Gold stan­dard

Why the ul­ti­mate HSV cost $170K — and still sold out

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Front Page - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowl­ing@news.com.au

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.

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