GM Holden is about to try again with its iconic Australian-built V-8 Commodore, which it says will be sold – and raced – in the U.S. as the Chevrolet SS.
Parentsays the limited-production version of the Chevrolet SS will be a ’14 model, arriving in dealer showrooms in late 2013.
The move marks the first time in 17 years that Chevrolet will offer a rear-wheel-drive sedan in the U.S. for sale to the general public. GM last year began importing the Commodore as the Chevrolet Caprice PPV for American police fleets. That car is built on a long-wheelbase version of GM’s Zeta platform and is not retailed to consumers.
The Chevy SS version also will compete in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series and will debut in its race configuration at the 2013 Daytona 500.
The new model is a derivative of the award-winning global RWD architecture that also spawned performance vehicles such as the Chevrolet Camaro and GM Holden’s upcoming VF Commodore.
Chevrolet says in a statement the Australian-built SS model will benefit from significant technology advances that enhance overall performance.
“As a passionate race fan and performance enthusiast, I am thrilled that Chevrolet will deliver a true rear-wheel-drive NASCAR racecar in the SS that is closely linked to the performance sedan that will be available for sale (to retail customers),” GM North America President Mark Reuss says.
“The Chevrolet SS is a great example of how GM is able to leverage its global product portfolio to deliver a unique performance experience that extends beyond the track. I am personally looking forward to driving it.”
The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Sydney reports GM Holden has been testing left-hand drive versions of the Commodores on public roads in Victoria in recent weeks and running the car head-to-head with one of its strongest potential rivals, the Dodge Charger.
It’s the second time around for the Commodore, which was sold in the U.S. as the Pontiac G8 until the American brand was dropped when GM went into bankruptcy in 2009.
The newspaper says this time GM Holden’s export numbers are likely to be much lower, but the profile will be much higher thanks to the NASCAR connection.
Chevrolet has a long history of using the SS (Super Sport) designation on high-performance models of some of its most enduring nameplates. The designation first appeared in 1957 on a Corvette prototype racecar built under the guidance of Zora Arkus-Duntov with the intent to enter it in the Le Mans 24-hour race.
The first production vehicle offered with an SS option was the ’61 RWD Impala. Only 453 units were built with the performance upgrades that included a modified chassis and suspension, power brakes, a steering column-mounted tachometer and unique wheels and tires.
Reuss, who formerly served as GM Holden’s managing director, said earlier this year that Chevrolet would get a new nameplate for NASCAR, sparking speculation the Holden Commodore would come to the U.S.
Several years ago, the new Impala was expected to be a volume-based performance car at Chevrolet featuring a longitudinal drivetrain.
But once rumblings came out of Washington about an historic fuel-economy increase, GM switched gears and conceded the Impala probably would need to be a front-wheel-drive sedan so its fleet could meet the new regulations.
Selling the new Chevy SS in limited volumes, targeting enthusiasts, alleviates any regulatory headaches.
– with James Amend