The VL Commodore represented a substantial makeover
of the VK, and would be the last of the "compact" Commodores.
The engineers sought to soften the lines of the VL, rounding
off the panels and introducing a small tail spoiler built
into the boot lid.
One major innovation was the use of
semi-retracting headlight covers on the Calais model,
the first for a production Holden (although the never
released GTR-X featured fully retractable headlights).
To all that saw it, the VL looked vastly more modern
than the previous VB/VC/VH/VK,
but there was one major concern for the Holden faithful,
the 6 cylinder red engine that had received such a comprehensive
makeover for the VK was completely dropped in favour
of an imported Nissan 3 liter straight six unit.
Many may have been scratching their heads as to why the General
had opted for the switch, but the answer lay with the
introduction of unleaded fuel, the cost of once again
re-working the engine simply too cost prohibitive.
To provide consistency and ensure the drivline performed
to expectation, GM also sourced a Nissan electronic four-speed
automatic, although those opting for a manual still received
the Aussie 5 speed unit. Despite the worst fears of many
die-hards, the Nissan motor turned out to be a thoroughly
The imported donk included features such as
an Electronic Combusion Control System (ECCS), a ram-tuned
intake manifold and even the use of irregular spacing
of the cooling fan to help reduce fan noise and vibration.
Six months into its life a turbocharged
version of the Nissan 6 was released. The engine received
new pistons which lowered the compression ratio from
9.0:1 to 7.8:1, while an updated camshaft was used to
The Garrett turbo unit was fitted inside
a water-cooled housing to ensure longevity, and while
many had predicted the introduction of a Nissan engine
to Australia's favorite car would prove disastorous
at the dealerships, many began to praise the power and
smoothness afforded by the Japanese unit. The turbo charged
version certainly added to the allure of the Commodore,
and was quickly establishing itself as a hero car - particularly
when the already respectable top speed of 200 km/h was
extended to 220 with the addition of the Garrett.
To ensure adequate stopping power for turbo fitted cars,
each was fitted with larger brakes and Girlock finned
alloy front callipers (as used on the Chevrolet Corvette),
the 15 inch wheels being shod with 205/65 rubber. Fans
of the 5.0 liter V8 had to wait a little while after
the VL's s introduction to allow the GM engineers time
to re-tune the motor to suit
unleaded fuel. Finally released in October 1986, it still
featured the familiar Rochester four-barrel carburetor,
naturally enough many had been hoping the delay in its
release was due to the fitment of EFI.
But there was
some good news, the 5.0 liter boasting both more power
and torque than its predecessor, now at 122kw (at 4400rpm)
with 323Nm at hand with the tacho on 3200rpm. The reason?
GM had fitted the trusty V8 with larger valves carried
over from the previous Group A engine. To prove the V8
had not lost any power in its conversion to unleaded,
one advertisment featured a VL towing an America's Cup
yacht, while another towed a Jumbo Jet. We can think
of better reasons to own a V8, but at least the message
Commodore VL won Bathurst in 1987
Parsons/Peter McLeod), and again in 1990
Percy), the intervening 2 years being dominated by the
Ford Sierra RS500T's of Tony Longhurst/Tomas Mezera in
and Dick Johnson/John Bowe
. You couldn't
go to your local dealership and take a test drive of
a Sierra, but you could take a VL turbo for a fang, nough