Holden Commodore VL

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Holden Commodore VL

1986 - 1988
6 cyl. & V8
3.0/3.0 ltr turbo 6; 4.9 ltr V8
5 spd. manual ; 3 spd. Trimatic (V8) & 4 spd. automatic (6)
Top Speed:
Number Built:
The VL Commodore represented a substantial makeover of the VK, and would be the last of the "compact" Commodores. The engineers sought to soften the lines of the VL, rounding off the panels and introducing a small tail spoiler built into the boot lid.

One major innovation was the use of semi-retracting headlight covers on the Calais model, the first for a production Holden (although the never released GTR-X featured fully retractable headlights).

To all that saw it, the VL looked vastly more modern than the previous VB/VC/VH/VK, but there was one major concern for the Holden faithful, the 6 cylinder red engine that had received such a comprehensive makeover for the VK was completely dropped in favour of an imported Nissan 3 liter straight six unit.

Many may have been scratching their heads as to why the General had opted for the switch, but the answer lay with the introduction of unleaded fuel, the cost of once again re-working the engine simply too cost prohibitive.

To provide consistency and ensure the drivline performed to expectation, GM also sourced a Nissan electronic four-speed automatic, although those opting for a manual still received the Aussie 5 speed unit. Despite the worst fears of many die-hards, the Nissan motor turned out to be a thoroughly good unit.

The imported donk included features such as an Electronic Combusion Control System (ECCS), a ram-tuned intake manifold and even the use of irregular spacing of the cooling fan to help reduce fan noise and vibration.

Six months into its life a turbocharged version of the Nissan 6 was released. The engine received new pistons which lowered the compression ratio from 9.0:1 to 7.8:1, while an updated camshaft was used to reduce overlap.

The Garrett turbo unit was fitted inside a water-cooled housing to ensure longevity, and while many had predicted the introduction of a Nissan engine to Australia's favorite car would prove disastorous at the dealerships, many began to praise the power and smoothness afforded by the Japanese unit. The turbo charged version certainly added to the allure of the Commodore, and was quickly establishing itself as a hero car - particularly when the already respectable top speed of 200 km/h was extended to 220 with the addition of the Garrett.

To ensure adequate stopping power for turbo fitted cars, each was fitted with larger brakes and Girlock finned alloy front callipers (as used on the Chevrolet Corvette), the 15 inch wheels being shod with 205/65 rubber. Fans of the 5.0 liter V8 had to wait a little while after the VL's s introduction to allow the GM engineers time to re-tune the motor to suit unleaded fuel. Finally released in October 1986, it still featured the familiar Rochester four-barrel carburetor, naturally enough many had been hoping the delay in its release was due to the fitment of EFI.

But there was some good news, the 5.0 liter boasting both more power and torque than its predecessor, now at 122kw (at 4400rpm) with 323Nm at hand with the tacho on 3200rpm. The reason? GM had fitted the trusty V8 with larger valves carried over from the previous Group A engine. To prove the V8 had not lost any power in its conversion to unleaded, one advertisment featured a VL towing an America's Cup yacht, while another towed a Jumbo Jet. We can think of better reasons to own a V8, but at least the message got through.

The Holden Commodore VL won Bathurst in 1987 (Peter Brock/David Parsons/Peter McLeod), and again in 1990 (Allan Grice/Win Percy), the intervening 2 years being dominated by the Ford Sierra RS500T's of Tony Longhurst/Tomas Mezera in 1988 and Dick Johnson/John Bowe in 1989. You couldn't go to your local dealership and take a test drive of a Sierra, but you could take a VL turbo for a fang, nough said.

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Also see:

Commodore VL Specifications
HDT Special Vehicles Brock VL
HSV Special Vehicles Walkinshaw VL
Commodore VL Brochure
Commodore VL Advertising
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