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Cast your mind back to January 2020 and the rumour mill had gone into overdrive regarding the potential development of a factory-approved Ford Ranger Raptor V8 dual-cab ute. Little did we know HSV was actually going down a similar path at the time with a Holden Colorado-based SportsCat V8. In fact, it was mere months away from being released.
Of course, one month later, General Motors (GM) not only announced the axing of the Holden brand in Australia and New Zealand, but also the sale of the Colorado factory in Rayong, Thailand, to Great Wall Motors (GWM). And with it went the chances of the SportsCat V8 entering production.
Yep, HSV parent company Walkinshaw Group has spoken publicly for the first time about its plans to sell the SportsCat V8, noting they were so advanced that final approval was being sought from GM just prior to Holden’s discontinuation being publicised.
But the SportsCat V8 wasn’t the only Colorado V8 HSV had developed, as a previous secret program from a couple of years prior saw the company import a ZR2 example of the North American market’s unrelated Chevrolet Colorado and complete a serious engine upgrade.
Similar to the SportsCat and its standard 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder, HSV took the Colorado ZR2 and its factory 3.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol V6 and replaced it with the 6.2-litre LT1 atmo V8 out of the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro 2SS sports car.
The SportsCat and Colorado ZR2’s stock six-speed 6L50 torque-converter automatic transmission was also substituted for the 10-speed 10L90 and eight-speed 8L90 units from the third-generation Chevrolet Silverado full-size pick-up and Camaro 2SS respectively.
For the Colorado ZR2 V8, the four-wheel-drive system (including the low-range transfer case) remained functional alongside the front and rear differential locks, while the suspension was unchanged, although a rear sway bar was added, with a disconnecting version then in development.
That said, the Camaro 2SS also donated its four-piston Brembo brake callipers to the Colorado ZR2 V8, while the SportsCat tipped in its 18-inch alloy wheels and mud tyres.
While the plan for the SportsCat V8 was for it to be imported as a Holden Colorado from Thailand and then upgraded at Walkinshaw Group’s facility in Clayton South, Victoria, alongside the regular SportsCat, what would become of the Colorado ZR2 V8 was less clear.
HSV had discussions with GM about either completing the engineering work so the Colorado ZR2 V8 could be offered in North America, or potentially also ‘remanufacturing’ it to right-hand drive for sales in Australia and New Zealand, be it locally or overseas.
Speaking to CarsGuide and other media outlets last week, a Walkinshaw Group spokesperson said: “There were programs that we were looking to complete.
“And they’re probably more of a stillborn program now, something that we’re probably not going to be obviously completing now due to the closure of GM (Holden in Australia and New Zealand).
“But this was definitely something we were going to bother with moving forward into production.”
Walkinshaw Group general manager Rick Perchold told CarsGuide feedback from HSV customers had prompted the development of the SportsCat V8.
“Typically, we’d been in a V8 business (in the days of the Holden Commodore-based models), so the desire there from the end user was, ‘Can we have something that’s got a V8 in it?” he said.
“I think it would’ve been a great market. It’s just very unfortunate and, I guess, very bad timing for us, because we spent a lot of time in the R&D phase on this vehicle, to get it right, to get the tune right, to unfortunately have Holden shut down here in Australia.”
Mr Perchold added HSV was looking at a recommended retail price between $79,000 and $83,000 for the SportsCat V8, which would have seen it command at least a $10,000 premium over the regular SportsCat’s SV flagship, with a production run of 1000-2500 units initially planned.
Either way, the significance of the SportsCat V8, in particular, is highlighted by the build plate under the bonnet of its only completed prototype, which reads ‘The last real HSV’. And to really hammer home the point, it’s finished the same Panorama Silver as the iconic VL Walkinshaw of the late 1980s.
Interestingly, Mr Perchold said the left-hand-drive Colorado ZR2 V8 “potentially” helps the business case for GMSV introducing a right-hand-drive Chevrolet Colorado that’s remanufactured by Walkinshaw Group, to sit underneath its fourth-generation Silverado range.
“In essence, (the Colorado ZR2 V8) just showcases what we’re capable of, regardless of what core vehicle it is in, that we're able to produce something of that nature,” he said.