Rare Spares – Commodore Goes International.

27. August 2018 10:07 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

It’s almost an ice to Eskimos and coal to Newcastle situation. Holden, the isolated arm of General Motors, was once a huge exporter of Aussie built cars, and that includes the Commodore.

It was built here in Australia and sold in the U.S. under the Pontiac G8 and Chevrolet SS labels, with the latter bringing a wry smile to those that decried the Chev badge on a Commodore in Australia. Finally, a Commodore that left the factory with the bowtie badge fitted!

The cars were largely the same as those seen “down under” with the obvious noticeable exception being the switch to left hand drive. The Pontiac G8, based on the Holden VE Commodore, was sold there over the 2008-2009 model years. Pontiac as a brand was discontinued by GM in 2009 however, leaving Holden and GM in a bind as to what could be supplied.

The G8 featured a larger and more muscular looking twin nostril front end than the VE Commodore and a redesigned lower front bumper section. The G8 was initially released as the G8 with a 3.6L V6 before the GT and GXP, packing a 6.0L and 6.2L V8 respectively. The GXP was loaded with the sporty FE3 suspension package, leather interior, and a six speed manual transmission that was originally slated to be in the GT. The GT itself featured cosmetics such as a quad exhaust rear end and clear tail light lenses, an 11 speaker sound system from Blaupunkt in Germany, and offered options such as 19 inch wheels.

Holden had a history with Pontiac going back to the early noughties. The GTO, a rebadged and rebodied Monaro made its debut there in 2004. Unfortunately, the GTO didn’t sell well in the American market – they didn’t take to the Australian built GTO like they had in the past for the American built versions. The Commodore also sold as the Chevrolet Lumina SS in the Middle East and the Vauxhall Monaro in the UK, it was powered by the 5.7L/350cid V8 found in the Corvette of the day. Pontiac’s history was evident with the familiar large twin nostril design before an addition in 2005 had an extra pair on intakes fitted to the bonnet. The final model in 2006 came with a 300kW 6.0L engine.

Holden also shipped the ute and Caprice to the U.S. The Caprice formed the basis for a vehicle used in various police forces whilst the ute was marketed as a sports truck, the G8 ST. The Caprice was so popular with the American police force that an exclusive PPV (Police Patrol Vehicle) version as built. It featured a unique column shift automatic transmission – which was not used on any other model in the range. It was not available to the public, and could only be ordered for Police use.

The export program was quite successful for Holden, with revenue of $1.3billion reported in 2006. Despite the success for Holden in Australia, General Motors in the USA decided to park the Pontiac brand, after more than 80 years history with the nameplate. The demise of Pontiac also left Holden in Australia with a lot of spare parts that were no longer required. To utilise the Pontiac spares, Holden introduced an optional no-cost package on the series 2 VE Commodore SSV featuring the Pontiac G8 style nose and style.

After Pontiac was benched, GM re-introduced the Commodore as the Chevrolet SS. This was based on Holden’s VF platform. Sold from late 2013 until the program was cancelled in 2017, just shy of 12,900 cars were sold.

The SS sold in the U.S.  powered by the LS3 V8 that punched out 309kW and 563Nm. Standard transmission was a paddle shift fitted six speed auto. Holden’s engineering team had stiffened the chassis, rejigged the suspension settings, and improved the safety factor by re-engineering the steels used. The redesigned chassis rails combined with electronic items such as Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning, and a better electrical system.

What are your thoughts on the export program? Did you buy one of the Commodores that was released with the Pontiac body add-ons? Let us know via the comments section or on our Facebook page.

The Holden Monaro 427C - Australia's Homegrown GT Monster

The Australian automotive industry is an oddity in the global scheme of things. A small buying population, the most brands per head of population, and innovations not seen elsewhere, make it virtually unique.

Although we weren’t the first to build a car with a hardtop and two doors, we certainly made some great ones. Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Holden all have cars that are memorable and one that stands out was the Monaro 427C. 

Designed, engineered, and built in Australia, this car was intended to be a track weapon and race in the Bathurst 24 Hour. The first of these races was set to run in late 2002, meaning the development of the car, slated to run in 2003, had to be brought forward. 

The heartbeat of the 427C was its US sourced 7.0L or 427cid V8. With the Holden Racing Team turning down the offer of developing the machine, Garry Rogers Motorsport (GRM) took the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R engine, a Monaro body, and the responsibility of running the 427C as a race car. 

