CHEVY ROAR RE­CRUIT

V8 trag­ics need not de­spair as the leg­endary Chevro­let Camaro has been en­listed to fill the breach from next year

The Queensland Times - - MOTORING - JOSHUA DOWL­ING

Diehard Holden V8 fans have a rea­son to cheer, even as they pre­pare to farewell the homegrown Com­modore.

The iconic Chevro­let Camaro mus­cle car will fill the V8 void in Holden show­rooms next year, al­most five years ahead of sched­ule — and ahead of the next gen­er­a­tion flag­ship Corvette sports car due in 2020.

Th­ese ex­clu­sive photos show Holden is pre­par­ing to im­port the Camaro SS and have it con­verted to right-hand-drive in Mel­bourne by its long­stand­ing per­for­mance-car part­ner Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles.

The two Ca­maros caught on cam­era near HSV’s se­cret engi­neer­ing cen­tre are yet to be switched to right-hand-drive, but the plans are well pro­gressed, with di­rect sup­port from Detroit.

Holden wasn’t sup­posed to get the Camaro un­til the next gen­er­a­tion due in 2022, when it will be built in right-hand-drive on the North Amer­i­can pro­duc­tion line for the first time.

But the run­away suc­cess of the Ford Mus­tang — the Camaro’s arch ri­val — has seen Holden pull out all stops to get the Chevro­let into lo­cal show­rooms as soon as pos­si­ble.

Dodge is also said to be con­sid­er­ing build­ing the next gen­er­a­tion Charger SRT sedan and Chal­lenger coupe in right-hand-drive from the fac­tory (see break­out).

When Ford rein­tro­duced the Mus­tang in Aus­tralia in late 2015 — as a fac­tory-built right-hand-drive for the first time — it con­ser­va­tively es­ti­mated about 1000 sales per year.

This year, it is poised to sell al­most 10,000 Mus­tangs, roughly half the to­tal sports car mar­ket in Aus­tralia.

The Camaro will fill a cru­cial blank in Holden’s line-up when it ar­rives in se­lected Holden show­rooms mid-2018, about the same time as a facelifted ver­sion of the Ford Mus­tang.

When the Com­modore V8 goes out of pro­duc­tion on Oc­to­ber 20, it will be the first time since 1968 Holden does not have a V8 in its line-up.

The 2018 Com­modore im­ported from Ger­many is only avail­able with four-cylin­der or V6 power.

The im­mi­nent ar­rival of the Camaro means there will only be a six-month gap with­out a V8.

Be­cause the lo­cal con­ver­sion process adds sig­nif­i­cant engi­neer­ing costs to each car — and there­fore pushes up the price — Holden does not ex­pect to match the Mus­tang for sales.

Al­though the Mus­tang and Camaro com­pete head-on for price in the US, the Chevro­let is likely to be at least $20,000 dearer than the Ford.

Camaro pric­ing is yet to be con­firmed but deal­ers have been given an in­dica­tive cost of be­tween $80,000 and $90,000 on the road — about the same as a HSV Club­sport — with a choice of six-speed man­ual or eight-speed auto.

The Camaro is faster and more pow­er­ful than the Mus­tang but the pre­mium pric­ing means it won’t come close to Mus­tang for sales.

It will, how­ever, ap­peal to Com­modore V8 fa­nat­ics who can’t bring them­selves to drive a Ford.

In the past decade HSV has sold about 3000 V8 sedans per year, most of them priced near where the Camaro’s RRP is ex­pected to land.

Lo­cal pro­duc­tion con­straints will likely limit Camaro out­put to about 1000 ve­hi­cles per year.

The switch from fi­ness­ing fast Com­modores to con­vert­ing Ca­maros will also mean a jobs boost for HSV, with an ex­pected in­crease in the work­force from 150 to 200 to man­age the more labour-in­ten­sive work.

Un­like other lo­cally con­verted ve­hi­cles, the HSV-built Ca­maros will be com­pleted to fac­tory qual­ity and safety stan­dards, come with a fac­tory-backed war­ranty and be sold and ser­viced at se­lected Holden deal­ers.

How­ever, the cars will wear Chevro­let badges; the “bow tie” em­blems won’t be re­placed with Holden lo­gos.

At this stage there are no plans for HSV to en­hance the per­for­mance of the Camaro, as it has done for decades with Com­modore.

Any fur­ther mod­i­fi­ca­tions would add cost, but there’s also a re­luc­tance to up­set the for­mula that has won the Camaro praise in head-to-head con­tests with the Mus­tang in the US.

The Camaro SS — pow­ered by a 6.2-litre V8 bor­rowed from the lat­est Corvette — has more power and torque than the Mus­tang and yet has a lighter body.

Its sig­nif­i­cantly lower roof line also gives Camaro a lower cen­tre of grav­ity, and US mag­a­zines have praised its han­dling.

Those crav­ing even more per­for­mance will likely hold out for the Camaro ZL1 1LE — com­plete with wild race-car-like wings — set to cost in ex­cess of $120,000. It’s due to fol­low the Camaro SS late next year.

Those six dig­its — ZL1 1LE — may be mean­ing­less to Aus­tralians but in the US they’ve be­come iconic since it be­came the most pow­er­ful Camaro to date, and the fastest to lap Ger­many’s famed Nur­bur­gring.

The ZL1 1LE has a su­per­charged 6.2-litre V8 with an epic 485kW of power and 868Nm of torque — eclips­ing the HSV GTSR W1’s out­put of 484kW and 815Nm, and in a lighter body than the Com­modore sedan.

The pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Camaro very nearly made it into Aus­tralian show­rooms 10 years ago, but those plans were scrapped once Gen­eral Mo­tors went bank­rupt dur­ing the Global Fi­nan­cial Cri­sis in 2009.

The pre­vi­ous Camaro shared its un­der­pin­nings with the 2006 VE Com­modore and Aus­tralia led de­vel­op­ment of the US Camaro even though it was built in Canada.

It was suit­able for right-hand-drive given its Com­modore genes, but the pro­gram was axed once GM went bust.

PICK-ME UP

The Camaro won’t be the only car wear­ing a Chevro­let badge in Holden show­rooms next year; the Silverado pick-up is head­ing Down Un­der, also to be con­verted to right-hand-drive lo­cally by HSV.

The Mel­bourne out­fit has had plenty of prac­tice over the past cou­ple of years con­vert­ing Dodge Ram pick-ups in a fa­cil­ity not far from the HSV pro­duc­tion line.

HSV will also be mod­i­fy­ing the Holden Colorado ute from the first half of next year.

The HSV Colorado will get styling changes, bet­ter tyres, sus­pen­sion and brakes. Power will re­main un­changed.

PHOTOS: CONTRIBUTED

HARD­CORE: The Chevro­let Camaro was spot­ted at HSV re­cently (be­low).

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