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VE Ute design: An alter ego

Sleek: No longer pure workhorse, the Ute is now even more of a show-pony.

GM Holden takes the Ute's sportier side to new extremes with its new two-door VE

29 Aug 2007

HOLDEN deliberately chose a sportier, sleeker design for its new-generation Ute, as it seeks a larger slice of the multi-purpose, youth-driven recreational utility market.

According to Holden’s chief designer Tony Stolfo, the VE Ute’s sportier stance reflects its changing position as both a weekday work tool and a weekend plaything.

“(The Holden Ute) has evolved into an alter ego-type personality – a workhorse during the day and a recreational sportscar come the weekend,” Mr Stolfo said. “So with the evolution of its practicality and versatility, it has evolved into more of a sportscar.” Holden believes that pitching its Ute against the sheer number of workhorse utilities out there – including the plethora of cheap one-tonne vehicles from Asia – no longer makes sense.

“There are too many other purpose-built vehicles today that the VE Ute would have to compete against as a pure commercial vehicle,” Mr Stolfo said. “So our Ute is carving its own niche as a very practical sportscar.” Mr Stolfo revealed that even though the Ute’s particular style elements were drawn as recently as between October 2004 and about January 2006, much of the design hard points were put in place over four-and-a-half years prior to that.

“The design was framed back in 2000, when we actually framed up VE (sedan) and the global rear-wheel drive architecture,” Mr Stolfo said. “So a lot of the surfaces, details and linework down the body side was put in right at the start of VE to allow it to be able to stretch all the way back to deliver a Ute.” Mr Stolfo pointed to the plan view of the sedan’s door, and explained how it was designed to also work as the VE Ute. “We knew we couldn’t put too much plan view, or too much curvature into the door, because otherwise you’d have too much taper in the rear (of the Ute),” he said.

According to Mr Stolfo, creating a style that recalls vehicles such as the 1970s US Chevrolet El Camino, which featured a very swoopy silhouette, is simply the result of incorporating a high beltline, low and slender proportions and sporty coupe-line styling in a Ute.

Nevertheless, the Holden design chief was mindful of not compromising the new vehicle’s packaging.

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“There’s still room for a hat!” he elaimed. “Headroom is not compromised on the car. The ‘H’ (hip) point is low and the seating position is great. It is a case of not dropping the roof but lifting the body sides up, so you’ve got good body mass... and beautiful proportions.” The profile of the car is Mr Stolfo’s favourite visual aspect of the VE Ute, because it has a performance look while still offering great interior and cargo packaging capabilities.

Likewise, the horizontal tail-light theme, ensconced by a continuous one-piece body panel that wraps around, is meant to give the Ute a “more car-like persona” from behind, as does the raised numberplate housing and full one-piece bumper.

Mr Stolfo insisted that the GM Holden bean counters did not try and stifle his vision for the VE Ute, pointing to their realisation of who the demographic of this car is and how rich the model mix has been in the recent past – particularly with the sports-orientated SS.

“It was probably harder when we were doing the (2000) VU Ute,” Mr Stolfo said.

Read more:

VE Ute confirmed for US, but not as a Chev

First look: Clean sheet for Holden VE Ute

First look: VE wagon and HSV's smokin' new Maloo

VE Ute tech: Raising the (sports) bar


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