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First look: Holden resurrects Torana!

Torana-tough: sharing little in styling terms with its revered Holden namesake, Holden says Torana TT36 demonstrates how far automotive design has come in 25 years.

Holden unveils a twin-turbo medium-sized hatchback concept in Sydney

7 Oct 2004

TORANA is back.

As revealed exclusively in GoAuto e-news last month, Holden has created – and now taken the wraps off – a stunning new mid-sized concept car that resurrects the Torana nameplate and features a twin-turbo version of the new Port Melbourne-built Alloytec V6.

Dubbed "Torana TT36", the hot-pink hatchback is tangible evidence the idea of a medium-sized rear-drive Holden to rival the likes of BMW’s all-conquering 3 Series – a concept openly pursued at one point by former Holden boss Peter Hanenberger – remains alive and well at Fishermens Bend ... and beyond.

It’s also proof of the performance potential available in Commodore’s 3.6-litre V6.

By applying twin KO4 Warner turbochargers, an air-to-air intercooler and variable valve actuation to its Alloytec 190, then dropping the compression to 9.0:1, Holden engineers were able to deliver a power peak of 280kW and no less than 480Nm of torque, with 90 per cent available from just 1600rpm.

Despite being officially described as a hand-built experimental engine, its output sends a clear signal that, come the next generation VE Commodore from 2006, Holden will be able to strike back at Ford’s successful XR6 Turbo with a force-fed six-cylinder of its own.

Combined with a heavy-duty six-speed manual transmission with a final drive ratio of a short 3:73, and a kerb weight that should easily undercut Commodore’s, Torana TT36 would also be a performance powerhouse in its own right.

Of course, that's assuming it gets the green light, but even then production versions would likely receive only four-cylinder and, possibly, naturally-aspirated V6 motivation.

Describing TT36 as Torana’s spiritual successor, Holden chairman and managing director Denny Mooney said the concept – originally named XP54, indicating it’s an experimental project and recognising Holden’s so-called Studio 54 design workshop in Melbourne’s outer suburbs – differs from previous Holden concepts by sharing elements of GM’s global vehicle underpinnings.

These are believed to include GM’s rear-drive Kappa architecture, from which the Pontiac Solstice roadster is built, but GoAuto also understands the Torana could have been modified heavily enough to take on a whole new GM platform name of its own. One source suggests this new name could be Beta.

"Torana TT36 represents a revolution in concept car design at Holden. We’ve unveiled several examples of our design flexibility and build capability in recent years but this car is exceptional for yet another reason," Mr Mooney said.

"All recent showcars have been based on our Commodore V-car platform. Torana TT36, on the other hand, shares many basic structural elements with the latest GM sports concepts and much of its chassis componentry is sourced directly from GM.

"It is the first Holden showcar to merge Australian design and engineering expertise with GM technical resources. Quite simply, for us it is a ‘game changer’ in automotive design and production." A compact rear-drive hatch such as TT36 does not currently exist in the GM world - hence Holden's motivation for building the concept - but given its readily available underpinnings, Holden hopes that could change.

GM product supremo Bob Lutz is on record as saying a global market of 120,000 vehicles would need to be found to make Torana manufacture viable – a production volume Holden, which already produces 180,000 Commodore-based vehicles annually, is not in a position to meet.

But if a large section of Torana’s potential market was found in Asian markets closer to Australia than the Wilmington, Delaware plant that currently produces all Kappa architecture-based GM vehicles, production of Torana by Holden in a dedicated Australian factory could prove a reality.

At the very least, Holden stands to gain lucrative royalties from its intellectual design property if Torana is produced offshore.

Completed only last weekend, construction of the Torana TT36 showcar began just five months ago following initial work by former Holden design director Mike Simcoe, who passed the baton to his successor Tony Stolfo, under whose leadership youngsters Max Wolff and then Ewan Kingsbury finished the project.

Said to "showcase bold directional design themes", the four-seater hatch features a minimalist black-and-white leather interior, panoramic glass sunroof extending from the steeply raked windscreen to the hatch and 20-inch, 10-spoke alloys.

13 center image"It’s very performance-driven in terms of the size of the apertures, the air intakes and grille," said Mr Stolfo. "The fenders and quarter panels are pumped to accentuate width and stance." Hinting at TT36's resemblance to VE Commodore, Mr Stolfo adds: "It also displays some of the key proportions we’ll see in future cars generally: front wheels forward, minimal overhang, high belt lines and a high deck.

"All these elements create strength and purpose and deliver expressive contemporary styling.

"The hatch style gives us a very fast line running over the top, and we’ve given it strong directional lines. In terms of overall design intent, it’s far more sophisticated sports machine than street machine.

"And because it’s a vehicle which delivers a really large interior compartment in relation to its exterior size, it shows off our packaging skills, which are a traditional Holden strength." The original Torana, with which TT36 shares little resemblance, was built locally between 1974 and 1979 and last conquered Bathurst in V8 A9X guise some 25 years ago.

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