HSV GTO Coupe - "The car America Wants"

Published: 22 April 2002

Pictured: HSV.

"Let’s face it. It’s been tough to be a Pontiac Enthusiast if your definition of a muscle-car equates to a coupe or sedan with a powerful V8 and rear wheel drive. Fortunately, GM still offers the Firebird/TransAm, but at the of the 2002 model year, it - and its V8 engine - is history. And for the first time since 1964, Pontiac will be without a V8 engine in its product lineup.

With that depressing thought in mind, consider the car pictured on these pages. Look carefully at the rockers and note the emblem - GTO. A Pontiac GTO? No. It’s a HSV GTO, and it’s for sale. But not in the United States. You have to live in Australia if you want to buy one, because Holden, a subsidiary of General Motors, builds and sells cars there.

This is no wimpy V6 front driver with an aero package. The Holden HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) GTO Coupe is a bonafide muscle-car with more than adequate credentials. Under the hood is a 5.7LS1 (yup, like the Trans Am) with aluminum block and heads, sequential multi-point port fuel injection cast-steel roller rocker arms. Roller cam followers and cross-bolted five main bearings with six bolts per bearing cap to keep the bottom end snugged tight. An eight-coil pack ignition keeps the spark consistent at the LS1’s upper rev limits. A special HSV Ram Air Induction system is standard, along with stainless steel headers, dual converters and 2.25 inch exhausts.

HSV rates the LS1 at 255kW (340hp) at 5600 rpm. According to HSV, the GTO runs the Australian equivalent of 0-60 at 5.7 seconds and the quarter-mile in 13.9 seconds.

The LS1 is mated via hydraulic clutch to a ""Quick-Shift"" T56 six-speed manual gearbox with 3.73:1 limited-slip rear. Available is the 4L60-E four speed Turbo HydraMatic with 3.07:1 limited-slip rear. The GTO boasts an independent multi-link rear suspension with a 15mm (.6 inch) rear anti-roll bar. Up front are MacPherson struts, coil springs and a 28mm (1.1-inch) bar.

The GTO features 330mm x 32mm (13x1.25) ventilated discs up front and 315mm x 18mm (12x7) rears. Both front and rear are grooved to disperse heat and gasses more efficiently. ABS is standard. The GTO rides on five-spoke 18x8 alloy wheels on Bridgestone 235/40 ZR18 S03 Potenza S-03 Pole Position directional tires.

The upscale interior sports sumptuous leather seating upholstery in black, yellow, red or tan. Standard are eight-way power front seats, side air bags, dual-zone climate control and an eight-speaker, 10 stack CD player.

The GTO is a little larger than a Pontiac Grand Prix and is based on the new Holden Monaro platform. While there is some GM family resemblance, HSV gave the GTO its own unique fascia with wide lower air intake and fog lamps. The three-element projector headlamps and special design tail lamps are also exclusive to the GTO. Around back is a three-piece spoiler with integrated stop lamp. The ""Shark Gills"" side panels carry 3D-effect GTO badges. The coupe body is HSV’s first two-door model and also sports a roof spoiler.

The GTO isn’t the only HSV Supercar offering. There’s also a Callaway-tuned C4b 5.7L 402hp version dubbed the ""GTS"" that does 0-60 in 5.1 seconds and 13.3 in the quarter. It boasts bigger brakes and more optional equipment.

Limited production of the GTO began in January and, according to HSV, the retail price of the GTO is $73,750 Australian, which works out to $38,017 US Dollars. Pre-production sales of the GTO and GTS have been brisk, and availability will be limited with approximately 900 copies planned. No wonder, considering these cars are as potent as BMWs at half the price.

All of this begs the question why Holden, a GM subsidiary, can build a supercar like the GTO (and GTS) using many of the same components found in GM cars assembled in the United States. Aside from Corvette, GM will have nothing in their product line-ups to appeal to American high-performance buyers after 2002. With the new aggressive leadership of ""Maximum"" Bob Lutz at GM and cars like the GTO/GTS in Australia, can the V8 performance drought end and a new generation of Pontiac GTO hit U.S Streets anytime soon?"

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