The car would later be a controversial one; the race would attract cars from outside Australia such as Lamborghini’s Diablo GTR, Ferrari’s 360 N-GT, and the monstrous Chrysler Viper ACR. All of these cars would race with the same engine they would come off the production line with. However, the Monaro at the time came with Chev’s fabled 350cid or 5.7L V8, and therefore would be ineligible to run. However, the organiser of the race, which would come under the umbrella of a racing group called Procar, allowed the Monaro to be run with the bigger engine to be seen as more competitive with capacities such as the 8.0L V10 in the Viper.

As the race was going to be run under the then current GT regulations, GRM had to design a body kit to suit both the regulations and the aerodynamics of the VX Commodore based two door. Using the V8 Supercars design as a basis, GRM fitted a wider rear wing that sat below the car’s roofline, as per the regulations. A similar front air dam was fitted to the front, and underneath the 427C utilized a number of components that could be found on a Supercar. 

A technically minded casual observer would see a Hollinger six speed manual transmission, wheels of 18 x 11 and 18 x 13 inches, MacPherson strut front suspension and a trailing arm rear, bolted to coil springs and thick anti-roll bars. The engine was said to be good for 600 ponies (447kW) and would be bolted into the front of a car weighing 1,400 kilograms. 

All up the Monaro 427C would be 4789mm in length, run a front and rear track of 1559mm/1577mm, and roll on a wheelbase of 2788mm. The aero package provided plenty of down-force and made for a stable on track racer. 

Raced at the 2002 Bathurst 24 Hour by a team of four drivers, being Garth Tander, Nathan Pretty, Steven Richards, and Cameron McConville, the car was also being touted as being available as a road car. The race car itself would prove to be strong, durable, and a race winner. Although despite suffering a flat tyre and a collision with another car, the car would ultimately win in its debut race by 24 laps.

As a road car, it was potentially to be powered by a 433kW version of the 427cid engine. But, as a business case, the numbers simply didn’t add up and would result in a mooted buy price of $215,000 being out of reach of its intended market. Just two road going cars, and just four race cars, would be built.

The Monaro 427C would go on to compete in the Australian Nations Cup Championship in 2003, and the Bathurst 24 Hour race in the same year. A second race car had been built by then. Driven by Peter Brock, Jason Bright, Todd Kelly, and Greg Murphy, the car would win by just 0.3035 of a second. Tander, driving the 2002 winning vehicle, was thwarted in a last sector charge by a yellow flag thanks to a car close to the racing line.

The 427C would race in 2004 and see a third chassis completed, before the Nations Cup category collapsed due to fiscal issues. With regulations reverting to GT Championship rules in 2005, the Monaro 427C was deemed ineligible. Of the race cars, one is with a private collector, one is in the Bathurst Motor Museum, and little if anything is known of the locations of the others.  

A Brief History of Cheating in Motorsports

Human nature is one of the most diverse things we see on planet earth. Sadly, not all of human nature is benign, good, warm, welcoming. One of the negatives we exhibit is called cheating. Be it at school, on our partner, at work, it’s an undesirable trait.

But in motorsport? Yes, it happens. All too often. And it happens worldwide. It happens in rallying. It happens in Formula 1. It happens in IndyCar. It happened here in Australia.

America’s NASCAR was full of innovative people. At one time they had specified a maximum size for the fuel tank. A “clever” interpretation of the rules has Smokey Yunick fit a fuel hose that was eleven feet long and two inches thick. As a result, his car’s overall fuel capacity was increased. Ynick also sidestepped the rules by having an oversized tank fitted but with an inflated basketball inside. This allowed the tank to be filled to more than the regulated amount once the ball was deflated.

Tim Flock decided on a different way to improve the fuel economy of his NASCAR. His steel roll cage wasn’t steel. It looked like steel, but close inspection had a wooden structure smartly painted to resemble steel.

Australia’s royal motorsport name was involved in a somewhat cheeky cheat in 1981. Fabled F1 designer Gordon Murray built a car for the Brabham team that had adjustable ride height. When cars are scrutineered there’s a set ride height they have to adhere to. Murray built in a system that would lower the car under that ride height but would raise it back to the required amount when stopped. Murray’s sense of humour was brought into play by having a box with leads that would attach to the car, for no reason other than to visually distract onlookers, placed at random locations on the car when stopped.

