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Camaro goes chameleon

Cadbury Camaro: How the Chev Camaro might look in Holden's one-time hero colour, Kapow purple. Digital image: Chris Harris.

Flamboyant Commodore colour palette to give more zest for Camaro, but not for Oz

11 Mar 2010

HOLDEN’S dazzling Commodore colour palette is about to inject more excitement into Chevrolet’s Camaro coupe range, but don’t expect the super-successful Australian engineered muscle car to be sold here by General Motors any time soon.

Speaking in a ‘webchat’ from the US overnight, GM North America president and former GM Holden chief Mark Reuss said a special violet metallic paint would soon be available for the stateside Camaro, and it is likely to be based on the bright-purple ‘Morpheous’ colour previously available for the VE Commodore.

Asked by a Chevrolet owner if the iconic American brand planned any Camaro colours other than silver, Mr Reuss suggested Chevrolet design chief, former Holden director of design Mike Simcoe, would be instrumental in applying a range of bright new paint hues for the born-again sports coupe.

“Yes, we are doing lots of things on colours,” wrote Mr Reuss on the official GM Fastlane website. “The green from Oz (Atomic green as you would know) ... is coming on Camaro – shown in SEMA.

“Probably a special violet metallic ... and Mike Simcoe in design is from Oz as you know and leading charge.”

GM used last November’s SEMA aftermarket show in Las Vegas to display a concept version of the Camaro fitted with 21-inch polished alloy wheels, a high rear wing spoiler, performance air-intake, ‘ground effects’ kit, ‘cyber grey rally’ bonnet stripes and a new ‘Synergy’ green paint colour.

Similar to the ‘Atomic’ green metallic paint that can be had on SV6 and SS Commodore models, the Synergy green paint scheme is now available on a limited-edition Camaro model in the US.

Atomic green is a lighter, brighter shade of green than ‘Poison Ivy’, which is also available for certain Commodore models, and follows equally vivid hues such as the model year '8.5' VE’s lime-yellow/green ‘Crunch’ and ‘Hot House’ green, which was among a number of vibrant colours available for the born-again Monaro designed by Mr Simcoe.

Mr Reuss’ comments confirm that purple paint is also due to coat the Camaro and that, as with the green hue, it’s likely to be closely based on a colour worn by the car upon which it is based.

137 center imageLeft: Camaro Synergy Special Edition.

The limited-edition Morpheous, which is described as “an energetic and ever-changing purple metallic”, and Atomic - "a crisply fuelled metallic green, bright and packed with chroma" that is still available - colours were introduced for the MY8.5 Commodore from mid-2007, when the latest VE-based Ute was released.

The more blue than purple 'Kapow', which became available at the same time and ran for a minimum of 12 months, is described as "a highly chromatic metallic blue with purple undertones".

While ‘Ignition’, a “high-impact burnt orange”, was the headline colour of the VE Commodore sports sedan range when it was launched in 2006, Holden’s tradition of offering limited-cycle ‘hero’ colours for its locally built sedan, ute and now wagon models dates back to the ‘Tiger’ orange paint that debuted on the 1997 VT Commodore SS.

Ignition has now effectively been placed by ‘Wildfire’, with other current full-time sports Commodore paint colours including Atomic, Poison Ivy, ‘Voodoo’ (blue), Karma (dark green), Phantom (grey), Nirate (silver), Heron (white) and Red hot (red) – the latter two being the only non-metallic coats.

Alas, however, although Chevrolet’s latest two-door performance icon is now available in Australia via Queensland-based right-hand drive conversion specialist Performax International, priced at $139,000 driveaway, GM’s on-again-off-again official RHD program appears to have been shelved indefinitely.

While a RHD Camaro program has never been officially confirmed by GM, its former product chief Bob Lutz – who last week announced his imminent retirement, for the second time, at age 78 – has long been vocal on the Camaro’s prospects of ‘returning’ to the country that engineered it.

Mr Lutz declared at the Detroit motor show in January that the Camaro “at some point will be factory right-hand drive”, reviving enthusiasts’ hopes after a UK report that stated GM’s RHD Camaro project for the UK, Japan and South Africa had been cancelled before the all-new model had even been launched in the US in March 2009.

“I think you can pretty much count on a right-hand-drive Camaro,” said Mr Lutz at Detroit. “It would be built in the plant in Canada and shipped from here in right-hand drive for right-hand drive markets and, you know, why not?“All of the parts are there, all we have to do is reverse the instrument panel, but all of the right-hand drive bits are a given because it is a right-hand drive architecture.”

