Camaro or Corvette?

Holden’s post-Commodore V8 dilemma deepens as the 2018 deadline approaches

TOBY HAGON

IT’S the leanest and meanest Chevrolet Camaro ever conceived – and its Australian future hinges on building a global case for righthand drive.

While Holden has a Detroit commitment to get a “true Holden sports car” in our showrooms, at this stage it’s not the new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro.

The all-new sixth-generation model, built on GM’s new Alpha platform, was revealed at a unique launch event on May 16 at Belle Isle in Detroit. It’s smaller, lighter and more potent than ever, with a 339kW 6.2-litre V8 the headline act. Yet there’s no guarantee we’ll see it on Aussie roads.

“Right-hand drive is not in the current program,” Holden director of communications Sean Poppitt told Wheels. “If that situation were to change you can be sure we’d take a very close look at it.”

Despite broadening its appeal with a new 205kW four-cylinder turbo entry-level model, a 3.6-litre V6 and the V8, Wheels has learnt the prospect of a Camaro leaving Michigan with the steering wheel on the right is highly unlikely.

Instead, the V8-powered Holden t V th M

Holden has a Detroit commitment to get a “true Holden sports car” into Australian showrooms post-Commodore H ge Au

hero will come in the form of the updated Chevrolet Corvette, which would arrive in 2018 at the earliest. It’s hardly a replacement for the V8-powered Commodore, but the Corvette is a guaranteed head- turning crowd pleaser.

Yet it’s the Camaro that would hold more sales gold for a brand that dominates V8 interest. Pricing would likely be closer to $50,000 – right in V8 heartland – rather than somewhere w up earliest V Ye wo fo V around $150K for the Corvette.

Key to the debate, as with so many RHD programs, is cost.

While the Camaro’s platform has been engineered for right-hand drive and is also used by Cadillac, GM insiders have told Wheels there are still “tens of millions of dollars” of development work and tooling to have the coupe roll out in right-hook form. And that’s for a car that would likely sell only a few thousand units a year here.

To make the program fly, Holden would have to canvass interest from other RHD markets to amortise the development and production costs. It’s the usual suspects: the United Kingdom, South Africa and Japan.

That spells a long road ahead for the Camaro, which began in 1967 as GM’s response to the success of the 1964 Ford Mustang.

The Mustang pioneered the pony car category in the US and prompted the development of Australia’s famous V8 culture.

Ironically, it’s the imminent arrival of the Mustang and likely approval for the Dodge Challenger (a car set to revive the Charger name) that’s making life tough for Chevy’s finest four-seat muscle.

The prospect of a Mustang priced from $44,990 – a figure already confirmed by Ford – and a Hellcat with a 527kW V8 hero means there’s not much clear air for a third player. It’s a problem Holden hasn’t had for years; Ford’s V8 offerings have been limited, while the Chrysler 300 hasn’t enjoyed the home ground advantage of the local heroes.

A potential lifeline for the Camaro is Holden Special Vehicles.

With an interest in expanding its portfolio in response to the 2017 shutdown of Australian Commodore production, the company is looking to maintain and grow its 120-strong engineering presence.

CAMARO’S AUSTRALIAN PROSPECTS

OPTION 1

GM tools the Camaro for RHD at Michigan factory G Cam its M

CHANCES

Close to zero; Holden has other challenges and GM does not have the desire

OPTION 2

Walkinshaw Group (responsible for HSV) engineers a factory-approved RHD conversion

CHANCES

Good, if the factory is supportive and the numbers add up

OPTION 3

Local specialists produce and sell low-volume conversions

CHANCES

Guaranteed, if options 1 and 2 fall over HSV’s parent company, Walkinshaw Automotive Group, has experience in right-hook conversions, with Dodge Ram trucks soon to emerge from its Clayton factory.

However, the cost of converting a Camaro – around $15,000 – would rule-out garden-variety versions against full factory Ford pony car equivalents, so HSV would likely aim for the fastest, meanest models – the ZL1 or Z/28 – where price is less important.

Those cars would slide in comfortably below $100,000, where HSV already has plenty of experience selling its 430kW VF GTS flagship with its $94,490 ask.

If those top-end Camaros were converted locally, it would kickstart a muscle car war not seen here since the glory days of the 1970s: Ford v Holden v Chrysler.

Sign the Call for Camaro!

Want to see the Camaro in Australia? It’s time to get vocal.

Visit the Wheels Australia Facebook page and join our online petition to get GM’s pony car Down Under.

WHAT CAMARO FACES

FORD MUSTANG GT

Sharp pricing and retro-inspired looks have seen the Mustang off to a fl ying sales start, even before it gets here in December. 2000 deposits have already been taken, including 20 from a local rental company.

CHRYSLER CHALLENGER/CHARGER

The Challenger is in Fiat Chrysler’s crosshairs, but likely to wear the iconic Charger badge. The 527kW Hellcat will be the most potent V8 sold here.

TOYOTA 86/SUBARU BRZ