July 13, 2009
The dizzyingly high prices being realised for the XY Falcon GTHO Phase III in recent times has led to a rethink of values right across the classic car market. While the Phase III HO has grabbed the headlines with cars selling well in excess of half a million dollars, other lesser Australian muscle car classics have also appreciated in its wake. When the price of the Phase III became beyond the reach of all but the very well heeled those who wanted a Phase III turned to the regular XY GT and its price escalated as a result.
By the time it finished every local muscle car classic had increased in value and the search was on for any that had yet to really take off. The early classics, the Falcon GTs, Monaros, Toranas, Chargers and the like were pretty much out of the picture having already had, in some cases, some pretty hefty price hikes.
It was in the later group, from the 1980s and early 1990s that there was some cars, like the VN Commodore SS Group A, that still had some potential to appreciate in value in the future.
The trick was to decide which ones had the potential and how high the prices might climb. When selecting cars for their potential to increase in value it’s important to tick a number of boxes, namely, rarity, heritage and desirability. The VN Commodore SS Group A ticks all of those boxes. Just 302 were built, they were built for racing and they’re very desirable.
The VN Group A was born out the need for Holden to go racing. The company had been a long-time supporter of touring car racing and held on through the 1980s when the local racing authority adopted Group A racing rules from Europe. Group A was conceived by European carmakers to promote the cars they were building and selling to the public in their home markets, it was much like the old Production car rules here in the 1960s and ’70s.
One of stipulations of Group A was that any carmaker wishing to compete had to build a run of 5000 production cars, after which they could then spin off a special racing model. It too had to be built and sold to the public, but it could have a number of special features aimed at making it a better racing car.
The VN Commodore SS Group A was such a car. It was the last so-called ‘homologation special’ Holden built for Group A before the rules were changed to the current Supercar V8 formula, which doesn’t require any special models to be built in production.
The VN Group A story really began under the bonnet. The fuel-injected 5.0-litre Holden V8 was virtually all new from top to bottom and produced 210 kW at 5200 revs and 400 Nm at 4000 revs. Under full acceleration it would race from 0 to 100 km/h in just over six seconds and account for the standing 400-metre sprint in 15 or so seconds. To cope with the torque Holden engineers equipped the VN Group A with a six-speed manual ZF gearbox lifted from the American Corvette.
The suspension was thoroughly reworked with higher rate front and rear springs, heavier anti-roll bars, and Bilstein shocks all round. Special Holden designed 17x8-inch alloy wheels were wrapped in 235x45 17-inch Goodyear Eagle tyres to give it the grip it needed.
Compared to the Walkinshaw VL that preceded it the VN Group A was fairly subtle. The body kit consisted of quite modest spoilers front and rear, neat side skirts, but a power bulge in the bonnet and a sizable boot lid wing gave it a measure of menace. Holden also developed a special red to satisfy their dealers’ desires for the VN to recall the early red VL Group A, but added a touch of blue to make a little less vibrant.
IN THE SHOP
Few of the 302 VN SS Group A Commodores Holden built would have been driven daily as a regular VN would have been. Most will have been used for play purposes and left to sit in the shed for most of their lives. But leaving a car unused for long periods can be a recipe for disaster so look for signs of regular use. Just starting them regularly and driving them around the block is not enough to keep them in good order, they need to be driven for long enough to thoroughly warm up the engine, gearbox and diff, and operate the brakes a number of times.
The best cars are the ones that haven’t done a lot of kilometres, but have been looked after none the less. Before handing over your cash make sure it is a genuine VN Group A, never assume anything, and check to make sure it has all of the special equipment it should have.
IN A CRASH
Built prior to the widespread use of airbags the VN Commodore SS Group A has to rely on its body structure and seat belts in a crash. But it has a competent chassis package, responsive steering, good brakes and tyres, so there’s every chance a skilled driver could dodge a collision.
Jamie Boatwood’s father-in-law bought a VN Group A in 1993 and he and his wife inherited it when his father passed away. Jamie was with him when he bought it and was allowed to drive it on very rare occasions over the years. He says it looks fantastic and drives beautifully. The twin throttle body set up matched with the six speed transmission make it a really special drive, the beauty is you can just ‘cruise’ and enjoy the experience or give it a boot full and hold on. He drives the car probably every four to six weeks and the rest of the time it remains warm and cozy under its car cover locked away safely.
Con Sarvanakis has owned the fourth VN Commodore SS Group A built for six years. He bought it from a mate after his VL Commodore Group A had been stolen. He says he wanted a car with power that handled well on the track. He also says he love’s the VN’s shape and the fact that it’s a luxury car that can be driven hard or gently.
• tough muscle car looks
• rare, but useable classic
• awesome performance
• last of the supercars
THE BOTTOM LINE
A classic Australian muscle car that can be driven daily and will in time appreciate in value.