1989 Holden VN Calais - Our Shed

By: Glenn Torrens, Photography by: Glenn Torrens

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holden vn calais engine bay holden vn calais engine bay
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Glenn Torrens gets his hands on a VN Calais fast blast from the past


1989 Holden VN Calais

WHEELS magazine announced Holden’s grunty new fuel injected 5.0-litre V8 in its April 1989 issue with a cover-shot of a Phoenix Red VN Holden Calais and the bold statement: "The fastest family car in the world is Holden’s V8." Three months later, my mate Wes’s father received a white VN Holden Calais V8: I will never forget our absolute glee as Wes picked me up for a quick spin in his dad’s new company car. I think it had 000076 kilometres on the then hi-tech electronic odometer’s display when I clipped on the seatbelt for a brisk test ride.

Holden -vn -calais -rearVisiting the Holbrook Bakery while driving the new toy home on an unregistered permit

Three years later my mate Lowey bought that very same car from Wes’s dad when its lease expired. And guess what? The first day he owned it, Lowey picked me up for a brisk test ride…

There’s nothing quite like a V8!

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Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to own two fuel-injected Holden V8s – a ’92 VP Calais and a ’97 VT HSV Senator 195i. In addition, I spent a lot of time driving (and diagnosing and rebuilding) the retrotech-transplanted EFI V8 in a Street Machine magazine WB Holden ute in the late-90s. But I haven’t owned a Holden V8 – or any other V8 – as a daily/regular driver since I sold my Senator a decade ago. I’m a big fan of these lovely iron lion V8s and lately I’ve been thinking how nice it would be to have another one in the driveway again…

Yes, why not?!

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Once again, Morley gets some of the blame. Driving his VN Commodore SS got me addicted again to these now-classic Aussie V8s. I set myself a budget and began browsing. I particularly wanted a VN Calais: It was the first of the breed and I know them well. Plus, in NSW, it will be eligible for classic/historic registration plates in just a few years (it’s already eligible in Vic).

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I soon found a car for sale in Melbourne (I live in NSW) so Morley again volunteered to inspect it. On offer was a two-owner (father, then son) ’89 VN V8 Calais. Seller Andrew, a member of our defence force, explained he’d recently put a significant amount of work into the car: lack of use (it’s travelled less than 15,000km in the past decade!) had taken its toll on the petrol tank (rusty) and the radiator (blocked). Andrew said he’d fixed all that – plus the air-conditioning and the saggy headlining – before admitting to himself that he was killing the Calais with lack of use. Morley’s inspection confirmed its now-tidy condition, so I’ve become its new custodian. Here we go again! Oh, and it’s Phoenix Red, the same colour as the Calais on the cover of Wheels magazine, and in Holden’s showroom brochures, all those years ago.

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