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When Holden and Saab built a turbo four-cylinder Commodore

By Scott Newman pics: Neil Pogson, 13 Apr 2018 Features

Holden Commodore Turbo cover

A turbo four-pot Commodore isn’t a new idea

It’s amazing what you can find on the internet.

There’s been plenty of conversation about the Holden Commodore switching to a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder for the latest ZB generation, however, it turns out the concept of a turbo four-pot Commodore has been around for 25 years.

An article written by retired 42-year Holden veteran, Neil Pogson, for the Holden Retirees’ Club archive details how close Holden came to offering the VP Commodore with a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder sourced from Saab.

Holden Commodore export rearYou’ll have to read the full article – which you can read here – for all the juicy details, but essentially the problem in 1993 was not importing the Commodore but exporting it.

South-East Asian nations placed punitive taxes on vehicles with large engines, forcing Holden to replace the local 3.8-litre Buick V6 with either GM’s Family II 2.0-litre four-cylinder of an Opel-sourced 2.6-litre straight-six, neither of which was deemed ideally suitable.

Opinion: Goodbye to the Aussie-made Commodore

Styling changes were also required, which Holden managed by fitting the Caprice front-end and boot to the standard Calais (these changes made it to production), but of more importance was a competitive engine. GM owned 50 per cent of Saab so the Swedish firm was contacted and agreed to adapt its transverse turbocharged four for the Commodore’s north-south installation.

Holden Commodore export frontThe project was running very smoothly, with costs well within tolerances and the first development mule “astonishing to drive” according to Pogson, his enthusiasm shared by then-Holden Managing Director Bill Hamel.

Even allowing for the torque limitations of the Hydramatic auto gearbox the Saab four-pot was capable of 150kW/300Nm, well in excess of the 127kW/293Nm produced by the Buick V6 at the time. Unfortunately, GM internal politics killed the project and the mules were crushed, but to find out more you’ll have to read Pogson’s story!