HSV’S UNTOLD US AMBITIONS
AUSSIE MUSCLE-CAR EXPERTISE WAS VERY NEARLY FLEXED AT CADILLACS AND CHEVROLETS, AND THAT WAS POISED TO BE JUST THE START
Before it all hit the fan, Australia’s premier hot-Holden builder was being primed by GM to turn Cadillacs and Chevrolets into very Special Vehicles
HOLDEN SPECIAL VEHICLES was set to become General Motor’s global performance car division at the start of the millennium.
Wheels can now reveal details of a top-secret plan where HSV’s parent company, TWR, was set to expand its footprint across the Pacific and repeat the successful model it had established with Holden in Australia to create a range of high-performance models for global GM brands such as Chevrolet and Cadillac.
In an exclusive interview for a feature story in this issue (p54), former HSV Chairman John Crennan confirms that in 2002 he was in the final round of negotiations with GM heavyweights, including then-GM North American Chairman Bob Lutz, to relocate to Detroit and manage the proposed US-based division.
Lutz was already a champion of Holden and HSV within General Motors, fast-tracking the export deal for the new-age Monaro to be rebadged as the Pontiac GTO in the USA.
“By far and above my biggest project was in 2002 when I made about six to eight trips to Detroit on the basis of setting up HSV in the USA within General Motors,” Crennan now reveals.
“I can tell you the exact date we had a meeting on the top floor with the four most senior blokes within General Motors; Bob Lutz getting the okay to sign it off. I was going to go over there and run it.”
Crennan says the proposal was to transfer the knowledge, production techniques and engineering, marketing and retail know-how that had made HSV an extremely profitable low-volume business with an idea to sprinkle the same magic across a variety of GM brands, starting with Cadillac which was still two years away from launching the CTS-V, the company’s first dedicated high-performance variant.
Crennan said the seed was planted for go-fast Caddys five years earlier when HSV responded to a global engineering brief to establish a special vehicles operation for the mostly-domestic luxury car brand.
“They didn’t proceed with that one then, but we kept talking and it was getting more and more traction which led to the bigger discussions,” he said.
“The plan was to set-up an off-line facility in Detroit and work closely with product planning heads across a variety of brands. That detail hadn’t really been decided and whether it would be a General Motors Special Vehicles operation or individually for specific brands like Chevrolet and Cadillac. But there was no deal unless we could do the marketing.”
Crennan says that, just as the business plan was about the signed off, it went “belly-up” when TWR was forced into liquidation following Walkinshaw’s big-budget attempt to turn the Arrows Formula One team into a Grand Prix front-runner.
“I still had the chance to do it,” Crennan added. “But to a large extent HSV would have gone down as well. My priority was to ensure the future of HSV here.”
“The plan was to set-up an off-line facility in Detroit and work closely with product planning heads across a variety of brands”