ON OCTOBER 20, 2017, the production line at Holden’s Elizabeth plant in Adelaide will produce its last vehicle, marking the end of a 69-year epoch of Australian vehicle manufacturing for General Motors. Once one of 13 nations that built a car from the ground up on its own soil, this won’t be the case anymore. With the exception of Holden Special Vehicles, which will continue to assemble cars in its Clayton, Victoria, facility until December, Australia will have produced its last car, closing the curtain on a near 120-year-old Australian motoring industry.
This is, obviously, momentous. It comes off the back of Ford discontinuing its local manufacturing on October 7, 2016, ending a 91-year stretch of Australian Blue Oval car making stretching back to the Model T.
And if you’re reading this issue after October 3, 2017, Toyota will have produced its last car locally as well, ending 54 years of manufacturing in Australia for itself. Between these three car makers, more than 16 million cars will have been built on Aussie soil by Aussie hands – Toyota more than 3.4 million, Ford 5.9 million and Holden, more than 7 million.
Of course, an entire industry is in shock including the businesses which supply parts and expertise to these manufacturers. Across Australia, particularly South Australia and Victoria, up to 200,000 people could be affected. Plainly, while after this year local manufacturing will be gone, Australia economically will be feeling the repercussions for years to come.
This issue, we’ve focused on Holden and in particular, the Aussie-built Commodore. But while the Commodore has ‘only’ been around since 1978, the Holden brand has been influencing Australian culture for more than 150 years, first as a saddlery producing leather goods for a bright, young nation; then supporting Australia through its first major conflicts
with the manufacturer of munitions and machinery; and finally, as the company that gave Australians their transportation – and the ability to cross a continent in comfort, style and reliability. Earlier this was as Holden & Frost Ltd, designing and building bodies for imported chassis, and later as the Holden we’ve come to know in modern times. In either guise, it’s been the brand that has dominated the Australian car market for generations.
While Ford had been manufacturing cars in Australia long before Holden, Holden has always been Australia’s car. Why? Because Holden, aside from a unique history contributing to the development of Australia be it telegraph lines or war efforts, has always put a premium on making a car for Australian conditions – sweltering heat, dust and corrugations, across distances Europeans couldn’t dream of. Some catchy marketing over the years also helped, such as ‘we love football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars’. Holden successfully positioned itself as ‘Australia’s own car’.
As for that car, the Australian public won’t know what they’ve lost until after it’s gone. And not just the car itself, but the pride in pointing to a vehicle and saying, ‘we made that’. Of course, performance enthusiasts will know, as we’re the only ones who seem to recognise the outstanding value in something like an SS-V Redline. It’s unfortunately ironic that Holden can’t (couldn’t?) make enough of them.
This issue, we’ve focused heavily on Commodore as not just the Holden most of us know best, but also as the car that came to best represent what the company could do. The VE, of course, was famously the car Holden was allowed to design, engineer and develop from a cleansheet starting point. And resulted in a car that truly equalled the best engineering from Germany at the time.
From a tiny little backwater nation called Australia.
In the next 60 pages, we try to relive some of this; from the people, to the motorsport victories, to the cars. And why Holden, the manufacturer, had the impact that it did.
046 Fast Family Reunion
From VB SL/E to VF II SS-V Redline Motorsport Edition, we get together our 10 greatest performance Commodores dline gether mmodores
068 ZB ‘Eurodore’ rated
Veteran Holden engineer jumps in the passenger seat as we get our of the next ZB Commodore ps first taste
077 5 Early Myth-Makers
Commodore is just part of the legend.
We pay tribute to five Aussie-Holdens that got the story started -made rted
088 Skaife: The HRT Era
The Holden racing legend talks glory days, and retells stories VE Commodore’s development ks the HRT from the nt
096 The HDT Era
John Harvey and John Sheppard on Brock, Bathurst, and building firstever Commodore touring car ard the first
100 Where It Leaves Us
We honestly don’t have much to say at this point, but offer some words on where we go from here h