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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

What could have been with the VE Holden UTE

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.And another slams shut in your face! The VE Ute is proof positive of what might have been

Whether it's from the www, the latest motor show or the back doors of a carmaker near you, Carsales Network Confidential features the good oil other sources either won't publish, don't care about or don't know. Heard an automotive rumour or new model tip? Then let us know at editor@carpoint.com.au

VE Ute Loses Monaro Doors

If there is any confirmation needed that we won't see a VE Monaro in a while, if at all, it is in the concept illustrations supplied in the VE Ute's press kit. The concepts confirm that Holden's first true coupe utility with extended doors shared with a Monaro was on the VE menu at some point.

The fact that the production car has arrived with the sedan's short doors may not only affect its export chances, but well and truly confirms that the VE Monaro has been shelved.

Only once before in Holden history has the company been in the position to create a true coupe utility -- ie: when an increase in wheelbase for the ute and a new two-door coupe coincided. This occurred in 1971 when the HQ range delivered the first long-wheelbase Statesman and an all-new HQ Monaro coupe.

After the new HQ ute range was given the Statesman wheelbase and tail lights, Holden had the chance to deliver a stand-alone HQ coupe ute with Monaro doors and a fast coupe roofline. However as the first One Tonner cab-chassis was part of the new HQ light commercial range, Holden instead chopped the cab to maximise load length for its new workhorse. The HQ ute was given fake rear pillar extensions to hide the chopped-off cabin with its short sedan doors and flat rear screen.

When Ford followed in 1972 with its first long-wheelbase XA Falcon ute based on the Fairlane, it picked up the extended pillarless doors from its new XA Hardtop (coupe) to deliver the most stylish ute of the era. It remains the only one of its kind based on a Falcon or Holden passenger car.

In its planning stages the VE Ute looked set to be the second to deliver a coupe utility faithful to the original 1934 Ford as the WM Statesman grew in wheelbase and a new VE Monaro was readied for production.

Instead, the VE Ute has arrived with the short sedan doors of every Holden ute before it, plus a small side window to conceal the extra cabin storage space as well as extensions for the rear pillars that generate a fake roofline similar to the HQ-WB ute series.

Like most Australian utes, it leaves a large area of sheetmetal between the door and rear wheel arches that Americans associate with a short cab pick-up.

After Australian Lew Bandt invented the coupe utility, it was the Americans who remained the most faithful to the concept, and none more so than the later Chevrolet El Camino series.

Built on the Chevelle's 2946mm/116-inch wheelbase (coincidentally, the same as the XA-XC Falcon utes), it had a sweeping pillarless roofline, long doors and easy side access to the area behind the seats. Even Ford USA's Ranchero ute based on the first Falcon, had extended front doors and a cargo bed totally different to the Australian model.

Despite the best efforts of Holden designers, the VE Ute with its short doors, short roofline and short rear overhang does not have the proportions that Americans associate with a Chevrolet El Camino or a Ford Ranchero. The VE Ute concept (as pictured) that came closest was torn-up when the VE Monaro was scrapped.

Although the VE Ute production model has delivered an extra pillar for side impact strength (see our Ute drive impression on Monday), this might explain why Holden is not talking up big the new ute's export potential. It seems the new ute has not been greeted with entirely the same instant recognition and enthusiasm in the US that it has here.

After Pontiac enthusiasts objected to the Aussie Monaro being rebadged as the hallowed GTO, there is some resistance in the US to revive another icon GM badge on an import. Holden insiders have quietly acknowledged that the VE Ute has polarised those in the USA who have seen it as it represents a more practical and driver-oriented approach than the fast rooflines and long overhangs that defined the El Camino.

Because several cues link it to a US light truck, others can't see the point. In this context, it will take some lateral thinking and perhaps a fresh approach for Americans to look at a ute derived from a passenger car in a new light and convince them that the huge abilities of the VE Ute are worth taking seriously.

