V8s 1978 – 2017

ONCE AN ENDANGERED SPECIES; NOW AN APEX PREDATOR

DAMION SMY

BATHURST. Brock. V8 Supercars. The V8 Commodore is the quintessential Australian performance car. Yet when it arrived in 1978, the second world fuel crisis was about to impact, which led to Ford axing its Falcon V8.

After the original VB’s success, the VC and VH models that followed, not to mention the disastrous four-cylinder Commodore, weren’t enough to keep winning the war with Ford. The energy crisis subsided, Falcon was on top and, after 1982, it continued to thrive without a V8.

Holden replaced its 4.2-litre V8 with a fuelinjected six for the ’84 VK, leaving the carby-fed 5.0-litre to go it alone. Once unleaded petrol arrived in 1986, the lack of investment in the V8 became blatantly apparent.

The emasculated VL 5.0-litre made 122kW, a whisker more than the 114kW entry-level six.

Making matters worse was the 150kW turbo six – more power than Brock’s 137kW SS Group A – which quickly became the cop car of choice. The V8 was a tow car at best.

That changed in December 1986 when General Motors paid off Holden’s huge $700m debt. Fishermans Bend declared the indigenous V8 would live, a decision supported by sister mag Street Machine’s ‘V8s ’til 98’ campaign that kicked off a few years earlier, and work began on reviving Holden’s once-great V8.

The rejuvenated V8 roared back under the bonnet of the aero-look VN in 1989.

Now, the ‘Iron Lion’ had fuel injection across the board, a far more competitive 165kW, a Borg- Warner five-speed manual and a limited-slip diff.

And an affordable Commodore SS returned for the first time since VK to remind Australia that Holden was serious about stonking V8s.

A truly world-competitive V8 Commodore arrived almost a decade later with the Gen III V8. Imported from Canada, the 5665cc Chevrolet engine offered a six-speed manual and boasted unprecedented power. The 1999 VT Series II Commodore SS saw its 179kW Aussie V8 replaced with a 220kW Gen III screamer – as much power as the previous HSVs – and its all-alloy construction meant it was far more efficient, too.

Today, the most potent Commodore variant packs a supercharged 430kW in HSV’s GTS, yet even Holden’s entry-level Commodore SS is a sub-5.0-second 0-100km/h star with 6.2 litres.

Two decades of the V8 Supercars juggernaut, and the passion that spurred on 1983’s original ‘V8s ’til 98’ compaign has led to one in three Commodores now sold having a V8 under the bonnet. Holden expects that split could increase to more than half during VFII’s two-year model life, but beyond that, crickets.

If the imported hot Commodore cops a twinturbo V6, it would want to be VL Turbo good!

FISHERMANS BEND DECLARED THAT THE INDIGENOUS V8 WOULD LIVE ON A F TER THE ‘ V8S ’ T IL 98’ CAMPA IGN