12 Muscle News
Newshound Paul Gover reports on the latest from Clayton, Port Melbourne, Broadmeadows and, erm, Gothenburg, Sweden. It’s followed by our soort section. Suggested song to play in your head while reading this section: ‘SOS’ by ABBA.
The death of the Commodore will not kill Holden Special Vehicles. Planning is already underway for the time beyond the closure of Holden’s factory in Adelaide and a completely new lineup of HSV hero cars. Ryan Walkinshaw, who now heads the company founded by his father Tom, also tells AMC he has big plans to turn Clayton into a major international engineering hub that feeds projects in countries including China, Korea and India.
Walkinshaw might look like a pretty-boy 26 year-old who is more interested in music than motoring, but sit down with him and any such doubts quickly evaporate.
“I’m definitely Tom’s son. I look fair enough like him. A bit slimmer and a bit more patient than him,” Walkinshaw smiles. So, first up, what about the Commodore? “I wouldn’t discount there might be a future for some form of Commodore. I wouldn’t discount that. There are a lot of things going on,” he says.
“Whatever cars Holden have, we’ll be doing our best to develop from that. We want people to sit in our car and think it is an HSV, not just a souped-up Commodore.
“Our fans have high expectations and they have to be happy with what we’re doing,” he says. And then the first bombshell.
“We’re also looking at other manufacturers we can get involved with. We’re not tied at the waist to Holden. We’ve been doing that for a long time.”
So apart from HSV and cars like the sensational GTS, Walkinshaw plans to dust off the equipment installed by his father at Clayton – including a bank of road-car dynos – and re-establish links to other brands. In the past, that has included everyone from Jaguar to Volvo.
“I want a global turn-key engineering activity. That’s a part of my ambition going foward, to replicate that.
“It’s a good investment. We’ve just got to find the right production and the right markets.”
Walkinshaw and his mother Martine have been regular visitors to Australia since Tom’s death, with his time now including up to six months each year in Melbourne. But he is a massive traveller, even though he is happy to pay and fly economy.
However, despite the size and ambitions of Walkinshaw International, HSV is still the jewel in the crown. There has been a recent change at the top, with Phil Harding moving aside for Tim Jackson, who had been the company’s director of sales and marketing.
“HSV is hugely important. It’s a considerable area of my family’s investment portfolio around the world, and part of the family business structure. It’s got a significant place in our hearts and history and memory,” Walkinshaw says.
That includes protecting the manufacturing operation in Clayton, even without Adelaide.
“We’re trying to find new ways to manufacture here and to keep the workforce employed, and even to expand.
“But there’s not a huge amount I can tell you at the moment as it’s not ready to go.”
He is also unwilling to talk about future model developments, even though several Opel Insignias – the mid-sized Insignia, including the
all-wheel drive 2.8-litre turbo V6 OPC model, was offered in Australia until the marque’s January 2014 retreat – have been spotted down in Clayton. But he is open about the changes to Walkinshaw International and its Australian operation.
“The whole philosophy is going to change. We have to change people’s idea of what we do at Clayton. We want a global culture, and not just stick to what we’ve been living in. It might take people out of their comfort zone, but our guys are saying how excited they are. We know how good we are. We want to use our talents.”
So, what’s the bottom line for HSV, firstly through to 2017 and then beyond the life of the current Commodore?
“HSV is Holden related. We want to be able to continue doing what were doing, so as long as Holden continues bringing cars into Australia we’re going to be there.
“But it doesn’t necessarily need to be a V8. The world is changing. You can get very similar performance now from turbo V6s. We have to be willing not to discount future options.”