Strip away the numbers and racing warpaint and you see the road-going SS, which is also the VF for Australia. Photo Gallery
The countdown has started to Holden's VF Commodore.
The fuse was lit in Las Vegas when Chevrolet unveiled its competition clone of the Holden hero as the Chevrolet SS.
Strip away the numbers and racing warpaint and you see the road-going SS, which is also the VF for Australia and a future export winner with up to 10,000 sales a year.
The look is bolder than today, with much more body contouring and an aggressive nose, but no-one is confirming how much of the NASCAR racing package - including its wildly flared guards - will be transferred to the road.
The SS road car will go public at Daytona in Florida in February, then Holden will race VF-bodied V8 Supercars from March, the VF is scheduled for sale in April, and exports of the SS to the USA begin in the third quarter of 2013.
"If you think Australians don't have influence, look at the SS," Mark Reuss, the former head of Holden who is now GM's chief of North American operations, tells Carsguide. "We're keeping Holden in mind. They're driving this. It's their project."
The SS could easily become a major export winner for Holden and Australia, based on the plan for the car and previous success with the Pontiac G8. It was just getting good traction when Pontiac was killed as part of General Motors' bankruptcy proceedings.
The SS is set as a premium performance car, will only be sold as a fully-loaded V8, and will be channeled through the much larger Chevrolet dealer network of 3000 outlets. "The Holden brand is one of our jewels. We're all fully supportive here," says Reuss.
"Its future is very bright. But it will be ever-evolving, because if it says the same then it will be out of date." There is nothing outdated about the SS racers in Vegas, as they will help lead a major change in 2013 in the NASCAR oval-track series.
"We've putting the stock back in stock car racing," Reuss says. He was the one who convinced NASCAR to change the regulations back to bodies that are more like regular road cars for the coming season, using the Chevrolet SS - although we prefer the Commodore handle - as part of the bait. He promised GM would bring a homologated road car, complete with V8 engine and rear-wheel drive, to showrooms if NASCAR tweaked its rules.
When that happened, it opened the doors for the VF Commodore. So the heartbeat of America - Chevy's slogan - is now officially Australian. One of Chevrolet's champion racers, Tony Stewart, has been to Australia three times and even plans to put a Maloo ute into his garage. "How do I feel about racing a Holden? Real good," Stewart tells Carsguide.
"I've been a fan of the brand since I first raced in Australia in 1995. I'm going to have one of these as a road car, real soon." Reuss refuses to give any detail on the mechanical package of the SS-VF, beyond admitting the V8 engine and rear drive.
But the arrival of the SS signals an old-fashioned approach to motor racing that should work well for Holden, particularly with its Car of the Future fleet set to run VF bodywork from the Clipsal 500 meeting in Adelaide in March.
“When you win races, it lifts the whole brand’s image. Opinions get better and people put you on your shopping list faster,” says Jim Campbell, GM vice-president of performance vehicles and motorsports.
“There’s the old adage if you win on Sunday you sell on Monday. It just depends on which Monday, it might be a week, a month, or a year, but you’ve got to earn it.”