News - Holden
Holden's hush-hush Alpha concept
Under wraps: A concept car codenamed Alpha was prepared at GM Australia Design’s fabrication workshop about the same time as the first internal Buick Flagship concept that became to be called Avenir (pictured).
Mystery Alpha concept car was built at Holden but remains under lock and key
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25 February 2016
A SECRET concept car called Alpha was prepared at General Motors Australia
Design's skunkworks in Melbourne a few years ago but remains under wraps.
The name of the mystery vehicle came to light during a rare tour by journalists
of the facility next to GM Holden's Australian headquarters at Fishermans Bend
where the car was listed in a wall-mounted honour roll of the 30 or so concept
and show vehicles built there since the current workshop was opened in 2003.
The Alpha name suggests a link with GM's Alpha rear-wheel-drive platform that
underpins recent high-end performance and luxury cars such as the 2013 Cadillac
ATS, 2014 Cadillac CTS and 2016 Chevrolet Camaro.
The striking American-designed two-door Buick Avista concept coupe that won
many hearts at last month's Detroit motor show is also said to have been built
on the Alpha global platform developed in the United States.
GM Australia Design executives are tight lipped about the Alpha concept, saying
only that it was built for GM internal purposes and had not been shown publicly
Apparently developed “a number of years ago”, before GM's decision to shut
Australian car manufacturing, the vehicle invites speculation that it might
have been Holden's stillborn vision for a next-generation Commodore and related
Chevrolet SS after the current range dies in 2017, or perhaps an Australian
pitch for the new-generation Camaro.
Interestingly, the Alpha vehicle appears to have been built by the Australian
team in the high-security centre immediately after it built the first draft of
the award-winning Buick Avenir concept.
Originally simply called Flagship, as in Buick Flagship, the first version of
this Australian-designed Avenir large sedan concept was built by the shortcut
method of fibreglass panels.
That concept was shipped to Detroit where GM design vice-president Ed Welburn –
who had commissioned the Avenir from the Australian design team – was so taken
by it that he ordered a full-blown operational show car for display at the 2015
That second Avenir was then fabricated in the Melbourne facility which is one
of only two such workshops in the GM world that can build a drivable concept
from the ground up. The other is in Detroit.
Although Avenir is destined never to be built, partly because of the decline in
global large-car sales but also because it likely would pull sales from sister
brand Cadillac, its design cues live on in other new-generation production
Buicks and, potentially, Holdens, Opels and Vauxhalls.
The Avenir was built on the pioneering Omega architecture that made its
showroom debut only last month under the new Cadillac flagship, the CT6. That
rear/all-wheel drive platform, which has an innovative mix of cast aluminium
and high-strength steel for high strength and low weight, was engineered in the
US by a team led by Australian Trevor Hester.
It is unusual for concept vehicles fabricated at the Melbourne workshops to
disappear without trace, with most going on to bask in the spotlight at
international motor shows.
Just next month, the Melbourne-built, European-designed Opel GT sports coupe
concept will make its debut at the Geneva motor show.
It is unclear if the Alpha concept was designed by GM Australia Design, as the
fabrication facility builds concepts and show cars for a variety of GM studios
around the world.
Under such a deal, the team built three new-model Sparks for Chevrolet ahead of
the recent global release. The Spark was primarily designed by GM Korea, and is
set to be released in Holden showrooms in April.
In the list of completed projects at the Melbourne workshop – each named on a
wall-mounted colour “frog” that designers typically use to highlight vehicle
colours – the Sparks were listed under the codename M2JC, which GM designers
confirmed was the 2016 Spark.
The three variants were named as Active, RS and LTZ. Coincidentally or not,
Chevrolet showed an amped-up Spark RS concept at the annual Specialty Equipment
Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas in October.