Threading down Great Ocean Road
Handing back the keys... and washing it before its return
Reading its corner g-forces on the head-up display OWN along Victoria’s breezy south-west coast breathes a small clan of towering Californian Redwood. Planted in the 1930s, they’ve thrived in Australian conditions, which is a little like the Commodore’s story.
Harbouring its own slice of Americana – GM’s small-block V8 since 1999, the Commodore has developed into a world-class sedan; one that has been shifted across the Pacific for waiting Yank buyers on more than one occasion.
So with our VF Series I Commodore SS Redline not only due for replacement, but tea time fast approaching at Fisherman’s Bend, we D C Am – s thought taking it to see the Redwoods would be like two veterans meeting – neither fought in each other’s war, but both have managed to survive with the help of a cross-pacific alliance.
It also allowed us to answer a question asked when Great White first landed in our garage: is the Redline one of the muscle greats?
The journey starts off boring enough on the M1, but you don’t need to swear at Camrys until after Lorne, where speed limits raise to 80km/h and the road responds accordingly, with corners that ride undulations and tighten around cliff faces.
Here the Commodore’s steering reminds us of its lightness and accuracy; handy when you encounter a tourist pottering along in the wrong lane. Like a lot of electrically-assisted systems, however, more feedback and feel would help in judging the changes in dampness levels on the Great Ocean Road.
Eventually we turn right onto Skenes Creek Road, which snakes away from the coast and up through dense vegetation. This provides us with another opportunity to size up the Commodore’s handling and enjoy the high grip levels and friendliness of its chassis.
After 20 minutes, a sign marked ‘Beech Forest C159’ directs us left. We pass through denser forest on much slower roads until finally, after 16km and a wrong turn, we reach Binns
Road, which leads to the unmarkedon- a-map Redwood Reserve.
The unsealed road takes a while at low speed, but, eventually, Aire River Bridge and the adjoining pristine Californian Redwood picnic area come into view.
We dive into the forest, and after peering up at their dizzying canopies, it’s easy to believe what we have read. With Australia’s rich and damp Victorian soil, these Americans have grown faster than a teenager in Chernobyl. Since plantation, they’ve spurted 60m high and are billed to double that within the next century.
It gets us thinking. As far as alliances go, the Batman and Robin relationship between Australia and America is a recurring theme. Often, it’s Australia in the bright green undies looking over America’s shoulder in international conflicts.
But like the Redwoods, where a small part of America exists in something so Australian, the Commodore dons the hero’s cape.
Admittedly, the novelty of MOTOR’s weekly garage lured us out of Great White many times, but often we were happy to hop back in the Redline.
And it didn’t matter if we were on the racetrack, the highway or in the city; we came away impressed.
We won’t miss its chunky A-pillars, weirdo clutch bite point and muffled engine note, but we know two of those things have already been fixed in VF Series II form.
We also enjoy more thoughtful infotainment button layouts in other cars. And we’ll save some coin by letting our fuel card breathe a bit.
But for sheer breadth of ability – hauling five people around comfortably, sliding around a racetrack and soaking up kilometres – the SS-V Redline is a stellar effort, and few other cars can canvas such talents at just $55K.
What about the new VF II?
Personally, I like the VF I’s more subtle looks, but I can say that with an LS3 planted in the Redline’s front end, it has far surpassed that of Great White’s ilk. – LC