VE Gets A New Brain

Revealed on the VE Ute launch was the fact that the VE Commodore's computer hardware has already been upgraded along with new software. As part of an ongoing process to meet new Euro IV requirements in mid-2008 and growing export programs, Holden has been forced to upgrade the electronics in the VE and related models.

New long-wheelbase export programs are demanding additional luxury features not seen in the Australian versions. Along with an integrated satellite navigation system required for export markets and maturing local market demands, the VE has not been allowed to rest on its laurels.

Other new demands under the bonnet are perhaps of more interest to Australians. Already, imported engines fitted to the VE are engineered for Active Fuel Management. AFM is GM's latest version of 'displacement on demand', which sees the engine shut down a number of cylinders when at low load or idling.

In local applications, this feature has yet to be introduced but it is only a matter of time before it will be required in the VE's engines. And if not locally, certainly in export markets to meet new fuel consumption benchmarks.

The AFM feature requires extra computer power that must be carefully calibrated for each engine and local traffic conditions. It would make sense to integrate these calibrations and any hardware changes with other changes dictated by Australia's switch to Euro IV emissions requirements in 2008.

This will also provide Holden an opportunity to upgrade its V6 engine, which in base form is the VE Achilles' Heel.

Chevrolet already offers a 3.9-litre V6 with AFM in the US. HSV will probably use the same timing and processes to upgrade its LS2 6.0-litre engines to the LS3 6.2-litre unit just announced for the 2008 Corvette.

Green "Posturing" - a way of the luxury car world?

If like us you're a touch perplexed by the clamour of the born-again greens at several of the luxury car brands, you might enjoy the straight forward words of Bentley board member, Stuart McCullough. In an exclusive interview with McCullough (read more about Bentley's bespoke future next week), CNC learned that at least one brand is free of the need to 'hybridize' for the sake of fashion...

"It's a difficult area to get into discussing with any sort of rationality and sense," McCullough told the Carsales Network.

"We know what our responsibilities are and we take those very seriously. I think what are not about doing is proposing solutions which don't have any hope of having a genuine impact.

"Bentley is going through a review of our powertrain strategy at the moment and what that might mean for us. But with all the existing solutions there are issues -- even if it was possible to go to fully electric-powered cars, where are you going to get the electricity from? You're either going to create more nuclear power stations or burn fossil fuel. So that's not a meaningful solution in what we call well to wheel.

"If you go the hybrid route you have the issue that the energy offset is consumed in building the car. If you go to organic fuels you have huge issues of moving agricultural production away from food to fuel.

"Where ever you go you are bedevilled by deeper issues that are impossible to express at a motor show -- it would be silly and trite of us to try.

"We're not getting any pressure from our customers [to go down the hybrid route], and I don't think that's because they don't care. I think it's more a case of the kind of people we sell cars to tend to have a sense of understanding and balance.

"When you look at automotive's contribution in the whole CO2 output of the world, it's frightening how small it becomes. Very often it [manufacturers' hybrid and allied efforts] ends up being posturing and positioning rather than a genuine contribution.

"When we come to the market with our point of view and solution it needs to be a genuine one -- one that we can stand behind."

source and drawings at link:

http://www.carpoint.com.au/car-review/2817986.aspx

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IIRC, one of the Lambdas was shelved on these boards, so why not do some Monaro-shelving as well? I think the CTS is being shelved too :P

Edited by ZL-1
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You're not supposed to let the cats out of the bag about the VE Monaro being shelved. Jeez! :AH-HA_wink:

I am only the messenger....That movie is still playing out... :AH-HA_wink:

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Did you get enough popcorn? Remember the best part of the movie starts in January 2008. :smilewide:

I was waiting for you to pass the junior mints.. It will be interesting indeed. everything is not what it seems..

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I was waiting for you to pass the junior mints.. It will be interesting indeed. everything is not what it seems..

How about some JujyFruit? :P

Seriously though, I don't know why they'd shelve the VE Monaro...

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