W407 Fanged

Walkin­shaw Per­for­mance cre­ates an old­school kit for those who don’t like to whine


Walkin­shaw un­leashes its most pow­er­ful nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated pack­age ever, the 407kW/695Nm W407

CALL ME weird (again) but I like off­beat things. I like asym­me­try like off­set rac­ing stripes. I like Andie MacDow­ell’s slightly crooked, ever-so goofy smile. I like the stray, ex­tra drum­beat at the start of Times Like These by the Foo Fight­ers. And I ab­so­lutely love the ropey, lopey idle of a big-inch V8 with a lumpy great cam jammed up its val­ley. Is there any bet­ter noise an idling en­gine can make? Don’t think so. So you’ll for­give me if I’m per­haps pre­ma­turely at­tracted to Walkin­shaw Per­for­mance’s (WP) lat­est at­tack on sense and the senses.

Of course, an idle that switches fre­net­i­cally be­tween a 3/4 and 4/4 time sig­na­ture is one thing, but his­tor­i­cally, best re­sults have been gained from such en­gines by beat­ing them to hell. At which point the whole, shaggy, stum­bling crea­ture morphs into a rag­ing, scream­ing mon­ster, all the way to red­line. And be­yond, if you let it. What’s not to like?

En­ter WP’s 407 pack­age which, as the name sug­gests, takes a nor­mally as­pi­rated 6.2-litre LS3 V8 and cams it to the point where it’s ca­pa­ble of 407kW at the fly­wheel at max-yowl. It’s avail­able as an af­ter­mar­ket kit and you can ap­ply it to your new HSV or even the cur­rent 304kW VF Se­ries II Com­modore SS. Start with a sec­ond-hand car; doesn’t mat­ter, the re­sults will be the same – 407kW at 6250rpm.

Now, let’s com­pare those num­bers with the un­touched ver­sion of the same Se­ries II VF SS. Power is up a giant 103kW and torque is not only fat­ter – much fat­ter at 695Nm – but pro­duced higher in the rev range at 4950rpm (ver­sus 570Nm at 4400rpm for the SS). And since the su­per­charged LSA V8 in the HSV big-hit­ters only claims 400kW and 671Nm, I wanted to know how the hell a tune (rather than a pump) could cre­ate such a trans­for­ma­tion.

So I asked Walkin­shaw Per­for­mance’s Richard Jong the dif­fi­cult ques­tions. “Our W375 pack­age was pop­u­lar when we launched it a few years ago [in 2011],” he told me. “But now, some of those same peo­ple are look­ing for a bit more. But not all of them want to go down the su­per­charged path, so we de­vel­oped the W407 pack­age.”

In­ter­est­ingly, the only change over the W375 treat­ment is the 407-spec camshaft and a set of valve springs. Oh, and if the car be­ing con­verted (and the pack­age is only be­ing sold as an af­ter­mar­ket deal) has cov­ered more than about 20,000km, WP rec­om­mends that the lifters, lifter guides, head bolts and head gas­kets be re­newed also. Of course, you’re al­ready start­ing from base-camp with the 375 stuff which equals a set of ce­ramic-coated head­ers, high-flow cats and a three-inch cat-back set of pipes. There’s an over­the-ra­di­a­tor cold-air in­take and the ECU is re-flashed to suit the 407’s tem­per­a­ment. Even so, it’s a big old jump con­sid­er­ing the lack of forced in­duc­tion.

So, 103kW from a re­vised camshaft, in­take and ex­haust, then?

“Yep,” said Jong.

No other changes?


What gives?

“The cam is one of about six we tested as we tried to find the right bal­ance be­tween per­for­mance and live­abil­ity. The cam spec is ex­actly the same for a man­ual or au­to­matic, so it had to be com­pat­i­ble with the auto gear­box. Our cus­tomers ex­pect some­thing sub­tle enough to live with but they’re also look­ing for some­thing with an idle that you can in­stantly pick as a bit spe­cial.”

And boy, can you ever. Pick it, that is. Yes, I’ve heard lop­ier idles, but none that’s be­ing sold as a kit through an out­fit like Walkin­shaw Per­for­mance. Whether you’re gaz­ing into the en­gine bay, sit­ting in­side the car or stand­ing be­hind those bazooka tailpipes, there’s ab­so­lutely no mis­tak­ing the sig­na­ture jig of a lumpy stick. Okay, by Sum­mer­nats stan­dards, it’s rel­a­tively tame, but still…

Tra­di­tion­ally, of course, the big prob­lem with big camshafts has been a fall-off in low-end torque; a sit­u­a­tion that doesn’t re­cover un­til you’re up into

Ev­ery other so-called com­pro­mise of this pack­age I could eas­ily deal with on a day-to-day ba­sis

the revs and, as they say in pubs and man caves ev­ery­where, on the cam. Ex­cept this time around, we’re start­ing with 6.2 litres of in­jected V8, so if there’s any drop-off in off-idle per­for­mance, it’s one of those dead-set first-world prob­lems you hear about on TV.

The other catch with go­ing big in the cam depart­ment is that low-speed run­ning can get a bit sketchy. The 407 never wants to stall on you, but in the au­to­matic test-car we bor­rowed, it does make progress a bit stilted when you’re just creep­ing along in stop-start grid­lock stuff. In a man­ual, you’d dis­guise that with a bit of clutch slip ini­tially, but by the time the clutch was all the way home, I reckon you’d be in the same boat. Most peo­ple will deal with it. I cer­tainly could.

