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.

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