Brand equity and loyalty don't come easily, so why not build on this and utilise the passionate engineering skill set within HSV to produce a line of limited continuation-series cars.
Formed in 1987 as a partnership between Holden and motorsport legend Tom Walkinshaw, Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) was tasked with enhancing the factory Holden models to create high-performance vehicles for both domestic and export markets.
It is a name that became synonymous with Australian motoring passion, and though the reign has been relatively short, HSV has contributed a storied history of iconic road cars and motorsport successes to Australian automotive culture.
The business itself has attracted tremendous talent and loyalty, enough even to weather the turbulent storm of changes to the Australian manufacturing landscape. It now stands alone from its anchor partner as an importer and engineer of other vehicles from the General Motors stable.
And while there is certainly a market for the right-drive-converted Chevrolet Silverado pick-ups, if I ran the company, I would address an additional production stream.
The continuation special.
As a concept, a continuation model isn’t new. Shelby American officially ceased production of the 427 Cobra in 1967, but since 1990 you have been able to have them build you a slightly modernised example as a ‘genuine’ car. It is a factory-authorised and partially factory-built version of a long-discontinued car – a continuation.
It’s not just the Americans who do this either.
Jaguar has built D-Types, E-Types and XKSS, supported by the factory, decades after series production ended. Aston Martin took this approach with the DB4 GT, and earlier this year announced a DB5 Goldfinger ‘continuation’ would take place.
So, why not take this approach to a more attainable level and continue production of some of HSV's finest machines?
I’m not suggesting just off-the-shelf upgrades as HSV’s sister company, Walkinshaw Performance, can already offer power and other enhancement kits for your VE Commodore. What I am proposing is a proper HSV build-plate, limited series, factory-authorised car.
Start with a regular VL Commodore, update the powertrain, remould the infamous ‘plastic pig’ fibreglass bodywork and roll a ‘new’ Panorama Silver SS Group A 'Walkinshaw' special, number 751, out the doors of the Clayton factory some 30 years late.
The same approach could be applied to the VN SS Group A Commodore, the VS GTS-R, even the first LS1-series VX GTS.
With me in the chair, this would be a ‘built-to-order’ production service where the cars would remain true to form, but upgraded mechanicals and trim materials could be requested by the buyer.
Your 'new' VS Senator would still need to be painted in a factory colour (there were 25-odd choices back then), but it would offer considerably more than 215kW and buyers could enhance the leather trim and perhaps add Alcantara to the roof lining. Think of it as a Singer-style bespoke manufacturing operation – for Commodores.
Clearly marked and numbered as continuation versions, these new cars would only enhance the value of the original cars, while making seat time in an Aussie icon more achievable.
So intriguing was the idea that I spoke to HSV Executive Director of Marketing, Chris Polites, to find out if it was indeed possible.
According to Polites, tooling and capability to produce the parts exist. Modern manufacturing using CNC machines and 3D printers means that exacting components can be created quite easily, plus many of the suppliers that have worked with HSV since the start still do, so there is an established supply chain for plastics and component producers. More advanced engines would be used, with Polites suggesting that a General Motors LS or LT series 'crate' motor would be an ideal starting point. Modern tyre technology would afford the use of period-correct wheel sizes, and other elements like suspension and trim could be made more modern and upmarket.
Let’s be clear, these cars wouldn’t be cheap projects, but that hasn’t stopped HSV or buyers before. The swansong ‘proper’ Holden model for HSV was the 2017 VF2 GTS-R W1 supercharged V8 sports sedan. It listed at $169,990 before options and on-road costs and reportedly changed hands for nearly twice that.
To think you could have your own HSV-official Durif Red VN SS Group A continuation for second-hand Mercedes-AMG C63 money makes it almost tempting to smash together a real business case in PowerPoint.
Continuation-series projects almost exclusively offer a limited production run, so even if it were as short as 100 cars for each iconic model, you could forecast a nice little side-earn, all the while not distracting from the current HSV production line of over 3000 cars per year.
Plus, in this world of ever-present special editions, what would stop HSV from offering a new limited edition, limited-edition continuation series – a short run of Phantom Black VL SS Group A Calais, complete with flip-up lights and a twin-turbo Blackwing V8? Built by the factory with documentation and a numbered build plate? It warms the heart just by thinking about it.
Furthermore, there would be no harm in offering some of these new components as spare parts to either help repair or factory-restore the original build cars. Ferrari Classiche will (and has) essentially recreate a 250GTO from scratch if you own the original car, so offering to fix a shunted but otherwise original Maloo shouldn't be too much of a problem. The hardest thing to track down would be replacement bottles of Penfolds Grange...
So, assuming we’re doing this, where to start on the HSV Continuation program? “The 2001 VY Coupe GTS ‘Monaro',” says Polites. A great choice, as even then the GTS Coupe was a 300kW grand tourer. It listed for $94,750 almost 20 years ago, so with an updated LSA or LT1, lashings of Alcantara and a more modern dynamic feel, a limited-run HSV Continuation Coupe could still turn heads for a few lucky buyers, and continue the aspirational Australian muscle-car dream for years to come.
This would allow HSV to forge ahead with its new vehicle conversion and engineering business, while supporting the heritage it created and enabling a new generation of Australian motoring fans to again strive for a locally produced goal.