MY MECHANIC mate Juddy is a true Holden man: He’s restoring a Torana SS Hatch and regularly cruises another couple of cool classic Holdens. So when I rocked-up to his workshop in my just-bought VN Holden Calais V8, he was genuinely impressed with it.
I was there so Juddy could provide me with four new tyres and a registration inspection before a 1300km weekend trip to Central Western NSW to do some video features for Street Machine magazine. Even though they had legal tread depth, the Calais’s old tyres were disgraceful, tramlining and moving the car around as if by black magic.
Their lack of grip, too, made them just about lethal on a wet road. Four new Falkens in the Calais’s correct 205/65 size (rather than the bulging 225/60 tyres that were on it) transformed it, eliminating its weird steering and dangerous lack of grip.
My first stop was Sydney to collect camera-man colleague Matt Reekie. Then it was west over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst’s National Motor Racing Museum, then Canowindra and a sneak preview of the amazing Holden collection that was auctioned last year. Our destination for the evening was Dubbo where, on Sunday, we recorded another video and attended Dubbo’s Cars & Coffee event before driving home.
I loved every single kay of that weekend trip. Sure, Holden’s VN Commodore had a few rough edges when new – and age and distance can make them worse – but my VN feels tighter, brighter and lighter than I remember of my three-year-newer VP Holden Calais V8 I bought 20 years ago. Staring into those clear and concise gauges – and flexing my right foot – made me feel like I’d never been away from a Holden V8. You can hardly beat the almost arrogant way these torquey injected V8s dismiss distance.
Awesome! It’s not bad on fuel, either, averaging better than 13 litres per 100 kays for the trek, even with my… umm… enthusiastic tickling of the accelerator pedal and crossing the Great Dividing Range twice.
But during this latewinter road trip, I became concerned about the time required for the engine to warm-up. I thought maybe the cooling system thermostat wasn’t operating correctly.
Working on a Holden V8 engine is relatively easy so one evening in my garage I removed its distinctive alloy front cover and replaced the thermostat. This job took about three minutes… and made absolutely no difference to the warm up time! Oh well… at least I know it’s normal.