From humble homologator to high octane horsepower hero, HSV’s rise to the top of the Australian muscle car hierarchy has been one hell of a journey.
Here’s a look back through its 30 year timeline.
First published in MOTOR magazine’s HSV 30 Years Special issue
1987 – The beginning
Scotsman Tom Walkinshaw forms Holden Special Vehicles to fill the void left by Holden’s split with Peter Brock’s Holden Dealer Team after the Polarizer controversy.
1988 – HSV VL Group A
HSV’s first car is a modified VL Commodore SS homologated for Holden to go Group A racing. As such it never wore the HSV badge.
It was also the first fuel-injected Holden V8, producing 180kW and 380Nm, and was capable of hitting 100km/h from rest in 6.9sec.
1988 – HSV SV88 VL
The VL Calais-based SV88 becomes the first HSV-badged car, its carburetted V8 putting out 136kW and 355Nm.
HSV also produces its first hot hatch, the SV1800, based on the Astra which was a worked and rebadged Nissan N13 Pulsar.
1990 – VN Clubsport & VG Maloo
HSV introduces the ClubSport nameplate on a VN Commodore, along with a VG Ute-based Maloo. The latter was lighter and therefore faster than the sedans.
1990 – VN SS Group A
HSV’s second Group A homologation special arrives, based on the VN Commodore with its 5.0-litre V8 modified for 215kW and 411Nm and a six-speed ZF manual borrowed from the Chevrolet Corvette.
Of the 500 originally planned, only 302 would be produced.
1991 – HSV VP Sportswagon
A Sportswagon enters HSV’s family, based on the VP Commodore. HSV produces its 5000th vehicle, just four years after the first.
1992 – VP Senator and GTS
HSV’s updated VP Series gets Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) and two new model names, Senator and GTS, which carry through to present day.
1993 – HSV Jackaroo
HSV proves it is way ahead of its time, collaborating with Holden to hot-up the Jackaroo SUV – visually at least, as the mechanicals remain stock. Walkinshaw design chief (now boss of Jaguar Design) Ian Callum weaves his magic on VR series HSV models, bestowing a more cohesive bodykit.
HSV cranks Senator, Statesman and Caprice models to 215kW, adding 215i to their names. The GTS model gets the same output but no special badging.
1996 – HSV VS GTSR
HSV unveils the highly tuned, limited edition GTS-R, with an even higher rear wing, a 215kW 5.7-litre stroker V8, and a polarising XU-3 Yellah paint job.
Options include “Blueprinting” to raise power to 225-230kW.
1997 – HSV VT range
HSV launches its VT range, the last with an Australian-made V8 engine.
The long-wheelbase Grange flies the luxury flag, while performance honours rest with the 220kW, 5.7-litre stroker GTS. HSV produces its 20,000th vehicle.
1999 – VT Series II HSV range
VT Series II introduces the Gen III LS1 V8, its 5.7-litre pushing ouputs to 250kW for most HSV models.
The range-topping GTS jumps straight to 300kW, making it the most powerful and fastest Commodore to date.
2001 – VX HSV GTO
The VX-Commodore-based Holden V2 Monaro gives HSV its first ever two-door model, the GTO. A higher spec GTS follows but is discontinued a couple of years later.
2002 – HRT 427 Monaro concept
HSV modifies a Monaro and slots a 7.0-litre V8 engine under the bonnet to create the HRT427 concept.
Plans to put this beast into production stall when limited interest drives the per-unit price beyond $200,000.
2003 – VY HSV Avalanche & XUV
HSV Y Series II sees power outputs for mainstream models leap to 285kW. Meanwhile Holden’s exploration of all-wheel drive for Commodore sedan, wagon and ute, and the addition of a dual-cab ute, gives HSV licence to do the same.
Enter the Adventra-based Avalanche high-performance SUV – HSV’s first all-wheel drive model – and the Crewman-based XUV. HSV produces its 40,000th vehicle.
2004 – HSV Coupe4
HSV kills the GTS Coupe to make way for the all-wheel drive Coupe4, the first low-riding application of Holden’s all-wheel drive system.
2005 – V8 Supercars
HSV enters V8 Supercar racing, rebranding the KMart Racing team the HSV Dealer Team (then the Toll HSV Dealer Team from 2006-2008) to fortify Walkinshaw’s on-track efforts for the roaring lion.
It will also assume responsibility for HRT from 2006, and go on to win the 2006 (Rick Kelly) and 2007 (Garth Tander) driver’s championships.
2006 – HSV VZ Maloo world record attempt
V8 Supercar driver Mark Skaife sets a ‘pickup truck’ land speed record of 271.4km/h in a Maloo in Woomera, South Australia, beating the previous record of 248km/h set by a V10 Dodge Ram.
Modifications made to the Maloo would later render the record invalid.
2006 – HSV E Series
Holden’s billion dollar baby, the VE Commodore, gives HSV its most capable performance base ever, and the E Series doesn’t disappoint.
Power from the 6.0-litre LS2 V8 reaches 307kW, and magnetic ride control arrives on Grange, Senator Signature and GTS. HSV produces its 50,000th vehicle.
2008 – HSV W427
HSV shoehorns a 7.0-litre LS7 V8 into the GTS sedan, creating the W427.
With 375kW and 640Nm, it’s by far the most powerful HSV of its day, and the most expensive at $155,500.
2009 – HSV E Series II
The HSV E Series II arrives with cosmetic changes front and rear, including Pontiac bonnet nostrils, and a new 6.2-litre LS3 V8 good for 317kW in most models, 325kW in the range-topping GTS.
2010 – Tom Walkinshaw’s passing
HSV founder Tom Walkinshaw dies after a long-running battle with cancer. He was 64.
2013 – HSV VF Gen-F Series
HSV’s VF-based Gen-F Series is released. The flagship GTS gets a supercharged LSA V8 good for 430kW, while the rest make do with naturally aspirated versions producing 325-340kW. HSV produces its 75,000th vehicle.
2014 – The milestone
HSV produces its 80,000th vehicle.
2016 – HSV Gen-F II
Superchargers for all Gen-F2 models, as HSV prepares to farewell its Commodore-based horsepower heroes with a bang. 400kW is the new norm, the GTS remains on 430kW.
2017 – HSV VF GTSR and W1
HSV launches the W1, its most powerful and last performance sedan ever. Its hand-built LS9 V8 produces 474kW, and the chassis is significantly uprated to deliver what HSV claims is racetrack performance for the road. Only 300 were built, priced at $169,900.
2018 – HSV Colorado Sportscat
With locally-made Commodores extinct and 4×4 dual cab utes growing rapidly in market popularity, HSV looked to keep themselves relevant by offering tweaked versions of the Colorado ute with the HSV Sportscat.
Upgrades were mostly cosmetic, save for a set of AP Racing brakes, beefier wheels, a front end lift of 25mm and a detachable rear sway bar.
The culling of Holden by General Motors at the end of 2021 took the Colorado and Sportscat with it, and HSV was rebranded as GMSV not long after.