Holden is best known for its legendary sports sedans, Bathurst wins and Elizabeth manufacturing plant, but it could just as easily be renowned for its original, show-stopping concept cars (remember motor shows?). As we approach the third anniversary of the iconic Australian brand becoming officially and sadly defunct on December 31, 2020, we give you Torquecafe’s favourite five Holden concept cars.
1. Holden Efijy
The brainchild of Holden designer Richard Ferlazzo, the stunning 2005 Holden Efijy demonstrated the design flexibility of the original 1953 FJ Holden – in its ability to be restyled and reimagined as a swooping, gangster-inspired two-door coupe.
A fully functioning concept, the Efijy’s seductive fibreglass body was built on a Corvette chassis originally destined to be crushed. A 6.0-litre LS2 V8 with a supercharged 480kW – mated to a four-speed auto – meant the Efijy had the oomph to match the looks. Built to an original budget of $200,000, many hours from Holden employees were volunteered, making the Efijy a classic passion project.
In the year 2000 the future was an exciting place, and Holden had a vision for an emissions-reduced world: the Ecommodore. An amazingly prescient concept now – some 23 years later – the Ecommodore was powered by a 95kW four-cylinder engine and 50kW electric motor combo, and adopted a then-novel, ‘four-door coupe’ shape by stretching a Monaro body over Commodore wagon underpinnings.
A joint-venture with the CSIRO, weight was kept down thanks to extensive use of carbon-fibre, aluminium, fibreglass and polycarbonate. The Ecommodore was also front-drive and used a five-speed manual, while Holden estimated 800km of range was possible from its 45-litre fuel tank.
Is this as sexy as Australian cars ever got? It seems around 2004 was a purple patch for Holden concepts, one of the most beautiful of which was convertible, one-off Holden Monaro. Built in Europe between 2002 and 2003 at a cost of $1.75m, the Marilyn four-seat convertible had a fully functioning folding soft-top roof.
Nicknamed Marilyn – as the Monaro itself was often dubbed Munro – it’s not by chance that this concept is left-hand-drive, V8 and automatic. Pontiac, which sold the Monaro as a reborn GTO, was pushing for a convertible to sell in the USA. Sadly, the numbers never stacked up.
4. Torana TT36
When you work for a global car company, you are pitted internally against other design and engineering centres around the world for attention and resources. Holden, of course part of General Motors, was no different.
In 2004, there was talk in the General Motors world of a BMW 3-Series rival – so Holden got to work imagining one. Powered by a twin-turbo 3.6-litre V6 producing a claimed 280kW/480Nm, the TT36 concept was finished just days before the 2004 Sydney motor show. Smaller than Commodore, officially calling it Torana was a controversial move – but as a compact rear-drive sedan, Aussies would have likely nicknamed it that, anyway.
5. Torana GTR-X
The 1970 Holden Torana GTR-X concept remains as close to a mass-produced, dedicated two-door sports coupe as Australia ever got. Beneath its wedge-shaped front end lay the same 3.0-litre straight-six as fitted to the Torana XU-1, while there was a four-speed manual box and rear-wheel-drive.
In such a small market, however, the business case didn’t stack up and the GTR-X was axed – a decision partly influenced by the release of the Nissan 240Z the year before the GTR-X was revealed. Just one GTR-X was ever built, and it now lives in the National Motor Museum at Birdwood, South Australia, along with other Holden concept cars such as the 1969 Hurricane, 2000 Sandman, 2001 UTEster and the TT36 and Efijy also mentioned on this list.
So these are our favourite five, but let us know your picks from Holden’s concept heritage in the comments section…