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About the VN Commodore
The 1988 VN Commodore was an all-new wide-bodied design, based on the new Opel Omega. The VN body shell was effectively a widened version of the German Omega. However, it utilised the existing VL style floorpan, suspension, etc. This second generation Commodore wide body was a size more in line with Australian buyers expectations of a family car. The styling owed little to any previous Commodore series.
All powerplants were new to Holden production. The base unit was a Buick sourced 3800 V6, joined by the 5.0-litre EFI V8 (165 kW), in early 1989. The V8 was released as standard for the new SS model and optional for all others. The 3800 V6 featured distributorless direct fire ignition system, Delco multipoint fuel injection, serpentine multi-accessory drive belt and aluminium cored radiator, with plastic side tanks. An ECU controlled electric cooling fan was utilised, monitoring coolant temperature, air-conditioning operation, etc. GM-H engineers spent considerable development time modifying the east/west front-drive V6 powerplant for its new rear-drive application. The EFI V8 was a further development of the Australian 5.0-litre (304 ci) design. It was a de-tuned, 2-bolt mains version of the VL SS Group A (Walkinshaw) unit, fed by a newly designed inlet manifold, with single throttle body and long individual plenum runners.
The Australian made Borg Warner TS 5-speed manual gearbox was standard issue for V6 and V8 motors. Automatic transmission for these was the U.S. sourced Turbo-Hydramatic 700-R4 4-speed with lockup torque converter. Initially, shifters in all cars were floor mounted and surrounded by a wide centre console integrated with the lower dash fascia.
Front suspension, including K-member was virtually a full carry over from the VL series, including track width. The only notable alteration being direct coupling of the front stabiliser bar to the MacPherson struts. Previous Commodores had the front bar linked to the lower control arms. Rear suspension was almost unchanged, except the rear track was increased 50 mm, by lengthening the axle assembly at its outer ends. Trailing arms, rear shock absorbers, etc., remained basically as before. All cars received 4-wheel disc brakes. V8 models gained the larger front disc rotors and finned calipers, first fitted to VL V8 and turbo engined models.
Model line-up had the Executive as price leader in sedan and wagon form. Next came Berlina sedan and wagon, followed by top-of-the-line Calais, offered as a sedan only. Late in 1988, a Commodore S (V6) sedan was offered and in March 1989, the new SS sedan arrived (coinciding with re lease of the V8). The SS models were effectively Executive trim level cars, with suspension and visual enhancements to cater for the performance market.
The new wide bodied VN Commodore quickly became a sales success, placing Holden at the top of the sales charts for 1989, less than one year after release. Limited production specials included LE in 1989 and Vacationer (sedan and wagon) in time for Christmas 1990. Several other limited editions were sold, many being dealer group marketing specials, mostly handled by HSV as contract builds for GM-H, because of the small numbers involved.
Late 1990 also heralded release of the last SS Group A Commodore race homologation special. The VN version of SS Group A, with less outrageous styling than its (VL) predecessor, was finished in Durif Red. It included all the luxury trimmings befitting a Grand Tourer. It was powered by an upgraded version of the twin throttle body 5.0- litre EFI unit, coupled to an imported ZF 6-speed manual transmission. This 215kW rocket-ship covered the standing 400 metres in 14.5 seconds and could reach well over 250 km/h. A production run of 500 units was planned, but ceased after building only 302.
The VN HSV model line-up included: SV3800, SV89, SV LE, SV5OOO, and ClubSport. As with previous HDT/HSV enhanced models, these cars featured various engine, suspension and trim upgrades.