By on October 20, 2014
Pontiac G8 GT current state
This week’s AMA comes courtesy of reader APaGttH, who has a Pontiac G8 GT that has been converted into a Holden Commodore replica. Read on below to hear the story.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall for Pontiac, and after my one week experience with a 2008 V6 rental, I purchased my Pontiac G8 GT in May of 2009. This is an early production 2009 GT, called a 9L1 car in G8 owner lingo, built in June of 2008. The car is White Hot (or Heron White if you’re not from North America) with the premium package, sport package, and sunroof. Just 60 days after purchase, the car got shelled by a gravel truck causing over $2000 in paint, headlamp and glass damage. It was only by coincidence and blind luck that the restomod work done produced a “2010” Holden Commodore SS V-Series Special Edition. The additional modifications, and eliminating a number of GM bean counter decisions continued from there. I have drag raced, auto crossed, and lapped in the G8 and found it a very competent platform, outside of being under braked. I pulled a 13.354 quarter mile at 105.85 MPH using a Cortex tuner only on stock rubber in very damp, cold conditions at Bremerton Motorsports Park in 2009. Currently I have 34K miles and although not my retirement plan, I have no intentions of selling the garage queen. Ask your questions!
 
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130 Comments on “TTAC AMA: I Own A Pontiac G8 With A Holden Commodore Conversion...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Awesome.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Thank you!

      • 0 avatar
        TXG8

        Hello, could you tell me where you purchased your SS V8 gauges thanks

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Blind dumb luck I saw this recently reply.

          They were custom made by a company out of the UK. They build a set of 10 for a group of us and they are not making anymore. It was a huge ordeal to find a maker that would build the display for us and meet our requirements of having OEM grade light diffusion patterns and calibration. I tried for 18 months, got the designs, but then the US company that was going to do it backed out. Another member in the G8 club took over my work and found the company in the UK.

  • avatar
    insalted42

    That’s awesome. My hat’s off to you, sir!

    One question though: does anyone really notice?

    Obviously this was done for your own enjoyment/boredom(?), but I am curious to know if you ever get comments on the foreign badge on the trunk from average people.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      I would actually just think it was a badge job. Didn’t even know they had the Pontiac front end over there till now.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Definitely more work than badges as noted below on a number of other things done. The most expensive “badge” was the one attached to the air bag. GM has this silly notion that removable badges in the center of the steering wheel might fly off in an airbag deploy and lodge in your skull – hence to swap your choices are, mount a badge and hope in an accident it doesn’t fly off and mount in your skull or – buy an Aussie airbag in a post 9/11 world and ship explosives internationally.

        I wanted to be tasteful in what I did, and not create some of the cars Bark M. highlighted last week. Actually, after reading his story, I was nervous having my car with its modifications up here.

        If money was no object, I would probably do the 2011 GTS front end – but for that kind of money I could go supercharger and supporting updates to the engine to take the extra boost. And for that kind of money I could buy a nice wedding ring for the fiance.

        Did I mention I’m getting married in May of 2015 – I think I choose wisely.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Great first question.

      Yes, people notice. It’s pretty amazing. I had a guy follow me into the grocery store last year and park along side. He got completely excited and asked if it was a “real” Commodore. Explained the story, he was able to spot all of the little difference and was pretty surprised it was a conversion. Ask permission to take pictures.

      Not the first time, but that one is probably the most extreme case given the guy followed me to ask questions.

      I get fielded a lot of questions. Just moved in June and all my new neighbors have asked one by one what kind of car is it.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Are you in Australia or North America? I ask because the car has Australia plates, but you bought it as a Pontiac which I didn`t think they sold over there. If you are in North America how are you driving around on Australia plates? I must have missed something, but thanks for sharing.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        I assume you didn’t do a full RHD conversion? I think that would be the big giveaway that it’s not a “real” Commodore.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          No, it is left hand drive. I looked into it – minimum, bare minimum cost is $13K to $15K, and that was a few years ago. I’m told that is a very low figure and it probably costs even more.

  • avatar
    MPAVictoria

    Sweet car! I had a 2009 Stryker Blue V6 model with the upgraded stereo and the sun roof for 5 years and 80,000 KMs. I loved the way the car drove but I ended up selling it right before my extended warranty ended because the reliability had been awful. No regrets on the purchase though. It was the most interesting vehicle with four doors for under 30K for sale at the time.

    /How many times have you replaced the door locks, the control arms and the A/C compressor so far?
    //My answer to those questions would be 2, 3 and 2 respectively.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Door locks – never – no issues

      Control arms – still original – and that includes track and auto cross time on them

      AC compressor – still original – no issues

      • 0 avatar
        MPAVictoria

        Wow. Glad to hear!

        May I ask what the climate is like where you live? I have long suspected that it is the cold winters in Ottawa Canada that were the source of at least some of my problems. I just don’t think the G8 was built to handle -30 degrees Celsius and tons of salt.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          I live in Puget Sound so our weather is generally very moderate. Not too hot, not too cold. The G8 sits in the garage six or seven months out of the year so is generally only driven in dry warm conditions. I have driven it in everything, including one inch of very unexpected snow. That was very interesting with the summer only tires.

