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The Future is now – Holden’s Concept Cars

With Holden closing down its production in Australia in 2017, not only will remember classics such as the Torana and the Australian built Commodore, we will also miss the impressively forward thinking and sometimes crazy concept cars. Holden have been particularly active in designing concept cars throughout their history, with many capturing global attention and in some cases knocking on the door of production. In this article we take a look at four of our favourite Holden concept cars from the last 50 years. The EFIJY The ‘EFIJY’ was built by Holden in 2005 as a tribute to the iconic FJ and successfully mated the past, present and the future in to one timelessly impressive looking package. Although not technically built in the same vein as many concept cars, which often indicate technology and design of the future, the EFIJY was met with a similar reception. Designed and built afterhours as somewhat of a passion project, the car was built on a modified Corvette chassis and featured a thumping 6.0 litre V8 producing 480kw/ 775nm. The car was so well received it was even the recipient of the 2007 Concept Car of the Year award in Northern America, proving that the EFIJY’s timeless good looks appealed to a global audience. Despite high demand from millionaires such as sheiks and sporting stars, Holden made the decision to cap production at one, with the EFIJY currently residing at Holden’s headquarters in Port Melbourne.     The Hurricane Built in 1969, Holden’s ‘Hurricane’ was Australia’s first glimpse into what the future of motoring may look like. Featuring a rear-view camera, an early form of satnav, inertia reel seatbelts and one of the most interesting door opening mechanisms ever seen, the Hurricane was a long way ahead of its time. A mid mounted 193kw 4.2 litre V8 coupled with some very aggressive aerodynamics ensured the remarkable concept car was also quite zippy for the time. In 2011, a refurbished Hurricane was unveiled at Melbourne’s Motorclassica event after 6 years’ worth of repairs had been undertaken to restore the Hurricane to its former glory.     Torana GTR-X This featherweight Torana concept was born in the 1970’s with serious intentions of eventually going into production. Featuring the 186 from the XU1 driving power through a 4 speed manual transmission, this 1043kg prototype reached a top speed of over 200km/h during early testing. The car also featured pop up headlights, four wheel disc brakes taking many design cues from the Lotus Esprit of the day. The GTR-X featured in promotional footage and brochures, confirming Holden’s interests of production. However, it wasn’t to be as higher ups decided that the GTR-X was best left in concept form, leaving many a Holden fan to wonder what could have been!     Coupe 60 When the Holden Coupe 60 was unveiled in 2008 at the Melbourne International Motor Show questions were quickly asked as to whether or not it may herald a new era of Monaro’s on Australian roads. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as Holden ensured fans the Coupe 60 was nothing more than a concept. Featuring a b-pillar less design, massive 21-inch centrelock wheels and an E-85 friendly 6.0 litre LS2 V8, the Coupe 60 was the stuff of Holden fans dreams. Showing that the concept car wouldn’t have been too far out of place on the race track, the vehicle featured a rear diffuser, front splitter and a carbon fibre spoiler. The Coupe 60 was received so well at the initial unveiling that other manufacturers even halted their own planned vehicle announcements in fear of being overshadowed. What has been your favourite Holden concept car? Head over to Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

