The Holden ECOmmodore

Holden has a history of quietly sneaking concept cars or forthcoming design changes into public view. Possibly its biggest hidden in plain sight concept of the last two decades was the ECOmmodore of 2000.

Ostensibly a four door coupe version of the VT Commodore, it would eventually point the way towards the upcoming rebirth of the Monaro after showcasing a concept in 1998. But the real talking point was the engine package inside the swoopy body.

Holden had joined the then burgeoning hybrid technology race, and in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, or CSIRO, put forward a petrol and battery powered engine combination.

The petrol side was a transversely mounted 2.0L four cylinder, replacing the 3.8L V6 normally found under the VT’s bonnet. An electric motor, complete with super-capacitors and lead-acid batteries, supplemented the four, with power rated as 50kW. The fuel tank was down to 45L yet the expected range was 800km thanks to a near halving of consumption. There was plenty of torque available for the hybrid with a total of 290Nm, but thanks to the electric motor, 100Nm was there on startup.

The transmission was a five speed manual and, because of the east-west engine layout, fed that oomph to the front wheels, not the rear. Emissions were said to be 10% of the normal V6 engine yet performance would have been within cooee of the existing engine and auto transmission.

The body was a slightly modified Monaro shell; not only were there four doors, it was fitted over the longer wheelbase wagon floorpan. Aluminium was used to replace sections of the steel floor, with other weight saving additions such as polycarbonate replacing the glass windows, strong but lightweight carbon fibre panels, and some fibreglass panels also.

Good looking 18 inch alloys were bolted to the reduced weight suspension components, with rolling resistance lowered by fitting narrower than standard tyres at 165/55. All up, the modifications lowered drag from 0.32cd to 0.28cd.

The ECOmmodore would star in the Sydney Olympics torch relay, leading the first 70km stretch from the heart of Australia, Uluru. Although never intended to be a production vehicle, costing showed that if it had been produced, it was at a $3000 premium over the VT at the time.

Ahead of its time at the time, the ECOmmodore foreshadowed other marques developing four door coupe bodyshells, and even more, it was 18 years ahead of a tantalizing piece of “what if” with HSV revealing that plans to electrify the ZB Commodore were being investigated.

The last known location of the ECOmmodore was inside The Powerhouse Museum.

What’s your favourite Holden concept car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments sections below this article! 

Rare Spares Holden Torana GTR-X Concept Car

Holden has a very strong history when it comes to designing and engineering concept cars. Of recent years there’s the immaculate Efijy, and the reborn Monaro. Both two door cars, interestingly enough, as two other concept cars were also two doors. There’s the Hurricane, and the Torana GTR-X.

The latter came oh so close to being put into production, and the chassis itself was based on the LC Torana XU-1. The low slung, fibreglass bodied, slinky looking, machine even had the same engine, the then potent 186S.

Exterior design was eye catching, with a long bonnet that started with a flat, shovel-like nose, pop up headlights, a steeply raked windscreen, and a sharp tail with hockey stick tail lights. These were design elements that were later seen in two of Italy’s best from Ferrari and Maserati.

Inside the cabin featured laid back bucket seats, milled aluminuim sheeting, a plethora of gauges for oil temp and pressure and the like, and a short throw gear selector for the four speed manual.

That was connected to the straight six which produced 119kW and 265Nm. They’re hardly groundbreaking numbers now but for a car built in 1970 that weighed under 1050kg, they provided more than enough punch. Unique at the time were the disc brakes to be found at each corner.

It’s unclear exactly how many versions were built; some say three, some say four, but it’s known that just one example of what could have been an inspirational car survives. Holden has a museum at its Melbourne based headquarters, where the sole survivor lives in cosseted luxury.

Why wasn’t it ever sold? The population of Australia in 1970 was just over twelve million and Holden’s numbers indicated that wasn’t enough to justify what would potentially be a low volume seller. Considering how well received the Datsun 240Z was when it was released just a year before, and how it’s perceived still after nearly fifty years, one could say this was a somewhat shortsighted view.

Have you seen the Holden Torana GTR-X? What do you think of the car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Rare Spares Summernats 31 Wrap-up

Summernats 31 came to an end after four days of tyre shredding action in Canberra on Sunday 7th January. A huge success, this year’s Summernats drew in an incredible crowd of 105,000 and a total of 2,105 vehicle entrants – one of the festivals greatest turnouts in its long and illustrious history.

 

“We saw fantastic cars, fantastic behaviour, a great program of events and despite the extreme weather that we have experienced here, our health and safety team worked diligently to make sure our all of our patrons came and went home safely,” said Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez.

 

The most prestigious award at Summernats is the Grand Champion and for 2018 the honour was awarded to Grant Connor and his spectacular maroon coloured 1967 Ford Falcon, impressing the judges for its near perfection in all areas of design and performance. For owner Grant, it was a special moment.

 

“What an unbelievable feeling. I never imagined I would ever win Grand Champion. I was hoping for a couple of smaller awards, but this is surreal. I have to thank my family and partner for all of their support.”

For Rare Spares, the event was a huge weekend and a massive success! Offering 20% of all orders placed and paid for at the stand, the Rare Spares Traders Pavilion was abuzz with punters for the duration of the four days.

