The Last Of The V8’s

I’ve done it again. I bought another new car that I didn’t need. I traded in my two-year-old, Perfect Blue Metallic Chevrolet SS Sport Sedan which was transformed in to what it really was; a Holden Commodore SSV Redline.

I’m a huge car nerd and I get emotionally attached when it comes to my cars, I need to know everything about them. I did a lot of research on my old car. I learned it was built by GM at their Elizabeth, South Australia factory in mid December of 2014.  My vehicle was car number 51 of the 113 that were made in Perfect Blue Metallic complete with the optional sunroof, spare tire and automatic transmission. Had it not been equipped with the aforementioned slush box, my daughter would have someday received it in my will. I loved it so much that I’m afraid to look through my  iPhone pictures because I fear I may have more shots of that car than I do of my kid. There was really only one car in my price range that ever made me consider parting with the Blueberry. That car is a 2017 Chevrolet SS Sport Sedan with a manual transmission.

img 1264 The Last Of The V8s

The directions are written on the shifter. The candy isn’t mine.

Holden is the last company currently building cars in Australia because Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi and others closed their manufacturing facilities there in the last few years. They’ve been around since 1856 when the Holden name was attached to a saddlery; which presumably has something to do with those things that you sit on when falling off of a horse, something I have experience doing. Holden began manufacturing automobiles in 1908 and became a subsidiary of General Motors in 1931. Sadly, in October of this year, Holden will turn off the lights in their factory for good, leaving thousands of skilled workers unemployed and taking from the world a car that is as good as a BMW M5 for less than half the price. Sure, you can still get a shouty, new SRT Charger if you’re looking for a 4-door with a big V8 for about the same price, but you can’t get one of those things with a stick shift and you have to be willing to be seen in a Dodge.

img 0007 2 The Last Of The V8s

Technically, it’s Italian.

There are a few things that are different with the 2017 SS. It has dual-mode exhaust, which makes the car louder with the twist of a button that controls the magnetic ride suspension, there’s a new front facia, a couple of vents on the hood, some new paint colors, different wheels, no CD player or AUX input and the Brembo brake calipers are now red. The most important difference for me is the six-speed manual transmission. In the old days, a manual transmission was the choice of the driver who wanted to go fast or get better gas mileage. Here in the future, it’s the opposite. The 6L80 automatic transmission that was in my old car was MUCH faster than the row-your-own-boat version in the new car, but it wasn’t nearly as fun. In two weeks of driving, I’ve managed 1,600 miles. I can’t stop driving it. Want to go to the store? I’ll drive! I’ll drive to lunch! I’ll drive to Miami for the weekend!

The Chevy badges lasted only a few days on the orange car, because with the last one, it took me a couple of weeks to get sick of people asking me if it was an Impala or Malibu. For the record, it is not related to either of them. This is a rear-wheel drive, V8 powered monster that is transported on a boat from a far away land. My car is properly badged as the Holden it is now, which at least changes the kind of questions people ask. The other day at a stoplight in downtown Tampa, a lady got out of her minivan and walked up to my car to ask me what kind of car I was driving and where can she get one. Outside of NASCAR races, the car gets no marketing exposure and it’s almost as expensive as a new base model Corvette. The SS has been shipping to America since 2014 and GM only imports an average of less than 3,000 of these wonderful cars a year. Compare that to the 169,000 Camaro’s they sold in 2016 and you’ll understand why you’ve probably never seen an SS in traffic and if you did, you probably thought it was a wide-body Cruze. Some people like to point to the “failure” of the SS because of the minuscule amount of cars that are sold, but GM doesn’t plan to sell very many of them.  I don’t think any company could justify spending money to advertise a vehicle with such small production numbers. I think Chevrolet will sell more than 3,000 of these cars when the final numbers are available later this year and I have a feeling the orange, which is a 2017 only color, will be almost as popular as black and white.

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How often do you see a bumper in someone’s living room watching a race?

The 2017 Chevrolet SS has a base price of $46,625. With the optional $395 Orange Blast paint job, $900 sunroof, $500 spare wheel/tire and the government’s ridiculous $1000 gas guzzler tax, the sticker price shoots to $50,415. The optional, no-cost manual transmission also gets you a a much peppier 3.70 ratio in the rear axle and that deletes the transmission cooler and remote start that is standard on the automatic transmission cars.

I’m sure people will continue to ask me if it was worth it or politely tell me that my old blue car was much prettier than the orange and silently wonder if I’m just stupid. To those people I say: so far it is, yes it was and maybe I am. But I’m also happy to say that, like Mad Max (yes, I know he drove a Ford Falcon), I own what is truly the last of the V8s.

Erica Habedank | CW44/CBS Tampa Bay

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