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Local Heros

As well as adding a finishing touch to generations of HSVs and Holdens, the longstanding partnership with PPG has created some of the most memorable hero colours ever!

First impressions count and, according to HSV Chief Designer, Julian Quincey, colour is right at the top of the list when it comes to highlighting a new automotive creation. Working out of the company’s own purpose-built design studio, within its Clayton headquarters, his small, specialised team is responsible for conceiving the bold and muscular exterior styling which has become an HSV trademark across the range. Just as it is with every crease and curve of the vehicle, careful consideration is given to colour choice, says Julian.
“A bold colour is a very useful tool. Especially when launching a new vehicle – you want to give as much impact as possible in terms of creating a fresh first impression and colour is a big part of that equation. We’ve just introduced our GTSR and GTSR W1 cars and the hero colours are a very strong part of the choices we make in terms of selecting press vehicles because we know those cars are going to end up on the covers of magazines.  For example, we have just introduced the colour ‘Spitfire’ (a vibrant green) which you will see deliberately used by us to grab attention. There is also ‘Light My Fire’ (a metallic, burnt orange) which is a hero colour on the GTSR W1.”
These days, the exterior colours for the HSV range are developed in conjunction with Holden’s styling department. Rather than rely on a generic global colour palette, as many imported brands do, Holden’s local styling team has long recognised that the Australia / New Zealand market demands its own local colours. In contrast to other world markets, the clear, bright and intense light in this part of the world means that bright colours work very well. On the flipside, when viewed in the greyer, more subdued European climate, a bright colour can come across as monochromatic, meaning that it is difficult for people to see the differences between areas of light and shade on the vehicle body.
As a result, Holden has worked closely with PPG to develop a unique colour palette that gives excellent showroom impact. In particular, the partnership has created a long running succession of ‘hero’ colours which have proven to be extremely popular with buyers. Typically, this has been an annual process which begins with a colour briefing. Here, Holden stylists identify which colour space they are targeting and then provide guidance on how each particular colour is designed to make potential buyers ‘feel’ when they look at it. The local PPG Colour Team based at the company’s Clayton, Melbourne, headquarters then take over, interpreting what the Holden stylists are looking for and creating a range of different colour panels, along with a number of possible variations. Together, the two organisations narrow down the actual colour and other factors, such as the colour travel and coarseness of the aluminium particles, etc. to arrive at a final production colour. Each year, Julian and his HSV team are invited to an annual colour review at Holden where they give their input into the latest colour developments.
“When I’m at Holden looking at the latest colour developments, that’s the stage when I’m imagining how that colour will show off the curves and form of our cars. Wherever you have a change in section, like a wheel arch which bulges out from the side of the body – that is where you want to see the highlights and, then equally, the darker areas where the body tucks into shadow. I’m really keen on colours where you have a light highlight and a darker shadow so that it really brings out the sculpture of the car.”
Over the years, Holden has released a variety of iconic models and legendary nameplates, such as Kingswood, Premier, Monaro, Torana, Statesman and Commodore. In the same vein, HSV models, including Clubsport, Maloo, Senator and Grange, have gone on to become household names. Think back on many of those significant models and it’s also the iconic hero colours which come to mind. For example, on the latest Commodore models, colours such as Jungle Fever Green, Regal Peacock Green and Prussian Steel have taken an eye-catching place in many of Holden’s advertisements. At the launch of its ‘30 Years’ range early in 2017, HSV introduced three high impact new colour choices – ‘Spitfire’ (a vibrant green), ‘Son of a Gun’ (a gunmetal grey) and ‘Light My Fire’ (a metallic, burnt orange). Simply getting noticed is the aim of the game, says Julian.
“Making a very, very strong first impression is a major job of a hero colour. It’s about getting people into an HSV showroom. At the end of the day, it may not be the colour they choose for the car they take home but I think that colour has done its job in terms of getting that person interested in that vehicle.”
Although Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) is yet to reveal what it has planned for after Holden halts local production, it’s sure to continue making vehicles which deliver game-changing levels of performance and excitement – and it will continue to partner closely with PPG. Indeed, the relationship between HSV, its associated company, Walkinshaw Performance, and PPG is better than ever. On a day-to-day basis, PPG staff can be found providing a wide variety of support services, including paint audits on new vehicles and guidance on any paint issues which might appear. Not only that, PPG is also providing technical assistance for a whole range of exciting HSV projects. Stay tuned!
Enduring partnership
In early 2017, when Holden revealed that it was to build three limited edition Commodore models, the response from Australian and New Zealand fans was extraordinary. People scrambled to put a deposit on one and the strictly limited production run (Motorsport Edition – 1200 vehicles, Director – 360 vehicles and Magnum – 240 vehicles) was virtually sold out overnight. Not all are likely to hit the streets – thanks to the extreme collectability of these final hot Commodores, many are expected to be careful stored away and preserved for their future value. Despite diminishing sales of large cars and the announcement that Holden will cease local production on 20th October 2017, it was a measure of how much people still cherish these models which were designed and built specifically to suit local conditions.
Fast fact: The history of Holden dates back to 1856, when James Alexander Holden started as a saddlery business in Adelaide, South Australia. After transitioning to the automotive sector in 1908, Holden then became a subsidiary of General Motors in 1931.
Indeed, designing vehicles for the often-unique needs of customers across this region has been a highly successful formula for Holden over almost 70 years, since the original 48-215 (commonly called the FX Holden) first rolled off the local production line in 1948. And it’s not just about locally developed vehicles – unique local paint colours have also been a key factor and this is where the enduring partnership with PPG has paid big dividends. The relationship goes right back to the very early times and these days sees PPG supply all of the topcoat products (primer, colours and clearcoat) to Holden’s Elizabeth production plant. Onsite PPG staff also help monitor paint shop processes and work on continuous improvement activities in conjunction with Holden staff.
While it is sad to see the demise of local production, the PPG Team is proud to have played a role in Holden’s long running success. As well as continuing to work closely with General Motors operations in other world markets, PPG will also support Holden at the local level. Typically, this will involve paint audits and inspecting and reporting on any specific paint issues when requested by Holden. With 24 major vehicles set for launch over the next five years, Holden is set to be busier than ever!