 

Headlining promotions for Rare Spares at the event was our ‘Rare Experience’ promotion, which will give winners the ultimate motorsport weekend at the 2018 Adelaide 500 in March! To enter, patrons were given a key by the Rare Spares girls at gate 7, which was to be taken to the Rare Spares pavilion where the keys could be entered into a lock. If the key unlocked the lock, then the patron was awarded a prize. The lucky winner of the Rare Experience was D.Clark from South Australia, who can’t wait for their ‘money can’t buy’ experience.

 

Once again proving itself as the nation’s best automotive festival, Summernats will return in early 2019 for the 32nd time, and at Rare Spares, we’re already counting down the days!

 

Were you at Summernats 31? We’d love to hear your stories, head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about your Summernats in the comments section below.

History of the Sandman

The Holden Sandman, a car that represented a generation of Australians and likely one of Holden’s most iconic cars has undergone a number of reincarnations throughout its lifetime. While the true Sandman will always remain the 1970’s surf and lifestyle icon for most, the Sandman name has been used on a number of cars throughout the four decades between then and now. In this week’s blog we’ll recap the different looks the Sandman has undertaken throughout the years.

The Original Sandman (HQ, HJ, HX, HZ)

A combination of the ever increasing costs associated with owning a sports car combined with the increasing liberation and freedom of the youth of Australia led to a boom in the popularity in panel vans before the Sandman was even announced. Not one to miss a sales opportunity, Holden brought out the Sandman, a panel van by nature, with the added performance and luxury initially of the Belmont and eventually the Kingswood. Optional extras included the 253ci V8, a mattress, and sunroof while softer suspension and a drop-down split tail gate for ease of access differentiated the Sandman from the regular panel van. Understandably the Sandman was a huge hit among young Males who now had a car that could do everything – you could sleep in it, transport surfboards and ‘woo’ mates and lady friends alike; the Sandman was sexy.

The Concept

In 2000, Holden teamed up with surf wear brand Mambo to create a modern day Sandman concept. Based on the VU ute, the Sandman concept was received very well amongst the general public, with many calling to introduce it into production. Featuring a ‘burnin’ love’ interior, ‘bushfire orange’ exterior and the Sandman logo gracing the tailgate - the concept was true blue Aussie. Gracing the side panels were murals designed by Mambo’s head art director, featuring bush and beach goddess’. In reaction to the favourable reception from punters, the Sandman styled canopy was included as a $6,150 option to regular Utes in 2003, although was discontinued in 2006 when interest decreased, not to mention the incredibly complex nature of installation.

The Race Car

Supercar team Red Bull Holden Racing set about creating a tribute to the original Sandman in 2014 when they created their new ride car. In what looks like a VF ute from the side, and a VF Wagon from the rear, the Red Bull Sandman was met with mixed reception, although is none-the-less, an impressive vehicle. The car was originally built with a 700HP V8 and featured new-to-the-sport technology such as paddle shifting and a fly-by-wire throttle. This year, however, the Sandman has been used as a test dummy for the incoming twin-turbo V6 that will grace the sport come 2019. The car was used to unveil the new engine to the public in October 2017 with demonstration laps at the Bathurst 1000.

The 40 year anniversary ‘reincarnation’

In 2015, Holden decided it was time to reincarnate the Sandman in the form of a limited edition Sportwagon and Ute. Although without a true panel van option, purists were left disappointed in what were essentially SV6 or SS-V Commodores with added logos, pinstripes and a ‘retro’ coloured interior. Given the small production run of only 250 across all options, the 2015 Sandman may very well end up a collectable in the future, particularly as Holden manufacturing in Australia has ceased. Time will tell…

What are your thoughts on the various Holden Sandman’s throughout the years? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

The Final Holden built on Australian Shores

The final Holden built on Australian shores has rolled off the Elizabeth production line. On October 20 at 10:45am, the final four Australian built Holden’s were ‘officially’ completed with a red VFII SSV Redline Commodore the final to leave the facility. The Commodore, on black wheels with a manual transmission was the 7,687,675th Holden built and will be kept and used as a museum piece. The other cars down the production line on October 20 were the final Holden ute (SS), wagon (Calais) and ‘limousine’ (Caprice).

With a 6.2 litre LS3 up front, the last SS will also go down as Holden’s fastest production model to date with 304kw and 570nm on offer (Not including HSV models). With accessories that include FE3 suspension, a sunroof and HUD, the final commodore is testament to the journey Australian built cars have come on over the last 7 decades. In terms of power, safety and usability the final Commodore (and Falcon for that matter) is hardly bettered in terms of ‘bang-for-buck’.

After 69 years of manufacturing, Holden ceased manufacturing operations in October, leaving hundreds unemployed and bringing an end to a huge part of Australia’s manufacturing history. Employees were taken by bus to the Adelaide Oval for final knock-off drinks and treated to a show by the legendary Jimmy Barnes. The Elizabeth plant, in Northern Adelaide has been sold to an unidentified owner who will turn the facility into a business park.

With this closure, we bid an official farewell to Australian automotive manufacturing and look back at the many classics produced on our shores. Stay tuned to the Rare Spares Blog where we will continue to take a look at the many classics produced on Australian shores.

Do you have any Holden stories you would like to share? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.