With the demise of actual Holden Special Vehicles, those built in the mid-2000s era of the Aussie muscle car wars are now starting to creep up in value. We take a look at a one-owner VZ GTO.
Lovers of the Lion probably didn’t shed any tears upon hearing that Holden was dropping the Commodore in 2020. Any emotional outpouring would have been spent when they axed local manufacture, bringing an end to the real Commodore in 2017. Not only did it mean death to the big rear driver but it also killed off genuine HSVs too.
In the mid-2000s, the competition between HSV and FPV was at its most fierce. They traded blows regularly with new weaponry revealed every few years. FPV was a relative newcomer but it caused a scene in 2004 by revealing the 270kW/550Nm F6 Typhoon, touting a turbocharged torque curve to bludgeon any V8 into submission. HSV was ready however with its new VZ range that same year packing the potent 6.0-litre LS2 borrowed straight from the brand new C6 Corvette. Developing 297kW, the good old pushrod V8 spewed forth 530Nm. Over the old 5.7-litre LS1, the ‘new’ engine was bored out to increase the capacity to 5967cc, the compression ratio bumped up to 10.9:1 while the heads featured raised intake ports and an improved combustion chamber design. Lightweight, flat-top pistons let it spin a bit harder, and handle the compression ratio bump by supporting better flame propagation to prevent detonation. In its day, it was preferable to the 5.4-litre cast iron monster used by the FPV opposition. That might have had four valve technology, but it was peaky, heavy and sat too high in the engine bay of the BA Falcon chassis. The more compact, and lighter alloy-blocked LS2 had a broader spread of torque, with a lot more on tap from just above idle. The fresh VZ models also moved to a new six-speed manual trans, the Tremec M12 with triple syncros in the lower gears to help them mesh better under the pump. Back then, they still persisted with GM’s four-speed auto, but HSV reckoned the slusher was fractionally quicker against the timer, with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 5.1sec, 0.1 quicker than the three pedal models. The move to 19-inch wheels was big news in 2004, and the VZ was treated to uprated two-pot brake calipers, also pinched from the Corvette parts bin. HSVs never really stopped with great conviction in those days, and so the optional AP six-pot calipers were money well spent. The range included the ClubSport, the R8, Senator and Grange along with the Maloo and the two Monaro-based models, the AWD, auto-only Coupe 4, and the GTO.
This GTO, build number 0194, is a one-owner car, being purchased late in 2005. These cars were hot property back then and you might remember them being covered in Datadot technology to help prevent thefts and to trace stolen parts. Anyway, the first GTO that owner, Mike McCullough, purchased was in fact stolen from the workshop where it was getting a GPS tracker fitted. It was the last GTO that Auckland HSV dealer Schofields had so there was a bit of wait to secure another black manual car that he wanted. McCullough, a freelance creative, says he really liked the backstory to the Monaro’s conception, being a passion project by the Holden design team, penning the swoopy lines of the coupe without management consent. Though he reckons Holden’s Monaro was a little underdone, he likes the HSV design which he says adds the visual muscle the car always needed. The bonnet nostrils on the VZ Monaro aren’t to everyone’s liking but McCullough reckons they’re okay on his black car, being far more subtle than they are on the bright blue and yellow hues of the GTO.
He owned a VX SS prior to this and was looking to trade up. He says Rhys Millen was ripping up the drift scene in the US in his Pontiac GTO at the time, which drew his attention to the GTO available locally. He was instantly impressed with the big coupe on his first test drive. He felt the dynamics were a big step up over his Commodore’s, the coupe possessing a more balanced set-up than the sedan, and it was far less prone to step out unintentionally. The improved traction control system was also appreciated. The torque delivery was far superior to the LS1 he was used to, and it revved with much greater verve. He remembers running into the rev limiter a few times early on in his ownership. There’s no redline on the tacho, just a shift alarm, but he says as the gearshift isn’t the fastest the warning doesn’t quite give you enough time. He likes that it’s not scary to drive but powerful enough to excite when needed. It’s the sorted dynamics that he really likes, and the big, easy torque of the LS2.
While it’s a coupe, he says it’s still usable everyday, especially with just two kids to ferry about. The boot however has always been a sore point as most of the space is taken up by a big subwoofer enclosure. The VZ GTO has since delivered 116,000km of relatively trouble-free motoring. The original clutch eventually went, and so the only non-stock item on the car is now an uprated clutch and a single mass flywheel. The radiator, a known weak point, has also been replaced. Servicing costs set him back about $500 a year, while all the parts are still easy to come by.
The GTO wore an $8000 premium over the Clubsport R8 in its day at $97,000, but was cheaper than the Coupe 4, which went for $110,000. With the demise of genuine Holden Special Vehicles, values of some of the more sought after HSVs from this golden era are slowly on the increase. GTOs are a rarity, a low mileage auto selling in Australia for $A79k, while an older VY GTO LE is listed for $46k here. McCullough says it’s hard to gauge what his car is worth as there are not many around. He’s not willing to part with it just yet as he’s not sure what could really replace it. He likes the idea of an M5 or something equally quick and European, but not the price tag attached.
He would like to have seen Holden put the Concept Coupe 60 into production as a VE-based Monaro replacement. Shown in 2008, it was a short wheelbase, pillarless two-door coupe version of the VE that never made it past the concept stage. He says he definitely would have bought one of those. What about the Mustang we ask? He’s not against the idea, saying it did grab his attention when it arrived, particularly the turbo version, but now it’s a bit too popular, and the rear seats aren’t that kid friendly. He’s not anti-Ford if that’s what you’re thinking. He almost bought an XR6 instead of his SS, but as he was a young buck at the time, the Ford salesman kept talking to his Dad when he went to buy it, souring the deal for him. The Camaro he likes too, but not the price following the HSV conversion process. He reckons GM missed a big opportunity by not producing a RHD Camaro from the factory. There were rumours the next seventh-generation Camaro would follow Mustang’s lead and emerge in both left- and right-hook form, but the latest intel says GM has halted development of the next Camaro as sales of the two-door continue to decline. The current model runs until 2023, so McCullough still has a few years to decide on whether the Camaro could be a possible replacement for the GTO.