08-13-2011, 05:55 PM
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HSV plans shift to rear-mount gears
The next go-fast Commodore may adopt race-bred technology.
HSV'S performance line-up is gearing up to soon blur the line even further between racetrack and road, with the brand believed to be working on a rear-mounted gearbox similar to the next-generation V8 Supercars.
The transaxle manual gearbox, made by Ballarat-based high-performance gearbox manufacturer Albins, will lift HSV's Commodore-based range into the same playing field as other performance car giants that shift cogs from the rear, including General Motors' Chevrolet Corvette, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Gullwing and the twin-turbo Nissan GT-R.
The transaxle unit, expected to be similar to that ordered by home-grown supercar developer Joss, will not be based on the sub-60-kilogram six-speed version - costing about $27,000 each - that will be fitted to the V8 Supercar of the future prototypes, due to be unveiled at Bathurst in October and set to replace the current cars in the 2013 race series.
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While the HSV version is expected to be more affordable, it is likely to be low-volume and a gearbox for limited models, lending weight to rumours of another top-end high-performance HSV to step in for the W427 that was the last signed off by the brand's late founder, Tom Walkinshaw.
HSV is already working on a supercharged V8 that is expected to increase performance significantly over the current 6.2-litre V8.
The founder of Albins, Ivan Albins, expressed surprise when questioned about HSV's interest in the gearbox.
''I didn't think anyone knew about that,'' he told Drive during a chance meeting in the West Australian outback, where he was driving the length of the Canning Stock Route. ''We've signed a confidentiality agreement with HSV, so I can't really say much about it.''
While HSV won't confirm its end of the agreement, spokesman Tim Jackson says the specialist car maker is continually working on the development of its product line-up.
It has already started preparing the fourth generation of its E-Series range, with weight - and the way it is spread across the axles - now likely to be a big factor.
The performance division should also benefit from Holden's announcement that it will soon use lightweight aluminium panels to replace steel components in its cars, which on the bonnet and boot alone shed about 15 kilograms.
However, in Holden's application of the technology, it plans to cut fuel use rather than follow HSV's goal of increasing performance.
HSV's third-generation ClubSport R8 sedan has increased its kerb weight to 1825 kilograms, well up on the original version's 1760 kilograms.
Details are scant on how the gearbox is likely to work in the HSV but much is already known about the race car's version. According to Albins, the race box will keep the clutch assembly at the rear of the engine, similar to a conventional manual gearbox, but will connect with the transaxle via a drive shaft running at the engine's speed.
Drivers will select gears using a rod running from the gearstick in the cabin to the rear-mounted unit, which will also incorporate the differential.
The Joss supercar's application of the gearbox is expected to have to cope with more than 500Nm of torque from its as-yet-unnamed twin-turbo V8 engine, or a similar level of pulling power to the current HSV Clubsport R8's 550Nm.
Holden's parent company, GM, already has experience in transaxle gearbox technology, which is featured on its Chevrolet Corvette rear-wheel-drive performance car.
GM announced this week it plans to halve the number of car platforms it uses for its product line-up to cut development costs. But while it will have an impact globally, it is not expected to spell the end of Australia's best-selling car.
''We're continuing to develop future Commodore models for the Australian market and work on other global rear-wheel-drive projects - which with cars like Camaro have been very successful in the past,'' a spokeswoman, Shayna Welsh, says.
''We are absolutely committed to designing, engineering and building vehicles right here in Australia. There's no change to that approach.''