          • 0 avatar
            MPAVictoria

            Thanks for the response. I bet interesting is an understatement. Mine was a handful in deep snow even with snow tires.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Stryker Blue was one of the best colors – had I seen it in person in the 2009, might have gone that way.

      I actually didn’t want white, long story on how I ended up that way but no regrets. It looks a bit more, classy, in white.

      The 2008 rental I had was in orange metallic (which was the “launch” color) – absolutely gorgeous color but no joy – not available in 2009.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Another Puget Sound G8 owner here — mine is a near-stock 2009 GXP manual. 36,000 miles. No problems with door locks or A/C. I’m on the original control arms but they are making noise and I will have to replace them. My only issues have been these:

      1) Broken/bent sunroof deflector arm. Have to hold down the deflector manually for the sunroof to close, and it rattles when closed.
      2) A bunch of LEDs died in the CHMSL. Got a new one under warranty and the dealer managed to replace it without screwing up the headliner, which was apparently lucky.
      3) A rat got under my car in Washington, DC and ate some wires behind the front fascia. Had to do some soldering to restore the right-hand fog light and marker light to working order.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    If a tree fell on the back of it, would you turn it into a Maloo?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      If a tree fell on the back of it I would weep, take my insurance check and probably get a CPO Audi (and then regret the choice as the repair bills piled up).

      What I would have bought in a blink is the sportwagon. If GM in the last year of the SS offers up a SS Sportwagon, that is potentially a big enough stick of dynamite to make me swap. As long as it is brown and with a manual…

      • 0 avatar
        outback_ute

        Good luck with that – they don’t make the wagons with a manual as of the VF model introduced last year, and don’t offer brown either! Apart from that though…

        I remember reading that the wagon only went ahead on the basis that it was also to be sold in the US. I think the popularity has been such that it would have worked out ok though, for a while the only visible way to distinguish a new Commodore from a 3-year-old one was to have the wagon body style.

        As for the manual/diesel/wagon meme, my sister would actually like to buy one, but as VW and others have dropped manuals in favor of DCT/autos there is only one left on the market here now – the Hyundai i30!

      • 0 avatar
        Lee

        Aussie here. Ford fan also. Just spent 3 weeks back in Oz after being out of the country for 9 years, so i got my first chance to see a Sportwagon in person. Those are a great looking car. Had my head turning every time i saw one, to the point i would consider buying one on my return Australia

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Posting of the day!

  • avatar
    Nico

    Are you anywhere near the bay area? Is it possible that I’ve seen this car in the Fillmore in San Francisco in the last year or so? I remember seeing a white car with Holden badges, but I couldn’t stop long enough to get a photo. The track you mention is in the west coast, so it might be possible…

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      No – I live in Puget Sound. I have never driven the car to San Fran – but I’ve done the Seattle to Sacramento drive in other vehicles numerous times.

      Complete side story. Made the mistake of driving a $1900 ’97 Pontiac Trans Sport winter beater to the Bay Area. I had planned to drive the G8 but the forecast was nasty that Thanksgiving for the passes so decided I wanted FWD. The 3.4 ate its head gasket somewhere on the trip down. Somehow go to my family’s house.

      Next day found a mechanic who drilled a hole in the thermostat, drained the chocolate milk coolant, and filled it up with alumaseal and wished me good luck.

      I drove from Sacramento to Seattle, with a bad head gasket on a GM 3.4L, in post Thanksgiving traffic and somehow made it. I then went on to limp the Trans Sport around for another 12K miles before selling it for…$1.9K

      Oh, and there was no snow or ice in the passes either way – I could have taken the 8.

  • avatar
    Crazy Paul

    Great stuff, thanks for sharing your story with us.
    Glad you’re enjoying your car and all that comes with it.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Nice. Forbidden fruit parked in your garage. Ive sort of always wanted to turn a Regal into an Opel. Fun for me but wouldn’t fool anyone.

  • avatar
    superchan7

    Did insurance pay for the Aussie exterior parts?

    Very thorough badge engineering……some people don’t approve of putting “JDM” (ADM?) badges on your export model cars, but I’m all for it as long as it’s the exact same car in the flesh. Not like people putting M badges on their 318ti. And it’s important to really convert every visible part!

    Have you ever actually driven it in public with any of your various furrin’ plates? Feel free to deny.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Great questions. I have really good insurance but for the shave and fill on the front clip, and the additional paint work done up front, that came out of my pocket. The front clip pic by the way is when the car was still new – the pictures I supplied Derek run from 2009 to 2013.

      I have driven with an Aussie plate in public once – completely by accident. I had put them on at a car show and when everything was done, I packed up, closed the trunk and drove home. It wasn’t until the next day I realized I had the Northwest Territories plate still on the car. I don’t think anyone noticed – certainly no law enforcement noticed!

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The Northwest Territories are in Canada, eh?

        The Northern Territory is worth a visit. I would suggest going to Kakadu if you ever make it down there: http://www.parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/

        I believe that the NT is returning to having no fixed highway speed limit, although there are no freeways and it would be unwise to drive at autobahn speeds on their two-lane roads.

        Re: your number (license) plates, you really should try to get one from South Australia, as that is where your car was made.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Actually have one. The problem is the plate is black letters on a white background that is just about a perfect match to the color of the car.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I didn’t think of that. The South Australia plates wouldn’t look that great.

