VT 1997 – 2000

OPENED THE ’DORE TO PROPER BACKING FROM GM

TOBY HAGON

EVEN when we sprung the camouflaged development mules, it was clear the forthcoming VT Commodore was going to be a good-looking machine.

While it still relied on an Opel architecture underneath, the Australian design team, then headed by Mike Simcoe, had enhanced the proportions and ensured every detail looked the business. The colour palette, including Tiger – a burnt orange that appeared with the Series II – only added to its visual appeal.

But the VT was more than looks. It started with a media launch, and the detailed workshops explaining the advances of what was billed as a world-class car were most telling. As well as reaffirming that the Commodore had made a giant leap over the VN/VP/VR/VS, it designers, importantly, behind was an insight into the passion of the design engineers and, importantl marketers beh the crucial crucia the crucial new model. crucia mo The VT brought an independent rear-end on all models and continued Holden’s safety push by adding side airbags and traction control into the mix. But it was the 5.7-litre Gen III V8 that arrived as part of the Series II update in 1999 that revived Australia’s love affair with the SS.

Our first thrash was at a sodden Proving Ground, where its high-revving nature was fantastic sideways fun. Its 220kW output was a hit and sent Holden on a long road of V8s that finally went as good as they sounded.

The VT wasn’t without hurdles, such as the semi-trailing-arm rear suspension that chewed out the insides of tyres, or the bootlid that tipped water into the boot. Yet from the moment it went on sale in September ’97, it was a hit.

Within 12 months Ford also chipped in to the VT’s success when it revealed its biggest Falcon blunder, the unloved AU. Commodore sales rocketed, at one point selling more than 100,000 annually of the various derivatives.

Over its nine-year life (which also spawned the VX, VY and VZ), the VT created more model variants than any Commodore ever, and it was the generation that put Holden on the global map. It also piqued the interest of GM big-wigs such as Bob Lutz, who loved what Holden was doing and could see potential for other GM brands like Chevrolet, Pontiac and Buick. Indeed, the VT’s success convinced GM to sign off on the billion-dollar spend for the VE Commodore, developed as a global car.