Friday, November 16, 2018


It’s not the same as riding a bucking bronco like, say, an unbroken mustang, but it’s not far from the experience. Driving the latest Camaro delivers huge power reserves, tenacious grip, deep guttural roaring, and a wild ride. This car is all muscle.

Thanks to the impeccable workmanship at Holden Special Vehicles in Melbourne, Australians can now get a taste of ‘that other pony car’ in right-hand-drive. HSV does the conversion locally, but its constrained production potential limits the first year’s supply to just 550 cars.

If you lusted after the now defunct Holden Commodore V8, then I reckon you’d better sign up for the AUD$86,000 Chevy – they’re going to be snapped up quickly, once the word gets out.

Make no mistake, despite its prodigious performance and grip, you won’t be comparing this car to any of Italy's sophisticated prancing horses and charging bulls.

The Camaro is raw, rambunctious, racy, and tons of fun.

After I’d been on my special section of test road for a while I suddenly realized how relatively irrelevant the paddle shifters are. If you want to go fast, just floor the gas pedal – and hang on for what comes next.

The rumbling rises to raucous growling, and the Camaro takes off into the distance at warp speed.

Camaro is every bit a match for Ford’s Mustang. Termed ‘pony cars’ in the 60's these two cars became iconic legends, very quickly, to many fans around the world.

However, the only reason you are seeing the Generation 6 Camaro Down Under is because of GM Holden’s decision to shut down the manufacture of the famous V8 Commodore. Had that car survived, nobody would have bothered cranking up the processes to convert Camaros to RHD.

This exercise has cost millions, as HSV shifts its focus from turning out sporty Commodores, to sexy Camaros, OTT SUVs and trucks. But, whilst many Australian component companies, which supported the three manufacturers (Holden/Ford/Toyota) have either suffered from drastically-reduced revenues, or shut up shop, the RHD Camaro is a truly good news story for the Australian companies which have played a major role in the execution of the program.

This is a list of Australian suppliers for the RHD conversion program:

Technically, Chevrolet’s 6.2L Generation V LT1 Direct Injection V8 engine is mated to a GM-built 8-speed, paddle-shift automatic transmission, and generates up to 339kW of power and a lofty 617Nm of torque.
With variable Valve Timing and Active Fuel Management, the LT1 offers efficiency when you want it and an abundance of power when you need it. 
Like a number of multi-cylinder engines, the Camaro’s V8 shuts down four cylinders when the fuel consumption falls below 12 l/100km. It is a seamless change, and driven carefully you can achieve surprising fuel economy. 
The vehicle’s Independent Rear Suspension, with twin-tube shock absorbers, provides a well-planted connection to the road. Brakes are Brembo light-weight, front & rear, with fixed calipers. 
High Intensity Discharge headlamps deliver front-end appeal while stylish 20”, 5-split-spoke alloys (8.5” front & 9.5” rear) are wrapped in 245/40ZR20 (front) and 275/35ZR20 (rear) Goodyear Eagle tyres.
From a ride and handling perspective HSV has preserved all the spring/damper/rollbar settings developed in the USA, HSV just does the RHD conversion. Having said that I see no reason to change it. The ride is undoubtedly firm, and at high speed on indifferent surfaces it has a tendency to 'tramline', but overall it's a good balance.
This Camaro corners like it's on rails, helped along by raw power!
As you can imagine, when you take on the exercise of shifting the steering wheel from left to right, there are myriad, small elements, which need to be reproduced locally.

The test car was an impeccable example of tight margins, high quality materials, excellent fit and finish, and the impression that this car just rolled off a regular production line.

AUD$10 million has been invested in the program, and I believe it will pay off big time.

Especially if we see Camaros joining the grids for future rounds of the Supercars championship.

Part of that multi-million dollar spend was a lot of on-road testing, in addition to many laps at the Lang Lang Proving Ground, but I'll bet the residents of the Red Centre hardly bothered looking up when the Camaros flashed past.

They're very used to a lot of European exoticars blasting up and down the Stuart Highway between Darwin and 'The Alice', during the fiery Australian summer.
Camaro pre-production cars at Coober Pedy (South Australia), and Uluru (Northern Territory)

During my test drive, jumping in an out, taking photos, I was certainly glad of the seat cooling - that was much appreciated on a very hot day.

Talking of seats, like the Mustang, you can forget about anything but legless beings in the back seat, this car is all about the driver and front seat passenger.

The design of Gen.6 was managed from the top at the Chevrolet Performance Studio, by Tom Peters (top). The interior was done by Ryan Vaughan (below).

The surfacing changes between Sangyup Lee’s Gen5 car and the Gen6 car are quite significant, but it’s all about refining the lines, and the ‘jewelry’, such as grille openings, lamps, sidelines, rooflines and fenders. It is significant enough to give the Gen6 car a really different personality.

I know I’m guilty of ramping up my fondness and admiration for European design, but the teams behind these American muscle cars are designing for a specific home-grown audience, which has distinct preferences in just ‘how’ a muscle car should look – and I think both Gen 5 and 6 Camaros achieved their objectives.

For Australians brought up on the image of mid-60s American muscle cars, the Gen6 Camaro has arrived at just the right time, as Ford tries to steal the limelight with its Mustang GT.

In their way, Camaro and Mustang are great cars, and I reckon the people who put them in their garage will be very happy with their choice.

Even for me - it was a blast, from the past!


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