            My Falcon had the old style WA plates, with black letters on a yellow background. (An example: http://www.plateshack.com/australia/was-yellow.jpg ) Not exactly an aesthetic triumph, either.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Just FYI, I am responding to your questions, Derek will have to rescue some of my replies from the SPAM filter, so don’t think I’m ignoring you if you see an answer to some questions, and no response on another – they’ll be up.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Any reason you didnlt replace the front clip? Too expensive to ship one from Oz?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      The front clips are very expensive if you get a honest to goodness real one. At the time I had the car for only 60 days, I had no intention of doing a conversion.

      So when the car was in the body shop I had them shave the front clip, fill the holes where the license plate was, paint the lower surrounds, and yank the Pontiac arrow. That was as far as I ever planned to go.

      In October of the same year, Holden announced the 2010 SS-V Special Edition that had the exact same features, and slight body modification from the Pontiac stock front clip. It was purely blind dumb luck – so I went from there.

      There is a company in the states now making replica front clips to the 2011 GTS – one vendor in AU wants about $5K with shipping for that kit – stateside it is $1.6K.

      The other reason is the US dollar had completely collapsed, the AUD was very stout, and the price on Aussie parts was insane.

      My “conversion” even includes the owner’s manual in the glove box. I paid more in shipping than the manual itself to get it over here.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I was going to ask the same question: the issue I had with this car was the front clip and the hood scoops; they’d be the first thing I’d replace.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        If you don’t like the hood scoops and want a more conservative front end, a VE conversion would be the way to go. The front clip is far more conservative, and no faux hood scoops.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        @ psarhjinian, I feel the same way about the embroidery and the fake harness pass-through cut-outs on the Chevrolet SS’s seats. I really like that car otherwise, especially the relatively understated exterior.

        @ APaGttH, great Q&A. Thanks!

  • avatar

    Looks really nice.

  • avatar
    david42

    “eliminating a number of GM bean counter decisions”

    Such as?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      GREAT question!

      1) Glove box light. The harness was there, it was plug and play.

      2) Rear parking assist (in one pic you can see the dimples). The harness was there, it was plug and play and drill four holes. I had the dealer do that one. They drill a bad hole, they owe me a bumper – I drill a bad hole – DAMN IT.

      3) Center console light – see number one

      4) Australian upper triple gauge. The 2008 US version got the God awful “Atari” gauges. In 2009 they just deleted them all together, but in Australia they got a far more attractive triple gauge. Yes, plug and play.

      5) Auto dimming rear view mirror. Yup, wiring harness there, just plug and play.

      6) Rear trunk mounted 12V power outlet. Not quite plug and play as the fuse it attaches to is used by OnStar, but just need to tap into a different fuse position.

      7) Bluetooth. This was a nightmare to add. You need to replace the OnStar module with a Bluetooth enabled one. They are very hard to find, the mark up is extreme, and OnStar won’t activate them. The ordeal to do this is a story unto itself.

      8) Fullsize 19″ spare with tire, TPMS and jack kit. GM eliminated the spare tire on the G8 to keep official weight under 4,000 pounds. In the rest of the world, a spare, mini or fullsize, with jack, was an option. I got the jack kit and went with a fullsize wheel. The spare tire well accommodates no issue. GM bean counters instead filled the massive well where the spare would go with a big piece of foam.

      9) OK, this is a bit of snark on my part but the owner’s manual. The US Pontiac G8 owner’s manual came wrapped in the finest vinyl. The Aussie version is leather.

      One of the reasons I say this is a lot more than a badge job.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        Wow. That’s great insight. The GM bean counter meme is usually painted with a broad brush. Thanks.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          A lot of those they could have rolled up into an option group. For instance the auto dimming mirror, parking assist, and fullsize spare could have been a “safety and security” package.

          Bluetooth should have just been included. It was supposed to be in 2009, but only a handful of 9L2 (late production 2009 cars) and the 9L3 2009.5 models got it. A lot of owners were very upset to see this got left off.

        • 0 avatar
          outback_ute

          It is worth noting the G8 was cheaper than the Commodore SS at the time, without taking into account the cost of shipping it across the Pacific, I guess it had to come from somewhere. I’m not sure if the SS would have had 1, 2, 3, 5 or 6, and while it did have bluetooth, it did not have Onstar.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Car prices are lower in the US. If they charged Aussie prices, then they would sell even fewer of them.

            It should be noted, though, that the US MSRP’s do not include tax and license fees (since those vary widely across the country), so you should compare the pre-tax price, not the driveaway price.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            I would have rather had navigation over OnStar – you’re not missing much. US safety regulations made it impossible to make navigation available without significant modifications to the center stack.

            Turn-by-turn navigation on OnStar is an expensive substitute

          • 0 avatar
            outback_ute

            Yes I realise that, and was not suggesting that. I did compare to the RRP (plus dealer delivery and on-roads) not driveaway price. And around this time (late 08-early 09) the AUD fell in a hole, down below 0.75USD for about 6 months. No doubt internal and dealer margins vary too, but it does suggest a reason that base equipment levels in US cars are often lower.

