What is a muscle car? What defines a muscle car? Most people will tell you something along the lines of “big power, small handling ability and a nice noise”. Broadly speaking, they’re not far off the mark. The first American muscle cars were developed by dropping truck engines into family cars without enhancing the suspension, brakes or chassis – not necessarily the safest way to go fast, but definitely an economical way to have fun.
Widely accepting of the handling downfalls, the muscle car’s stomping ground has always been the drag strip. An elementary combination put forward by a large capacity V8 and a live rear axle equipped machine made a straight road the perfect place to lay down rubber and prove performance – fit up some sticky rear tyres, nail the throttle and chase the clock. Still maintaining in the eyes of some the classic titles of “land yacht” or “luxo-barge”, the Holden Commodore never presented the performance through the bends that it did on the straights. For the iconic Aussie muscle car’s final gasp however, Holden have been putting in some serious development into the suspension. While the VF still features a MacPherson suspension set up like its VE predecessor, considerable improvements have been made to the way the car enters a corner and maintains its weight throughout said bend.
The Heasman VF Commodore was not on the roads for more than a week before being taken to Wakefield Park. There, in complete “as Holden intended” form professional Track School driver John Boston thrust the big body sedan through all 10 corners. While the dust settled and the LS3 ticked itself cool, the results came back: 1:09.1. Not just the fastest Holden, but the fastest Australian production car ever around Wakefield. The icing on the cake was that the prehistoric V8 powered Aussie family sedan not only topped the time of a Mitsubishi Evolution 10; but also the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG; $50,000 its senior.
So who do you beat when you’re already the best? The answer is simple: yourself. Just like the drag racers of yesteryear, this VF is due to be gracing the race track over and over throughout its lifetime. Every time the track is in sight the car will be sporting freshly devised enhancements in the name of bolstering speed around a circuit. This is the next generation of muscle cars.
The Heasman Commodore’s first round of enhancements began in our work shop. Tunehouse carried out a Spec S performance kit, upping the output from 281 to 322 KW at the rear wheels. Throughout the rev range the factory torque output was bolstered by a large margin as well bringing the car alive and giving it the louder pipes it always deserved.
Second round of wrench work came in the form of new Bilstein shocks, King springs and Super Pro anti-roll bars. The strongest handling faults with the standard car proved to be a combination of under steer and body roll, the two particular points of concern for these modifications.
As is typical with the modification of performance cars (muscle or otherwise), the new found positive direction of this VF began with two steps forward and one step back. While the American powered big body had upped output and firmed handling, by the time Wakefield Park was in the horizon for the second time the rear tyres had all but bitten the dust. Very much second rate now, the unhealthy rear rubbers meant much of the back end grip presented on the first track day had gone astray.
Line up. Give it all you’ve got. Pull around, line up again. Every time looking to cut just a little bit more off of that previous best time. Drag strip or circuit, this hasn’t changed. With the three aforementioned variations, the Heasman R8 Clubsport managed a 1:08.3. This figure did not meet the expectations of those involved with the project, so it’s back to the drawing board in the handling department. The suspension modifications were carried out with the intention of maintaining a street car level of comfort, so this car will never see a hardcore coilover set up.
That was this time. Next time, another second could be coming off the clock. If it doesn’t, it’ll be mean more planning and tweaks, spanner time and tuning. Before long it’ll be the third time to line up; though far from the last. That’s what a new age muscle car is.
If you want to hear about we’re planning next at Tunehouse, give us a call on (02) 9557 4000 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.