A lot of amazing ideas have come out of our country. We’re the birthplace of the Ute, we revolutionised racing with the V8 Supercars, and we’re a country built on hard-hitting V6 and V8 engines. We designed the Barra, the E49 Hemi, and the HSV V8s – built for cars that would blow many American-made cars out of the water. It’s no wonder other countries started wanting their own slice of the Aussie Motorsport pie, importing our fastest and beefiest cars and rebranding them for the US markets.
The Chevrolet SS
Starting with one of the most well-known examples, the Chevrolet SS is the American version of the extremely popular VF Commodore, the last model of Holden Commodore to be manufactured here in Australia. General Motors was impressed by the performance of the VF Commodore, so they imported it to the states to fill the void that the Pontiac G8 left (another Holden import – we’ll talk about that later). Chevrolet left the car relatively untouched, save for replacing the engine with a 6.2L LS3 V8, the same engine from the Chevrolet Corvette C6. The original VF Commodore also had this engine as an option – as well as the 3.0L LF1 V6, 3.6L LFX V6, 6.0L L77 V8, 6.2L LSA V8, and the 6.2L LS9 V8, which the SS did not include.
Unfortunately, despite its performance and being generally well-received from car reviewers, the SS didn’t sell too great in the US. Marketing for the SS was lacking, with a lot of car lovers not even knowing about it until it was too late. The styling was also deemed “too subtle” for the crazy performance it has. Compared to the aggressive styling of the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger, it didn’t exactly stand out – but that’s why a lot of people like it. It sold approximately 12,860 cars between its release in October of 2013 and it being discontinued in 2017. However, Chevrolet would’ve likely continued to sell the SS if the Commodore line wasn’t ending production here in Australia – including a potential ute model.
The Pontiac G8
As mentioned before, the Pontiac G8 was another General Motors import of an Australian car – this time based on the VE Commodore, however with a botched nose job. Other than the awful front end, the G8 was effectively the same car, with a few minor interior changes and fewer engine options. The G8 was offered in 3.6 L LY7 V6, 6.0 L L76 V8, and 6.2 L LS3 V8 (The same engine as the SS!). It was introduced in 2008 after the poor-performing Pontiac Bonneville and Grand Prix were discontinued in 2005 and 2008 respectively, and it was the first rear-wheel-drive four-door sedan sold under the Pontiac name since 1986.
The G8 was more successful, selling over 37,000 models in its short, one-and-a-half-year lifespan. It wasn’t the most popular sedan, but it was well-liked among many car enthusiasts for its performance, being the most powerful car ever sold under the Pontiac name. Due to this, demand for this car is still strong to this day. The main reason the G8 was discontinued was the overall demise of the Pontiac brand of cars under General Motors, the last Pontiac car being built at the start of 2010.
The Pontiac GTO (Fifth generation)
The G8 wasn’t the first Holden model imported and sold in the US under the Pontiac name. The Fifth generation Pontiac GTO was, in fact, a VZ Monaro rebranded by General Motors for the US market. Stylistically, the GTO was mostly unchanged from the original VZ, but it did have that ugly Pontiac front-end that the G8 had. It did, however, have a modified exhaust that was designed to invoke the same sound as the original GTO muscle cars. It also had the American LS1 and LS2 V8 engines much like the VZ did, but didn’t come with the supercharged V6 that the VZ could have.
Unfortunately, the GTO was met with harsh criticisms upon release in the states. Firstly, it had to compete with the other muscle cars released at the time, such as the Dodge Charger and Ford Mustang. The design was deemed “outdated” upon its release in 2003, two years after its first release here in Australia. The styling was critiqued as “too conservative” and “anonymous” compared to its performance, being judged compared to past iterations of the GTO and other muscle cars on the market. It also suffered from an inflated price tag due to how the Aussie dollar compared to the US dollar at the time. Despite not initially meeting sales expectations, however, over 40,000 GTO models were released in the states.