          • 0 avatar
            outback_ute

            Oops just realised you were talking about sales tax – so taking out our 10% tax would reduce the difference to about even when the exchange rate was at its worst, several thousand a few months later. I remember reading the contract between Holden and Pontiac was signed based on a much lower exchange rate than was in play when production started, and that was killing them.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Why was 4,000 lbs considered a magic number in North America? Removing the full size spare wasn’t just the bean counters doing their thing? It’s probably the biggest money saver on this list.

        I was surprised your car didn’t have TPMS from the factory. Your car was built about 3 months before the phase in deadline for TPMS (September 1, 2008).

        I don’t think omitting features that the wiring harness allows for is all that unusual, though removing the glove box and center console lights is pretty lame.

        Adding OEM bluetooth on some BMWs is awful as well. Surprised you didn’t go aftermarket there. Then again, you replaced the manual :-)

        Good work!

      • 0 avatar
        Lee

        Do you have before/after pics of the gauge swap?

  • avatar
    319583076

    All hail, Hypnotoad!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    GM’s obvious problems aside, it saddens me this is not the standard on which cars are being made today. The feeling of misanthropy is strong at the moment.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      This is a dying segment. Americans don’t want full size sedans. It’s all about the midsize CUV today. This point has been hammered endlessly on the virtual pages of TTAC.

      The amount of misanthropy directed at Pontiac in particular was highlighted last week in Bark M’s piece on don’t modify your G8 (HA – sorry Bark!)

      In their Bark made a comment in the B&B section that said roughly, “apparently the B&B doesn’t care about what brand of car you drive, along as it isn’t a Pontiac.”

      He also commented that minus the Pontiac logo, it would make a perfectly nice executive car – and was thrashed by the B&B for that comment also.

      I have found that absent the Pontiac logos (and other changes made) that the reaction to my car is extremely positive. I actually agree with Bark M. – as someone on the leadership team on my company, the faux Holden doesn’t look out of place with my peers BMWs, Volvos, and Lexus.

      Now when I bring the daily drive Saturn minivan to work…

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        “I have found that absent the Pontiac logos (and other changes made) that the reaction to my car is extremely positive. I actually agree with Bark M. – as someone on the leadership team on my company, the faux Holden doesn’t look out of place with my peers BMWs, Volvos, and Lexus.”

        To what extent (if any) do you think it is necessary for the Pontiac logos to be absent to get the positive reactions, and have the car not look out of place parked with cars from established premium brands?

        Or to put it another way, how much of a car’s desirability is based on the attributes of the car itself, and how much is based on the presence of a premium badge – or at least the absence of a damaged one?

        In any case, congratulations on owning a fun, interesting car with some low key, tasteful mods!

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          I get what you’re asking, and it’s a tough question to answer.

          The Pontiac brand was just about destroyed by the mid-90s. Could it have been redeemed? I think one could argue in North America the Buick brand was even more damaged. The resurgence in Buick in just six years is pretty amazing.

          In my focus group of one, all I can tell you is with the Pontiac badging when I said it was a G8, the almost automatic next question was, “oh is that the car Oprah gave away?”

          When I converted the car (which goes beyond badges admittedly) the whole dialog changed, to what an amazing beautiful car it is.

          Brand does matter.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Although I don’t disagree with your specific Pontiac thoughts, my less than positive view of the other humans stems from their weak herd like mentality and utter stupidity in the choices they make as a group.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    You built a commodore? as someone who sees these rubbish cars on the street each and every day and who knows how badly they depreciate I can only think that you wanted something different from the rest of the herd. In Oz it would be seen that you built a $2000 car from a $20,000 car…ha ha

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      There is a significant G8 “tax” here in the states – no one can say there is a Pontiac “tax,” although certain Firebirds, really clean Fieros, and the Solstice Coupe command darn good prices – for iron built in the last 15 years.

      A 6 model year old G8 in the condition of my car, stock, would sell for $18K to $23K depending on the part of the country your in. That’s only 35% depreciation (give or take) in six years.

      I hold no delusions of this being a retirement plan – but I suspect the remaining G8s as they get thrashed by modifications, wrecked (the bar for a total is really low) and the numbers dwindle, the price will start moving in the other direction. I also suspect I’ll be worm food at that point.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      A VE SS still gets good money down here. And Commodores in general hold their value better their direct competition.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Damn. So much want……with a 3rd pedal :)

    That would have required a GXP I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      The original plan was to offer the Tremec 6060 with the L76 in the GT in 2009, and then bring the ST sport truck in 2010.

      The economic collapse and GMs failure ended both of those. I would have bought this with a manual without blinking.

      You can do the conversion – guy in Colorado (same guy building Utes) will do it – my understanding a full on proper conversion is about $7K – less what you can see your old tranny for.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Nice!

        I’m gonna just have top hope that maybe when the Verano lease is up I can get into a 6MT SS.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          I think the SS is the ultimate sleeper – but tickling $50K sticker, the Hellcat makes it borderline irrelevant.

          Now if they came out with a manual sportwagon as a last hoorah in the last model year…oh and brown…

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Depends. I think the SS is a much nicer looking and probably better appointed car then the Charger. I don’t really need 707hp, I think the 400+ is more than enough.

