DAVID MORLEY August 18, 2012
HSV ClubSport R8.
The VE ClubSport is nearing the end of its life. Now’s the time to grab one - but make sure it’s not a fake
As the entire market segment known as the full-sized Australian family car threatens to all but disappear from the scene, it’ll be interesting to see what actually survives beyond the next couple of years.
There’s a big, black cloud hanging over the Ford Falcon, while the Holden Cruze has already had sales months where it has outsold its big brother, the Commodore.
Within those makes and models lies the future of some of the more niche-oriented cars based on those big five-seaters.
For example, the whole HSV product line, based entirely on the Holden Commodore and its variants, stands to disappear from view should the unthinkable happen.
It could just be that we’re seeing the last couple of generations of these big Aussie cars, which means that the second-hand value of things like HSVs could actually be propped up as buyers rush to park the last of the line in their garage. If that were to happen, one car that would benefit would be the HSV ClubSport in its most recent, VE, guise.
The first VE model ClubSports used the 6.0-litre version of General Motors’ V8, which produced 307kW of power and was mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
But a facelift in April 2008 brought with it the 6.2-litre version that made 317kW. That doesn’t mean it was a pauper’s delight and with a full line-up of convenience and safety gear, it gave similarly equipped European performance sedans a real run for their money.
This was, of course, the HSV’s party trick at the time: lots and lots of performance for a relatively small amount of money.
Which, of course, means it’s important how you see the thing; either it’s a hugely expensive Commodore-based car, or it’s a sensationally cheap performance saloon. Either way, there is enormous performance on tap.
The big V8 will stretch its legs and slingshot the car forward, yet it will also amble along at the legal limit all day and even return decent fuel economy (particularly on the open road). And unlike a lot of high-stepping Euro performance cars, the ClubSport will seat five big blokes and haul their fishing boat along at 100km/h.
And if load-carrying capacity is the main criteria, from 2008 onwards there was even a station wagon version called the R8 Tourer.
It mightn’t have been subtle, but it was (and remains) a very effective piece of equipment. The 6.2-litre engine used in the VE HSV range was not, as had previously been the case, shared with the Holden line-up. The beefiest Commodore sported a 6.0-litre version of much the same engine, but only the HSV range got the full 6.2 litres.
Aside from that cachet of exclusivity, the 6.2 (and the 6.0-litre) was also a much better engine than the old 5.7-litre unit that both Holden and HSV had been using since the Series 2 VT range of 1999.
Not only did it make more power and torque, it was also less prone to the oil-burning problems of the 5.7.
It was also much less likely to exhibit the noisy top-end syndrome that worried many a 5.7 HSV owner, and oil leaks from the rear-main seal were vastly less frequent. That said, it’s still worth checking under the car for oil leaks and we’d be very keen to start any prospective purchase from dead cold first thing in the morning to make sure there are no nasty noises apparent before the engine has warmed up.
Big, heavy cars with lots of horsepower tend to chew through tyres and brake pads – and discs.
Check that there’s plenty of brake pad material remaining (or budget for a new set) and check that the tyres are wearing evenly across their tread surface.
Any car with small blobs of rubber stuck to the exhaust or up under the rear wheel arches or rear of the car has probably been owned by somebody who likes their burnouts (legal or illegal) and we’d steer clear of such a car.
These engines tend to run their oil pretty hot, so make sure that every oil change has been attended to and that the correct grade and type of oil has been used.
Also, make sure you are buying an actual HSV and not a Holden Commodore tarted up to look like the real thing.
Modern HSVs are a lot harder to ‘‘fake’’ but the aftermarket can supply copies of many of the bits that make a HSV look like it does. Check the compliance plate and look for the HSV-specific build plate that should give a build number.