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Holden Commodore VL

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Holden Commodore

Holden Commodore VL

1986 - 1988
6 cyl. & V8
3.0/3.0 ltr turbo 6; 4.9 ltr V8
5 spd. manual ; 3 spd. Trimatic (V8) & 4 spd. automatic (6)
Top Speed:
Number Built:
0 star
Holden Commodore VL
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3

The Last Compact Commodore

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 litre 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 good unit.

Electronic Combusion Control

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 reduce overlap.

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 favourite car would prove disastorous at the dealerships, many began to praise the power and smoothness afforded by the Japanese unit. The turbocharged 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 litre 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 carburettor, naturally enough many had been hoping the delay in its release was due to the fitment of EFI.

The Holden VL Commodore Range
But there was some good news, the 5.0 litre 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 got through.

The Holden Commodore VL won Bathurst in 1987 (Peter Brock/David Parsons/Peter McLeod), and again in 1990 (Allan Grice/Win Percy), the intervening 2 years being dominated by the Ford Sierra RS500T's of Tony Longhurst/Tomas Mezera in 1988 and Dick Johnson/John Bowe in 1989. 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 said.

The Unleaded HDT VL V8

In late 1986 the Holden Dealer Team needed to build 500 lead-free versions of the Commodore SS to comply with Group A regulations. The biggest change over the VK was the lead-free 4987cc power-plant, power being slightly improved over the previous full-house Group A's 196 kW at 5200 rpm. Changes over the standard unleaded V8 included new heavy-duty conrods, lighter flywheel and adjustable Crane roller rockers. Breathing was improved by the fitment of larger valves than before, plus a little development work on the inlet manifold to match it to the ports. An extractor exhaust system was also part of the package.

Transmission was the Borg Warner T5 which the General didn’t offer on the more pedestrian V8s, and there was a heavy-duty clutch pressure plate diaphragm with a clamping pressure of 1150 kg - and final drive was by a limited slip 3.08:1 differential. The steering was power assisted. Suspension was the full Bilstein job with re-rated coil springs, heavy-duty front and rear stabilizer bars, and of course gas shock absorbers. With all this, the car sat down a mean 120 mm off the ground. Braking was by the Corvette-derived all-disc system, in this case with the master cylinder increased in bore for better performance.

The newly-developed VL body kit made a slightly gutsier statement than the VK. For a start, the car was available only as a special red, dubbed "Permanent Red", which is similar to a colour last used by GM-H towards the end of the Monaro series. There was a new grille and a new front air dam incorporating outrigger ducts to direct air to the Corvette calipers. The integrated VL bumper duct helped supplement input from the central under-bumper duct. At the rear there was a bulky, full-width spoiler similar to but slightly more extended than the VK's. The package was set off nicely by classy 16x7 Momo Star wheels first seen on the LE Calais. Tyres were Bridgestone Potenza 205/55VR16s.

Comfort equipment in this classic Australian sporting sedan included remote control exterior mirrors, HDT Momo steering wheel, 100 watt headlights, footrest and an HDT gearshift knob. AM/FM stereo cassette and Scheel front seats with special grey wool/velour trim were standard. An anti-theft alarm system was also part of the Group A SS deal. And all of this, more importantly, came in under the Keating trigger price for the luxury car tax, at A$29,600. Each car was stamped with a limited edition number, somewhere between one and 500. If you can find one that is genuine, you have a real collectable.
VL Commodore

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Also see:

Commodore VL Specifications
HDT Special Vehicles Brock VL
HSV Special Vehicles Walkinshaw VL
Commodore VL Brochure
Commodore VL Advertising
Reader Reviews page 1 of 1
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Posted 623 days ago
May29Bindash who stay in Nepal that person sholud be present that competition. Why did you leave Nepal. If you love Nepal stay in Nepal. Don't sell you Prestige Dude. When you come in Nepal and proud with us in cheer body. Only fresh Nepali sholud be attend. This year miss Nepal totally opposite. I am not positive that.
Posted 917 days ago
If anyone in Vic wants to buy a 12" 1500w clarion sub most powerful in it's range Already boxed with a 4 ohms clarion amp and all the wiring plus extra wiring and terminals Just say on here and il give u my email.
Cost me just over $700 only a few months ago now I'm willing to sell it all for $450 Ono
I bought it then lost my license a few weeks later so it's hardly been used due to no driving mainly selling it for money to pay for new front windscreen
Posted 917 days ago
Darren does your vl spit black crap when it backfires or when u first start it and give it a rev up
Posted 917 days ago
If someone could answer this for me that'd be grouse
My engine in my vl is going to *** so I'm gonna replace it myself should I just put another rb30 in one in better condition or an rb30t but that's only because I'm not sure what other engines I can put in without to much *** ing around
If anyone knows any other engines that fit a vl commodore wagon without to much modifications let me know please
Posted 917 days ago
Yer and Chris mate go buy a manual
Iv got a Haynes repair manual for all vl models made
It goes threw the ss the Calais or just a commodore
It will tell you how to get those doors on perfectly because if u don't have them on exactly right when u open and close your door u will hear *** ed noises n that
And the manuals help with everything else once uv got one itl always be handy. I'm about to replace the engine in my vl never replaced one before all I'm doings goin off the manual.
Posted 917 days ago
If anyone needs information on how to repair or modify a vl commodore or Calais Or pretty much any Holden go to your local autobarn or supercheap auto and they have repair and modify manuals that are detailed really well and easy to follow I didn't know much about cars until I bought my first manual when I got a vp and just from the manual I installed 2 12 inch 1500w subs with 2 clarion 4 ohms amps a new alternator a new water pump and 4 ultralow king springs.
Learnt all that from a manual and done it all in a few days tells u tools u need and all
Posted 1026 days ago
This Needs To State How Many Vl's Built In Australia & NZ
Posted 1028 days ago
Ive got me a Berlina, fixed many things already, much more to go! Best Commodore out there!
Posted 1120 days ago
Tell your old man you dont need air bags as they are for losers who cant drive.
Posted 1303 days ago
i want to buy this VL i saw on carsales, but my dad is being a *** and saying i cant get it if it doesnt have airbags..
so do the vls come with airbags or is there some way of putting them in ?
Posted 1473 days ago
hi im wondering how can i fit 4 new doors on my second vl as a project car for my gfs surprize 18th now i have half the parts here already as well as my other car gets in my yard next week its not a roller it has an engine and transmission but no doors or guards please help if you how how to put them on heres my email address carh91@hotmail *** will need as much help as needed
Posted 1505 days ago
joohhnnyy how much did it cost ya to do all that to ur VL?
Posted 1545 days ago
anyone know a manufacturer that does synchro kits for the standard 5 speed? building a vl atm and looking for gearbox upgrade. expecting atleast 400hp from the rb30de(non turbo) and i know the standard gear will never handle that! any help appreciated.
Posted 1666 days ago
to noditify a vl executive non turbo
first u can do the themo fan ,instead of a cluch fan
then u can get a chip for a vl but u have to see someome like chip torque to get the best chip for a vl
then u can put on a real racing fillter , not a cheap one
then get a exhaust fitted
then do your head when you do you head of your motor make shore it is the same one chip torque adviside you to get for max power and torque get that chip put in is not to easy u have to take it to a auto electrian to be fitted
gearboxes- automatics are hard there is not much they can do with them but rebliud them only last 4 to 5 years taking it easy
and you can replace the diff to a vl turbo diff ps the you have to do your brakes to 4 wheel disk brakes
and you can get a new light weight aluimuim radiator helps to run cool
i did all of this and got 152 hp to the back wheels and a factory turbo only have 140hp
then the car got written of got hit up the bum cry cry cry?
Posted 1780 days ago
I just bought a '87 VL, and I cant wait to wait to drive and modify it.
jon harrison
Posted 1946 days ago
chasing a front right light /Calais cover flip.
Posted 2003 days ago
darren you may need a new manifold gasket, they are cheap as chips and a peice of piss to put in XD
Posted 2150 days ago
i have a vl commodore when u start it it idiols ok but backfires through the mentafolds and when u put ur foot on the throttle it revs it self
please help someone tell ,me what to do
bear 07
Posted 2495 days ago
very interesting info,told me info that i didnt know,but do now,made me decide to keep my 87 vl sedan and make it something that brocky would be proud of.
Posted 2631 days ago
thanks for a thorough and informative review of the classic VL. i happen to be a lucky owner of one of the nicest looking cars that have graced australian roads,and bye the way it doesn't mind a bit of a fang now and then, nuff said(lol)
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