            Its kind of like the Verano T. Ultimate sleeper. No one really has a clue as to what it is, but it moves ok (obviously not G8 league, but you get my drift)

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            @davefromcalgary

            The SS is faster than the G8, published 0 to 60 times are around 4.6 land and 1/4 mile in the 12s – that would thump my car and hang with a GXP without issue.

            Definitely vastly better appointments than the G8 or GXP. It is definitely a sleeper. With a manual and magnetic ride control coming in 2015, it gets more interesting.

            Zeta was one heck of a platform.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Very nice and tastefully done! Unlike a lot of mods, this car actually looks better after the mods have been done. Like the backup sensors–I don’t think they were offered in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      They aren’t. I ordered the kit from Australia and had it installed here. The harness was there so it was plug and play, had dealer do the install so I didn’t have the risk of drilling the holes myself.

      Thanks for the compliment. I really wanted to be tasteful in this and not do something completely over the top.

  • avatar
    ktm_525

    How do you find the automatic transmission? I had a 2009 G8 GT but the elastic band transmission and poor shifting caused me to ditch the car within a year. With a standard I would have kept it. I agree with the car being under braked. How did you address this? I figured newer Camaro or GXP brakes would bolt right up?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Lots of questions here.

      The stock programming on the transmission on the 2009s was updated in a TSB. That was done pretty early to getting the car. The programming on the automatic was definitely biased to fuel economy, so shifts are slow.

      The Cortex tuner updates both the engine and transmission settings. Just for the transmission alone it is worth every penny. Superchips lets you select from 25% to 150% of their “recommended” and I run at 50%. Shifts are too darn harsh at 100% and I question on if you’re shortening the life. It makes a big difference. With that said sometimes when I plant the skinny pedal it still takes too much time – thinking.

      There are a number of brake options out there – but alas Camaro brakes don’t quite just bolt up. GXP brakes do, but you can’t use the 19″ sport rims or the 18″ stock rims, not enough rotor clearance. So you’re in for some bank. Someone just figured out the rear Brembos on the SS bolt right on (same clearance issues).

      Out in the wild people have used CTS-V, Camaro, and GXP brake gear.

      I went with DBA drilled and slotted rotors, Russell stainless steel brake lines (that in itself makes a big difference, the stock brake lines are crap) and Hawk ceramic pads. They can take the heat generated on the track – but I’m not super aggressive when I lap – more for fun.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        “There are a number of brake options out there – but alas Camaro brakes don’t quite just bolt up.”

        Rear knuckle is different between Camaro and Commodore, the discs too, I can’t speak about the fronts as I haven’t seen them, so no I would not expect them to interchange. GXP yes, but you need a wheel with the proper envelope to clear those calipers. VEII SSV-Redline wheels should do the trick.

        If the SS is having rear Brembos, they should bolt right in. Rear knuckle didn’t change from VE to VF IIRC.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          My undertanding is that is the case. The rear SS Brembos and rotors just bolt on – you do need the envelope clearance so the stock 18″ or 19″ non-GXP rims won’t work – unless you go with a spacer and longer studs.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      GXP owner here — the brakes are very good. Fade-proof in any street usage, although I haven’t taken it to the track. With the level of performance the GT has they really should have been on the GT as well.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        The upgrades I’ve done are definitely fade proof for the street. They get hot in lapping and fade but not to near useless like the OEM setup. The more important thing is they aren’t smoking after time on the track and the rotors aren’t warped out.

  • avatar
    Mercury Mark 75

    As a member of the G8 club (bought in june of 2009) two questions. What is in the coin tray area? Also, how hard was it to mount the alternative atari gauages? Would personally love to do this, but am reticent to starting cutting plastic.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Sharp eye! Great question.

      I went a little crazy with the stereo in the car. I kept the factory head unit, I’m not a fan of the Folic interface and I wanted to be tasteful.

      I have a JBL MS-8 and the small screen is the MS-8 interface. To the right of that is RCA inputs for audio and video to the factory head unit. I had the “video in motion” update done, so that you can display on the main screen an input from the rear auxiliary jacks (interesting not mounted on the rear of the head unit but on the right side) while driving. The one picture showing Jeremy playing from Pearl Jam is the video in motion work. The 12 Volt factory outlet was relocated into the panel. I insisted on all of this looking factory.

      The car has Morel and Focal speakers, JL digital amplifiers, and a JBL sub. In the cabin the only visible change in the MS-8 screen. The sub takes up a small area in the trunk, the amps are mounted out of sight, the JBL MS-8 installed in the indent on the right rear of the trunk.

      The factory speakers are the weak point in the stock stereo (did I mention bean counters earlier).

      On the gauges – no cutting of plastic required. If I can do the install, just about anyone could. I helped with the write up on a couple of G8 sites on how to do it. Your first time, takes a good 3 to 5 hours. After that you could probably do it in 90 minutes. You have to about gut the center console to get to where the gauges go, but the panel is just a removable trim plate (two screws). The gauges screw right into the same holes – I seem to remember you even use the same screws.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I replied earlier – probably trapped in the TTAC SPAM filter – it’s coming.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Why is that Peugeot lion in a circle?”

