For years Alex Petraska wanted a Walkinshaw. After a decade in the build, he now has one of the country’s finest replicas
The VL SS Group A is the car that kicked it all off for HSV. Still one of the most instantly recognizable HSV models on our roads, with its full skirts, huge bonnet scoop and that monster of a rear wing, it was always going to be a love it or hate it affair. Its detractors invented nicknames for it such as the ‘plastic pig’, ‘plastic fantastic’ or ‘chilly bin’, while those who have one in the garage usually refer to their pride and joy as the ‘Walkinshaw’ or ‘Walky’. Back in 1986 the newly established Holden Special Vehicles developed the Walky in association with Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) to suit the requirements of Group A touring car regulations. A minimum of 500 units had to be built for homologation and a total of 750 rolled off the production line.
It was essentially a race car off the showroom floor. Can you imagine how these things looked on the dealer’s yard next to a standard VL Berlina? It would be like walking in and purchasing Greg Murphy’s V8 Supercar today. Fortunately HSV, and TWR managed to build a car that had the credentials to go with the looks, and it won Bathurst in 1990, which is about where the owner of the car in front of you comes into this story. Luckily for us a then 10-year-old Alex Petraska was watching Bathurst when Allan Grice and Win Percy took victory at the mountain, and it was then and there that he decided that one day he was going to own one.
The sincerest form of flattery
With the price of the genuine article going up daily, a replica would always be on the cards. Alex started out on a 10-year build with a mint, two-owner, 3.0-litre auto Calais that had only travelled 120,000km. A VS HSV Clubsport was relieved of its 5.0L heartbeat and transmission, and Marcel from Spillman Automotive Centre was called upon to help with the transplant.
All was well for a while, but as in the Instant Kiwi ads, Alex just felt he needed something else. That’s where Chris at Bathurst Performance stepped into the picture. Chris has helped Alex develop the under-bonnet package to make sure the performance matches the looks. Leaving the stock short block, heads and manifold alone (HSV knows what it’s doing, right?) meant fitting a blower was the best way to make some extra tyre-shredding grunt. A custom-fitted Powerdyne centrifugal supercharger fills the area of the engine bay where the battery used to reside, and sucks air through a K&N pod filter hidden behind the front air dam.
The huffer adds 6psi of boost to the inhaled atmosphere before forcing it into the motor through a Yella Terra 71mm throttle body.
Any excess boost is bled off by a Bosch blow-off valve. Bosch also supplied the external fuel pump that feeds the go juice to an aftermarket fuel pressure regulator before it hits the Bosch 440cc injectors.
The brains of the system is a remapped factory Delco ECU that sends the fire into the hole with Top Gun 10mm leads. A set of Coby stainless steel headers extract the spent gases and sends them down a single three-inch mandrel bent pipe into a two-chamber Flowmaster muffler and resonator, exiting at the rear with twin three-inch tailpipes.
A VT Series 1 Getrag five-speed gearbox sourced new out of Australia is responsible for feeding a stout 321kW (430hp) through a Yella Terra lightened flywheel and custom six-pu k carbon/ Kevlar clutch to the Borg Warner diff. For good around town driving the diff is fitted with a 3.45:1 geared four spider LSD. That’s around 250kW at the wheels in a car that weighs around 1450kg; you just know Alex is buying shares in a tyre company every time he hits the loud pedal.
The famous Walkinshaw look is achieved with a 22-piece body kit, also fitted by Chris at Bathurst Performance. Once he was happy with the fit, the car was sent to Brett at BRS Panel & Paint in Penrose. Alex is not too keen on letting the body colour be known, but the clever ones among you may find it hiding in plain sight on the occasional late-model HSV.
Unlike a lot of today’s more cosmetic body kits, the Walkinshaw Kits actually do the business they were designed to, providing large amounts of downforce as well as a reported 25 per cent reduction in drag over the HDT/Brock Group A that preceded it. Having ridden in a couple of well set up Walkys with the full kit fitted, I can tell you that over about 80kph you can actually feel the car suck down onto the road.
Alex has spent a lot of time getting the handling package in the Walky working right. All the downforce in the world ain’t gonna help you if it understeers and body rolls the first time you hit a corner.
