Specialsed Commodores pump up past

As Commodore enters runout, Holden’s marketing department fires up the nostalgia machine and wheels out some old memories.


WHY is New Zealand taking 51 examples of the Director and the Magnum, two of the three track-focussed special edition 6.2 litre V8 Commodores just announced by Holden?

Use your noggin, race fans. Even we got this one. Think four Bathurst wins. The Lap of the Gods. The famous pitlane toilet tantrum. Think Greg Murphy. It’s his race number.

So, okay, why then 151 examples of the third special ed car, the Motorsport? When that question was put to Holden New Zealand’s PR, there was a moment of silence at the other end of the phone.

Does this also translate to anything as racey. Obviously not V8 Supercar victories or cars he’s driven, but maybe the cumulative count of Murphy lead laps at Bathurst?

Actually, no. Nothing of the kind. There’s no motorsport link. It’s just good old sales opportunity.

Part of the reason is there’s thought that this edition might win most favour, given that the SS-V Redline it (and the Magnum) and based upon is the highest-profile Commodore derivative of the moment, and the one winning highest private buyer interest.

Another factor is that Holden is building a heap more Motorsports – 1200 in all – whereas only 360 Directors and 240 Magnums are coming out of the Port Elizabeth, Adelaide, factory, before it closes on October 20.

Also, there’s levels of desirability for their donors to consider. All three specials effectively carry hefty $10,000 premiums over their donors.

The standard SS-V Redline sedan is already the private sector sales hottie for Holden New Zealand, so there’s a decent chance a slick sales person can talk up the reasons for spending $85,290 on this car rather than simply stopping at the usual retail.

However, given that the Calais V and Redline ute that the Director and Magnum are respectively based upon are already niche, you’d have to think the challenge associated with shifting those models will be potentially greater. The Director is the same money as the Motorsport, while the ute is a $74,290 proposition. That’s HSV territory (and given that HSV could well be about to exit its Commodore chapter, you’d have to think one of their like-priced products would have to have better collectability status).

So how about those names? Director is the most polarising. You’ll remember that this was used in association with crystal-enhanced VL Calais-based sedan of 1987 – the one that famously severed the relationship between Holden and Peter Brock’s HDT tuning outfit. So is Holden trying to reopn old wounds? Er, no. Before THAT Director there was another, the VL’s immediate predecessor, that wasn’t tarnished by that silliness. It’s the VK version that Holden is harkening back to now, we’re told.

Magnum? Wits across the Tasman have been quick to point out the links to high-powered ammunition, a TV show, a mega bottle of champagne, an ice cream or a prophylactic. Of course, those seriously into GM history will know the association is equally relevant to an appalling Viva (back in the days when these were Vauxhalls, not rebadged Daewoos) and, also, a Statesman-based cruiser with a Group 3-spec 5.0-litre V8, three-speed auto and a sports-tuned suspension and then a VS-based ute model, also with the 5.0-litre. It’s the latter whose memory is being evoked now.

Last of all, Motorsport. So why wasn’t it a Bathurst or – hey, how about this - a Murphy?

Naming after the boy could have been tasty for local consumption (after all, Aus got a SS-V Lowndes edition two years ago) but Holden Special Vehicles had already been there, done that. There was potential to tie in to Mt Panorama even though that might have raised confusion with the VN Bathurst Group 3. However, according to an out-of-Aus report, in the end company execs felt the Bathurst label ignored the Commodore’s broad-ranging motorsport success at circuits around the country.

So much for the back story. Now to the crux of the deal: These models all carry premiums over their donors, so what exactly do you get for the extra spend, apart from the chance to feel a bit special?

All models feature special exterior trim and unique badging/decals. The keys come in a commemorative presentation case and buyers will also receive a car cover and 1:18 Biante diecast model of their purchase.

There's no more power; Holden clearly feels it has enough with 304kW and 578Nm. (Having established last year that the Redline sedan is a true burnout champ, we could hardly disagree). Instead, the focus has been on handling and braking.

Holden has provisioned 3.25kg lighter "floating disc" front and rear cross-drilled rotors, an engine and transmission cooling package and 20-inch split wheels and tyres across all three models.

The sedans come with a drive mode control system including a fixture that has previously been a HSV preserve – a Magnetic Ride Control system. Using three settings (Tour, Sport and Performance), drivers have the option to switch between different suspension tunes depending on the scenario.

The Motorsport also uses a high-rate subframe bush and the Magnum has gained the same FE3 rear suspension tune as the SS-V Redline sedan.

There’s buyer opportunity to select a specific build number - except, that is, #51 in the Motorsport Edition. That car has been set aside by Holden New Zealand’ for an auction. Proceeds are going to a new road safety initiative to be announced later this year. Of course, that still leaves #51 in the ute and Calais V (though, of course, that's not such a strong link). There is one way to circumvent: That's to somehow lay hands on the #51 sedan out of the Australian market build quota.