Used Holden HDT Commodore review: 1980
May 7, 2005
When Peter Brock started his special vehicles operation in 1980 he could not have envisaged its impact on the local car business 25 years later. Brock admits he used the Shelby Mustang operation in the US and AMG in Germany as models for his HDT Special Vehicles, which in turn provided the model for Holden Special Vehicles and Ford Performance Vehicles that have followed and flourished.
The first special was the VC HDT Commodore, released in 1980 to much fanfare. As the first of the genre it's now a classic appreciating in value.
As with the operations he emulated, Brock's brief was simple. He'd take a stock VC Commodore and modify it to enhance its performance and road-holding without compromising ADR compliance.
He chose the top of the range VC Commodore SL/E which already came with plenty of fruit, the perfect base for Brock to build a European-style high-performance sports sedan that was comfortable, but handled well and looked sexy.
It came already fitted with Holden's 308 cubic inch (5.05 litres) V8, but Brock and his team blueprinted it and fitted big valves which bettered standard V8 performance. They also fitted a heavy-duty air-cleaner taken from a Chevy and added a fresh air intake to improve its breathing. It was fitted with the Holden factory dual exhaust system.
With Brock's mods on board the Holden V8 put out 160kW at 4500 revs and 450Nm at 2800 revs which had it racing to 100km/h in 8.4 seconds and through the standing 400m sprint in 16.1 secs. Brock offered the choice of Holden's four-speed manual gearbox or the three-speed auto, and a limited-slip diff was standard.
Underneath Brock really worked his magic, fitting uprated and lowered springs and Bilstein gas shock absorbers for a lower stance and much-improved handling. German Irmscher 15-inch alloy wheels and Uniroyal 60-series tyres completed the grip-and-go picture.
A sporting car needs a sporty image and Brock gave it a major cosmetic makeover in the form of a fibreglass body kit with wheel arch flares, front bib spoiler and a rear wing. Colours were white, back and red, and the package was finished off with some wild red, black and white race stripes down the side.
Inside Brock enhanced the SL/E interior with a signed Momo steering wheel, a special gearshift knob, and a driver's foot rest. Doesn't sound so special today, but in 1980 there was nothing like it.
He built 500 VC HDT Commodores. He probably didn't feel it would last but his HDT specials were a sensation, continuing until 1987. Today HSV builds special Holdens, FPV does Fords. It's unlikely either would exist if Brock hadn't needed funding for his race team.
In the shop
When considering a VC HDT Commodore it's important to remember that the foundations are strictly Holden so the main mechanical components are relatively easy to find to replace, and easy to repair or service. Check that the special Brock components are there, the signed steering wheel, Irmscher alloys, high-flow air-cleaner.
When Brock built those VCs, body kits were rough and ready. Unlike today's body kits, made of durable material to take a knock and fit well, the old kits were fibreglass, didn't stand up well when hit, and didn't fit well. Check body kit components, such as the wheel arch flares, for cracking around attachment points and distortion between the mounting points.
Don't expect airbags in a VC Commodore, they weren't fitted. ABS wasn't an option, but it did have four-wheel discs and rack-and-pinion steering, and the road-holding of the Brock-tuned suspension.
VC HDT BROCK COMMODORE 1980
Rumbling V8 exhaust note
Presence of special Brock parts
High fuel consumption
Potential to increase in value
15/20 Good looking classic Australian sports sedan with Brock branding that has the potential to increase in value.