Blackjack’s tech secrets revealed: under the skin of the coolest mule in existence

How a Holden ute was used by GM as a C8 Corvette mule

How the Aussie Holden ute helped General Motors create the C8 Corvette

Blackjack is an intriguing card game of skill and chance. A rather apt name, then, for the Holden ute testing mule that helped spawn the most radical rethink in Corvette history.

Built using a VE Holden SS-V ute – well, parts of one – Blackjack was created in 2013 to help GM wrap its head around how to engineer a mid-engined performance car.

The result is arguably the coolest Holden ute ever created. Stretched, flexed and bewinged, its V8 engine is housed in an extended tray and those flared arches concealed wider tracks. The fuel filler has been moved to the B-pillar.

The cab-section is from a C7 Corvette (the Holden nose and rear end were simply grafted on) and inside, Blackjack’s cabin is test-mule crude. Although Blackjack still retained a functioning wiper, taillights, a horn and a working demister… you know, to be street legal.

Beyond acting as an early test bed for the powertrain, Blackjack’s key role was in developing the Corvette’s new aluminium structure and the set-up of its multi-link rear suspension.

How the Aussie Holden ute helped General Motors create the C8 Corvette

Interestingly, that enormous rear wing isn’t there for downforce but is actually inverted to create lift as the engineers fine-tuned Blackjack’s aero balance and pitch during suspension testing.

Blackjack’s gearbox is actually a Porsche PDK. Eventually this would morph into the C8’s eight-speed Tremec, which “took as long as designing the rest of the car” to get right, according to the mid-engine Corvette’s chief engineer, Tadge Juechter.

As you can imagine, secrecy around the project was paramount. To keep Blackjack away from prying eyes, spotters were deployed to identify spy helicopters when engineers dared let the ute-based mash-up see the light of day.

How the Aussie Holden ute helped General Motors create the C8 Corvette

If the spotters raised the alarm, Blackjack would scarper back to its top-secret garage, known as ‘The Lair’.

Of course other test mules were built, but they’re all considerably more Corvette-like in form and function. The Aussie ute-based creation stands as the obscure unicorn, and wonderfully, it still exists.

The C8 Corvette, the car in which Blackjack was so instrumental in developing, is still currently slated to arrive on Aussie shores.

How the Aussie Holden ute helped General Motors create the C8 Corvette

However, when exactly that will be has been muddied by the news of Holden’s closure.  

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