1989 - 1991
COMMODORE VN SS
BODY & CHASSIS
Close on 30 years of exposure, and the risk of of ratty repairs means a lot of SS Commodores come with body problems. Limited clearance when negotiating speedbumps or climbing gutters makes lowslung cars susceptible to crushed sills and cracked plastics. Varying bumper and bonnet gaps can signify poor-quality repairs. Look for chassis rail ripples and rusted inner sills and floor pans. Replacement body panels are still available at fair prices – new door-skins at $125 each and used bonnets that sell for around $300. Finding body plastics (bumpers and rubbing strips) in good condition is difficult so make sure they aren’t significantly damaged. Keeping spare panels and glass if you have the cash and space is a good idea.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
The VN’s LB9 V8 was the first such engine to use fuel injection and remained in production until 1999. Plenty of these injected Aussie V8s remain available, as do kits of parts to replace clagged injection or tired engine internals. Unless you need to preserve the authenticity of a ‘matching numbers’ SS, it will be cheaper to install a recently rebuilt engine - from a trusted supplier of course. Clutch life varies according to use but 80,000 kilometres should be possible. Cars with a mushy pedal need the hydraulics overhauled but stay away if gears are difficult to select and acceleration sends vibrations through the gearlever. Automatics that slur changes or jump from 2nd straight to 4th need an overhaul.
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
A narrow track carried over from the VL sees lots of owners running excessive negative camber which is hard on the inner edges of tyres and other chassis components. Worn bushes cause front-end clunks and wavering steering response. Be careful too of a car that rolls, bounces and wants to dig its nose in when cornering. Commodore V8s are hard on front shocks so buy quality replacements. Lowered springs are commonly used when cars undergo suspension rebuilds. In conjunction with low-profile tyres they reduce ride height and ruin ride quality. Brake squeal and shudder tells you the discs have had enough but sets of high-quality replacement rotors and pads cost less than $1000.
INTERIOR & ELECTRICS
Aged trim is going to influence the money being paid for early SS Commodores. The patterned seats can be retrimmed in other fabrics but finding a rolll of the correct material is hard. Complete seats in decent condition cost around $300 each. Leaks from the heating system and poor windscreen sealing will combine to create damp, smelly carpets and possible rust. Commodore headlining is prone to coming adrift and brushing annoyingly against occupants’ heads. Some trimmers want $500 to properly rectify the problem but there are less expensive methods. Air-conditioners that blow warm air (or none) mean money needs to be spent if you want comfort when driving in summer.