HSV GTS300 VTII-VX - Buyer's Guide

By: Cliff Chambers

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While headline hotties justify their spots in the pecking order, equally attractive alternatives are sometimes overlooked

When enthusiasts discuss the cars that over many decades have defined Australia as a motoring nation, the GTS300 rarely rates a mention.

While that is sad for these competent and under-rated cars it is good if you already own one or have the means to buy one before the market changes its mind.

Costing almost $100,000 when new, GTS300s were the first Holdens to use a fully-imported, Callaway-prepped LS1 V8 and the first of any brand to advertise engine output of 300kW. If others in the past produced more power they weren’t prepared to crow about it.

2019/20 Market Review: HSV Group A/GTS 1988-2008

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All of the VTIIs and almost all of the VX model that followed were manual. They shared a Tremec six-speed transmission with other HSVs but the 3.91:1 final drive ratio ensured monstrous acceleration.

A Hydratrak limited-slip differential was included and there was traction control for the faint of heart. Maximum output arrived at a raucous 6000rpm and the 510Nm of available torque didn’t peak until 4800rpm so this was not a car for the lazy or disconnected driver.

| Read next: 30 years of Holden Special Vehicles (2018) 

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The initial batch of GTS300s came in Sting Red or Phantom Black and whether a car was red on the outside or black to its core didn’t matter. Inside, the ostentatious VTII seats were always the same in red and black leather with big bolsters to keep occupants in place.

 

Equipment included a trip computer, climate-control air-con and a 10-disc CD stacker. If you didn’t think HSV had spent enough on the sound system to justify $100k then too bad. You could always fumble around on the console to find a window switch and enjoy the symphonic combination of a howling exhaust and desperately scrabbling tyres.

| Read next: Sleeper HSV Senator test mule 

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Switching from VTII to VX didn’t make a huge difference to the GTS. Yes, the nose was different, the standard seat trim was changed to velour and there were 19-inch alloy wheels in place of 18s. The price went down a little but mechanically the meanest lion in HSV’s den  was unchanged.

With fewer than 400 GTS300s built (numbers are open to dispute) it’s understandable that they can be hard to find. What is inexplicable – especially after 20 years – is why these scarce and very rapid cars haven’t until recently gone close to recouping their original owners’ outlays.

| Read more: 1991 HSV VN SS Group A (Tooheys Group A) 

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Kilometres are the killer and a GTS that has averaged more than 1000km per year since new is going to struggle. Especially where steely-eyed investors are involved and looking for a quick buck or strong long-term return.

A car that has done 150-200,000 kilometres misses the mark as a collectible but still delivers very entertaining and exclusive motoring. Cars like these hit the market in the region of $50,000 and may sell for considerably less if they have been hanging around for a while.

| Read next: HSV VS GTS-R review  

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Top-of-the-heap collector cars rarely come onto the general market or if they do will likely be offered through specialist dealers. Joining your local branch of the HSV Owners Club and announcing that you are looking for a car can help.

VALUE RANGE: HSV GTS300 (VTII)

Fair: $20,000
Good: $48,000
Excellent: $70,000

(Note: exceptional cars will demand more)

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

Body & chassis

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Limited clearance when negotiating speed-bumps or climbing a gutter makes HSVs  easy prey to underbody damage. Start down low with your pre-drive inspection, looking for cracked plastic and loose bumpers. Inconsistent bumper and bonnet gaps can signify poor-quality panel repairs done in years past. Replacement body panels are still available but finding factory replacements for HSV body-kit components is becoming difficult. Replica items are available and not expensive, however, you still don’t want to be paying $60,000 for the car and another $3000 replacing and painting cracked plastics.

Engine & transmission

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Chevrolet-sourced engines have a great reputation for durability but still need to be diligently maintained. Even cars that haven’t travelled sufficient kilometres in the past five years to justify a 5000 kilometre service will need coolant and lubricants replaced annually. Even if a car starts and runs OK, fuel injection systems dating back to last century might need an overhaul. New engine/transmission mounts help an engine that vibrates unacceptably at idle. Also check for overheating by idling for a while after test-driving. Clutch life varies according to use and some of these cars could still be on their original clutch. Automatic transmission was listed for 2002 but few if any were built.

Suspension & brakes

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Worn bushes cause front-end clunks and wavering steering response. If the rear tyres are worn significantly on their inner edges, the IRS components need examination by a specialist. VX versions have greater scope for rear suspension adjustment than early cars. Brake squeal and shudder is just the discs demanding attention; sets of standard rotors and pads worth $1000 or so but rising to more than $2000 if you  upgrade to a premium brake package. Damaged alloys that are scuffed but not cracked or bent can be refurbished, however used replacements cost upwards of $400 each.

Interior & electrics

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Most interior parts are unique to HSV and more expensive to replace than those fitted to basic Commodores. Leather needs to be supple and crack free or a hefty retrim bill awaits. Due to their pronounced bolsters, leather GTS seats are prone to wear. Dampness in the footwells can come from the heater or a leaking windscreen seal.  Air-conditioners of this age suffer a range of faults (mostly expensive to fix) so tepid air even with the temp set as low as it will go isn’t a good sign. Test the windows and driver’s seat electrics to make sure they haven’t seized due to lack of use.

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1999-2002 HSV GTS300 VTII-VX specs

Number built: 117 (VTII) 287 (VX/VXII) - approximate
Body: Integrated body/chassis four-door sedan
Engine: 5665cc V8 with overhead valve and fuel-injection
Power & torque: 300kW @ 6000rpm, 510Nm @ 4800rpm
Peformance: 0-100km/h: 5.1 seconds, 0-400 metres 12.8 seconds (VTII)
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Suspension: Independent with struts, control arms and coil springs (f); Independent with trailing arms, coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
Brakes: Disc (f) disc (r) with power assistance & ABS
Tyres: 235/40ZR18 radial (VTII)

From Unique Cars #435, January 2020

 

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