Holden Commodore VH

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Holden Commodore VH

Holden Commodore

Holden Commodore VH

1981 - 1984
Starfire-4, 6 cyl. & V8
2.85/3.3 ltr. 6; 4.2/5.0 ltr. V8
101kW (202) & 179kW (308)
4/5 spd. man; 3 spd. Trimatic
Top Speed:
Number Built:
0 star
Holden Commodore VH
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


The VH was the third Commodore series in four years, with five engines and, for the first time, a five-speed gearbox. The transition from VB to VC and then VH was one of evolution rather than revolution, and so many knew the bugs had well and truly been ironed out by the time the VH arrived.

Naturally any model change required some form of cosmetic change, Holden opting for a subtle reworking at the front giving the VH Commodore a longer and lower appearance. Many considered there to be very little change over the previous VB/VC models, but as was evidenced by the VC, the Holden engineers were more concerned with making the car perform and handle better than in mere cosmetic change.

Amoung the changes was a revised grille with new front guards, the tail lights were given louvres similar in style to the Mercedes Benz tail lights of the day (designed as such to prevent dirt buildup and ensure clarity). And to add a little differentiation from the lesser models, the SL/E's tail lights stretched right up to the number plate recess. It is worth noting that the new front guards were designed in Australia, some thought as a deliberate move away from the German Opel shape.

Mechanically the engineers set about making changes to the Starfire-4 engine in an attempt to better its fuel consumption and lift its power (and reputation). Considerable effort was also put into improving the efficiency and power of the 2.85 litre 6, and in both cases they were extremely successful, able to achieve fuel economy gains of 12.5% and 14% respectively.

As previously mentioned, a five speed manual transmission was available for the first time, however the bad news was that the Borg-Warner box was deemed ill-suited to the torque of the larger engines, and so remained available only on the Starfire-4 and 2850 six - the new 5 speed box obviously helping the better fuel economy figures. And finally the US sourced Turbo-Hydramatic was dropped from the 5.0 litre cars in favour of the Aussie TriMatic.

The Commodore purchaser could now choose from an additional seven all-new exterior colours, including the very popular "Shadowtone" two tone. A newly designed leather interior was made available as an option for the first time, while considerable effort had been put into further improving the Commodore's outstanding NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) characteristics. Creature comforts including leather trim, central locking, seat height adjustment and cruise control were part of a lengthy options list - and yellow needles were part of the redesigned instrument package, these proving suprisingly effective in making the gauges more "readable".

The model line-up was changed again, the "L" becoming the "SL", and the "SL" becoming the "SL/X", while the "SL/E" remained as the flagship. The popular "Vacationer" pack would also see a return, with the VH, available from the 30th September 1983. The Vacationer pack was to include such items as air-conditioning, special side-stripes, decals and wheel trims, a seat height adjuster and remote left side door mirror.

The VH also introduced the first local fitment of advanced computer electronics to a mass-produced Australian passenger car, including the "Electronic Spark Selection" black box on the four-cylinder engine and the SL/E model's seven-function trip computer. But as Ford was closing the gap on the number #1 best seller title, everyone was left wondering if these changes were enough. The answer was revealed in March 1982 when the blue oval released the XE, and that answer was no. This despite the fact that the VH Commodore scored consecutive wins at Mount Panorama in 1982 (Peter Brock/Larry Perkins) and in 1983 (Peter Brock/Larry Perkins/John Harvey).
VH Commodore SL
VH Commodore SL/X

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Also see:

Commodore VH Specifications
HDT Special Vehicles Brock VH
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The vh was the best model...the earlier ones were crap...the later ones were crap...the vh was right at the time.
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