Aboriginal Car Name Origins

There are some great car companies around the world with iconic names to match. The origins of these companies are well known to car enthusiasts, even though many have since been bought out or sold. The Brits have Rolls Royce and Bentley, the Germans have Porsche and Mercedes Benz and the Italians have Ferrari and Fiat, and so on and so forth. These brands evoke images of their country of origin, whether it’s a Silver Shadow majestically passing Big Ben, a Carrera 911 storming down an autobahn near Stuttgart or a Fiat 500 zipping around the Colosseum in search of that perfect espresso. Here in Australia, we have exactly the same scenario as our European cousins. Holden and Ford have established a proud national heritage too, however the names of some of our car models have a history originating from a culture that itself, has been around for over forty thousand years. And that of course is the Aboriginal culture belonging to the traditional owners of Australia. A shining example of this is the beloved Monaro, which is Aboriginal for ‘high plain’ or ‘high plateau’. In 1967, Holden was having trouble coming up with a name for its new coupe. But as luck would have it, Noel Bedford, Holden's Technical Designer was on holiday and as he drove through Cooma, he passed the ‘Monaro County Council’. “It said ‘Monaro County Council' in western-type lettering that reminded me of 'Marlboro Country' and Camaro. It seemed to me so simple and logical. Why didn't somebody think of it before? I was quite excited and couldn't wait to get back to work,” Noel explains. And the rest as they say is history. Another true Aussie automotive icon is the Holden Torana, which like the Monaro, has its name originating from Aboriginal culture. Meaning ‘to fly’, it also has alternate meanings in other cultures such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Unfortunately, not every car name with Aboriginal origins becomes an icon. So it was with the Camira. Billed as a “Supercar” in the early 1980s when released, it never really lived up to the hype. As a result, the Camira, meaning ‘wind’, never went on to achieve the status of the aforementioned legends above. A more recent example of continuing the indigenous theme is the Maloo. John Crennan, the ex HSV Managing Director came up with that one after reading a book on Aboriginal Australians. Released in 1990, the Maloo, meaning ‘storm’ or ‘thunder’, was released in 1990 as a performance ute. It went on to become famous in 2006 when the Z series Maloo R8 broke the world record for the fastest production performance Ute. Without doubt, these great Aussie auto icons, named after words from one the of oldest, if not the oldest surviving culture in the world, evoke images of our great Australian landscape, just like the European auto icons do in London, Stuttgart or Rome.

The Forgotten Ones

There are many Aussie cars that fill the spotlight. Iconic cars that are on t-shirts, in sheds and museums and close to the hearts of motoring enthusiasts. However on the flip side, there are Aussie cars that have been forgotten through age, lack of popularity, changing trends and the odd total flop. The Leyland P76 was designed by Michelotti in Italy and introduced to the Australian market in 1973, against Holden, Ford and Chrysler. Despite winning ‘Wheels Car of the Year’ in 1974, the car quickly died out in Australia with fewer than 18,000 produced. Many put the failure down to strange marketing, quality control issues and the loyalty Australian consumers had toward the existing Holden and Fords models on the market.  Even being names the 1976 'Wheels Car of the Year didn't save the Leyland P76.  Despite the Torana having a sacred name in Australian motoring, not every Torana was a success. The TA model was a short lived four cylinder variant based on the LJ platform. Australian’s at the time still wanted the larger six cylinder and V8 engines so it never took off or retained the longevity some of the more famous models have shown. Perhaps Holden’s most infamous sales flop was their attempt at a 1980’s sports coupe, known as the Piazza. Buoyed by the success of the Japanese giants selling sports cars in the 80’s Holden brought in the Piazza from Japan which was produced by Isuzu. Despite a powerful 2 litre turbocharged engine, the Australian motoring media were extremely critical of the Piazza which hurt sales prospects from the start. The criticism was in the most part warranted and the car had a horrible chassis and as a result, dangerous handling. The Star Wars style instrumentation and the technology employed was a step too far for a majority of the Australian market at that time.  The car was quickly phased out by Holden who had certainly missed the mark on the Piazza.   The Holden Piazza was not Holden's finest moment and never succeeded in Australia. The Ford Zephyr is quite a well-known model and examples are still being restored, however the Ford Consul is a much lesser known 4 cylinder variant that never really gained popularity as the Zephyr did classic, perhaps due to its smaller engine.  Another angle to consider is the forgotten style of cars. Panel Vans were a symbol of the Australian way of life through the 60’s and 70’s but by the late 80’s the market had changed and eventually panel vans phased out of existence. These models do however retain classic status and many are restored to their former glory. Another dropped style is the 1 tonner. Popular for tradesman and those in farming, the first generation of 1 tonner’s were built by Holden from 1971 to 1984. A second generation was released as part of the VY and VZ range before being phased out again. With the demise of Australian vehicle manufacturing our questions now turn to which vehicles will become future classics and which models will be all but forgotten? Only time will tell.