Friday, February 29, 2008

GM Holden Shows Two Long-Awaited Concepts

By Chris Haak


Holden, the General Motors subsidiary in Australia, revealed two long-awaited, much rumored concepts today at the Melbourne International Motor Show. While both are derivatives of the VE Commodore (just launching in the US as the Pontiac G8), it's hard to say which model will prove most interesting to enthusiasts.

Holden Coupe 60 Concept
Ever since the debut of the VE Holdens in 2006 (intially available only as four door sedans), as well as the discontinuation of the popular and legendary Holden Monaro coupe, Holden - and in fact GM rear wheel drive performance enthusiasts - have been begging the company for a new Monaro. Holden was coy about the car's chances, implying that with renewed concern about CO2 emissions and fuel prices, the car's chances for another resurrection in the short term were slim.

At least, until today. The Holden Coupe 60 concept is basically a VE Commodore that is 60 millimeters shorter (yet with the same wheelbase), and an aggressively-sloping roofline. Like the 2005 Chevrolet Camaro concept, it is a pillarless coupe, and like the Camaro, if/when it reaches production, it would probably have a fixed B-pillar to keep the weight down and the safety up. Under the hood (or bonnet, as the Holden press release states) is a 6.0 liter V8 calibrated to run on E85, coupled to a six speed manual transmission.

Holden is being noncommittal at the moment about the car's prospects for production. Reading between the lines, however, it does seem like a reasonable possibility, since the car would not require nearly as much engineering effort as an all-new car, since the platform's engineering is already complete and in production elsewhere.

GM Holden Chairman and Managing Director Mark Reuss said, "This is a vehicle I know our designers would dearly love to see go into production, but for the moment it has to remain a concept only."

However, Project Designer Manager, Peter Hughes, said, "With Coupe 60 we think we have designed a car that has the potential to write another chapter in the book of Holden icons."

From the quotes above, it sounds like the car definitely has potential for production, but it is not confirmed yet. If it is produced, would GM dare import it as the Pontiac GTO again, or has the company learned its lesson and would instead call it something less risky like "G8 Coupe" or "G8 Sport Coupe?"

HSV W427 7.0 Liter Supercar
Holden Specialty Vehicles (also known as HSV) is the company that tunes and builds high performance versions of Holden vehicles. HSV has already built several other hot rod variants of the VE Commodore, but the latest one will take on all comers. It is basically a Commodore with the Corvette Z06's 7.0 liter LS7 V8 engine producing in excess of 496 horsepower (370 kW) and 472 lb-ft (640 Nm) of torque, connected to a six speed manual transmission.

Backing up this impressive powertrain are goodies such as bi-modal mufflers (similar to those on the Z06 and other Corvettes), dry sump lubrication (also lifted from the Z06), 30% stiffer springs, a 20 mm lower ride height, and magnetic ride control with an all-new calibration. Brakes are six-piston front calipers with a 50% (!) increase in pad surface area.

Visually, the W427 features an all-new unique front fascia, all-new 20 inch wheels, and an all-new three-piece carbon fiber spoiler. Other than fuel consumption (which actually may not be much worse than the other V8-powered HSV sedans), the only problem with this car is its price. It's expected to be about $150,000 Australian ($141,000 US) including the VAT, or about twice as expensive as the next-most-expensive HSV model. That's a big chunk to bite off, but also an extremely impressive piece of machinery.

I don't ever expect this car to come to the US. Why would any buyer want to pay $100,000 for a Pontiac when a $60,000 Cadillac CTS-V would have similar, if not superior, performance, better comfort, and arguably more attractive (mature?) styling? The other obvious question is whether GM tuners such as Mallett, who is already capable of stuffing small block V8s under the hood of Pontiac Solstices and Saturn SKYs, will start working their magic with LS7 crate motors and Pontiac G8s. The LS7 crate motor costs less than $15,000 from GM Performance Parts; of course labor would add a large premium, as would all of the ancillary components such as a beefed up drivetrain, larger brakes and wheels, etc., but Mallett can probably build a car that can match this one's performance for less money.

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