Used HSV Maloo review: 1990-1992
December 4, 2009
Given the Australian passion for utes it was only natural that HSV would give the humble Holden workhorse a makeover and produce a hot hauler like the Maloo.
The first Maloo appeared on the scene in 1990 and became an enduring classic that will continue to turn heads well into the future. Holden had only just released the new VG utility when the Maloo came out; the VG was an all-new model based on the Commodore and the first Holden ute for six years.
Not surprisingly fans of the good ol' Aussie ute who had missed their favourite workhorse warmly welcomed the VG ute. When HSV dropped the Maloo on the market they were over the moon with delight.
The VG Maloo followed the tried and true HSV formula, itself taken from Peter Brock and his earlier HDT operation. In essence it was to take a regular run-of-the-mill model from Holden's product line-up and tinker with it around the edges to create something more exciting.
HSV's makeover was largely skin deep, the changes kept to those parts that could be easily unbolted and replaced with new parts. That way it was a simple operation and the result was eye-catching to say the least.
In creating the Maloo HSV took a humble V8 ute and reworked it with much of what it was doing in creating its sedan models. The core 5.0-litre V8 engine was pretty much left untouched, but its output was boosted by the use of a high-flow dual exhaust system, a free-flowing air cleaner, both of which allowed the engine to breathe better, and finally a recalibrated engine management computer that took the engine closer to the limit.
The result was peak power of 180kW at 4600rpm and max torque of 400Nm at 3800rpm, increases of 15kW and 15Nm over the rock-stock Holden ute. That sounds puny today, but was pretty hot in its day.
Maloo buyers could choose between a five-speed manual gearbox, which was untouched, or a four-speed auto that was recalibrated to shift cleaner and crisper. When pressed, the Maloo would reach 100 km/h in a fraction over seven seconds from rest; and account for the standing 400-metre sprint in around 15.5 secs.
The Maloo's developers wrestled with how they could retain the original payload of the Holden ute and still give the Maloo a sporting feel as they felt HSV owners would expect. They couldn't, and eventually dropped the payload to 592 kg, which allowed them to use meaty low profile tyres, softer rear springs, along with the front suspension from the SV5000 sedan.
It all came together nicely; the handling was as crisp and sharp as an HSV sedan, with good grip even during hard cornering. With the performance nailed down HSV turned to the cosmetics and produced a neat looking sports truck that stood out without being too far out-there.
The colour-keyed body kit was made up to 10 parts, including a grille, front bumper, side skirts, and rear bumper. There was also s a roof-mounted airfoil and a sports bar in the rear, along with an HSV monogrammed tonneau cover, as well as badges and decals to alert the neighbours to what was making all the noise next door.
The sports look was nicely completed with HSV-styled five-spoke 16 x 7 inch alloys in the guards. Inside, it had sports seats, a Calais dash and dials, a Momo steering wheel, air, and a Eurovox sound system.
IN THE SHOP
First thing to do when checking a Maloo is to make sure it is one; do that by checking the tags. Once that's established make sure it's got all the correct bits that were fitted by HSV; modifications can rob a car of its classic value.
If it all stacks up start looking for the same sorts of things that affect all cars that have been on the road for close to 20 years. Look for oil leaks from the engine, gearbox and diff; check for smoke from the engine, listen for rattles at idle and when you rev the engine.
Make sure the clutch fully disengages, the gears go in without any baulking, and there is no gear noise driving down the road. Inside, expect some wear and tear on the fabric seat trim, and some fading from the sun.
IN A CRASH
A well-balanced chassis with reasonably good disc front brakes gives the driver a chance to avoid a crash. In the event of a crash you have to rely on body strength to absorb energy, there are no airbags to intervene.
Check seat belts for wear on the webbing and smooth action. Safety was satisfactory for the time, but by today's standards it isn't great, especially if the Maloo is going to be a daily driver.
UNDER THE PUMP
A big-bore V8 souped up by HSV isn't the recipe for fuel economy, so expect 12-16 L/100 km depending on the driving style used.
THE BOTTOM LINE
An exciting mix of good ol' Aussie ute and HSV magic makes for a fun classic.