The VK Group A SS: If there’s a car that better represents the road cars that Brock built, well, we can’t think of it.
Other cars to bear the Brock touch might have been quicker and crazier looking, but nothing sums up the attitude of the HDT-modified vehicles like the car that has become known as the Blue Meanie.
Not only was it tough as nails, it absolutely looked the part. It stood as a serious attempt to turn a road car into a racecar (it was the homologation special after all) and it was raw and ballsy as a result.
HSV would never have built a car so hairy-chested as the VK Group A SS, but that was its magic. It was no compromise, no apologies and no mucking about.
This sounds crazy, but more than two decades after the first hit the streets, nobody really knows whether the more basic VK SS was a Brock/HDT car or not.
Certainly, Brock had a great deal of input into the thing, but while some owners swear their car had a HDT build plate (under the bonnet, not the glove box-mounted plaque), others reckon not. And anyway, when Holden dropped the SS tag for the VK range, HDT picked it up as the name for its new base-model car, so any VK with SS in its name should, by rights, be a HDT vehicle.
There was also an array of sub-models and options back then including the SS, Group 3, SL Group A and who knows what. We’ve even heard of Calais with T5 gearboxes and big-port engines, so pretty much anything was possible if you had the photos of the dealer and the goat.
But one thing’s for sure: the VK Group A SS was a Brock Commodore through an through. It had all the good bits and PB was heavily involved in every aspect of the thing, including appearing in the advertising of the day. Anyone remember ‘Body by Holden. Soul by Brock’?
Does any of this matter? Probably not, because the Blue Meanie has come to represent all that was great about high-performance Commodores of that era.
While early versions of the VK SS used the old displacement of 308 cubic inches (5044cc), the SS Group A in VK form used the destroyed 304 cuber (4987cc) all along (the displacement was changed via a shorter stroke to give the cars a weight advantage in the forthcoming Group A touring car regulations).
Known in this form as the A9L motor, the V8 blocks destined for the Group A were painted a distinctive shade of red. But don’t rely on that as proof of authenticity, because that’s the first bodge a faker will pull.
Although the original plans called for 500 examples to be built (to satisfy touring car homologation requirements) some reckon a stuff up in ordering meant that 502 were actually built.
Either way, the A9L was crammed full of the good gear including roller rockers, a specific cam grind and various mods to the block to make it go the distance in endurance racing. Throw in a cold-air intake and you were looking at 196kW at about 5200rpm.
The other Group A additions included the deep front spoiler, bootlid spoiler, 16x7 alloy wheels and a bunch of interior changes including Scheel front seats, Momo wheel and gear-knob, and a very basic (read: lightweight) stereo with only two speakers.
There remains some controversy over whether all the Group A SSs got all those 196kW and there’s speculation in some camps that some examples were created more equal than others.
But one thing’s for sure, regardless of actual power output, the Blue Meanie was an absolute beast. The idle was about as lumpy as an XU1 Torana and the whole car felt like it was ready to have a go at anything that got in its way. And that was just warming the thing up in the driveway.
Let it off the leash and the Group A SS would wind up to about 3000rpm, and right at that point a fair chunk of hell would break loose as the 304 got up on its camshaft and exhaust.
Standard gearbox was the old M21 four-speed, but for an extra $2850 (a lot of gold in those days) you could spec the T5 five-cogger which made loads more sense. Not only did it give you some semblance of relaxed cruising, it also had a vastly nicer shift action than the old Muncie.
The ride was pretty savage, too, especially considering the 50-series rubber, and while the relatively lightweight VK was a decent handler (particularly for its day), bigger bumps tended to throw it about a fair bit.
But what it could do was transport four or five big adults with all their gear, tow a boat or pretty much anything else you could ask of it. In short, it could still do all the things local muscle cars have become rightly famous for, yet it could also give pretty much anything else on the road at the time a glimpse (usually fleeting) of its tail-lights.
Provided you serviced the car properly (and used the right brand and grade of oil), not much would go wrong. But skip oil changes or use cheap oil and you were pretty much guaranteed to break a lobe or two (usually the rearmost pair) off the cam.
The clutch was the other problem, acting as a fuse if you started to muck about with multiple hard launches. Road testers of the time (including me) sometimes found this out the hard way.
But in every other respect, the VK Group A SS was the quintessential balls-out Aussie road car of its era.
We’d also nominate the original VC as a classic example of Brock-ness (it was the first of the breed, after all), as well as maybe the VH Group 3 model with its Euro style.
But when it comes down to it, the Blue Meanie is the one for us, both in terms of what the car could do and what the car stands for.
That it was the work of P Brock simply gives it the aura to match its abilities.
HDT VK GROUP A
Body: Four-door sedan
Engine: 5.0-litre 16-valve V8
Bore X stroke: 101.6/76.8mm
Power: 196kW @ 5200rpm
Torque: 418Nm @ 3600rpm
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Suspension: MacPherson struts, A-arms, anti-roll bar (f); trailing arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar ®
Brakes: Vented 281mm discs (F&R)
Price: $21,950 (new, 1985)