The setup starts with custom-made Koni Competition adjustable platform coil-overs (with adjustable ride height and damping) fitted with King Pro Sport Competition 295kg springs up front. Down the back Koni Competition shocks attach to modified lower shock mounts to help keep the King super-low springs in place out the back.
When you see a Signature 30mm adjustable front anti-roll bar, Pedders strut brace, Pedders adjustable panhard rod and factory rear sway bar used in conjunction with Super Pro polyurethane bushes throughout, you know this thing is going to eat up the corners and spit them out.
The job of pulling it all up before the corner goes to a set of VL V8 discs and callipers and Ferodo performance pads all round. These are tucked in behind the custom painted VX HSV GTS 19×8-inch wheels sporting 235/35R19 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres up front, while smoking duties are taken care of by a pair of Continental Conti Sport Contact ll’s at the rear.
Room To Boom
On the inside the Walky hasn’t changed too much from stock, with the factory Calais interior providing more than enough comfort. The main changes are a VS gauge cluster in the dash, along with Autogauge 6-inch tacho, oil and water temperature and a Link Systems Lambda Link to keep an eye on the air/fuel ratios.
A Momo Top Power 350mm steering wheel with polished centre and short-throw shifter with VS HSV leather knob help make the driver’s seat a pleasant place to be. Alex used to have a custom boot install with twin Boston Pro 12-inch subs and PG ZX450 amp, but all that remains is a Sony MD head unit and a set of Boston Pro six-inch splits up front. “It screwed up the handling and I rarely listened to it,” Alex points out.
Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t deny the first of the HSVs don’t seem to have aged much. They retain a presence and style on the road that still turns heads 20 years after their release, and with original examples becoming collectors’ items commanding big dollars, it’s the well-built replicas like Alex’s example that will make the Walkinshaw a modern classic in years to come.
1987 VL Calais Walkinshaw Replica
Engine: VS HSV 4982cc (304ci) V8, stock block and heads, Yella Terra 71mm throttle body, K&N pod filter, Powerdyne supercharger, Bosch BOV, Bosch external fuel pump, aftermarket fuel pressure regulator, Bosch 440cc injectors, Top Gun 10mm leads, stainless steel headers, single three-inch mandrel bent pipe, Flowmaster two-chamber race muffler and resonator, twin three-inch tail pipes, VN V8 radiator, remapped Delco ECU, JP gear drive, gear reduction starter motor
Driveline: VT Series 1 Getrag five-speed manual, custom short shift, Yella Terra lightened flywheel, six-puck Kevlar clutch, four spider LSD, 28-spline axles, 3.45 gears
Suspension: Custom-made Koni competition adjustable platform front coil-overs, Koni competition rear shocks, modified lower shock mounts, King Pro-Sport Competition 295kg front springs, King Super Low rear springs, Pedders front strut brace, Pedders adjustable panhard rod, Signature 30mm adjustable front anti-roll bar, stock rear anti-roll bar, Super Pro urethane 90 bushes
Brakes: Front — VL V8 rotors and callipers, Ferodo performance pads
Wheels/tyres: Custom painted 19×8-inch HSV VX GTS wheels, front 235/35R19 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres, rear 255/35R19 Continental Conti Sport Contact ll’s tyres
Exterior: HSV SS Group A SV (Walkinshaw) body kit, HSV paint
Interior: Stock VL Calais seats, Momo Top Power 350 steering wheel, HSV VS leather gear knob, VS cluster, Autogauge 127mm tacho, oil temp, water temp, Link Systems Lambda Link
Performance: 250kW at the wheels (320kW or 430hp at motor)
Occupation: Sales manager
Previously owned cars: 1986 Toyota Celica GT, 1990 Toyota MR2 GT, 1996 Mitsubishi Legnum VR-4, 1998 Mitsubishi Legnum Super VR-4, 2003 Toyota Altezza 3.0-litre wagon
Dream car: This one
Why did you build this car: “Have always wanted to build one since seeing the Walkinshaw race at Bathurst when I was 10 years old”
Build time: 10 years
Length of ownership: 10 years
Alex thanks: Chris at Bathurst Performance Centre (09 571 2308), Marcel at Spillman Automotive (09 634 4600), Brett at BRS Panel & Paint (09 579 2037)
Words: Karl C | Photos: Dan Wakelin