Making news this issue...
AMC’s editor Luke West reflects on the role news has played in the magazine since the very first issue.
When Australian Muscle Car magazine first hit newsstands over 16 years ago it was amid a resurgence of interest in Aussie-built performance cars. Issue #1 was published a matter of months after Holden released the reborn Monaro, as Ford and its new partner Prodrive prepared to revive the famous GT badge.
Both manufacturers were embracing nostalgia power to help market their new products. So while the new feature-based magazine’s bread and butter was examining the past, the early pages of each issue were given over to reporting on these highly anticipated new models. There was plenty to report, too.
Our first issue led with news of the latest generation Monaro’s planned return to the racetrack in 2002 via the Nation’s Cup category and the Bathurst 24 Hour race. This story was followed by details of Holden Special Vehicle’s two-pronged ‘Coupe’ range: the 255kW GTO and 300kW GTS. With two strong Red Lion angles to choose between as news lead, founding editor Mark Oastler must have been pinching himself for being spoilt for choice first up.
Especially as there was no shortage of news from the Ford camp in late 2001. Tickford’s T-Series Falcon range had experienced something of a metamorphosis from subtle to inyour-face with the launch of the TE50 T3.
Yes, it was a canny time to launch a new magazine. Before AMC hit double figures, the BA Falcon and Ford Performance Vehicles marque appeared, and Holden and HSV upped the ante with a raft of VY-based models.
The intro to the story in issue #5 on the proposed HRT 427 neatly summed things up.
“HSV’s premium performance, premium priced Monaro-based coupe, which made its public debut at the 2002 Sydney Motor Show, makes a powerful statement about the health of the Australian muscle car industry and the specialised low-volume vehicle development path we reckon HSV is likely to follow more in future.”
To borrow a line from Channel Nine cricket commentator Bill Lawry, “it’s all happening.”
Even the Ralliart Magna got a guernsey upfront in the mag in issue #2, much to the disgust of some of the more narrow-minded readers, who conveniently overlooked the fact that the quick six was faster than a Falcon XR8. This was also an era when a plethora of ute models effectively became the two-seat sportscars for a new, younger generation.
Being quarterly, then bi-monthy and now seven issues per year, we’ve never been able to break news in the digital era. But we’ve placed importance on accuracy and analysis.
Issue #9’s ‘R.I.P HRT 427’ story on the cancelled 7.0-litre was essentially the first bad
news AMC reported, but after an extended period of sunshine, it would not be the last.
In recent years it’s been our misfortune to report on a series of lasts. All four local manufacturers pulled down the shutters on their car-building operations between 2008 and 2017. With this came the death of this country’s most treasured nameplates. It’s brought us no joy to report on these events, but we’ve ploughed on, determined to document the era so readers (many of whom religiously collect the mag) have an historical record.
When the magazine kicked off all those years ago, no one could have envisaged that the very issue when we proudly hit triple figures would carry a story on the final Commodore-based model rolling off HSV’s assembly facility in Clayton, Victoria. How ironic. How sad.
AMC #99 had been on sale for two weeks when HSV issued a media release and image on January 3, 2018 highlighting that, after 30 years of the company modifying locally-built Commodores, that it was now officially all over. For the record, a ‘Light My Fire’ GTSR W1, build number 275/275 (Australian allocation), was officially acknowledged as the last vehicle to be built. It’s a car which HSV intends to retain.
Fittingly, the fastest and most sophisticated Australian muscle car ever built – and not a lower spec model – was the last.
“For all at HSV, this is a time for great reflection on what the company has been able to achieve to date,” said HSV managing director, Tim Jackson. “Any success we’ve enjoyed has been directly attributable to our passionate staff, our dedicated dealer body and of course our loyal fans who have helped build this brand through its 30-year journey.”
The 275th WI was the 90,114th vehicle HSV built, the vast majority of which were Commodore-based variants.
Of course, it’s not all bad news at Clayton. Just before Christmas the company announced it had struck a new agreement with GM Holden. Under the agreement HSV will produce the aggressive-looking Colorado SportsCat and convert both the Chevrolet Silverado pickup and Camaro to righthand drive.
The Camaro 2SS Coupe, badged as a Chevrolet, will become available from July, 2018. Under the deal HSV will import new Camaros from the United States and convert them to meet local road laws before placing them in its dealerships, which will be updated to carry Chevrolet branding as well as a new HSV logo.
The vehicles will be based on a single highly-equipped variant called the Camaro 2SS Coupe, powered by GM’s LT1 engine – a 6.2-litre direct-injected V8 producing up to 340kW and 615Nm, though peak figures for Aussie cars may be slightly different following ADR compliance. The 2SS will feature an eight-speed automatic transmission for launch, with manual versions to follow soon after.
Owning a right-hook Camaro will come at a significant price premium over the comparable Ford Mustang.
While it will be two ponycar nameplates’ first dealership battle on Australian soil, Mustang versus Camaro has historical precedent here via racetrack skirmishes between the greats of the Australian Touring Car Championship’s Improved Production era.
I’ll discuss AMC’s future approach to news in greater depth next issue, but it’s obvious there’s still much to report on – even though it won’t be Aussie factories building cars from scratch.