Now, however, GM appears to have “pushed back” the RHD Camaro indefinitely.

Less than six weeks after confirming the program, Mr Lutz said at last week’s Geneva motor show that the prospects of a RHD Camaro were now: “Not good. It’s been pushed back.

“When we looked at the product priorities, and all of the things we have to do over the next few years, it was determined that a right-hand-drive Camaro was not that high on the priority list,” he told Australian journalists at Geneva.

“(It) has kind of been off and on for some time. No matter which car company you work for, there's never enough engineering money, talent and capital to do everything you want to do.

“So when we looked at the hybrids that we have to do and the plug-ins that we have to do, we just had to priority rank it and I couldn't argue with the priorities much.”

Mr Lutz’s comments bear a striking resemblance to his advice at the 2009 Detroit show, where he told GoAuto the Camaro convertible – originally due on sale in the US this year – would now arrive in 2011, while development of a RHD coupe had also been set back by a few months – at the very least.

“Frankly, when we looked at investments that we could defer a little bit because they were non-essential or not critical to the short-term survival of the company, one of the things we pushed out a little bit was the Camaro convertible,” he said last year.

“It was going to initially be just one year after the coupe and now it is going to be two years after the coupe. And another thing we deferred was the right-hand-drive version. I’m confident it is going to happen, it’s just that it is going to happen a little later.”

Mr Lutz has now blamed the RHD coupe’s indefinite deferral on insufficient sales projections from key right-hand-drive countries, including Australia.

“Unfortunately all of the markets came in with relatively low volume estimates,” he said last week. “The UK was low and ... frankly I think Australia could have stepped up to the plate with some more. But when we finally looked at it there weren't enough units to justify after all what is a fairly large investment.”

GM Holden has always hosed down the spectre of selling the Camaro here, with outgoing chairman and managing director Alan Batey saying that no Camaro program had been approved for Australia – and wouldn’t be unless GM offered the car soon.

“I can tell you categorically that it is not coming in 2010. Can it come in 2011? If they act fast in the next 90 days and say ‘Okay, what are your volumes, let’s go’ they could probably tool up that fast,” Mr Batey said in January.

“The truth is we don’t have a launch date. Can it happen fast? Yes it can … (But) Every time I talk to someone from North America they say the thing is as hot as they have ever seen and that there is fantastic demand and if that is the situation, they are unlikely to switch me on fast.

“Three years from now, too late mate,” he said. “(I) can’t give you the volume you need to justify the investment. “My view on this is that the volumes are good as of today. If you want to come back to me in six months time the volumes will be different because the world changes.”

Mr Batey said that if sold here the Camaro would be made available through selected Holden dealerships at a price that he hoped would be closer to $75,000 than $100,000.

Mr Lutz described as “ironic” the Camaro’s official no-show Down Under, given it was designed and engineered by the same team that created the VE Commodore, which is also based on GM’s Zeta global large rear-drive chassis architecture.

“I am always personally sad when we create an exciting car and there's demand for it in an interesting country like Australia, and we can’t afford it.

“It seems particularly ironic since all of the chassis development and the engineering was done there. It is basically a modification of the Zeta architecture, so it’s doubly unfortunate.

“If there is a country in the world that deserves to have the Camaro, it's Australia.”

Performax has today moved to allay fears that the availability of its locally converted Camaro - which is claimed to be the world's first RHD example of the new model - could be affected by an official RHD version from GM, whether or not it is imported by Holden.

"Performax International was first in Australia with the Camaro and we have achieved factory-standard engineering and finish quality in producing right-hand drive versions," said Performax general manager Glenn Soper.

"Whatever any other importer decides to do or not do, Performax is proud to have the first and best RHD Camaros and we expect plenty will be finding their way to owners around Australia."Performax says it has taken 12 orders since launching its Camaro last month.

It has also announced a new flagship Camaro 2SS model, priced at $135,000 plus on-road costs and sold with a full factory warranty and Australian Desiogn Rule certification.

Performax's Camaro 2SS package includes a 318kW LS3 V8, Tremec six-speed manual transmission, six airbags, electronic stability/traction control, high-performance Brembo brakes with four-piston aluminium callipers, cruise control, leather seat trim, Bluetooth connectivity and a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics 245-Watt sound system.

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