    I kid, I kid.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Another great AMA. Thank you, APaGttH!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    @APaGttH,
    Damn fine effort and dedication.

    Have you been to Australia?

    I sort of find it odd someone turning a Monaro into a Commodore.

    As for the SS wagon, buy a Caprice for your chassis.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I always thought the G8 should have been a Cadillac. I wonder what THAT kind of conversion would cost, with custom front and rear clips?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      As good as Zeta is as a platform, I just don’t think it was every up to Cadillac standards in the refinement department.

      I do think the Chevrolet SS would have been better served as a Buick flagship.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        It seems to me Cadillacs aren’t really up to “Cadillac” standards of refinement so in my view if its good enough for Buick its good enough for Cadillac.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Agreed on both counts. I love my GXP in so many ways but there is just very little refinement in any area other than suspension and steering. You’d have to redesign the entire car to make it an appropriate Caddy.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I’m always interested in cars converted into their original equivalents in another market. I mostly see Acuras turned into Hondas.

    I’m also a fan of simple five spoke wheels. Looks great and easy to clean.

  • avatar
    AFX

    Interesting conversion, and a long way to go to disassociate yourself from the normal Walmart shoppers/Pontiac owners crowd that would normally buy these things now that they’ve depreciated. I guess it’s a personal thing making a clone of a car like that, or making something what it isn’t. To me it doesn’t work out either way, it’s still not an Australian version of the car it’s cloned to represent, and it basically destroys the originality and resale value for anyone looking to buy an original G8. It’s like the guys who take a 1960’s or 1970’s Tempest or LeMans and try to make it into a fake cloned GTO, it’s not a real GTO and it’s no longer a Tempest or LeMans either. Maybe you should have just painted the G8 orange and made a fake Judge out of it instead, LOL.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Well done and nice car Toadster. I am not asking you anything as I think I know my good ol’ friend the VE well enough. I even got the book about it as farewell gift.

    You should swap for an SS, this year I read they got MRC and M/T. And the change from VE to VF was huge.

    Regarding your aim of slapping a HSV front end, you need some wiring to run the DRLs… and that won’t be plug and play.

    I think I made the offer before, and will make it again, if you need parts let me know. I still have friends that can supply those juicy GM P/Ns.

    There are some mods you could consider, like replacing your rear UCA with the aluminium ones from VEII for some weight reduction. Then, you definitely should go with a VEII decklid, complete with the Calais lip spoiler.

    And for sure, get these HSV wheels, they are forged and light: http://www.walkinshawperformance.co.uk/wp/uk/images/products/wheel-tyre/ds_01_vxr8gts_full.jpg In black, they’ll make your car stand.

  • avatar
    outback_ute

    Interesting reading, keep enjoying the G8!

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Do you see the SS as a viable alternative for the person who wants a new Holden? If you had to replace your G8, would the SS be in the running for a new car?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I don’t know. I wrote above how I would likely get a CPO Audi if the G8 had a tree land on it. I have purposely not driven a SS as I’ve read that it basically addresses everything wrong with the G8.

      Toss in the fact you can get a manual now, and magnetic ride control, and the same options they have in Australia, it would at least get a look.

      I’ve always had a thing for big sedans. Probably because I learned to drive in an 81 GM B-body

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        You don’t think you’d be satisfied with the G8 after driving the SS? I did check out some pictures online, it looks like the SS is a pretty straight badge job from the Commodore SS-V.

        I like the SS, but $45K is a lot. It would be nice if GM would offer the car in lower trims. Frankly, I think the SS would have been great as a Buick.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          I wrote that above – the SS in my opinion would have made more sense as a Buick flagship.

          The issue of price has been debated a lot on the SS. The fair comparison on the SS is the 2009.5 G8 GXP, as performance wise that is the closer benchmark.

          The G8 GXP stickered with the gas guzzler tax for $39,995. The 2014 SS is $45,770.

          #39,995 in inflation adjusted dollars is worth at the end of 2014 about $44,342 according to the BLS.

          So the price premium, adjusted for inflation, is about $1,400.

          For $1,400 you get self parking, touch screen infotainment with navigation, auto dimming mirror, rear Brembo brakes, a vastly better interior, Siri hands free and true mobile device integration via Bluetooth and USB, HID headlights, LED running lights, heated exterior mirrors, rain sensing wipers, power sunroof (that was an optional extra on the GXP), heated and ventilated front seats (only heated on the GXP), glovebox light, drive memory for seat etc., forward collision alert, heads up display, lane departure warning, cross traffic backup alert, rear view camera, and side blind spot alert.

          The sunroof on the GXP was a $995 option, so factor that in and you’re about on parity adjusted for inflation, for a lot more content, with a much better interior.

          The SS is well priced for what you get. The problem in my opinion is the Chevrolet bowtie on the front clip – $45K buys you more cachet from other brands (but with a lot less power and less content)

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          I wrote you a reply yesterday, but I guess the SPAM filter ate it.

          In really quick summary, when you adjust for inflation, Pontiac G8 GXP vs Chevy SS, the Chevy SS is actually a bargain.

          The bigger problem I see is that starting north of $45K, you start getting deep in the near luxury and into the luxury segment. The bowtie on the front clip I think hurts the SS.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Very nice car. I particularly like the Camaro SS wheels — those have always looked good on G8s.

