Com­modore [ VE-VF]

Unique Cars - - FAREWELL HOLDEN -

All of which leads us to the VE Com­modore, Holden’s bil­lion dol­lar baby; the last and the best. Once again con­ceived – as was VT – as a left- and right-hand-drive car, Holden had even more free­dom with the de­sign as it was tasked with cre­at­ing a car that would be at home any where on the planet. From the bit­ter cold of the US north-west and Canada to the stink­ing heat of Aus­tralia and the Mid­dle East – where by early 2001, when VE mules be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing Holden’s Lang Lang prov­ing grounds, Chev-badged Hold­ens had been sold for sev­eral years – the VE was en­gi­neered as a large car for in­ter­na­tional mar­kets – later the foun­da­tion for the Chevro­let Ca­maro.

So Holden’s aims for VE had to be higher than for the pre­vi­ous se­ries: in fact, with an ob­vi­ous view to fu­ture US mar­ket sport­ing sedans, Holden bench-marked the VE against ac­knowl­edged Euro­pean pre­mi­ums such as BMW’s 5-se­ries.

Aus­tralia has al­ways had rea­son­ably high safety stan­dards but VE had to be ready for ev­ery mar­ket on earth in­clud­ing the no­to­ri­ous US mar­ket. Sys­tems such as sta­bil­ity con­trol had to be de­signed-in as world-class from the out­set. With North Amer­ica’s and China’s cold win­ter cli­mate in mind, the car’s heat­ing sys­tem needed to be cre­ated to be far bet­ter than that ex­pected and ac­cepted by the av­er­age Aussie buyer… And of course the air-con’s hot-weather per­for­mance – for so long a source of pride for Holden – needed to be up to scratch too.

It was all wrapped in a new bodyshell that ap­proached in­ter­na­tional best-prac­tice for safety and body in­tegrity/ dura­bil­ity. The wheel­base was longer and the en­gine moved rear ward in re­la­tion to the front axle line. The front chas­sis rails were a larger cross-sec­tion than the VT-VZ to bet­ter ab­sorb front crash forces. The front cross-mem­ber was in­stalled on break-away mounts for the same rea­son. The VE’s char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally large A-pil­lar was also de­signed to re­sist de­for­ma­tion in head-on crashes. The car’s B-pil­lar was now a sand­wich with a tough high-boron steel cen­tre laminate and the front seats mounted on box-sec­tion cross-car rails – not sim­ply the f loor – for bet­ter T-bone safety. The rear chas­sis rails were de­signed to be de­formable too, and the fuel tank was shifted for­ward to within the wheel­base – to al­low the VE and its WM de­riv­a­tives to meet strin­gent crash reg­u­la­tions.

Un­der it, VE was laid-out with a so­phis­ti­cated multi-link rear end and a dou­ble ball-joint strut front end for ter­rific han­dling. The sus­pen­sion was crafted from large, durable com­po­nents (right down to large wheel studs) that all pointed to GM/Holden plan­ning big power for the de­sign.

Holden also paid spe­cial at­ten­tion to ease of man­u­fac­tur­ing and crash re­pair with VE, with ideas such as a bolt-on nose sec­tion that was in­stalled at the fac­tory as a mod­ule, pre-as­sem­bled with the ra­di­a­tors and cool­ing fans. In ser­vice, it’s able to be eas­ily re­moved and re­placed af­ter the com­mon ur­ban nose-to-tail shunts. The doors’ wiring har­nesses could be eas­ily un­plugged with trim pan­els in place.

Proudly, VE made it to the USA first as a Pon­tiac G8 and later as the VF-based Chevro­let SS and a bitch-black gov­ern­ment-only States­man/Caprice-based PPV – po­lice pa­trol ve­hi­cle. But there was to have been so much more… The planned-and-pro­to­typed high-rid­ing all-wheel drive Ad­ven­tra – this time with a proper SUV-type body – died. The Holden styling team also penned a Monaro-type coupe and an El Camino type ute, the two cars shar­ing a pair of doors that were longer than the sedan’s. Few peo­ple re­alise that GM/Holden’s El­iz­a­beth fac­tory was mir­rored in China and for a few years the plant pro­duced the Caprice-based Buick Park Av­enue.

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