Five Forgettable HSVs

Because no company is complete without some embarrassing models... here are the five HSVs we'd rather forget.

HSV Calais SV88

Before HSV's fate as an importer and converted for GM was sealed, it used to turn Holden Commodores into faster Commodores, and called them things like 'GTS' and 'Maloo'. Remember those? 

This story was first published in MOTOR Magazine, May 2017.

Unfortunately, like almost every other company on the planet, not everything HSV dipped its toe into was a success, and these are five cars that didn't quite change the world for the better.

Behold, the five rather disappointing HSV models.

1. HSV Jackaroo

This thing was so embarrassing, it didn’t even get full HSV billing. Instead it was a Holden Jackaroo HSV and even in 1993, it was standing joke material. HSV threw air-con and an LSD at it and you got some lower body mouldings which reduced its off-road potential to just about zilch.

Come to think of it, maybe in that regard it was way ahead of its time. Nah… The engine was the 3.2-litre V6 and the only mechanical change was a switch to alloy wheels. It wasn’t until the Hummer H3 of 2007 that Holden would again scale such heights of irrelevance.

2. HSV SV1800 Astra

The Astra SV1800 of 1988 wasn’t the last time the brand played around with a four-cylinder car. But it could have been. Actually, it wasn’t as though the SV1800 was a bad car, it just wasn’t HSV material. Built by Nissan as a Pulsar and model-shared with Holden as an Astra, the car was a piece of the Button Car Plan jigsaw that aimed to get volumes of individual models above 40,000 units per year and into the black.

So it made sense for Holden to do whatever it could with the car. But, somehow, dumping a batch of them on HSV was probably not the wise decision it seemed at the time. Stickers, wheels and some plastic, folks.

3. HSV Commodore LE

HSV was pretty keen on doing limited runs of cars to coincide with major events like the, um, Canberra Motor Show. There was the Commodore DMG and the Commodore Challenger and, for the Sydney Motor Show of 1989, there was a run of 100 Commodore LEs.

Don’t remember them? No surprise there: it was a stock VN Commodore V6 complete with 125kW and all the driveline harshness you could eat. Maybe there was something in this approach back then (although I can’t think what) but these days, not even the HSV badge can infer any real merit.

4. HSV Avalanche

A full-sized station-wagon with all-wheel drive and a big engine: sounds all right, doesn’t it? Makes you wonder then how the HSV Avalanche of 2003 managed to be such a turkey. Well wonder no more, because here’s the deal. It was fat – at 2026kg it definitely weighed too much – and that hurt everything from pace to fuel economy.

The AWD set-up made for a too-wide front axle and the system forced HSV into a compromised header design that robbed power. It was auto only and about as sporty as championship darts. More mud-slide than Avalanche.

5. HSV Calais SV88

It wasn’t that the Calais SV88 of 1988 was a terrible thing, but it sure as hell wasn’t anything special, either. These were the days before the injected version of the Holden 5.0-litre, so the Calais got lumbered with the carburetted engine that struggled against a decent head-wind.

The Last Calais MOTOR reviewed

Even with its price-tag north of $40K, you were stuck with 136kW and the old three-speed Traumatic auto was the only transmmission on offer. Not even the hectares of fuzzy velour trim could save it. Actually, finding one now would be the trick.


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