Used HSV Clubsport review: 1997-2000
August 5, 2014
The spectacular demise of Peter Brock's HDT Special Vehicles in the wake of his infamous bust-up with Holden left a gaping chasm in the performance car market that was never going to be left unfilled for long. Brock had shown for all to see that there was a demand for cars that had a little more performance and panache than the regular production models could offer.
His retuned and restyled Commodores instantly struck a chord with local go-fast fanatics and they sold like hot cakes. Having backed Brock for many years Holden too was aware of the demand and quickly found another partner, Tom Walkinshaw, to work with on a new venture, Holden Special Vehicles (HSV).
The HSV Clubsport has been the mainstay of the HSV range over the years and remains so today. In the late 1990's the Clubsport was based on the popular and highly successful VT Commodore. It's now an affordable performance car on the used car market, an attractive choice for someone wanting a nice weekend driver with a touch of distinction.
Peter Brock's formula for building his special cars wasn't new; Brock himself admitted he got the idea from people like the famous American racer Carroll Shelby who built hot Mustangs for Ford in the US in the 1960s. If the idea wasn't new, it was certainly simple. Brock took regular production models from the Holden production line and took them to a whole new level by modifying the things that could easily be changed without having to resort to major surgery.
When Tom Walkinshaw picked up the Holden brief he really just took up where Brock left off, albeit without the Brock signature that made the HD/T Special Vehicles cars so special. Like Brock before him, Walkinshaw changed the appearance of the production Commodore by adding a bolt-on body kit, usually made up of fibreglass or plastic front and rear bumpers, a rear boot lid spoiler, side skirts, and special badging. Special alloy wheels completed the picture.
Inside it boasted sports seats, special dials, cruise, CD sound with six speakers, as well as power windows and mirrors, and a trip computer. Mechanically it had uprated springs, shocks absorbers and sway bars, along with larger brakes and special HSV alloy wheels with low profile tyres.
Under the bonnet the VT Clubsport had a 5.0-litre Holden V8, the last model to get the local V8, and with some special tuning from HSV the output was pushed up to 195 kW at 5200 revs and 530Nm at 3600 revs. The transmission choices were a four-speed auto or a five-speed manual 'box, both of which were beefed-up to cope with the extra engine grunt.
When the VT II upgrade arrived in 2000 a 5.7-litre Gen III V8 had replaced the old Holden engine, and a six-speed manual had replaced the five-speed gearbox. At its peak the 5.7-litre engine delivered 250 kW at 5600 revs and 473 Nm at 4000 revs.
IN THE SHOP
Buying a Clubsport requires a little more diligence than is needed when buying an ordinary Commodore. Pay attention to the details, that's what determines the value of a car. For starters it's important to make sure it is a real HSV Clubsport and not a clone made up to look like one. Check for an HSV build plate, but even that isn't an ironclad guarantee that a car is genuine. A phone call to HSV is worthwhile to help verify a car's credentials.
It's also important to check that all the unique HSV features are still on the car, a sure way to devalue a special car like the Clubsport is to fit regular Commodore or aftermarket parts when the genuine HSV parts break or wear out. It can be helpful to have someone knowledgeable in HSV models cast an eye over a car before purchase. An HSV club is a good point to start for info and assistance in buying a car.
Once you've established the car is real carefully check it for signs of a hard life. Clubsports are often driven hard, so take careful note of transmission noises, clutch operation, and diff clunks and noises.
The VT/VT II was renowned for heavy rear tyre wear, so look for worn tyres, and take particular note of any uneven wear across the tyre tread. The wear is a function of the independent suspension, and is made worse by towing. Kits are available from suspension specialists like Pedders to correct the problem, and it's worth fitting them to get more life out of the expensive tyres.
The Gen III V8 was also renowned for its high oil consumption and rattles. Holden developed fixes for problem engines, so that should have been sorted out, but take note anyway.
IN A CRASH
Solid body construction made for a good foundation for crashworthiness, which was boosted by a driver's airbag. Unfortunately there wasn't an airbag for the front seat passenger. It also boasted a good level of active safety with a sound chassis backed up by standard ABS antiskid brakes and traction control.
AT THE PUMP
HSV owners were not normally too fussed about fuel economy, performance was their priority, so they weren't too alarmed to find a VT/VT II Clubsport would do 13-16 L/100 km on average.