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by Tim Beissmann

Holden’s first ever concept car – the 1969 Holden Hurricane – has been restored to its former glory by a select and dedicated team of Holden employees.

The project to restore the 42-year-old Hurricane concept began five years ago as a labour of love by a group of Holden workers. The process has been primarily driven by engineers and designers volunteering their spare time.

Now completely restored, the Holden Hurricane will be displayed at Motorclassica at the Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building from October 21-23.

Codenamed RD 001, the Hurricane was a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive two-seater sports car. It was powered by a 253 cubic inch (4.2-litre) Holden V8 engine with around 193kW of power – a whopping figure for its day.

The Hurricane was a truly futuristic concept decades ahead of its time. It showcased some features only becoming standard in today’s cars.

Among the most revolutionary features were the digital instrument displays, station-seeking radio, automatic temperature-control air conditioning, inertia-reel seatbelts, metallic paint, rear-view camera and the ‘Pathfinder’ system – an early form of in-car navigation.

Pathfinder used a system of magnets embedded at intersections to guide drivers on their desired path. A panel on the dash told the driver which way to turn by illuminating arrows and sounding a buzzer.

The rear-view camera used a closed circuit television (CCTV) system, incorporating a camera in the rear bumper and a small black and white TV in the centre console.

The initial design and engineering team was handpicked and sworn to secrecy while developing the Hurricane concept at Fishermans Bend during the 1960s.

The concept trades traditional doors for a hydraulically powered canopy that opens upwards over the front wheels. The ‘astronaut-type’ seats rise up and pivot forward, before lowering and reclining into position as the roof closes. The three-piece fibreglass body was tested in a wind tunnel.

The Hurricane also featured a number of safety innovations, including an integrated rollover bar, foam-lined fuel tank, interior padding, ignition safety locks and a fire warning system.

The restoration process has been a painstaking one for the Holden volunteers. It was returned to Holden in 2006, and previously spent time in a trade school where apprentices practised their welding on it.

Holden says it has used as many of the original parts as possible and remade a number of parts to 1969 specification to preserve the authenticity of the classic concept.