HSV VN SS Group A - buyer & value guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Unique Cars magazine

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holden VN SS Group A The big VN HSV Group A is still worth serious money. holden VN SS Group A

Big, bold and red, HSV's interpretation of the Holden VN SS was hard to miss.

The fact that HSV managed to survive its first five years of existence, let alone make it to 30, is extraordinary. The company’s first offering, the VL Group A, was built in ambitious numbers and some cars remained unsold even after the VN version had hit HSV dealer yards.

The VN was intended to sell at around $55,000 and easily meet the 500-unit minimum for international Group A race recognition. It did neither.

The Berlina-spec Group A was launched with a list price of $68,500, making it the most expensive Holden ever sold to that point. For their money, lovers of Aussie-issue performance cars got a 215kW version of Holden’s 5.0-litre V8 with plenty of tuning potential for those who might want to have a crack against the turbo-engined Ford Sierras and Nissan Skylines.

However, cash-strapped Holden hadn’t as yet managed to finalise development of its independent rear suspension, so the most costly Holden of all time made do with a live axle.

Officially the Group A came in one colour only (a nondescript maroon shade called Durif Red). However two cars were sprayed black for a beer promotion and two were produced in white.

No HSV would be complete without a mass of fibreglass add-ons; allegedly there to enhance stability at high speed but to the cynic’s eye a cheap way of making the bland VN shape look a bit special.

The air-dam incorporated big slots to funnel cooling air to the engine and front brakes. Side skirts were said to aid stability at very high speeds, however in urban environments they were just gutter grabbers that provided income for HSV’s spares division.

Those 17-inch alloys might look pretty skimpy at a time when your average family SUV is running on 18s but in 1990 they were eye poppers. So too the way a Group A rode on its 45 Profile rubber when flung at a bumpy bitumen back-road.

The Group A’s 215kW might seem underdone when compared with the mega-output of later HSVs. Again however it represented serious performance and delivered very decent acceleration times.

Without frying the clutch or snapping axles, test drivers from various magazines sent the heavyweight Holden surging down the 400 metre strip in 14.4 seconds, en route recording a best 0-100km/h time of 6.2 seconds.

MARKET REVIEW

For reasons best known to the market, supplies of VN Group As during 2017 were tighter than at any time in recent memory. We can only think that owners are predicting a price surge similar to the one affecting VK Group As and are hanging on just in case.

As mentioned elsewhere, only 302 of the projected 500 VNs were made. That didn’t stop build numbers being allocated in accordance with buyer wishes and it is possible to find genuine cars with numbers - including 500 - that run beyond #302.

When negotiating on a VN Group A do look hard at the car’s history. One with highish kilometres but every service and minor alteration documented may offer better long-term prospects than one that has done less but doesn’t have complete documentation.

Really exceptional cars are already worth $100k+ but they are part of a small minority. More typical are cars showing 80,000-150,000 kilometres that should sell in the $60-70,000 range.

CHECKLIST

BODY & CHASSIS

First and foremost, engage an HSV authority to confirm that major components are authentic and not a bodged job from years ago when the correct shell might have been replaced by one from any old VN. Next look at fibreglass body components for poor fit, broken mounts or impact damage. The air-dam and sill extensions are very vulnerable. Parts are around, including a front bumper section claimed to be genuine and needing only paint at $300. Rust should not be an issue but to be sure check for damp carpets, moisture in the boot and any bubbling around windscreen or rear window apertures.

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION Holden’s 5.0-litre

V8 defines the term ‘bullet-proof’. It existed in one form or other for over 30 years and plenty of people know a lot about making them more powerful, reliable or both. Parts are everywhere and reconditioning not massively expensive. Oil leaks and smoke denote a tired motor but VNs really should not be displaying these issues. The six-speed gearbox by ZF is rugged and would take a lot more torque than the standard Group A was producing. Buzzing through the gear-lever when accelerating, difficult down-shifts or clunking (could be a chipped gear tooth) mean expenditure ahead.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

With big, grippy tyres and a fair chance that previous owners might have indulged in a bit of track time, suspension components could need some work. People who owned these cars from new said the Bilstein shocks needed replacement quite early and were expensive. Consult a suspension specialist for less-costly alternatives. Brakes are twin piston with massive 330mm rotors at the front, 260mm at the rear but modern replacements are superior and may cost less. Look for scoring or discolouration on the disc faces and treat any pedal softness or inconsistency as reason for impending expense.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Dash cracks can affect cars that haven’t had their vinyl components regularly treated. Look especially at switches and column controls that have started to turn white. Check that the window switches work and there are no shudders or squeaks when the glass moves. Correct spec seat trim is still available, with one supplier pricing the scarce fabric at $350 per metre (1.0 x 1.4 wide). Hood-linings have a habit of sagging and unless seriously torn can be refitted by a motor trimmer. Air- conditioners will by now most likely have been reconditioned and re-gassed however they do leak and suffer compressor failures. Repairs can add $1000-2500 to your purchase cost.

VALUE RANGE

FAIR $35,000

GOOD 60,000

EXCELLENT $90,000

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

(Numbers from our 2017-18 Muscle Cars Value Guide.)

Muscle Car Value Guide home page

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