Now, back to that slightly softer off-idle pow­er­curve: I think it might ac­tu­ally be work­ing in the W407’s favour. Stay with me. Tra­di­tion­ally, these things have been pigs to launch hard, even at a dragstrip. But the W407 just walked up to the start line, al­lowed me to se­lect Sport mode in the tranny and then can­noned away from the tree like a bought one. Yes, you can spool it up too far and start turn­ing the tyres on the line and, yes, you do need to stall it up a frac­tion, since just jump­ing on the noise adds a cou­ple of tenths to your ET. But stall it up just so and it comes out of the hole cleanly and with none of the pan­icked short-shift­ing histri­on­ics that we’ve seen from many a Com­modore and its de­riv­a­tives lately.

To the point where I reckon it records a quicker time than the on-road feel sug­gests. Our best was a 12.9-sec­ond run with a ter­mi­nal of 181.4 and 0-100 in 4.8. Which means, of course, it can’t stay with the HSV Club­sport R8 LSA which, with its su­per­charged 400kW plant, gets it across the quar­ter in 12.5 and to 100 in 4.5. The dif­fer­ence there, of course is pos­si­bly the blown R8’s lower torque and power peaks, but when you look at the ter­mi­nal speeds (181.4 plays 184.8) maybe it’s closer than you think.

For mine, the W407 doesn’t feel like it has 407kW. Then again, when you’ve driven the 375kW, 1655kg AMG C63S, the blown 1907kg Club­bie sud­denly doesn’t feel like 400kW, ei­ther. Clearly, there’s a lot of per­cep­tion at work here, and I’m tip­ping that the less dra­matic torque curve of the un­blown Walky might be mask­ing its po­ten­tial a lit­tle. On the road, at least.

Of course, while the 407’s torque curve might lack the down-low meat-and-spuds of the LSA en­gine, the point of sac­ri­fic­ing some of that bot­tom-end jolt is to im­prove the top-end fizz. But since this is a rel­a­tively sub­tle camshaft, it shouldn’t be too dra­matic. And that’s pre­cisely how it feels. There’s an ap­pre­cia­ble in­crease in whup-ass as the tacho passes about 3000 and, from 3500 on­wards, it’s re­ally putting in. The en­gine def­i­nitely has a harder edge to it than the rather mel­low 304kW tune in the VF SS. Oh, it’s still a sweet revver and never what you’d call harsh, but the rounded edges of the stocker’s power pulses have grown shoul­ders.

Part of that is ob­vi­ously in the ex­haust, of course, and while the stock SS has one of the best notes around, the Walkin­shaw ex­haust is al­to­gether ballsier. That said, the de­li­cious crackle and pop on the over­run that the SS pro­vides seems to be miss­ing from the Walky zorst, so it’s not as tune­ful. It still fea­tures a bi-modal valve, but to turn it on and off re­quires go­ing to the set­tings menu on the touch-screen and find­ing the right box to tick or untick. We just left it in ‘An­gry’. Screw the neigh­bours.

Next-door neigh­bours mak­ing scrunched-up, un­happy faces is one thing, of course, but even­tu­ally even you might tire of the racket. This won’t hap­pen in the first few days of own­er­ship, but even­tu­ally you might want to lis­ten to the stereo or some­thing. In blare-mode, the ex­haust is just on the verge of dron­ing at free­way speeds if you’re even slightly into the power, say, when go­ing up a long hill. The other thing you may learn to hate is the stink of un­burned PULP at idle. This is all to do with the in­creased valve over­lap on the W407 camshaft (we think) but it re­mains that if you’re stand­ing down-wind of an idling W407, a sen­si­tive nose will know all about it. “Smells like an old mus­cle car,” said snap­per Brunelli. And hav­ing pho­tographed sev­eral thou­sand old idling mus­cle cars in his life, he’d know. Then again, if you’re suf­fi­ciently into cars like this to ac­tu­ally buy one, chances are the scent will be sweeter than frank­in­cense. Maybe myrrh, even.

That, how­ever, and ev­ery other so-called com­pro­mise of this pack­age I could eas­ily deal with on a day-to-day ba­sis. I still have a nig­gling feel­ing that this is not 407kW-worth of shunt, but that prob­a­bly says more about me and my sus­pi­cious mind than any­thing about the car it­self. Be­cause be­yond that, I ab­so­lutely dug the thing. I reckon the tune is ab­so­lutely spot on for the punter with an ex­tra ten-large ($9990, to be ex­act) to hurl at their new SS-V and the changes turn it into a big sweetie of a thing with a bit of at­ti­tude, rather than some grumpy mon­grel that wants to eat you. I kind of miss the over-run acous­tics of the stock SS and I’d love to try the same combo with a slightly looser torque con­verter 'cos I reckon that would make the most of the power de­liv­ery. That said, it could com­pletely screw the pooch, and hav­ing to change it back again is an aw­fully ex­pen­sive way of learn­ing your les­son.

The other thing that oc­curs to me is that this en­gine proves that mod­ern elec­tronic man­age­ment can make what would have been a prob­lem child in the old days into some­thing that is just a bit cheekier and play­ful, with­out be­ing headed for Ju­ve­nile Hall ev­ery time you fire it up. I guess we al­ready knew that much, but to have it con­firmed in the metal is al­ways sat­is­fy­ing. And fi­nally, it’s nice to see an old-school tun­ing method get re­sults. It’s too easy in this Playsta­tion world to for­get that you can ma­nip­u­late the fuel and spark ta­bles up to a point, but for real re­sults, you gotta go deeper in. Be­cause if it was easy, we’d all be do­ing it.

If it wasn't for Walkin­shaw's de­cals you'd never guess it wasn't a stock SS –and that's kinda the whole point

W407 kit builds on the pop­u­lar W375 pack­age to be Walkin­shaw's most pow­er­ful atmo of­fer­ing ever

Walkin­shaw's test car is based on the SS-V, how­ever the up­grades can be ap­plied to any LS3-equipped Holden or HSV, new or used

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