The muscle car. As American as baseball, mom’s apple pie and President Donald Trump’s liberal stance on immigration! From the mid-1960s to early-70s, evocatively-named Detroit iron such as the Super Bird, Super Bee, Cobra, GTO, Spoiler, Road Runner and Grabber helped put the American muscle car on the map, and twin rubber skid marks on the asphalt. The muscle car wasn’t the exclusive reserve of USA, USA, USA, however.
JUN 16th 2017
Axon's Automotive Anorak: The end of an era down under
Less brash and obese muscle-bound metal from the American muscle car’s halcyon days were produced in other parts of the world too, with this special breed of performance family four-seaters for dads in a hurry proving particularly popular in Brazil and Australia, to list but two.
Brazilians could choose from a wide selection of rorty V8 performance sedans and coupés with bold colour schemes and garish graphics. These Latin Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge models were typically hopped-up evolutions of cast-off Detroit engines and product lines, many dropped from the North American range catalogues some years earlier,
For Australia, the fashion for powerful performance V8s, capable of carting the whole family and pet pooch around at speed, began 50 years ago, and outlived the American ‘muscle’ era by decades. In fact, it never really went away, until now…
Specialist Australian Holden-approved performance tuner, HSV, recently announced its final flourish – the very last of its beefy locally-built Holden V8 sedans. Based around the final indigenous Australian-made large family saloon – the soon-defunct Holden Commodore – the HSV GTSR W1 is sending the Aussie model off in 636bhp style.
Rather than just slapping on a new set of alloys and commemorative ‘final edition’ badging, HSV’s team of engineers and designers have added an all-new engine, new transmission, new suspension, new brakes, new wheels, new tyres, new interior, and a new exterior design to the GTSR W1 to make it quite special!
The new engine is Chevrolet’s LS9, a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 featuring a racecar-style dry sump lubrication system. It is the same engine found in the sixth-generation Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and boasts more than 636bhp and 815Nm of torque. That’s a useful 75Nm jump on the existing Holden Commodore GTS, which was already Australia's most powerful production car.
This very special run-out HSV brings to an end a half century of loud, mean and grunting Australian home-grown muscle cars. These have included Holden’s now-legendary 1969 Monaro HT GTS 350 coupé, as well as its Bathurst-winning (by six clear laps!) 1977 Torana LX SS A9X, the wild HDT Commodore VK SS Group A of 1985, and more recently the 2015 Commodore VF II SS V Redline, better known in the UK as the Vauxhall VXR-8.
Holden hasn’t had it all its own way down under though, as 50 years ago Ford introduced the first in a long-line of its own Australian muscle saloons too. The bronze-only Falcon XR GT of 1967 set the challenge for Holden, followed-up by the epic Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III 351 GT (catchy names hey!) of 1971, plus the wild 2008 FPV Falcon F6 V6 Turbo, and 2015’s run-out Ford Falcon FG XR8. Chrysler of Australia also got in on the act with its cult Charger VH E49 coupé in 1972, whilst locally-built Leyland never quite hit the spot with its promising but failed Force 7 V8 coupé of 1974.
So, as the Last Post is played for the final hot Holden, an antipodean chapter in motoring history is closed. From now on, it’s only warmed-up imports for the Australians, which given the huge number of speed cameras, speed bumps and often-needless speed restrictions in that vast country, might be just as well, as clearly the local authorities no longer want enthusiastic Australian motorists to have any fun. Streuth cobber!
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