One of the automotive world's worst-kept secrets is now official: in the post-Aussie-Commodore era that starts in 2018, Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) will be all about pickup trucks.
The key model for HSV will be a heavily modified version of the Colorado, in two models called SportsCat and SportsCat+. Expect to see them in New Zealand around April 2018.
Bad news first: rumours of a pumped-up V6-petrol-powered model have come to nothing. SportsCat is powered by the same 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four as the Holden Colorado Z71 it's based on, with 147kW and 440Nm-500Nm. You still get the choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
However, HSV has gone to town on the chassis, keen to emphasise that this is much more than just a dress-up. Although it is quite dressed up.
The SportsCat has a different grille (different again for the two versions) and front bumper, with a "bash plate" and integrated tow hooks. Wider 18-inch forged alloy wheels and special tyres help create a 30mm-wider track and 25mm more ground clearance.
Both models have a hard lid made by Pro Form in Hamilton, albeit with some extra componentry to meet General Motors global durability standards. It has a built-in accessory rail (repeated in the tray) and the sports bar is mounted on the top - meaning that there's also a hinging system to lift the lid up and over, to allow the bar to clear the cabin.
The SportsCat tailgate features an "EZ-down" strut that gently guides it open, rather than just dropping to the stops.
The SportsCat+ has more rugged detailing, including chunky flares on the guards, a different sports bar and its own style of machined alloy wheel.
Inside, the SportsCat has SV sports seats in leather and suede (also on the dashboard) and twin-needle red highlight stitching.
Under all the bling, HSV says it has re-engineered the Colorado chassis to substantially improve both on-road and off-road performance.
An HSV suspension package has an increased front spring rate and height, front strut braces, a 33mm anti-roll bar and MTV dampers.
The trickiest bit is at the rear: on the SportsCat+, the 22mm anti-roll bar automatically decouples when low-range is selected, allowing maximum axle articulation. This is how HSV claims to have broadened the truck's abilities so much: it's stiffer and more controlled on-road, but when the going gets rough the decoupling anti-roll bar comes into play. It's a unique technology among one-tonners - the kind of thing used in serious off-road vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.
The front braking package also steps up to AP Racing hardware, with a four-piston forged caliper, 362mm front rotor (similar size to that on the R8 sedan) and a new master cylinder.
HSV has developed unique stability control calibrations for 2WD High, 4WD High and 4WD Low. SportsCat also has its own hill descent control calibration.
The Cooper Zeon tyres are a special LTZ Pro model (285/60) developed especially for HSV, in a hybrid construction that covers "sports truck" and all-terrain use.
HSV has also developed a number of accessories, including a custom-moulded tub-liner, Load Master partition with storage areas that hangs off the tray mounting rails and can be moved around, a "roof" rack for the hard-lid and eye bolts for attaching loose items to the wellside (again, off the inner tub rails).
How much? Pricing yet to be finalised, but HSV has its eye on the top tier of double-cab utes. We'd expect the SportsCat+ to align pretty closely with the $82,990 Volkswagen Amarok V6 Aventura: it doesn't match the Dub on powertrain, but it's suitably special underneath.
SportsCat won't be the only truck from HSV next year. The company is also set to start "remanufacturing" the Chevrolet Silverado from the US in right-hand drive (RHD) for Australasian consumption. The monster pickup is powered by a 6.6-litre turbo-diesel V8 with 332kW/1234Nm and can tow between 3.5-6.1 tonnes, depending on configuration.
Just don't call it a "conversion", says HSV. Just as ASV has done in Australia with Ram trucks (a company in which HSV has a stake), the Silverado is being remanufactured with full approval and co-operation from GM in the US.
Two 2500HD models will be the focus: the LTZ Midnight Edition (basically, everything is black) and the LTZ Custom Edition (only in white, lots of chrome). But entry 2500WT and 3500HD models will be available to special order.
Silverado production starts in April, so expect to see it in NZ mid-year.
And... the other worst-kept secret is of course Camaro. It'll also be remanufactured by HSV for RHD. But only in a very high specification "2SS" model, with the new-generation direct-injection 340kW/615Nm 6.2-litre V8 LT1 engine, Brembo brakes and 20-inch wheels with mixed-size tyres.
We won't see that until September and it will be very far from cheap. The obvious rival is the V8 Mustang, priced at $77,880. But Camaro is a much more sophisticated car in this format ... and we'd expect it to be much more expensive.
Both Silverado and Camaro will retain their Chevrolet badging - they won't be sold as HSVs.
All of the above will be coming out of a new 28,000 square-metre HSV facility in Melbourne - the first move the company has made in 22 years. It can house up to four production lines and is the site of this truck/coupe startup. Everything old - including the production of those Aussie Commodore-based models - has been left behind at the previous premises.