How Australia Won The Bodykit Game, Forever

It happened in 1988, with the Holden HSV VL Commodore Group A SS Sedan, built in limited numbers by Tom Walkinshaw's crew.

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At this point, you may be wondering: Australia, really? What about Germany and Uwe Gemballa? Have I forgotten about how the former master managed to turn a Porsche 911 into a Gemballa Avalanche in 1984, just three years after his company began doing God's work?

Needless to say, I have not forgotten about Gemballa. How could anybody? But while is indeed contemporary art at its highest level, it looks like it was wind-tunnel tested using cocaine dust. That doesn't provide the same benefit as decades of motorsports experience, a real wind tunnel, with wake smoke and the power consumption of a mid-sized mining community.

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1984 Porsche Gemballa Avalanche.

In the '80s, if you needed a beefy engine with a car attached to it that could win races, you called Tom Walkinshaw. TWR was first responsible for Mazda's touring cars, then pretty much everything British Leyland has done around the globe, including their Dakar effort with Range Rover and Jaguar's successful Group C and IMSA campaigns. Parallel to the UK business and the resulting XJ220, Walkinshaw ran an equally impressive Australian operation, setting up what became Holden Special Vehicles while racing the Holden VN Commodore SS Group A SV in the Australian Touring Car Championship.

It was the experimental version of HSV's 5.0 V8 that Walkinshaw sent to TVR's Peter Wheeler, who jammed it into his "hunting car" prototype known as the White Elephant.

But the fuel-injected 5-liter also made it into a limited production vehicle, the 1988 Holden HSV VL Commodore Group A SS Sedan. It was HSV's first official product, a homologation special developed by Walkinshaw, sporting the wildest functional body kit on the planet.

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The V8's 241 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque granted by the freshly done EFI system was enough for a 0-60 run in 6.9 seconds, the 1/4 mile in 14.95 seconds, and a top speed of 143 mph. Perhaps short of mind-blowing by today's standards, but TWR claimed Walkinshaw's body kit could reduce drag by more than 25 percent over the previous Holden Dealer Team SS Group A, which was crucial against all those mighty Ford Sierra RS500 Cossies that ultimately won the championship.

After an initial run of 500, HSV built another 250 for racing purposes, but the last VL Commodore Group A turned out to be a tough sell. Still, as we look back today at the car known locally both as the "Walky" and the "Plastic Pig" depending on the level of love, it's hard to see less than perfection.

Tom Walkinshaw managed to take the best Aussie muscle sedan traditions, mix it up with insane aero features, and add a touch of Bōsōzoku from Japan. Then, he painted them baby blue metallic, officially called "Panorama Silver". He had to. There were less than 21 month left in the 1980s.

Special thanks to for the images.

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