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First drive: HSV blows it!

Mild to wild: The supercharged HSV has accessible power ... and lots of it. Pictures: New Zealand Autocar/Christian Brunelli.

A $10,000 supercharger heads up HSV's new range of aftermarket performance parts

2 Dec 2004

HOLDEN Special Vehicles will launch spectacularly into the aftermarket business next year with its performance parts line-up headed by a supercharger kit for the Gen III/LS1 V8 engine.

The Roots-style blower will be the most expensive offering in a line-up initially expected to comprise 25 items. It is expected to retail for around $10,000 with 800-1250 forecast to be sold per annum.

But the most spectacular numbers are the potential performance the supercharger will extract from the third generation small-block Chev.

HSV’s initial dyno testing using the now defunct 300kW Callaway C4B engine extracted around 350kW and 600Nm, with 500Nm kicking in from 2000rpm.

Those figures set new benchmarks in local mainstream performance terms. They outdo HSV’s own newly launched Z Series LS2 6.0-litre range for kilowatts (297), and the brand new FPV F6 Typhoon turbocharged six-cylinder for Newton metres (550).

But those figures are only preliminary, based on a relatively low 5.5 psi of boost and without any real attempts at calibration.

The final engine and transmission calibration work has been handed over to Bosch as HSV struggles with its own workload.

The suggestion is that more power could be extracted, although that will obviously vary depending on which Gen III/LS1 V8 is used as a base.

The supercharger is not an in-house HSV development, rather it is the work of Queensland-based PWR Performance and its US partner Magnuson.

The money man behind PWR is Queensland businessman Kees Weel, who established the company with son Paul back in 1998. Weel senior also owns a V8 Supercar team for which his son races.

PWR Performance specialises in the design and manufacture of high-end radiators, oil coolers and the like for racing and aftermarket applications. In 1998 it turned over $30,000 this year that figure should top $7 million with substantial overseas sales.

PWR initially got involved in the supercharger project IN 2002 because Magnuson needed a water-to-air intercooler for the supercharger it was developing for the Australian-built Pontiac GTO.

20 center image One thing led to another and PWR became intrinsically involved in the project – so much so that Mr Weel contacted HSV managing director John Crennan in mid-2003 to ascertain his interest in adapting the unit for use by HSV.

“We are just going to offer a range of products that I think will do a hell of a lot better job in terms of quality, pricing, back-up, service etcetera than what some of the – if you like – ‘amateurs’ are doing,” Mr Crennan said.

“If we have 25 key products in our tuning portfolio, one or two are under Kees and one or two are from other specialist companies, and another two or three from other specialist companies, then some from our own organisation. These are the things that will make it up.” Along with the supercharger, PWR will supply Alcon brakes to the HSV line-up. PWR is the Australian distributor for the British braking system.

There is also talk of supercharger buyers having the option of strengthening the auto to resist all that extra torque load, while a heavier duty clutch for manuals is under consideration and after-market exhausts will be offered.

While ‘HSV Tuning’ has been the working name for Mr Crennan’s after-market ambitions, don’t expect that to make it through to sign-off.

“It probably won’t be. It will be from the House of Clayton or the House of HSV, because we will want to keep the pure brand name in the OE product,” Mr Crennan said.


We had a chance for a brief drive of this PWR-owned Y Series I test mule - as well as run some performance figures - before it was sent to Bosch for final calibration.

The much thrashed mule produced an electronically timed 5.4 seconds 0-100km/h dash and a 13.5 quarter mile best at Calder*. It delivered those times idling away from the line. That's because it was quickly established that loading up the throttle simply resulted in axle tramp, a tendency for the car to want to turn on its length in the midst of clouds of grey, pulverised rubber.

In terms of theoretical performance claims the mule’s times aren’t hyper-ventilation material, not with the HSV Z Series claiming 5.1 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash and 13.3 seconds to 400 metres. But we’re yet to see such times actually be delivered in the real world.

Out where the air density changes and grip levels vary this car has planted its first peg in the ground, but there are undoubtedly better efforts to come.

For a start, a manual gearbox version would surely be quicker and once the calibration work is in place, the auto will be quicker too. And don’t forget, the old 4L65E transmission in the mule runs the tall 3.08:1 final drive ratio (Z Series now runs 3.46:1).

A brief road drive established even in a less than perfect calibration, the supercharged HSV can be a benign as well as mighty car. Press the throttle hard, and for sure, you’re off up the road like a scalded cat, scenery blurring and license shredding.

But it can also be as gentle as a lamb. There’s no lumpy cam or other internal fiddles. Not even the fuel injectors have been changed. This car can be idled around the suburbs just as easily as it can fly sub-sonically across the countryside.

In our drive experience, the biggest impediment was the old traction control system, since updated with the advent of electronic throttle control on the VZ Commodore and Z Series HSVs.

Any attempt to hammer the throttle on corners or even broken bitumen would result in that familiar flapping throttle and rapid deceleration, exacerbated by the four-speed auto’s inability to pick the right gear.

Sort of familiar, but exaggerated. What this thing could be like well calibrated and with a manual gearbox is mind boggling.

There is one other significant change the mule boasts and that’s the fitment of 19-inch wheels and tyres, so a set of massive Alcon brakes can be used. The grooved pattern front discs measure up at a gigantic 378mm and are mated to six-piston callipers. At the rear they’re still a substantial 335mm and four piston callipers. They work like crazy too, able to haul you back to earth quickly and consistently.

Otherwise, this is a familiar HSV experience. A rugged but pinned down ride with a tendency for predictably oversteer and kind of accurate steering that still seems a bit sloppy at the dead ahead. No doubt, you can carry some corner speed, but this is really a slow in-fast out kind of car.

“Slow in” being a relative term of course. In anyone‘s language this is a tremendously potent vehicle, possessing the ability to flatten mountain roads and summarily dismiss almost anything from the local performance genre (and much else besides) that dares challenge it.

It’s an intriguing move by HSV to get into this area. You can certainly debate the business plan and whether it’s a good fit, but you certainly can’t doubt the effectiveness of the product itself.

*Times courtesy Wheels magazine.

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