This is something of an historic car. It’s the last HSV GTS to be built with an Australian-made V8 — build number 415. With its stroker motor, six-speed gearbox, premium brakes and loads of luxuries, the GTS was a very capable car in 1999, one that still impresses now. So you wouldn’t modify such an impressive and historic car — or would you?
First published in the August 2004 issue of Street Machine
“When I bought this, I wasn’t going to touch it,” explained Mark Else, boss of Mark’s Workshop, based in York, WA. “But then I added Genies and a Starr muffler. The exhaust was nice, but it wasn’t anything like the stuff I was starting to play with.
“I was just starting to look at developing my own superchargers at that stage, but I wanted this one done now. So I got a CAPA system fitted.”
Mark wasn’t new to forced induction, but the VT’s new management system was responsible for some head-scratching in the early days.
“We didn’t have any data-logging, we had no EFI Live — we had nothing to tell us where the timing was,” recalled Mark.
“I set up a video camera on the crankshaft, so I could see where it was going, and went through all that process [programming] to get it going well.”
That included using Kalmaker to tune the management system to run without an airflow meter. Happy with the outcome, Mark hunted for more.
“The next upgrade involved intercooling. I used a CAPA Gen III intercooler — they had developed one by then — and, to make it fit, I modified the intake manifold. I sawed off the snout and brought the throttle around. That gets rid of the ugly angles.”
One of the VT’s standard thermofans had to be relocated thanks to the brace spanning the blower and crank pulleys. Beyond that the cooling system is standard.
The fuel system was also upgraded. Two T-Rex pumps, fed by a Gen III prime pump, and an extra fuel line to the rails ensures there’s plenty of go-juice on tap all the time.
With escalating power, axle tramp often pops up — and Mark didn’t escape, getting hit at 13psi.
“I ran Nolathane all through the rear of it and there’s a K-Mac camber kit on it, set to zero, and the dampers are Bilstein,” he said. “With 800lb springs, that stopped it … until I went for more horsepower. The last thing I did was put the VXII track rods on it. I’ve now got it all under control.”
A beefed-up standard LSD replaced the GTS’s Hydratrak. “It’d spin one wheel, then the other. I wanted 3.9 gears and they were a hassle, too. They weren’t as readily available as they are now.”
The clutch and gearbox are factory. “That T56 is a good ’box. All I’ve done is fitted a short shifter, but if you bang it into fourth then the clutch flares sometimes. It’s right on the edge and needs to be beefed.”
It’s no use going super-stiff under the rear without looking forwards, too.
“I went straight to a set of K-Mac top plates over some coil-overs,” explained Mark. “I wasn’t chasing camber, I simply wanted a stronger bearing. The only drama was that I had to machine the Bilsteins to fit.”
Five hundred rear-wheel horses was enough for the standard bottom end, Mark reckoned.
“That’s a silly amount of power to be making with a standard set of pistons, so I pulled it out. I also put in a Comp cam, did the valve springs and neatened the ports. I found fretting on the main bearing caps, so I had four-bolt mains fitted.”
Street Quick Performance Centre cleaned the heads and Performance Modifications machined the block. It went back together with JE forged pistons, ACL head gaskets (on the O-ringed block), High Energy sump and Crane valvetrain, all installed with reliability in mind.
The original S-trim blower made way for a T-trim. The exhaust starts with 17/8-inch, four-into-one, ceramic-coated extractors with three-inch cats and concludes with a twin three-inch exhaust using Ultra Flow straight-through mufflers. Currently, the GTS spins the rollers to 585hp at 16psi boost — but six hundred isn’t far away.
The interior is HSV’s optional leather. Mark made some minor changes, replacing the grey of the gearshift knob and gaiter with black. There’s a scattering of Auto Meter gauges and a shift light to keep reins on the engine.
The only modification to the body is a lengthening of the leading edge of the bonnet, closing the gap to the nose plastic.
“They all have that gap there; it’s part of what a VT looks like. Yet with mine being white it was far more noticeable, so I closed it up.”
Considering modifiying such an historic motor would be sacrilege to some, but Mark’s ended up with a car that goes harder, handles better and looks sharper too. What more could you want?
Many expected the Generation III, all-alloy V8 to replace the old, all-iron Holden V8 in the 1997 VT. Instead, the VT arrived with a nicely revised version of the multi-point, fuel-injected V8 that debuted in 1989.
The ‘new’ V8 had higher compression (8.8 rather than 8.4) thanks to new pistons; roller cam followers replaced the flat tappets fitted since 1969. A twin-cat exhaust helped the VT meet tougher emissions standards, as did a sequential injection system that used an airflow meter. There was even a new micro-V drive belt and thermofans.
A range of aftermarket cranks, rods, heads and intakes — plus, of course, COME’s alloy block — means there’ll be people playing with Holden’s ‘old’ V8 for many years yet.
1999 VT HSV GTS (Last Oz V8)
|Holden/HSV VT 5.7-litre
|JE forged, 8.6:1
|Comp Cams blower grind
|Standard, with relocated throttle body
|Vortech T-trim centrifugal
|Holden/Delco tuned (speed density) with Kalmaker
|Special-build 4-into-1 extractors, 3in cats and exhaust, Ultra Flow mufflers
|Relocated thermofan to clear pulley brace
|585 rear-wheel horsepower
|O-ringed block, four-bolt mains, custom breather system, modified fuel rails and fuel system, twin oil coolers, dual boost referenced T-Rex pressure pumps, pulley snout brace
|Standard internals, short shifter
|3.9:1 ratio, Holden/BTR shimmed LSD
|AMG 19×8 Eurolace
|Falken 245/35 & 275/30 rubber
|RIDE AND HALT
|Rear Bilstein dampers, Nolathane bushes, VX Series II toe rods, K-Mac camber adjusters, 800lb springs, front Whiteline strut brace, Eibach coil overs, Bilstein dampers, K-Mac top plates
|HSV GTS premium four spots, front and rear
|Closed bonnet/nose gap
|Clarion CD player