Another entry from NASCAR with Ken Schrader finding his tyre wear exceeding the ability of the car to deal with it. Although leading a race, the second place car was closing rapidly. A quick thinking Schrader discharged his fire suppressant system and the second car’s driver, thinking Schrader’s car engine was about to explode, backed off. The canny Schrader timed this well enough for his lead to get him over the line for a win, with his car in perfect working order.

Japanese goliath Toyota dominated the world rally scene with its awesome and aggressive looking all wheel drive Celica. Complete with huge rear wing, quad headlight front, and legal turbocharger…wait, did I say legal turbocharger? 1995 and the car is dominating the rally world. The WRC had stated a maximum horsepower output of 300. Toyota had abided by the rules that stated a restrictor plate must be fitted inside the turbo.

What they also interpreted was that the regulations said nothing about the restrictor plate having to stay in one spot. Some brilliant engineering had the plate being moved by springs that allowed extra power to be generated, with an estimated fifty extra horsepower. The design of the turbo was such that a thorough pull-down of it was required to see the plate and even then this appeared almost as it should be.

Australia’s great race, the Bathurst 1000, closes out this quick look at motorsport cheating. The 1987 race was won by the stove hot Ford Sierras. Factory supported they were quick, at times almost undriveable according to Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe, but a little bit of physics came in to play for the win. Larger tyres cover more distance for little extra effort and the first two cars, both from the same team, were found to have enlarged wheel arches at the front, allowing a bigger rolling diameter tyre.

Subsequent investigation and appeals against the team had them disqualified, handing the win to the third placed team. That team was from HDT and the car was driven by David Parsons, Peter McLeod, and one Peter James Brock. The win, under less than ideal circumstances, gave the great PB his ninth and ultimately final ATCC win at The Mountain.

Do you know any ingenious tales of people skirting the rules in motorsports? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below this article.  

The Ford Barra Engine. A Modern Classic?

Grandpa’s axe. It’s a term usually employed to describe something that’s been around for decades and is almost unbreakable. And when it does break it’s repaired in a low tech way. Simplicity rules, you see.

Ford’s venerable straight six engine was Australia’s automotive equivalent of that axe from grandpa’s shed. Covering a range of capacities including the famous 4.1L or 250cid, its no nonsense, take what it was given, unburstable design, has it as a favourite in Australia’s car loving hearts.

The straight six that Australia saw was born in America. Available in various capacities there, including a 200cid six that was seen in the original US Mustang, Ford’s Australian arm unveiled the 250cid straight six in 1970. Its basic design was strong, simple, just like grandpa’s axe. A 2V suffix was given to the engine, denoting that the carbie had two venturi and would breathe deeper than the single carbied versions. Available from the XY through to XB Falcon, it was good for 116kW and 325Nm, a hefty increase over the standard 200cid’s 96kW/257Nm delivery.

Barra itself is a contraction of Barramundi. That’s not just a tenacious fish, it was the code name for the engine during development. It was applied not only to the straight six but also to the three valve 5.4L V8 version. The six was built from 2002 and was found in various Ford products such as the Falcon and Territory until Ford Australia ceased manufacturing in 2016.

The V8s, in Barra then Boss and Coyote form, were there until the FG-X model of the Falcon and derivatives wrapped in 2016. The Barra V8 ceased with the BF Fairlane which was available from 2005 to 2007, and became the last Fairlane model produced here.

 

The straight six was engineered into several different versions including a LPG fed engine. But many “revheads” would say the six’s finest hour was when it was built with a turbocharger and bolted into the XR6, F6, and suchlike. With “normal” engines pumping out an original 182kW, 190kW, and 195kW, with 380Nm, 383Nm, and 391Nm, the turbo took the power and torque to world class levels.

There was an initial offering, of 240kW and 450Nm, with that twist available from 2000 to 4500 rpm. Along came the 245kW and 480Nm version before the Barra 270T, with Garrett GT3576R turbo, and Barra 310T showed what clever Australian engineering could deliver.

Found in the BA, the BF, and then the FG, the big six may have actually undersold its capabilities. Rumours abound that in order to continue sales of the V8, the power and torque figures were deliberately quoted as being less than what they actually produced, with 360kW and 700Nm being whispered as the true figures.

Ford’s best six came in the form of the Barra 325T. This, sadly, was a deliberately limited run and sold in the limited edition FG-X XR6 Sprint. With ten pre-production vehicles, five hundred for Australia, and just fifty for New Zealand, it was a special engine in a special car. Power was quoted as 325kW @ 6000rpm, and 576Nm at a driver friendly 2750rpm. The engines also had an overboost feature for the turbo, which allowed an extra ten percent of boost to be added for up to ten seconds.

