Today marks yet another painful milestone in the demise and departure of Holden, with the Port Melbourne-based GM Australia Design centre shuttered for the final time tonight.
It’s another sad and significant landmark in the withering of the once proud Lion brand and marks the end of a rich history of production and concept car development, spanning more than half a century.
In its heyday, the centre employed 150 staff including designers, model makers, drafting specialists and clay sculptors, and has produced more than 30 concepts for global and local markets, covering all General Motors brands, not just Holden.
The centre was once the only facility outside GM’s Detroit headquarters capable of developing vehicles through the full process from inception to prototype, although that ability was curtailed with the end of local production car manufacturing in 2017.
Nonetheless, the studios continued conceiving and developing designs for concept and production cars, as well as exploring future mobility ideas right up until June this year.
From its founding in 1964, through the first concept in 1969 and the stunning Holden Hurricane, to its most recent vehicles, the design facility was a centre of excellence that gained admiration over its years from rival brands and GM alike.
Notable milestones in the later years include the 2015 Buick Avenir once chalked to replace the Holden Caprice when it was retired, and the Opel GT of 2016 which was famously photographed on the centre’s rooftop carpark, prompting every motor journalist in Melbourne to consider buying a drone.
When the car was officially revealed at the Geneva motor show, the accompanying international press photography proudly featured Melbourne’s city skyline in the background, reminding all of Australia’s place in the global automotive landscape.
The Jaw-dropping Holden Efijy, handsome Coupe 60, elegant GTR-X, V2 Monaro and fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro were all born in an unassuming building not far from the banks of the Yarra.
Arguably the greatest champion of the centre in recent years, at least, was Holden chief designer Richard Ferlazzo who penned the incredible Efijy and reported having a full plate at the facility through all Holden’s developments.
His influence will be remembered alongside current GM global design vice president and Australian-born Michael ‘Mike’ Simcoe who started out as a car designer with Holden in 1983.
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