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About the VT Commodore
August 1997 to August 2000
Total production – 303,895
The VT series launch introduced the third all-new body since Commodore production began with the VB in 1978. This third generation body style was confined to wagons and short wheelbase sedans for this series. The model line-up remained the same as VR/VS with the Executive, Acclaim, S, SS, Berlina and the Calais sedans, as well as Executive, Acclaim and Berlina wagons. The long wheelbase Statesman, Caprice and utility models continued production in VS form and sold concurrently with the VT.
While engines and transmissions were basically as before, just about every other part of the car was newly designed or substantially re-worked. The body was an Australian design (albeit distantly related to the German Opel Omega-B), with a wheelbase 50mm longer than the VN to VS series cars. The VT was longer, wider and more curvaceous than before. Interior space was the big winner, having more legroom and seating width than any previous Commodore. The new body, substantially more rigid than earlier V-cars, resulted in improved levels of safety – active and passive.
All models, including wagons, now featured standard IRS and new, larger disc rotors and calipers all round with twin piston calipers on the front. The braking system also gained the newly designed Banksia handbrake mechanism. ABS equipped cars had the latest Bosch 5.3 electronics. V6 models with ABS were available with the Bosch traction control system, completing the package. ABS was standard for all but Executive and S models.
Traction control was standard for Acclaim and V6 Calais, optional for the rest of the V6 range. All cars received a driver’s airbag as standard, with a front passenger airbag standard for all except Executive and S models. Holden’s first side impact airbags for both front seat positions became available as an option during 1998. These were first seen as standard equipment for the 50th Anniversary Calais. There were many other improvements and additions to body electronics. Even the base Executive model received a fully integrated LCD trip computer and speed alert system. Power operated driver’s seats were now fitted to all models. Lower spec. models had 4-way height adjustment. Calais had 8-way adjustment, including fore/aft and reclining positions. A new dual-zone climate control was fitted to the Calais, while the Berlina retained the familiar single-zone system. Calais also featured the Power Key system – two differently coded remote key-heads were issued for the one car (e.g. for husband and wife). With this system, all the driver’s personal settings – climate control, sound system, speed alert and automatic transmission (power/economy modes) were stored, to be automatically reset upon unlocking or start-up. The ECOTEC V6 received minor attention with the addition of an EGR valve and twin electric fans. However, it was still rated the same 147kW output as the VS equivalent. The supercharged V6 had its power output increased to 171kW (165kW for VS) and availability widened. As well as the Calais, it was now optional for S and SS models. The V8 engines had the largest power gains,with the addition of roller camshaft lifters, sequential fuel injection, many minor internal modifications and twin electric cooling fans. In similar fashion to the V6, the electric fans were ECU-controlled, monitoring engine coolant temperature, airconditioner operation, etc. Power increased from 168 to 179kW for the standard V8 and 185 to 195kW for the high output version. The 195kW V8 was standard issue for HSV models and available as an HBD option for the regular Holden range. Output of the 5.7-litre stroker Holden V8 engine (exclusive to HSV), went from 215 to 220kW. Transmissions remained as before, with one exception – a Getrag5-speed manual was now used with the 5.0-litre V8 as well as the V6. It superseded the Borg-Warner TS gearbox, having been in regular use since the 1988 VN series.
Left-hand drive versions of VT were produced from mid-1998 for Holden’s new sales push into export markets. Full-size left-hand drive Holdens had not been made since the HG series of 1970/71.
The VT Series II arrived in mid-1999, with the obligatory upgrades and trim changes a second series usually provides. However, the big news was the introduction of the imported GM-Powertrain Generation 3, 5.7-litre all-alloy V8, replacing Holden’s venerable cast iron V8. The outgoing Holden V8 was the only automotive engine of any type in large-scale production, wholly designed,developed and built in Australia. It had been around in one form or other since May 1969. The new Gen 3 V8 (as it was badged), was initially rated at 220kW in basic VT II form and 250kW for HSV. It proved over time to be a truly modern high performance powerplant. Later HSV Callaway C4B versions were rated at 300kW. WH Statesman and Caprice moels were also released in mid-1999 and sold concurrently with the VT (again with the new Gen 3 V8 as an option) ,replacing the VS Ill predecessors.
The WH series was wholly VT-based, but treated as a separate series. Many limited-edition VT versions were released, the most notable being the 50th Anniversary Commodore sedan and wagon and 50th Anniversary Calais sedan in 1998. There were also the Equipe sedan and wagon models and a Calais International in early 1999. An Olympic edition Commodore sedan and wagon were released in 1999 and a second batch in 2000. Huge numbers of regular VT Commodores were utilised as courtesy vehicles as part of Holden’s sponsorship of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. While not true factory Olympic editions, these cars had small plaques added, to recognise their contribution to the Games. The HSV model line-up was increased for VT with the XU6, XU8 and Senator Signature added to the range. The XU6 was one of HSV’s few 6-cylinder models, featuring a tuned version of Holden’s supercharged ECOTEC V6. HSV Manta, introduced for the preceding VS series, was seen in sedan form only for VT. XU8 and Manta were discontinued for VT Series II.