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Conversion firm preps right-hook Chevy Camaro

Red hot: US Autos hopes to have right-hand-drive Camaros on sale in Australia by this summer.

Sydney-based US Autos prepares to offer right-hand-drive Chevrolet Camaro 2SS

Chevrolet logo26 May 2016

SYDNEY-BASED conversion firm US Autos is aiming to lead the way with a right-hook Chevrolet Camaro in Australia, offering enthusiasts a V8-powered GM muscle-car option as Holden prepares to retire its local Commodore by the end of next year – and as Ford cashes in with its factory-built Mustang.

Speaking to GoAuto this week, US Autos director Allan Reed said the company had imported two examples of the Camaro 2SS coupe – said to be the first to touch down in Australia – which it is using to complete the right-hand-drive conversion and compliance work required under low-volume and Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme (RAWS) import regulations.

Mr Reed said the company was hoping to have the vehicle ready for market by the coming Australian summer, but that the complex process of designing and engineering the switch to right-hand drive meant it was unable to provide a firm on-sale date.

“We’re aiming for this coming summer,” he said. “Obviously we have to go through compliance and that’s obviously something GM didn’t want to do because it was going to cost them too much.

“We’re going to do it and we’ve already started. We’ve been doing this for 28 years and we wanted to be the first to do the new Camaro.”

Camaro is now in its sixth generation and offers even higher levels of performance, technology and refinement than its predecessor.

The 2SS is fitted with a 339kW/617Nm 6.2-litre LT1 direct-injection alloy V8 from the Corvette Stingray, paired with a paddle-shift-controlled eight-speed automatic transmission.

Chevrolet claims the new-generation Camaro is 28 per cent more structurally rigid despite shedding 60kg in body-in-white mass, with the overall kerb weight down by 90kg.

Among its available features are HID headlights, LED tail-lights, magnetic ride control damping, a limited-slip differential, electric park brake, flat-bottomed sports steering wheel and four-pot Brembo brakes front and rear.

Mr Reed said the redesigned Camaro is more complex than the previous model, which in turn has an impact on the conversion process.

“These are much more difficult to do – there’s an aluminium dash frame, not steel, the firewall is more difficult, as is the air-conditioning, (and) there’s electric power steering racks,” he said.

“You can’t use anything from the old right-hand-drive conversions because it’s not the Zeta platform that was under the Commodore, it’s the Alpha platform from the Cadillac and that’s not right-hand drive,” he said.

The company has invested heavily in equipment for design and prototype work, including what Mr Reed said was the country’s biggest 3D printer, giving it the ability to convert new vehicles that it has imported or customers’ near-new cars personally imported to reduce the tax burden.

“You have to spend a lot of money and time to prototype and we weren’t going to do that until GM said no (to building RHD),” he said.

“Having pulled one apart now, they were not designed for RHD – they are not symmetrical anywhere – the design doesn’t have any RHD intentions at all.

“We have had to scan and 3D print, we have the biggest 3D printer in the country and we can print a dash in two parts. We invested in all that so we can do all the prototyping in an easier way than doing it all by hand – it cost us a lot of money to do it all in-house now … but it’s a good investment.”

With long waiting lists for Ford Australia’s factory-built RHD Mustang, which has a much cheaper price point of less than $70,000, Mr Reed said a pricetag around $150,000 was more likely for its converted Camaro, which is not helped by almost $35,000 in taxes.

“You can’t buy a Mustang for 12 months and also if you’re a GM Holden person you’re not going to buy a Ford,” he said.

“You can’t compete on price with the Mustang. If you want a Camaro then you have to buy it, bring it and get it converted by us – and the price is different.

“The Mustangs are made in RHD batches and there are no conversion costs, but there are those who will want to buy a Camaro no matter what.”

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