Holden restores its 1969 Hurricane Concept

Article by Christian Andrei, on October 20, 2011

Holden is a name which provokes a lot of good memories. Always seen as innovative, the 1969 Holden Hurricane was revolutionary in its design and the propulsion system. And now, a team of former engineers and designers have banded together to restore one as a labor of love.

Years ahead of its time, the Hurricane is a two-seater sports car with rear-wheel drive and includes an incredible amount of features such as an automated route finder, automatic temperature control, electronic digital instrument display and rear-vision camera. All of which in 1969 was light years ahead of what was currently available and showed remarkable prescience on behalf of the designer Holden.

When the Hurricane debuted at the Melbourne Motor Show in 1969, jaws collectively dropped and everyone talked about it.

Michael Simcoe, GMIO Designs Executive Director said of the restoration, it was amazing to see this revolutionary vehicle once more in how it was meant to be. He explained that its concept cars always have looked to the future and what strikes him is that its engineers have the ability to predict many of the functions that we now take for granted.

RD001, as it was so named, was the very first in the GMH Research and Development organizations line and it was down to a very small team. This team worked hard with the Fishermans Bend Technical Center and the Advance Styling Group in the 1960s.

Through their cooperation, the team was able to develop some of the most incredibly advanced techniques we now take for granted. For example, the 4.2 liter V8 engine was a prototype for what was to become the Holden V8 engine program which eventually went into mass-production towards the end of 1969.

This led to the creation of many innovative design features including the four-barrel carburettor which wouldn't be seen again until the late 1970s. The engines were able to produce a staggering amount of power for its time, (262 hp / 193 kW).

Some of its other features include “Pathfinder” - the first step towards modern-day GPS. Pathfinder used a series of magnets placed at certain intersections to guide drivers along certain routes. They were informed which way to go with an alarm system and illuminated arrows pointing in the direction.

Finally the last innovation was the rear-view camera, an innovation which is only seen in a few modern vehicles today. Built using CCTV and a camera placed inside the rear bumper, the camera fed back black and white images to a small TV placed inside the console in the center.

Press Release

The Hurricane: Tomorrow’s Holden Reborn

Holden has gone back to the future, restoring its 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 labor of love by a dedicated group of Holden designers and engineers.

Codenamed RD 001, the Hurricane is a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, two-seat sports car incorporating a remarkable array of innovative features and technology, much of it years 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 ground-breaking 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.

Michael Simcoe, executive director GMIO Design, said it was fantastic to see such a significant vehicle restored.

“At Holden we have always prided ourselves on our ability to look into the future through our concept cars,” Simcoe said. “It’s amazing to think that the features we take for granted today were born out of creative minds over 40 years ago.”

As its code name suggests, the RD 001 was the first product of the GMH Research and Development organization, staffed by a small squad of engineers working in conjunction with the Advance Styling Group at the Fishermans Bend Technical Center in the 1960s.

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-liter (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.

Perhaps the 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 system with a camera mounted in the rear bumper feeding a small black-and-white TV mounted in the center console.

Former Holden Chief Studio Engineer Rick Martin led the modern-day Hurricane team in researching the vehicle’s components, systems and history.

“There are some genuinely remarkable ideas and technology in the Hurricane,” Martin said. “From the automatic air-conditioning and magnet-based guidance system, to the inertia-reel seat belts and metallic paint, this was a car that was genuinely ahead of its time.

“The hand-picked team of engineers and designers who built the original Hurricane worked in strict secrecy and began Holden’s now proud tradition of ground-breaking concept cars.”

RD 001 stands just 990mm high and has no conventional doors. 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 fiberglass 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 labor of love for some very dedicated Holden designers and engineers volunteering thousands of hours of their time..

Paul Clarke, Holden’s manager for Creative Hard Modelling, has been largely responsible for managing the restoration. He ensured as many of the original parts as possible have been used or remade using modern techniques to 1969 specification.

“The entire team has done a fantastic job in bringing this beautiful concept back to life,” Clarke said. “The Hurricane plays a crucial role in Holden’s story and the company has such a great sense of history and heritage that it was very important to bring RD 001 back to life. It’s been a challenging but incredibly rewarding process.”

Since the debut of the Hurricane in 1969, Holden has built a global reputation for envisioning and executing world-class concept vehicles. Holden is recognized globally within General Motors as a center of excellence for concept vehicle and show car development and is one of only three GM design studios capable of designing and building concept cars.

Design executive Simcoe added that the Hurricane holds a 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 GTR-X, Torana TT36, Coupe 60, the GMC Denali XT (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 Motorclassica, car show at the Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building from October 21-23.

Topics: holden, concept

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