Holden VL Commodore History

By: Glenn Torrens

holden vl commodore holden vl commodore

Glenn Torrens traces the Holden Commodore's heritage, this time looking at the VL series


Holden VL Commodore

151,801 built

Holden had to kill-off the Aussie-made sixes (by then a 20-year-old design) and buy-in a Japanese-made engine from Nissan for the VL in 1986. It was doom and gloom until everyone realised what a honey of a donk the 114kW overhead cam, fuel-injected, alloy-head 3.0-litre RB30E Nissan six was.

Mated to a four-speed auto or five-speed manual, Commodore went even harder with the optional 150kW turbocharged six. Outside, the Commodore had a lower, smoother snout, shallower but wider headlights (with integrated inboard driving lights) and a higher boot-line. With the across-the-range optional Turbo 3.0-litre being the pinnacle of Australian-made performance, the modified-for-unleaded 122kW 5-litre V8 was marketed as the choice for no-nonsense van and boat towing.


Holden's sweet six-packs!


The six-cylinder engine in the VB-VK Commodores was designed in the 1960s and debuted in the EH Holden in 1963 (yeah, yeah, we know there might have been some in EJs…) so by the early 1980s, the all-iron, over-head valve engine was regarded as hoary old-tech. Holden’s update for the VC Commodore provided more efficient six-cylinder engines – officially XT5 but colloquially known as the Blue motors thanks to their colour – featuring hardware such as a counterweighted crank, better-breathing 12-port cylinder heads, two-barrel carburettor and two-branch exhaust systems.

But even with the tweaks, the engine couldn’t operate on unleaded petrol (lead helps lubricate engine valves) so Holden – unable to afford to design its own new engine and with nothing available from other GM brands – had to find an unleaded-capable engine from another manufacturer. In early 1983 it signed a deal with Nissan in Japan for its forthcoming RB30E, an alloy-headed, overhead cam fuel injected 3.0-litre six with a turbo version, too. An RB20 2-litre was also available outside Australia. Despite being used in just one series for little more than two years, the VL Commodore and Calais became well-regarded, rather than considered parts-bin orphans.


Read more:

- Holden Commodore VB-VC
- Holden Commodore VH-VK

- Back to Holden Commodore VB-VL heritage homepage


Unique Cars magazine Value Guides

Sell your car for free right here


Get your monthly fix of news, reviews and stories on the greatest cars and minds in the automotive world.