To the west of Sydney, some three hours' drive away, there lies a 6.1km piece of tarmac which has become the place of legend. If you ask the question to find out what is the most legendary of the legendary machines that ever roared around that piece of tarmac, there are but two in my mind which stand above all others, the Falcon XC Coupe which Moffat and Bond brought home in a 1-2 formation finish and the Holden Torana A9X with which Peter Brock crushed the opposition by six laps.
35 years later, both of them still look menacing. I look at the vast majority of traffic on the road with quiet despair because the cars of today do not inspire me at all. Today's road cars are shaped by the wind tunnel and just don't have that sense of raw purposeness about them. To this end, I've had a scribble and I hope that Holden is listening.
The A9X which started out life as a humble Torana hatchback, sprouted a duck tail, bolt on flared wheel arches, that reverse bonnet scoop and drop fuel tanks. From the ordinary hatchback, they gave it enough character to say "don't mess with me or I'll bite your face off". Looks are a little deceiving though.
The 5L V8 which they somehow shoehorned in there, in "SS" trim put out 186kW of power. In comparison, the standard base model Commodore puts out more than that. Let's call 186kW 250bhp just to be kind. 35 years later Opel can drag 270bhp out of the same 2L engine as the Cruze. So if they can do it, I can't see why HSV can't do it.
The formula is pretty easy: 2L, turbocharging, 4WD and you've got the specs for a 300bhp World Rally Car of the late 1990s; it certainly helped Subaru achieve plenty of kudos. Maybe turn the wick up a bit to 350bhp and give it a retro style name, the Cruze "A14X" (14 for the 2014 car) and hey presto, something emerges.
This is my major point.
The Ford Focus RS can be spun out to 350bhp in road trim. If Holden are serious about their next halo car beyond the Commodore's demise in 2016, then the car to be thinking about is the Cruze; since the Cruze is the logical competitor to the Focus, then the perfect place for the battle to be waged is the same place it has always been - that 6.1km piece of tarmac around the mountain. A c.350bhp Cruze might be difficult to sell as it currently stands but give it a face of menace and a place to get angry and you have the same elements which existed a generation ago. The Commodore is now a larger car than the Kingswood and Monaro ever were and the Cruze has a marginally bigger footprint than the Torana did, so even these details are converging in the same way.
Admittedly, the first Sunday in October has been taken over by a purpose built set of race cars, and whilst the V8Supercars bear a passing resemblance to their road-going counterparts, they're not really derivations of them any more. The event to race the 350bhp Cruze A14X would be the 12 Hour race; maybe make up some story about how the Audi R8s and Mercedes SLSs which currently vie for top spot are playing in Holden's backyard and you've got a story to sell as well.
Ok, I admit that that all of this sounds like it has come from the board room of Half Baked Ideas And Ill Conceived Concepts Pty Ltd but isn't that really all selling motor cars is about anyway? Motor cars in essence are little more than mechanical boxes which take us places and get us stuck in peak hour traffic for hours, but attach dreams, legends and stories to them and that's where sales come from; those dreams, legends and stories travel well into the future.
So come on Holden, how about it? Maybe even give me one for thinking it up? Yes?