Previewed late in 2001, deliveries of HSV's new GTO didn't start moving until well into the first quarter of 2002 after certain parts were delayed. Early engine was the slightly upgraded and recalibrated 255kW version of original LS1.
Coupe body kit lost factory integration of Ian Callum's previous HSV designs after TWR's Neil Simpson took over so not everyone was happy about losing the Monaro's clean look, but HSV stuck with it until the end.
First upgrade was V2 Series II with calibration change boosting power to 260kW in March 2003 then major V2 Series III facelift in September 2003 gained powerful and free-revving 285kW LS1 with special exhaust, revised calibrations and extra instruments.
The 285kW GTO LE version added desirable extra luxury between September 2003 and July 2004.
Final October 2004 Z-Series facelift aligned GTO with other Z-Series models and was effectively the HSV-badged version of the export Pontiac GTO with new LS2 297kW engine, boot-mounted fuel tank, dual exhausts, bonnet scoops, new manual gearbox and heavily revised automatic.
Strong muscle feel restricted up high by standard cast iron exhaust manifolds but easily rectified for landmark performance model. Ongoing Pontiac GTO production kept HSV version alive after local Monaro ended.
A special LE version from April 2006 featured three body colour and stripe combinations for just 50 in black, 25 in yellow and 25 in red and may prove more desirable than the final Signature edition which arrived in July 2006.
Stocks continued alongside the new E-Series sedans until cleared. The 2001-04 GTS version with 300kW Callaway engine was a separate model.
Market is divided by those who need boot space of 2002-04 models or the ultimate grunt of final Z-Series 6.0-litre model. Prices for the first cars start in the mid-$35,000 range while the best of the last 285kW LS1 models can still nudge $50,000.
Top Z-Series examples approach $60,000 while the last LE and Signature series nudge the high $60,000 range reflecting their $84,000 new price.
- Early LS1 engines came with low friction piston ring pack which cause "ring flutter" on overrun for high oil consumption. Problem rarely showed-up in auto models as transmission selected higher gear after throttle lift-off taking the pressure off the engine but drivers who use manual gears to slow down or regularly hold the auto in lower gears can send oil consumption soaring.
- US engines had oil level warning light but local sump eliminated this feature. Once engine is driven with oil pressure light on, the oil pick-up will almost certainly have sucked air and starved the bottom end bearings. Listening for bearing rumble is critical for any early LS1.
- Low friction piston clearance can also generate piston slap which is more of an annoyance than a problem in early cars.
- After manual Corvettes also showed up with ring flutter and high oil consumption, a revised ring pack was offered for the worst engines. By 2003, production engines had the new rings.
- Local sump places oil pick-up at front of sump which can starve engine of oil under hard acceleration if oil level is low, again for terminal bearing damage. Oil level must be checked on regular basis. Retrofit dipstick left the engine with more oil at minimum and maximum marks.
- Automatic is bulletproof but shift quality varies. Abrupt HSV shift quality adds longevity to transmission with less slippage so any delays or slurring of shifts are a sure sign of wear.
- Manual transmission has internal nylon bush in selector fork that melts under extreme conditions and prevents engagement of certain gears. High performance applications require a metal bush replacement.
- Local BTR diffs will lose limited slip function under regular abuse so listen for noise and clunks. In some cases, an oil change will fix it. Regular burnouts will fry clutch lining for juddery clutch that will require replacement despite lining thickness.
- Power steering in hard-driven cars can be noisy as pump bearing fails, chops out seal then drains fluid for major failure. Ignore it at your peril.
- Front strut inserts and rear shockers can leak after a hard life.
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