The Walkinshaw name is arguably the most famous in Australian aftermarket performance, with the company Tom Walkinshaw founded running Holden Special Vehicles for decades before his son Ryan transitioned the business into the lucrative right-hand drive conversion business for Chevrolet and Ram.
But for most of that time there has been another locally-based engineering firm that has been challenging Walkinshaw at every turn with its own range of products. It’s had many names over the years but in 2022 it’s known as Premcar and it’s the company behind some of the most iconic Australian-made vehicles of the last 30 years. Vehicles including the Ford EL Falcon GT, FPV GT and F6 as well as the Nissan Navara PRO-4X Warrior are all the work of this Melbourne-based operation.
The company now known as Premcar began life in 1996 as Tickford Vehicle Engineering to help Ford take on the Walkinshaw-backed HSV with its own range of high-performance Falcons, starting with the EL-based GT and then building the under-rated AU Falcon-based TS50, TE50 and TL50 models.
In 2001 British firm Prodrive – famous for running Subaru’s World Rally team – bought Tickford Vehicle Engineering and changed the name to Prodrive Automotive Technology Australia (PATA). This was part of Prodrive’s broader plan to create a Walkinshaw rival on and off the racetrack, with Prodrive and Ford Australia creating Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) and Ford Performance Racing (FPR).
But while the company was building the V8-powered FPV GT and turbocharged six-cylinder F6 Falcons, it didn’t stop PATA working on other projects for other brands. These included the limited edition turbocharged Mazda MX-5 and the TRD Aurion and HiLux for Toyota Australia.
By 2012 the Premcar name replaced Prodrive but the work continued for FPX, now powered by the ‘Miami’ supercharged V8 the company has developed.
Premcar was ultimately responsible for the final performance Falcons, the XR8 and XR6 Sprint models. And even went a step further and created the so-called ‘Holy Grail’ package for these cars, which was seen by many performance Ford enthusiasts as the closest thing to a spiritual (and mechanical) successor to the iconic GT-HO Falcons of the 1970s.
With Ford Australia closing local manufacturing Premcar turned its attention to other industries, including working on helicopters as well as taking up defence industry contracts. In 2017 multi-national engineering giant, RLE International, took a 25 per cent stake in Premcar, giving the company a global footprint.
Since 2019 Premcar has been working with Nissan Australia on the Warrior program, developing the most off-road capable versions of the Navara. This week it was announced that the partnership would expand to include the introduction of a Patrol Warrior too.
Premcar isn’t exclusively working with Nissan though, with its 100-strong Melbourne-based workforce still doing defence industry work as well as other, top-secret, work with other car makers.
It may have had a few names over the years but since 1996 Premcar has developed, engineered and manufactured more than 200,000 new vehicles and 55,000 new engines – so you should remember the name.