HSV is developing a factory-approved right-hand drive conversion for the Chevrolet Camaro as part of a new deal to continue as Holden’s performance partner.
With the blessing of GM bosses in Detroit, a locally adapted version of the mid-line Camaro SS will be sold through HSV’s existing dealer network by late next year.
Powered by a 339kW LT1 V8 and priced below $90,000, the converted Camaro two-door coupe will be positioned as a more exclusive alternative to the hot-selling Ford Mustang GT.
While they are mortal enemies in the USA, they will be more arms-length rivals in Australia, distanced by affordability and availability.
But at least premium Holden outlets will have a glamour coupe to attract those looking for a muscular American two-door V8 that isn’t as ubiquitous as the keenly priced Ford Mustang, which starts at $57,490.
Key HSV dealers and other industry sources have confirmed Camaro is the star of a new line up of GM-sourced vehicles to replace the Holden hot shop’s Commodore-based range, the last of which – either a GTSR or W1 – will be completed in December.
Crucial to making the RHD conversion of Camaros viable is the approval and support of General Motors HQ in Detroit, providing the project with preferential pricing and engineering validation.
The sixth-generation Camaro, which switched from the Australian-developed Zeta architecture shared with the VE/VF Commodore to the lighter Alpha platform, was not ‘package protected’ for right-hand drive, ruling it out as an official Holden factory import.
According to informed sources, HSV’s conversion meets strict GM Engineering standards in an OEM-standard process honed by WAG’s experience in modifying LHD RAM trucks for Australia.
It is believed HSV/WAG will import and convert Camaros under the Full Volume Compliance provisions, removing annual volume restrictions. This will also shut out independent converters that bring in Camaros using personal import or low-volume limits to comply.
Although likely to be badged as a Chevrolet rather than ‘HSV Camaro’, the GM link and historical associations that resonate with the target market are thought to be strong enough to position the born-again Chevy ‘pony car’ as a local Mustang fighter among enthusiasts.
However, even with a subsidised landed cost of the donor cars, the complicated conversion – involving OEM-quality remanufacturing of the dash layout and realignment of the pedals and steering mechanism, as well as changing lighting and other details for full ADR compliance – means HSV’s Camaro won’t be able to compete with the fully imported, ready-to-go right-hook Mustang on price or volume.
Leading HSV dealers have confided to MOTOR the model to be offered will be a locally adapted version of the mid-range Camaro 2SS to keep the recommended retail price (before on-roads) under $90,000.
In fact, some sources have indicated that HSV is aiming for an RRP closer to $80K for what is expected to be a one-model offering. While at least a third more expensive than the most popular Mustang GT, in 2SS guise it would be almost half the cost of top-spec previous-gen Zeta-based private import conversions.
HSV’s version would be the MY19 facelifted model that goes on sale in the USA mid-next year.
For ease of conversion, it is likely HSV will restrict the Camaro to automatic transmission – albeit, the new 10-speed self-shifter.
Also, by the time it gets here, the Camaro will be up against the upgraded MY18 Mustang, which will also be available – at extra cost – with the 10-speed joint Ford/GM-developed gearbox.
The top-of-the-line Camaro ZL1 – with a 485kW/881Nm LT4 supercharged 6.2-litre V8 – could be considered down the track as a premium offering to boost interest, depending on the more complex conversion being priced sub-$150K.