Farewell Commodore: top five sleepers

With the Commodore nameplate going the way of the dodo, we look back at some of the more unassuming models that hid some real punch

Photographers: Street Machine Archives

AFTER 41 years, five generations and dozens of driveline variations, Holden has finally, some say mercifully, laid the Commodore nameplate to rest. Across the decades, HDT/HSV usually took care of the go-fast brigade, but not all heroes wear capes. Holden snuck out a few speedy units – clandestine Commodores that didn’t look that fast, but were. Here are our faves.


Holden Commodore VL

IF YOU walked into a Holden dealer in 1986, you could option the Nissan-built turbo upgrade on any model on offer, including the povvo-pack Commodore SL. Despite lacking even air and power steering as standard, the SL could be had with 150kW of RB30ET, getting you running 15-second quarters out of the box and on the road for about $18K. Cops loved ’em.


HOLDEN’S SS range has never been introverted, but it got close with the VSIII SS ute. Gone was the sedan’s gregarious wing, replaced instead by a chrome ‘sportsbar’, which, if you’re really unlucky, I may have installed myself. Only 600 were built across MY98 and MY99, with the latter receiving the VT’s $2 million V8 upgrade. Result: a then-healthy 179kW fitted to a rig weighing 200kg less than the porky VT.


(We couldn’t find a decent image of a VTII Executive V8 in our archives, so here is the much more-common SS!)

THE 220kW Gen III LS1 fitted to the VTII proved a revelation for bent-eight buyers. Gone was the beloved Holden V8’s chubby, low-down torque, replaced with peaky power best suited to a manual tranny. It was a tuner’s delight, as ‘Gus Bus’ Paul Cronin recalls: “One of the toughest cars cruising South Australia in Y2K was a green, flash-tuned Exec with 300kW at the wheels.”


WITH the option of a V8 Executive disappearing with the VX model, Holden redressed the situation by offering the VY SV8. While it lacked the SS’s interior treatment, cruise, fast glass, leather wheel, front bar and 18-inch alloys, the SV8 packed heat where it counted: red dials, a spoiler and 235kW of LS1 in the lightest package available. And at $40K, it was exactly 10 grand cheaper than the full-fat SS.


DEVELOPED by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, the VFII’s power increased by a whopping 30kW thanks to the 304kW 6.2-litre LS3 being standardised across all V8-optioned cars. Managerial gentlefolk could eschew the gaudy SS and access the same 570Nm of sledgehammer torque and 13-second quarters from the cosseting surrounds of their range-topping Calais V, with only a discreet LS3 badge to give the game away. And they could have a wagon. Surely, it didn’t get any better. Or sneakier.