You ever feel like the grass is always greener on the other side, but you just can’t pinpoint why? We’ve been feeling this way for years, and even though we know exactly where this greener grass resides, we hate that it is so removed from reach. In a recent piece we did on six Hondas Americans have been denied, readers caught a glimpse of a few stellar Japanese vehicles that will likely never see American soil. But a handful of Hondas don’t even come close to touching the most egregious offense, because unbeknownst to millions of Americans, a certain Detroit-based automaker has been skimming a slew of cars off the top of the deck for decades and sending the most badass of the bunch to Australia, of all places.
This isn’t some recent development either. General Motors and a little-known Australian company called Holden have been building cars together for decades. Originally founded in 1856 as a saddlery manufacturer in South Australia, Holden acclimated itself into the automotive field in 1908, before becoming a subsidiary of General Motors in 1931. From then on, GM has controlled a lot of what transpires under the Holden badge, including the recent launch of a 320-horsepower, all-wheel drive, turbocharged sedan that was designed and built in Germany. Badged as the Insignia VXR, this sensational sedan features massive Brembo brakes, heated Recaro race seats, fully-adaptive suspension, and a dial that allows drivers to custom tune the vehicle’s throttle and gear changes, steering feel, suspension dampening, and rear torque bias for more fun off the line.
So in order to make it fair for Americans we were given a turbocharged Buick Regal. Sure, it may feature an available manual gearbox, but then we would have to forfeit all-wheel drive, and that is like offering someone chocolate chip cookies and not mentioning that they have raisins in them. Americans want performance cars like never before, and in recent months we have shown proof of this fact, so the thought of high-performance, unique offerings that are being imported to America is sure to stir-up one hell of a media medley.
Yet Holden remains exclusively dedicated to the “Australasia” market, and perhaps because GM wants to play it safe, and doesn’t want to see the brand go belly-up the way Pontiac did a few years back. We can’t really blame them either, as cannibalizing one brand for another is never a good thing, especially after all of GM’s bankruptcy woes. But that doesn’t mean that a few hand-picked Holden offerings couldn’t be easily incorporated into the GM line-up in one form or another, and we think now is the time for GM to act.
We recently caught up with one of our GM insiders to hear their take on the whole “Holden Embargo,” and to see how much this offshoot has influenced its American counterparts over the years and visa versa. While we were told not to get our hopes up about the idea of getting Holdens here in the states, we were reassured that a lot of the same technologies and designs are shared between the brands.
This is especially true with the cars you see here, because if you look closely you will notice that while Pontiac may no longer exist in body, some of its spirit lives on in Holden Special Vehicles (HSV), as cars like the Clubsport R8 bare strong resemblances to now-defunct models like the high-horsepower GTO. Hell, even the 456-horsepower ClubSport R8 Tourer wagon features GTO-ish tail lamps, making us wonder if this is what a big block Chevy Nomad would look like today if America had not prematurely forsaken the station wagon decades ago.
And then there are the weird ones, like the Maloo R8, which features all of uncouth charm of a modern day El Camino SS, and has the exhaust note to prove it. Sure, not everyone is going to jump on this one like they would a sharp-looking sedan, but it sure is neat to have something that is distinctively American in heritage and see it manifested in a 456-horsepower slab of thunder from down under.
With the Tourer wagon and the Maloo it is almost as if the El Camino and the Nomad never died, they just have been living incognito in a parallel universe far south of the equator and adopted really funny accents. Why Australians of all people have been able to enjoy the evolution of these long lost machines beats the hell out of us, and all our insider could tell us was that it all has to do with a market that still embraces a certain style of vehicle.
We are eternally grateful for powerhouse GM offerings like the Cadillac CTS-V, and that cars like the Chevy Cruze utilize a turbo to keep things interesting. But the quirkiness and ingenuity that goes into making a Holden Special Vehicle makes us wonder how much better these American-spec versions would be if GM just said “screw it,” and took a HSV GTS like the one you see here and rebadged it as a Chevrolet SS Sedan. This means we would have a 577-horsepower sedan that looks way better than the pedestrian SS, and sales would surely spike Hellcat-style.
The interiors look fantastic too, with all that metallic finishing and those integrated gauge pods. Sure, there are a lot of similarities between this cockpit and the one found within the SS, but much like its exterior and power numbers, the GTS just seems to be a bit more aggressively built, and we like that.
So if GM wants to see the growth that Dodge has experienced with its Hellcat line, it is going to have to pull out the big guns in the performance department and fire-off some rounds. It isn’t like the SS Sedan, Cadillac V-Series, Camaro, or Corvette are underwhelming platforms, because all of these vehicles are truly fantastic. It just feels like GM is following a tried and true route that is far safer than what Dodge is doing, and that is not what wins the heart of a performance enthusiast in a dead-heat battle.
Having a Hellcat competitor is a tricky scenario, as it is tough to offer that much performance for so little. But maybe with Holden’s help GM can put together a supercharged adrenaline driver that hits on all eight cylinders, all while offering us something similar to what we have lusted for all of these years. And maybe with a bit of luck a market study will show that consumers want to see the return of the El Camino, forever proving that extreme power will never fall out of favor, even when a particular design is resurrected on the other side of the planet.