot hatch — despite weighing two tonnes.
The tragedy is most of the 295 cars probably will get locked away as collector items. But they deserve to be driven — to do otherwise would be like keeping Phar Lap in the backyard as a pony.