    Since you’re local… do you have a mechanic in the area who knows the G8 well? I haven’t found one yet.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      GREAT question – and the answer is – no, not really,

      I’ve been happy with Kirkland Buick GMC, they’ve been fair, listen, and have addressed TSB issues with no drama. I have very light performance modifications (tune, cold air intake, axle backs) and at least for those light tweaks, they are modification friendly.

      Given I only have 34K miles on the car in 5-1/2 years, it doesn’t see the dealer all that much.

      I am big fan of Bucky’s in Shoreline, Washington. They are very reasonable, knowledgeable, fair priced, definitely listen, and aren’t out screw their customers.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Thanks. I live in Kirkland now so I might go and see the guys at Kirkland Buick GMC about the control arms (and also the good old LS oil pan seep).

        I’ve been assuming that I’m going to replace the GXP with a new car, but it’s paid for, and maybe if I can get some of the niggling issues fixed I’ll keep it a few years longer. A stick 2015 SS is really tempting but paying for it is really not tempting.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Question back at you – I picked up a wicked door ding this summer in my rear passenger door. As usual, it isn’t on a flat surface, but at the crease in the sheet metal so PDR is probably out.

      So I need to find a good body shop this winter to deal with it. Do you trust anyone out there to touch your car that isn’t going to look at this and go $1500.

      One bad problem of living in Puget Sound, Microsoft and Amazon employees with more money than sense – stunning how much auto work around here can cost! (no offense to TTAC readers who work at Microsoft or Amazon, if you work there and read here you know what I’m talking about and how generally awful it is to deal with the various luxury and near luxury brand dealers, especially on the eastside)

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      On the Camaro SS rims – GM should have done that from the word go, or offered something similar.

      It’s actually a fair investment. Camaro 20″ rims are cheap, the TPMS on the stock rims can be reused, and there are way more 20″ tire options than 19″ tire options, and at much better prices.

      It’s a win all around.

      I track with 19″ rims (and have some 17″ GTO rims I need to put some drag radials on – I know this car can do 12’s if I could get the power to the ground) because the 20″ rims in the rear rub the tiniest amount on hard turns. Debating on getting the fenders rolled to fit – I am fundamentally against doing it, and the rub is only when driving at 8/10s or above, and so light it doesn’t cause metal or tire damage (but it sounds horrific!)

      If anything it keeps me from driving like a moron on the street.

  • avatar
    matador

    Open-ended question:

    How does the G8 compare to the other Pontiacs? I’d assume that it’s a completely different animal than the G6, Grand Prix, Grand Am, Bonneville,…

    Second, what car (available in the US) is the G8 most similar to? I’ve never seen anything like them. They’re the only Pontiac that I would consider owning.

    Nice car!

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Thanks for taking the time to share your ride. I ALMOST bought a G8 GT in 2010, but elected for a more practical 3er wagon with a stick, but man, it was close! That car was so good I nearly bought it despite lacking a third pedal.

    To your point, the existence of the SS with a manual and magnetic suspension may mean I again darken the door of a GM dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      When I was doing my first high performance driving training and a couple of different instructors got some wheel time so I could get a better “feel” of things, and to observe their actions from a passenger, all of them commented the same thing:

      1) Gobs of power that just keeps coming – bow to the altar of torque and push rods!

      2) Incredibly balanced for a big car, two instructors drove Boxsters and both commented that the G8 was every bit as balanced with an almost perfect amount of very controlled over steer.

      3) Traction/Stability Control programmed better than any other car they’ve driven. I was told more than once, “hey turn on stability control,” to tell them, “it is on.” BMW, and Porsche especially, are hyper-vigilant, and tend to kick in stability control when the fun is still fun. GM Stabilitrak activates for the most part when the fun is no longer fun, and you’re on the brink of killing yourself. They also were surprised that a simple button push turned off all stability nannies (which leads back to point two above) and didn’t require some convoluted process.

      4) Under braked – but not horrific

      5) Does not move or handle like a two-ton car – light on its feet

      That was all with 19″ summer only rubber and before the brake upgrade

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    One of the most underrated cars…ever. I’d been looking at a BMW 5-series and decided to check out the G8 GT on a whim…excellent car!

    (…and a first-class sleeper…)

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      It’s no accident. Holden actively recruited E39 engineers and set their sights on the E60 as their benchmark for the development of the G8. This piece from 2007 is full of hyperbole fed by the GM PR machine and lapped up by the press that wrote it – but it supports the point.

      http://autoweek.com/article/car-news/bmw-benchmark-lutz-gets-his-wish-debut-pontiacs-g8-sedan

      And then there was the M5 comparos – including this one on TTaC favorite site, Jalopnik.

      http://jalopnik.com/5098711/pontiac-g8-gxp-laps-nurburgring-in-830

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Gordon

        “Holden actively recruited E39 engineers”

        Absolute piffle….on so many levels. Why would they need E39 engineers, like they are some magicians? Holden had plenty of its own engineers well up to the task Benchmarking is nothing more than knowing what your competitors are doing.

