The cars we loved.
Automotive design is becoming increasingly global in that the differences between nations and cultures are slowly diminishing. Global planning and outreach has become a way of life for large auto conglomerates. Back in the ’80s before this trend, you could have summed up Australian performance car design as wild and unrestrained. Ford of Australia has its share of outrageous FPV variants of the Falcon. Holden, Ford of Australia’s biggest competitor, actually started the factory blessed tuner-rod trend with cars that made the Falcon look tame.
Looks aside, true performance options were never lacking with either company, extending the muscle car era beyond the age of the cassette tape. Ford’s FPV performance division came decades after Holden’s HSV, both would make performance variants of stock cars. Before HSV, Holden had a semi-official partnership with famous race car driver Peter Brock and his Holden Dealer Team (HDT). The HDT made a handful of high performance cars based on the Calais, Caprice and Commodore sedans (among others). They offered considerable power and handling advantages over stock Holdens and were sold at a premium through the Holden dealer network. Aside from small exterior differences, many Brock editions based on the Calais looked very stock.
That changed with the Brock Director edition of the Commodore VX in 1987. Considered one of Australia’s most collectible cars, the Director marked a turning point in Holden’s performance history and for Mr. Brock himself. As a nine time winner of the grueling Bathurst 1000, Brock’s name in Australia was like Richard Petty’s in America, so anything he endorsed was performance gold for Holden fans.
The Director was a true tuner special with a choice of 4.9 or 5.6 liter V8 engines. Sold in three trim levels (with many other variations), horsepower ranged from 223 to just over 300 for the top of the line Director “Stroker” version. Power was sent to the rear wheels via a 5 speed manual or 3 speed automatic transmission. A few were sold with Nissan sourced normally aspirated and turbo V6 engines. The Director could reach 140+ mph, but straight line performance was not the only goal. As an accomplished grand tourer with the optional independent rear suspension, the Director was also a comfortable highway cruiser. Larger Corvette disc brakes and 16 inch Momo color matched wheels rounded out the major performance bits. To top it off, the Director came with a 21-piece polypropylene aero kit that further distinguished it from the run of the mill Commodore SL. No two Directors are alike, as there were plenty of options and running changes in the short production run of 500 SS Group A cars. The final production numbers for other variations is unknown.
HDT may have been on to something in the ground effected 80’s. Imagine a Chevy Corsa LTZ with a Pontiac Grand Am aero kit and the Director would not be too far off. The Director’s monochromatic funk came in three colors: Black, White and Blue often never available all at once. In fact the monochromatic look of some Director cars would be mimicked with Chevy’s Beretta GTU/GTZ and some Pontiacs in America. While the exterior was sure to turn heads, the boxy interior looked like most other Commodores except for the Recaro seats. Brock’s intention was to export the Director in an attempt to expand his and Holden’s global market. Unfortunately, he made one hasty mistake that sabotaged any dreams of going up against the 5 Series and cars like it.
Just before the Director was to be made available to the public, HDT released a performance enhancing product called “The Energy Polarizer” that promised among other things an increase in performance while allowing select Holden’s to run on lower grade gasoline. The products claims were dubious at best, so Holden politely asked HDT to withhold the product until further testing could be done. Brock ignored the request and sold the product anyway. The cost of defiance was Holden withdrawing its support for the Director. Brock went ahead and sold the car anyway, buying new Commodore’s and shipping them to his Port Melbourne facility for conversion. A few were sold, but without Holden’s support the Director never got its passport to go overseas, not to mention it was doomed to obscure sales numbers in Australia itself.
The Director’s looks were very much in line with what GM had been doing with concept/show car versions of the Chevrolet Beretta/Corsa. Similar production styling made its way to Pontiac’s and some Oldsmobile’s. In Australia, the Director sold for around $30,000 which might have been a hard sell in light of more subtle and equally high or higher performing cars from Europe. The short-lived Director fiasco was not all bad news for Holden. After dropping its long time association with HDT, Holden with Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) established a new performance division called HSV that did hopped up Commodores with just as much flash and more importantly, a factory blessing.
Peter Brock continued his association with Holden in the form of racing through the 90’s. Before he died, he sold off HDT, which today still produces tuner specials based on various Holdens.