Feb 14 2020

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Holden Efijy Concept Car

It’s Probably the Most Beautiful Concept Car Ever to Come Out of an OEManufacturer. You May Be Surprised to Learn That It’s From Holden inAustralia.

Holden, GM’s subsidiary in the Land Down Under, has produced the firstconcept car that would be a legitimate contender for Best in Show at anyof the big car shows. That’s right, this is not a Chip Foose car, BoydCoddington had nothing to do with it, and So-Cal Speed Shop knowsnothing about it. It was designed and built entirely in-house at GMHolden’s Australian design studio and engineering department. Called theEfijy (as in “burned in effigy”), the car is an homage to the classicHolden FJ built between 1953 and 1956. Not familiar with the FJ? It’sAustralia’s icon car the way a ’55 Chevy is here. As Holden Chief Designer Richard Ferlazzo says, “In Australia, nearly everyone had one,rode in one, or was conceived in one.” The FJ had links to late ’40s Chevys, and was actually designed in the U.S.

The first designs for the Efijy date back to 1988 when Ferlazzo, alongtime hot rod and custom freak, went to work for Holden and beganimagining what kind of custom car could be built with the talent andresources of a major design studio. He drew up a few rough conceptualsketches but not much happened with them until 2002, when it came timeto think about the 50th anniversary of the original FJ. Ferlazzo knewright away what needed to be done and began the process of getting theproject approved. “We decided to celebrate the anniversary with a wildcustom car . . . and showcase our design and performance car attributeshere at Holden,” Ferlazzo says. So, in 2002, the sketches were done,followed by several years of lobbying upper management to go forwardwith it.

While the political machine was moving, Ferlazzo found a few peopleinside the design studio to build a 30 percent scale model of the carand then a fullsize clay version. The clay was finished in January 2005,the project got approved in February, and work began in March, startingwith nothing more than a clay model and a bare Corvette chassis anddrivetrain. It was finished in time for the Australian InternationalAuto Show in Sydney the following October. Yeah, the piece of art onthese pages was built from scratch in eight months. Wanna know what’seven more impressive? It’s not just a show car meant to sit on arotating platform–it runs and drives, and is, as we write this,undergoing high-speed calibration at Holden’s proving grounds.

The fiberglass body was inspired by the ’53 FJ, but it is a completelynew coupe design. The ’50s styling cues, including the FJ-like grilleand general fender shape, incorporate state-of-the-art technology, suchas radical multi-element LED headlight assemblies that actually have acooling fan on the back of each bucket. All of the trim pieces were cutfrom billet aluminum and then polished to such a lustrous sheen thatthey don’t even look like billet.

The custom wheels (22s in the rear, 20s up front, with Dunlop SP Sporttires) also started life as chunks of billet aluminum, machined byAustralian race car supplier Harrop. Because it was always intended tobe a runner, the Holden designers added monstrous 15-inch road-racebrakes with six-piston calipers in front and four-piston calipers inback (also from Harrop).

The paint is House of Kolor Soprano Purple, and when combined with theexquisite tan leather interior, it gives us flashbacks to the LarryErickson-designed, Boyd-built CadZZilla. Turns out the car may have hadan unconscious effect on Ferlazzo, who worked in Erickson’s designstudio in the mid ’90s.

Underneath the amazing bodywork is the chassis of a C6 Corvettelengthened to a 116-inch wheelbase and fitted with Air Ride bags toproduce a lower-than-Tasmania riding stance. The engineers programmedthree ride-height levels actuated by an electronic controller that dropsdown out of the dash. Abundant thrust comes from the Corvette’s 6.0L LS2V-8 that, with the addition of a Roots-style blower, makes a claimed 645hp at 6,400 rpm and 560 lb-ft at 4,200 rpm. From there it travelsthrough a shortened torque tube to a fortified version of the Corvette’srear-mounted four-speed automatic transaxle. The exhaust uses customblock-hugger headers that feed what Ferlazzo calls “cats and dogs”–apair of catalytic converters and a pair of mufflers–and finally dumpinto the atmosphere through the most beautiful exhaust tips ever createdon this planet. In the words of Holden engineer Jay Fitzsimmons, “itbellows.”

Despite the lusciousness of the body and the aggressiveness of thedrivetrain, the interior is perhaps the true design triumph of the carand rivals any custom or street rod we’ve ever seen. The seats came fromthe donor Corvette but were completely restyled and retrimmed in suppletan leather. The headliner was also trimmed in leather and installs asseparate panels–they had to do it that way because a one-pieceheadliner wouldn’t fit through the door openings. The floor is coveredin “figured maple timber” with polished, billet-aluminum trim inserts.There’s lots of LED lighting and instrumentation involved, but itsomehow looks perfectly in tune with the sweeping classic lines of thedash and instrumentation. And the absolutely gorgeous pearlescentpush-button controls look too much like Bakelite not to be Bakelite–butthey aren’t Bakelite. Very cool. There’s also a full complement ofelectronics, including a high-powered Rockford Fosgate stereo systemthat Fitzsimmons says “rivals the engine in volume,” a navigationsystem, and a fully operational climate- control system, all operatedthrough the same controller that accesses the airbag suspension.

There’s virtually no chance this car will ever go into production on anycontinent, but that was never the intention. The idea was to showcasethe abilities of Holden’s design and engineering teams, and it hits thetarget dead center there. Ferlazzo says the designers and engineers atHolden are certified gearheads, and Efijy proves that to be true. Healso pointed out that the car really hit a nerve among custom carbuilders in Australia, who find little if any respect from the OEcarmakers. He told us, “What really touched the hearts of the local hotrod people and the magazines here was that it legitimized what they dowith cars. We think [hot rodding and customizing] is a legitimateautomotive art form, and nobody can deny that the work customizers doinfluences the factory designers. In my role as chief designer, I knowthey’ve influenced me.” After the car makes the rounds at the Australianauto shows, it may tour the States. We’re already wrangling to “borrow”the car to cruise Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank–but we’re not holding ourbreath. All we really hope for is that GM sees its way to bring the carthis way so we can see it up close, and that other GM divisions will beinspired to think this radically themselves when it comes time tobrainstorm their next concept cars.

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