Monday 25th June 2012


Well, we say Bathurst S; it didn't start life that way, but it pretty much is one now...

Name: Gary Handa
Car: Vauxhall VXR8 Bathurst S 6.0
Owned since: October 2011
Previously owned: Boxster S, MX5 Supercharged, Mitsubishi Galant VR-4, 360hp Mk4 Golf ... and, er, quite a few others....

Gary with his 'sensible family saloon'
Gary with his 'sensible family saloon'
Why I bought it:
With the imminent arrival of our first child, I was on the look-out for a four-door saloon.

But...after the tragic loss of some close friends last year, I decided that I never wanted to be in a position when I was older to look back and say 'I wish I'd done that'. So I knew it had to be loud, rorty and with a completely anti-social thumping great V8 - definitely not your usual four-door 'family' car.

I was all set to sign up for a C63 AMG, when my wife suggested buying something instead of leasing. And after seeing Hammond's review on Top Gear, I knew what I was looking for.

We like your gloves, Gary...
We like your gloves, Gary...
The previous owner had seen the same feature too, because he took his Silver 6.0 VXR8 to Walkinshaw Performance and said: "Make my car a Bathurst S". They said: "But we don't make the Bathurst in Silver - and besides, we use a 6.2 engine, not the 6.0 in yours. And anyway, you'd need the supercharger, the larger injectors, the chargecooler, the fully adjustable coilovers, the 6-pot AP brakes upgrade..." He handed them a blank cheque and the keys to his car.

The great twist is that WP transplanted everything off the demo car they built for Vauxhall (and driven by Hammond in said episode...) onto my car. So after carrying out a history check and an independent inspection, I went to collect it. From Aberdeen. I don't think I could have gone much further to buy a car. But with Walkinshaw making fewer than 20 examples of the Bathurst S, they don't come up very often.

Having a child? Buy a VXR8...
Having a child? Buy a VXR8...
Since I've had it, the power has been increased - once by WP themselves to 580hp and then finally by LSV8 Power to 610hp. Torque runs fairly constant at the mid 500lb ft level more or less right across the rev range.

Official performance figures are a little thin on the ground. Theoretical top speed is 195-200mph. The 0-60mph sprint should be sub-5, 0-100mph is around 8 seconds and the trap speed at a 1-mile marker is 167mph, bouncing off the limiter in 5th.

What I wish I'd known:
It's not the kind of purchase you make on a whim; do your research and everything should be OK. The manual gearboxes can be a weak point (mine had a warranty-covered replacement 10 months previously), discs and pads won't leave much change from £2K and treat suspension components as consumables and you'll be fine. means you get to play with this means you get to play with this
Having said that, on day 10 of ownership, my (warranty-replaced) gearbox went bang again, it needed discs and pads all round and I replaced the clutch. This despite doing everything I could to ensure all was well to begin with. Just unlucky I guess - these things happen.

Things I love:
The sense of occasion. It sounds very clichéd, but the sheer pleasure of just driving it is huge. From the second it bursts into life with that ever-so-slightly uneven rumble at tickover and then, when you get going, it always feels brilliant. Not only when you're on the limit at Spa or Rockingham, but also just popping down to Asda for some nappies or milk.

Also, the shriek of the supercharger is utterly addictive, as are the pops and bangs on the overrun. The novelty of parking in 'Parent and Child' spaces and then producing a buggy, much to the disdain of Mr and Mrs Hybrid, will also never wear thin.

Original spoiler went (orders of the wife)
Original spoiler went (orders of the wife)
Oh, and I'm quite partial to the 610hp - it makes for quite nippy progress.

Things I hate:
It helps that I'm a compulsive tinkerer, so anything I knew I didn't like about the car I've fixed - from extensive sound-proofing and panel dampening, to upgrading and enhancing the stereo (with DAB, GPS and touch-screen iPod control), to adding convenience features that are standard on German execs. I've also 'refined' the looks (my wife's only request was to lose the original spoiler).

The gearbox is quite agricultural and 6th is ridiculously tall, but apart from that it's all good really. The tall 6th gear even has a positive side - it's great for un-stressed cruising, but no good for V-Max type events...

A question that's asked more often than the one that's answered with 'it's a Vauxhall'...

Big VXR8 eats brakes and suspension
Big VXR8 eats brakes and suspension
Average mpg since I've owned it (10K miles now) is just under 17. However, on a long motorway run, leaving the cruise control at 75 (where it's ticking along at 1,800rpm), I have seen 27mpg.

Servicing is cheap. It's a 6.0-litre lump of pushrod pig iron, where services cost between £200 and £300 every 10K miles. What gets expensive are the bespoke parts on this car. Holden made thousands of Commodore VEs but HSV only made 100s of HSV R8 Clubsports - which have different bumpers, wings and even rear lights - and which are over £1000 a side!

Insurance is great when you get to my age with full no claims, but I did have a little hassle as all the mods needed to be declared and it couldn't be registered as a factory Bathurst S (as it's a 6.0 not a 6.2). However, Bridle Insurance were very good.

Where I've been:
Driving it home from Aberdeen was a bit of an adventure in itself, Brands Hatch Indy was too small, Bedford is always great fun and I'm looking forward to doing Spa very soon - time, money and son allowing.

What next?
Nothing for a while yet - I can see this car becoming a 'keeper'. At the moment I've got some more tinkering to do until it's 'my' car completely, so the next car will depend on the child/children situation. Supercharged M5 Touring perhaps? Chances are it won't be 'normal'...

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Author: Riggers
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