Holden VQ-VSIII Statesman/Caprice - Buyer's Guide

By: Cliff Chambers

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This pair of upmarket heavies showed that Holden could produce decent big prestige cars when it put its mind to it


Holden VQ-VSIII Statesman/Caprice

When Holden ditched its Statesman in 1984 the move was aimed at ending V8 production in Australia and a belief that buyers didn’t want big cars any more.

Three years later the V8 came back and then in 1989 a brand-new prestige Holden arrived that was much more than an elongated version of the Calais.

Designated VQ, the new Statesman echoed the VN Commodore’s shape but shared very little with the mainstream model. The floor-pan was intended to come from the Commodore wagon, however a different structure was needed to accommodate Holden’s first Australian-produced independent rear suspension.

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IRS gave the Statesman and up-market Caprice an edge in handling and ride quality over the dominant Ford Fairlane/LTD duo. Boosting the big Holden’s appeal even further was the choice of V6 or V8 power.


The 5.0-litre V8 was no powerhouse, with 165kW available on 91 Octane ULP fuel. Output increased very slightly in 1995 when the VS arrived however it would take a switch to imported, 5.7-litre muscle before the Statesman showed any interest in becoming  a performance car.  The 5.0-litre cars still went well enough though.

Using their four-speed T700 automatic transmission to good effect, the cars got off the line in a haze of rubber smoke and reached 80kh/h in six seconds and were claimed to be capable of 225km/h.

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With performance, decent handling and lots of space a 1990s Statesman or Caprice represents practical buying for people who also appreciate the historic significance of these cars. Because they were sold new to fleet buyers or financially secure individuals, these cars in early years at least were usually treated decently and with their service schedules followed.


Statesman and Caprice had impressive and reasonably durable interiors. The cloth-finish the seats were comfortable with sufficient adjustment for very tall drivers. The three-spoke steering wheel had a good feel and a fast ratio for greater control. It also  displayed the dash without forcing drivers to crick their necks.

Cars that have been properly maintained for the remainder of their lives will be more difficult to source but these are the ones to track down if you are interested in long-term ownership. Even in exceptional condition, a V8 Statesman will be worth less than $15,000.

VALUE RANGE Statesman (VQ V8)

FAIR: $2800
GOOD: $6500
EXCELLENT: $11,000

(Note: exceptional cars will demand more)




These cars sit on longish wheelbases and low to the road so look for damage to the sills, the nose-cone and front cross-member caused by kerbs and speed humps. All VN-based cars are rust prone and spare panels for the Statesman/Caprice aren’t common so check carefully for any structural rust in floor pans, window surrounds, the rear suspension mounting points, quarter panels and turret. Old age robs metallic paint of its lustre and cars that haven’t been repainted could be losing their clear-coat. 

Don’t stress if your headlight reflectors are tarnished or the lenses cracked because new replacements cost $130 a pair.


Whether the Statesman you choose runs a V6 or V8, mechanical problems will be the least of your worries. Every wrecker that deals in Holden parts will have rows of engines and being bothered about interfering with authenticity by tossing in a replacement motor is nonsense. Check the oil and coolant for contaminants that reveal a head gasket leak and listen for rumbles and glugs when the engine is warm that signify a radiator blockage. T700 autos should change with the mildest of jolts under full throttle and downshifts should be virtually undetectable. Slow response to kick-down or reluctance to pick up reverse when selected indicate a problem. 


The independent rear suspensions in these cars are 25-30 years of age and will likely need some refurbishing. Springs, bushes, rear suspension mounts and shock absorbers need to be in decent condition or the car will feel very nervous when driven quickly. Low-profile rubber is great for enhanced stability but won’t insulate against road shock.  Hard hits can bend wheel rims so check all the alloys, including the spare for buckling. Brakes should bite hard without squealing or shuddering but don’t be alarmed if they need replacement as parts to refurbish or upgrade the all-disc system are cheap.


Door seals by now may not be sealing the car against water and fumes but don’t stress. Complete sets of body rubbers are being re-made and cost around $1000. Retrimming the seats in correct-pattern cloth will be more difficult, especially where door-trims need to be replaced as well. When test driving look above you as well, because headliners in these cars are renowned for sagging. Although Holden plastics are more durable than most, cars that have been left in the sun will suffer dash cracks, console warping and controls may have begun to discolour or crumble. Make sure the air-conditioning system works and has been re-gassed using a compliant refrigerant. 


1990-1998 Holden VQ-VSIII Statesman/Caprice specs

BODY: integrated body/chassis four-door sedan
ENGINE: 3791cc V6, or 4987cc V8 with overhead valves and fuel-injection
POWER & TORQUE: 165kW @ 4400rpm, 385Nm @ 3500rpm (VQ V8)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h: 8.8 seconds, 0-400 metres
16.3 seconds (VQ V8)
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with struts and coil springs and anti-roll bar  (f); independent with trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) disc (r) power assisted, some with ABS
TYRES: 205/65HR15 radial


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