Holden HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) is the officially designated company responsible for producing performance vehicles for the car manufacturer. Holden HSV, over the years, has taken normal production cars and tweaked them to produce specialist vehicles under the HSV marque.
The company has been in operation since 1987, and it is a joint venture between Holden and Scottish racing driver, Tom Wilkinshaw. The first car manufactured in 1988 by the company was the Holden VL Commodore SS Group ASV; using a 5.0L engine Commodore, they created a unique body shell that was blue/silver coloured and had a large rear wing.
After the VL series, Holden HSV followed this up with the VN range in 1989, using the renovated VN Commodore as a basis and giving it a new look and improved performance. There were others in the range based around the VG ute, the VQ Caprice.
As Holden brought out new models, HSV enhanced their performance and gave them exclusive, limited range body shapes. Retooling of the company brought dividends with the release of the VR range in 1993 and included features like ABS and IRS as standard. The VS models of 1995 came equipped with improved security and the memorable styling of the Mantra and Grange models.
There was a major change in 2000 when the VX models entered production. Holden HSV made a conscious effort to alter the body shape more and included plenty of non-standard Holden kit inside to further differentiate the cars from the parent company. These changes were furthered with the sophisticatedly conceived interiors of the VY range in 2002 and the athletic lines of the VY2 models the following year.
The latest of the ranges, the E-Series, started out in 2006 with the remit of totally rethinking performance car design. The E-Series took HSV styling to a new dimension and created impressive aerodynamic shapes, front ends with deep, yawning air dams and narrow grilles, and large, narrow boots with spoilers. Each model had its own, individualistic alloys and plenty of added equipment.
The initial HSV cars were all about performance and less about style. Bodyworks were tweaked, but the main driving force behind the cars were the drivetrains and transmissions. The mainstay of the HSV lines were the 5.0L V8 engines often linked to a 6-speed ZF manual gearbox. These produced on average 215kW of power and 411Nm of torque, and they were fitted with power-assisted disc brakes and independently sprung front axles.
The Y-Series car engines typically put out 285kW of power. The latest E-Series from 2008 onwards had the 6.2L engine as standard, although they did put the incredible 7.0L L LS7 V8 engine into the top-line W427 model, which produced a rip roaring 375kW and 640Nm of torque. The 6.2L that the current HSVs run on is able to lurch from 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds. These big engines are thirsty beasts though and a typical one requires 16.5L/100km.
As standard, all current HSV models come equipped with Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI), Blind Spot Zone Alert (BSZA), Daylight Running Lights, a performance-enhancing Liquid Propane Injection (LPI) system, and electronic stability control (ESC). Over time, HSV realised that customers wanted more than just fast, loud cars; customers also wanted improved trim levels and the latest in gadgets. Things like magnetic ride control, 20-inch pentagon alloy wheels, launch control, and rear spoiler LED lights all add to the individual styling of the range.
The HSV cars of today come brimming with equipment from parking assist with reverse cameras to leather trim. Holden’s decision to raise the level of equipment has paid off, and they are not only one of the best performing cars but also the best equipped too.
Holden operates in a very niche market, creating limited edition ranges of between 50 and 500 vehicles specially adapted from the Holden range of cars. While there are plenty of specialist performance car manufacturers and production car stylists, HSV is the only one approved to work alongside Holden. This gives them a definite edge over other producers, especially if you’re a Holden fan.
There are a number of specialist performance car manufacturers, such as the likes of FPV, Ford Performance Vehicles, and established performance producers, such as Porsche, Ferrari, and Lamborghini.
When compared to these, HSV cars are well in contention for performance levels and are also well-equipped vehicles. If price is a factor then HSV most definitely provides great value with their locally sourced high-spec machines.