The establishment of the joint venture operation between General Motors Holden and the British Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) group was a major coup not just for performance car connoisseurs, but also for the local industry.
The new operation began with a clear set of goals and a carefully structured business plan. The aims were simple: the brief was to maintain the tradition of Holden-based performance sedans originally established by Peter Brock’s Holden Dealer Team.
vl_walkinshawHSV’s first task was clear-cut: it was to get the recently unveiled TWR Group A VL Commodore into production. To do this, newly appointed Managing Director John Crennan embarked on a mission to sign up about 30 people capable of doing the job at the newly established Notting Hill facility in Melbourne’s south-east.
If any proof of the fledgling HSV’s credibility was needed, it was certainly there just three years later, when the company built its 5,000th vehicle.
With the combination of total factory support and a team of gifted engineers and designers, the Melbourne-based company has developed a reputation for being the originator of some of the best sporting sedans ever built in this country.
From the first Commodore VL-based Group A car in 1988 to the 375kW W427 – the company’s 20th anniversary ‘gift’ to W427the auto industry – HSV has been providing a hungry car-buying public with the touch of excitement not easily found in regular production cars.
HSV took over from where HDT left off in 1987, after Holden conducted a world-wide tender for a partner to establish a facility that would continue the local sporting-sedan tradition.
That partner was TWR, a diverse and innovative UK-based operation that had its chief focus in production car racing and was well known in Australia for, among other things, its Bathurst-winning efforts, with an XJS Jaguar, in 1985.
TWR, which started in Britain as a small operation working out of a back street in the late 1960s, had also overseen four international championships, including wins in the Spa 24-hour race in 1981 (in a Mazda) and 1984 (in a Jaguar). Founder and Chairman, Tom Walkinshaw, was European Touring Car champion in 1984.
The first evidence of this collaboration was the VL Group A Commodore project in 1988, the now-famous ‘Batmobile’ (so-named because of the massive rear-deck spoiler and radical body kit) that was built as a homologation car to comply with FISA international Group A regulations, the precursor to today’s V8 Supercar series.
Today, HSV is known for producing cars that the public just love to drive, led by Managing Director Tim Jackson Under the Walkinshaw umbrella comes the company’s motorsport operation known as Walkinshaw Racing. Headed by Adrian Burgess, Walkinshaw Racing encompasses the famous Holden Racing Team. Walkinshaw Racing also supplies engines and other componentry to a range of Holden backed V8 Supercar teams.
The synergies of running a motorsport and performance car operation from the one Clayton based facility are obvious and while it might be a cliché, HSV engineers can literally be found assessing data and plotting V8 Supercar victories on a Sunday and be back at HSV on a Monday building the supercar of tomorrow.
Today HSV is a shining example of Australian ingenuity, enterprise and business savvy.