The 'Torana' concept sits on GM's RWD Kappa architecture, first used with the 2006 Pontiac Solstice chassis shown here.
Holden to reveal its take on a BMW 3 Series beater
By BRUCE NEWTON in France 22 September 2004
THE Torana will be reborn in spirit when Holden reveals a compact sedan concept car at next month’s Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.
And the car is being touted as a potential BMW fighter globally by no less than General Motors' product czar Bob Lutz.
Mr Lutz viewed a clay rendition of the concept during his visit to Australia last February and immediately backed Holden plans to produce a running prototype for Sydney.
Others who viewed the clay and gave it the thumbs-up included global engineering chief Jim Queen and global design boss Ed Welburn.
But it is unknown whether it will be called Torana, in honour of the compact LH-UC range that was manufactured locally between 1974 and 1979.
That will no doubt be subjected to heavy debate, just as reviving Monaro for the Commodore Coupe was several years ago.
The concept car is expected to be powered by a twin-turbo version of the new Port Melbourne-built Alloytec V6 engine.
That engine configuration is an obvious pointer to a planned production turbo Alloytec that should be used in the 2006 VE Commodore and take on the Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo.
But a production version of the concept would more likely have 2.2-litre normally-aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder engines, and possibly a V6, according to GoAuto sources in the US.
The concept will sit on GM’s low-volume rear-wheel drive Kappa architecture, which has so far yielded one production model, the Pontiac Solstice.
This in itself is a significant advertisement for Holden’s engineering skill because up until this point Kappa had only been used for left-hand drive four-cylinder vehicles such as the Pontiac Solstice roadster.
"I encouraged that (Holden concept) direction because I think the corporation could use a BMW 1 Series equivalent," Mr Lutz told GoAuto in an exclusive interview during GM’s global product seminar in southern France this week.
"From a communications standpoint, the only thing that bothers me a little bit is we said Kappa was optimised around four-cylinder engines and you couldn’t put a V6 engine into it, which of course was just a challenge to the Australians."
Mr Lutz agreed the concept could form the basis for a new medium rear-wheel drive architecture that Holden would develop for the GM world, along the same lines as the Zeta large and long wheelbase architecture.
"Of course it could," he said. "Almost anything Holden does has potential international applicability because they work it that way.
"And yes, if that thing really touches a nerve at the Sydney show and gets a lot of international attention, and we get a lot of people saying ‘oh why don’t you do that’, then we’ll take a look at it.
"Back in the old days Holden would have had to do the business case locally, how many do they sell in Australia? The change is that now you do the worldwide business study.
"And if Holden can say ‘hey we can sell 120,000 of these globally’, where for the US it might be modified and become a Pontiac, hey that’s fine."
While Mr Lutz described the Holden concept as a 1 Series fighter initially, he revised that to describing it as more of a '2 Series' sized vehicle, which suggests something close to the size of the current 3 Series.
The BMW comparison is apt, because this project originally emerged from the fertile mind of former Holden managing director Peter Hanenberger, who wanted Holden to develop a sub-Commodore sized RWD sedan powered by four and six-cylinder engines capable of taking on BMW’s iconic 3 Series.
He also saw it as a great way for Holden to penetrate export markets – particularly in Asia – where Commodore’s size prohibited significant sales.
Mr Hanenberger’s dream foundered because the original plan to develop the car on a cut-down version of the Zeta architecture was not financially viable.
Mr Hanenberger and then Holden design director Mike Simcoe sponsored the development of a clay model of the car at a skunkworks within HSV’s Clayton (Melbourne) headquarters.
Current Holden boss Denny Mooney is believed to be an enthusiastic supporter of the concept.
Even if it ran an engineering program for a production version of the concept, Holden would almost certainly not build such a car itself because it has its hands full preparing the Elizabeth assembly plant for the arrival of the Zeta-based VE Commodore in 2006.
Currently, all Kappa-based production comes out of GM’s Wilmington, Delaware, plant.