Turbo technology was increasingly being developed and introduced to the mainstream market with Swedish manufacturer SAAB the pioneer, but Holden also made the leap thanks to the Japanese.
Rival Ford had attempted a couple of times to sell a turbo variant, but it was Holden in 1986 first to push the go button using a Nissan’s legendary RB30 engine. This combined with a Garrett AiResearch T3 made the VL Turbo a major generational step as it provided a smooth yet powerful delivery to complement the luxurious stylings of the Calais.
At 150kW and 296Nm, the VL Turbo was no slouch as it matched favourably compared to the very last Peter Brock, Holden Dealer Team developed VL Commodore SS Group A.
Unlike Brock’s flamboyant HDT range or the A9X or even the Monaro from the late-1960s, the VL Turbo was undistinguishable apart from a small badge on the boot to the other Commodores in the range making this the true definition of a sleeper.
A turbo option was offered for not just the range-topping Calais, but the Executive and Berlina in addition to either a sedan or wagon body style proving the technology was suited to all facets of driving needs.
Compared to the RB30 used by Nissan, Holden’s version featured parts especially developed with the turbocharger in mind as a special camshaft was installed to increase lift and reduce overlap, the compression ratio was dropped to 7.8:1, a larger oil pump was fitted, while a heavier flywheel completed the package.
Further alterations to the unit incorporated a knock sensor to the electronic management system and a two mode fuel injection system to endure the various flow rates at different throttle levels. Boost levels were between .42 and .50 bar.
Handling matched the power output through the VK Commodore’s Police Pack as larger brakes were fitted featuring Girlock finned alloy calipers.
Victoria Police even used the VL Turbo BT1 Interceptor as its model of choice late in the 1980s.
To round off the VL Turbo’s history, even Brock had a crack at adding his touch by adding luxury trim items and tuning the handling further. What was coined the LE Turbo is rare in numbers and was one of the last models to leave HDT’s Bertie Street workshop before the infamous split. The Corsa was built in even more limited numbers.
Revered now, it’s rare to find one unmodified and just like any other Australian muscle cars of the past the cost to purchase one now is expensive.
However, there are some funny spoofs of VL Turbo ads as seen below.