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Leo Pruneau – Holden Chief Designer | SHANNONS DESIGN TO DRIVEWAY | Ep 1

By Shannons - Published on 20 October 2022

“Everybody thought Brock designed it. Peter never even saw the damn car until the covers came off.” 

When we ask Leo a question, you know you are going to get an answer! 

From Missouri to Melbourne - via London, is the story of Leo Pruneau. From selling Studebakers as a young man in the family business, then as a young graduate from the Art Centre College of Design in Los Angeles, to designing the 1965 Chevrolet Impala Coupe – Leo was destined to have an impact on the car world. He designed the US Solaris - a design which would ultimately become the Holden HD and a style that influenced every GM model globally at the time.   

When Leo arrived in Australia, fortunately, he liked what he saw, and when Leo got behind the design desk, something special was always on its way.  

Only Leo could create a luxury Holden Statesman Caprice inspired by Rolls Royce and Aston Martin – with a hand-made front grille. When Holden discovered they had 600 plus HX coupe panels left over – they needed a quick and cheerful special offer package. Instead, Leo raided the spare parts and some of the wheels and accessories from the GM world and produced the now highly collectible LE Monaro coupe.  

Leo was never a guy who did things by halves. When Holden decided to adopt the smaller Opel Rekord based VB Commodore, it was Leo who styled the early Australian VB – VC – VH and VK Commodores – including the HDT Brock Commodore.  

In his typical fashion, Leo speaks out on Peter Brock in this episode. “With the VB HDT Commodore, everyone thinks Brocky did them. Peter never even saw the car until the covers came off.”

Watch as Leo reveals how after an afternoon visit from the Holden race team boss Harry Firth, he created the legend of the A9X styling with a bonnet-scoop design he borrowed from Corvette and how together with the A9X flared wheel guards, Holden created a huge explosion in modified customer vehicles. This started the HDT and HSV customised vehicles. 

Although Leo Pruneau retired from Holden in 1988, he says “I could not get the gasoline out of my blood.” And nothing has changed to this day. 

“Shannons are proud to commission this landmark series to celebrate the rich design heritage of the cars we all know and love. While Shannons plays a key role as Australia’s leading insurer for motoring enthusiasts, we also believe it is very important to preserve our automotive history for future generations” said Mark Behr, Executive Manager, Marketing for Shannons.