Combined with larger injectors at 82mm, a fifty percent bigger intercooler, and a carbon fibre air intake (a first for Ford Australia) with better airflow, Ford Australia said the overboost would deliver 370kW and 650Nm of torque.

Although the V8s sold well and were amongst the first in the world to feature what Ford called the VCT Modular design, they simply didn’t grab the attention as well as the six. Power outputs for the three valve V8s were reflected in the names, being Barra 220 (472Nm) and Barra 230 500Nm).

The grandpa’s axe straight six’s heritage and strength have it in the part of automotive history marked “To Be Revered Because Of Its Legendary Status.” Long live the Barra.

History of the LS Engine

There’s a saying in the automotive world: “There’s no replacement for displacement.” Somehow, that tag became attached to an engine, in a vee shape and packing eight cylinders, made by Chevrolet in America.

In the late nineties General Motors and Chevrolet debuted a new V8. Dubbed “LS” for “Luxury Sport” it’s this name and engine that have popularized the above saying. First seen in the 1997 C5 Corvette, the all “aluminum” block, called the LS1, was also known as the small block Gen111. It replaced the LT or “Luxury Touring” engine that had been a mainstay for some time.

It was what’s called a clean sheet design; essentially a start from nothing design, the only common points the LS had with the LT was bore spacing and conrod bearings. Even in the LS range of engines themselves items such as the bore centre, at 4.40 inches, cross bolted six bolt main bearing caps, and a four bolt per cylinder head bolt pattern are common.

Alloy blocks are used for performance oriented vehicles whilst blocks made of iron are used for SUVs and trucks.

At 5.7 litres or 350 cubic inches in capacity, as the most common iteration is seen in, it produced 257 kilowatts or 345 horsepower. Maximum torque was 470Nm or 350 pound-feet, found at 4400rpm. It was bolted into a substantial range of cars such as the Corvette, Firebird, and of course in Holden and HSV cars like the Statesman and Senator Signature.

LS6 is the name given to a higher output but same capacity engine largely found in the C5 Corvette Z06, with production starting in 2001. Peak grunt was bumped to 287 kilowatts and torque to 522Nm initially, with further development lifting both to 302kW and 540Nm.

There were also smaller engines based on the same architecture. Engineered for use in passenger SUV and trucks, the LS1 4.8L and 5.3L blocks have a 3.78 inch diameter for the bore.

In 2005 GM unveiled the GenIV or LS2 engine. There were bigger capacities, cylinder deactivation technology for improved fuel savings, and variable valve timing. Capacity went to 6.0L (5964 cc in real terms) or 364 cubic inches. Base engines made 300kW and 542 Nm. Holden and HSV saw this installed in cars such as the Monaro and Grange.

L76 is the designation given to the LS2s fitted with Active Fuel Management or AFM. It was some time before Holden chose to use the feature; from 2009 it was installed however only in cars with an automatic called the 6L80. Power was rated as 260kW and maximum twist of 510 Nm came in at 4400rpm. Designed to assist in bettering fuel economy by shutting down firing in four cylinders, the engine gave rise to the L77. This designation defines the LS2 as being ethanol fuel compatible.

Various engines with names such as LY5, LH6, and LMF were produced and seen in SUVs such as the Chevrolet Trailblazer and GMC Savana.

LS7 was a rarely seen engine in Australia. It was intended to be produced for a specific HSV car here called the W427. Corsa Special Vehicles beat HSV to the punch here, with their engine producing 400kW and 600Nm. HSV’s version, first shown at the 2008 Melbourne International Motor Show, offered 375kW and 640Nm.

A supercharged and slightly capacity increased engine, at 6.2L and called LSA, was released in 2009. This was first seen in the ballsy Cadillac CTS-V and Australia had it in the GTS, GTS-R, and Maloo R8 LSA, just to name a couple. 480kW was the peak power and an amazing 754Nm of torque. These came courtesy of a block with revised compression, cast pistons, and a “blower’ of 1.9L in capacity.

With Holden ceasing local manufacturing in late 2017, the LS engines are now only to be found in cars already on Australian roads or in vehicles allowed to be imported from the US to Australia.

For now….anyway. Stand by for Camaro.

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