Holden has gone back to the future, restoring its very first concept car – the 1969 Holden Hurricane.
The futuristic research vehicle described as an experiment “to study design trend, propulsion systems and other long range developments” has been restored to its former glory as a labour of love by a dedicated group of Holden designers and engineers.
Code-named RD 001; the Hurricane is a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive, two-seater sports car which incorporates a remarkable array of innovative features and technology, much of it way ahead of its time.
Features such as electronic digital instrument displays, station-seeking radio, automatic temperature control air conditioning, rear vision camera and an automated route finder were all showcased in this groundbreaking vehicle 42 years ago. Many of these technologies have only recently made their way into mass production, demonstrating Holden’s remarkable foresight into both design and engineering technology.
The Hurricane stole headlines and dropped jaws nationwide when it debuted at the 1969 Melbourne Motor Show.
The team that designed and built the original Hurricane employed some advanced technologies and techniques when it came to the powertrain. Powered by an experimental 4.2-litre (253 cubic inch) V8, this engine was a precursor to the Holden V8 engine program, which entered production in late 1969.
The Hurricane’s V8 engine featured many advanced design components such as the four-barrel carburettor – a feature which wouldn’t be seen on a production 253ci Holden V8 until the late 1970s. The end result was approximately 262hp (193kW), a towering power output in 1969 and one that ensured the Hurricane had the go to match its show.
However, perhaps the two most innovative features were the “Pathfinder” route guidance system and the rear-view camera.
The “Pathfinder”, essentially a pre-GPS navigation system, relied on a system of magnets embedded at intersections along the road network to guide the driver along the desired route. A dash-mounted panel informed the driver of which turn to take by illuminating different arrows, as well as sounding a warning buzzer.
The rear-view camera was also a ground-breaking innovation. Engineers using a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system with a camera mounted in the rear bumper feeding vision to a small black-and-white TV mounted in the centre console.
Former Holden Chief Studio Engineer Rick Martin led the modern-day Hurricane team in researching the vehicle’s components, systems and history in order to restore it.
RD 001 stands just 990mm high and has no doors in the conventional sense. A hydraulically powered canopy opens upwards and forward over the front wheels, combined with twin “astronaut type” power-elevating seats, which rise up and pivot forward, along with the steering column for ease of access.
Occupants are then lowered to a semi-reclining position before the roof closes over them.
The wind tunnel-tested fibreglass body consists of three segments; the canopy, the engine hood and body shell and was finished in an experimental aluminium flake-based metallic orange paint.
Safety innovations included a foam-lined fuel tank, integrated roll-over bar, digital instrument readouts, ignition safety locks, interior padding and a fire warning system.
The project to restore RD 001 began in 2006 and has been a genuine labour of love for some very dedicated Holden employees. The entire restoration process has been driven primarily by volunteer labour from Holden designers and engineers in their spare time.
But the Hurricane first entered Holden Design in less than immaculate condition. RD 001 had a residency in a trade school where apprentices practised their welding on the priceless concept.
After being returned to Holden in 2006, the Hurricane restoration project has taken many thousands of painstaking man hours to lovingly restore RD 001 to concourse condition.
Michael Simcoe added that the Hurricane holds a particularly special place in Holden’s history as it kick-started Holden’s long love affair with concepts that has since seen the likes of the iconic GTRX, Torana TT36, Coupe 60, the GMC Denali XT (which was requested specifically by GM for the North American market) and the award-winning EFIJY.
The Holden Hurricane will be on display to the public at the classic car show Motorclassica, held at the Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building from October 21 – 23.
Check out a video below and images in the gallery.