        Firstly if you are going to employ engineers on the basis of the product which they have been involved with, why the hell would you employ BMW E39 engineers? The thing like most BMWs rides like a bloody milk dray on anything but the smoothest roads. Its simply awful on rough roads wearing 19s.

        Secondly who’s going to translate for all these German engineers in English speaking Australia?

        Given that the E39 was being designed in about 1992, how did they manage to locate this horde of BMW engineers twelve years later to design the VE Commodore? Did they go round like a scene from Ocean’s Eleven propositioning them all individually?

        How many engineers do you suppose work at Holden? The answer is compared to most other car companies Holden (and Ford AUS) run a very sparse crew. Product Engineers typically have a much greater level of component responsibility than virtually anywhere else in the volume car production world. It is not unusual for an engineer with perhaps a couple of years experience to have design responsibility for a whole vehicle system. This is why in both the Ford and GM world their Australian arms were always seen very cost efficient engineering. So in this context, please explain to me where a large crew of highly paid German expats would fit in?

        However I will concede that GMH and Ford Aus were often a juicy assignment for seppo Journeyman engineers, and more particularly middle management wishing to make a name for themselves in a small pond, but that is a whole different story!

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          “The thing like most BMWs rides like a bloody milk dray on anything but the smoothest roads. Its simply awful on rough roads wearing 19s.”

          Almost any car not designed for 19s is going to have a rough ride when wearing them. Even the E39 M5 came with 18s. I guess ride quality is subjective, but I found it quite comfortable on factory 17s (non-M).

          That minor point aside, I agree with the rest. Recruiting E39 engineers doesn’t make a lot of sense.

        • 0 avatar
          BMWnut

          I have also seen reports that Holden copied the suspension of the E39. It seems like they did it very faithfully. That would explain the control arms reliability issues mentioned above. Regular bushing replacements are a known weak link(!) of the E39. Ask the man who owns one.

          In this regard, I am reminded of the Russians copying the B-29 bomber during/after World War Two. They used planes that made emergency landings in Soviet territory. The Tu-4 clones had exactly the same engine fire issues as the original!

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          It wouldn’t be surprising if some BMW engineers ended up at GM, as it’s a small industry. Whether they were recruited for the Commodore, I don’t know.

          It isn’t difficult to find Germans who speak better English than native English speakers in Australia or the US.

          And lest we forget, Bob Lutz helped to spearhead the development of the original 3-series. (Yes, he worked at BMW.)

          It was also Lutz’s goal to model Pontiac after BMW, and he had intended to use RWD cars such as the Commodore as part of that plan. Undoubtedly, there was some internal benchmarking going on prior to the GM bankruptcy.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Others have already replied with great answers to your post.

          Zeta engineering started in 2000. As noted by others Lutz came from BMW (among other companies) and could be called the father the of the 3-series.

          Zeta was a clean sheet design, involving 1000 engineers. The project was headed in Australia but involved engineers in the United States and Germany – at the GM engineering facilities located in those countries.

          The suspension on Zeta is just about a full on ripoff of the BMW setup, including, as noted above and by numerous TSBs, its appetite to eat front lower control arms and bushings.

          General Motors had stated every step of the way, and a simple Google search would reveal, the BMW 5-series was the GM benchmark from a performance standpoint. Please note, I said performance, not material quality stand point.

          The general conclusion globally (UK Top Gear did a comparo with the Holden derived Vauxhall VXR8 as one small example you can find) GM succeeded in that benchmark. The GXP was darn close to the M5 in performance.

          To the issue of language barriers, as noted by others, English is the international language of commerce and an educated, internationally recognized engineer is likely going to speak English. Even if that is an issue there is this thing that’s been around since 1969 called the Internet, and engineers at GM’s German design and engineering studio did a ton of work on Zeta.

          It would be unreasonable that Lutz stayed in touch with key engineers through his career. As a hiring manager I can tell you that I’ve had conversations with recruiters saying, “I’m looking for people who worked on X at Y company,” more than once. We’ve tossed higher pay at these candidates and other incentives because we’ve identified they’re good at what they do, and will fit well in the culture.

          The Port Melbourne design studio had just 106 engineers at it when Zeta started, GM did a global recruitment push for 70 more as Zeta was about 2/3 of the way through development. It was a global search.

          So, if you’re building a car with a clean sheet. If Lutz, the guy who did the 3-series is calling the shots, and your benchmark from a performance stand point is to build a BMW 5-series, and the parent organization owning the design work previous RWD work was kind of meh-ish, and the work before that was based on the B-body — who are you going to target for hiring? The local market? Daewoo engineers?

          Or will you tap your network and contacts to go after the people who built the product.

          Sadly the internet keeps a record of everything – except for the exact article from the news you’re looking for when you need to find it. I wish I had discovered Delicious sooner.

          Many engineers that were involved with the Zeta platform had E-39 at BMW on their resume. GM specifically recruited these engineers, and in BMW circles, the E39 is considered the best 5-series built.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    My comment last night went into spam hell :(

  • avatar
    Dr. Claw

    Seriously cool. It’s like finding out the guy a few aisles down was the one who owned the coolest car in the lot.

  • avatar
    Aaron.mccarthy81

    My question is, where in the hell did you find a giant mural of Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in Northwestern Washington state?!?

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