AT THE moment I’m swinging between shrugging the shoulders and just sauntering off into the middle distance, or driving up to Canberra to have a serious full volume rant at the first (preferably every) senior minister I can find. For crying out bloody loud, we’ve screwed up here.

Local volume manufacture of cars has come to an end. Ford went last year, Toyota has just gone and Holden pulls the pin on October 20. Now I’ll hasten to add I’m not an economist, but I’d still rate this as one of the great (and there are several) blunders in recent local history.

Where do you start? How about losing an industry which requires a high degree of technical sophistication to keep going? With it goes demand for a whole raft of skill sets that are valuable in other industries and in their own right. Plus, we’re talking of an industry that’s about to undergo fundamental generational technical change – including alternative sources of power and new guidance systems – and we essentially will miss the entire boat on that one.

And here’s an irony: this is happening just as the product reaches a level that is up there with the best, dynamically and as a value-for-money proposition. Drive a current SS-V Redline and you’ll quickly understand what I mean.

Those are my more or less sane reasons for being upset.

But there is a strong visceral aspect as well – the family histories that are tied up with local car manufacturing. Now by definition you can’t lose a history, but you can end it. That’s probably what’s annoying me more than anything else.

Cars are woven into the fabric of our family lives and none more so than a local product. My family has owned the same Kingswood for 35 years and the next generation (which has literally grown up in it) has very firm plans to keep it. They’re already talking about what the ground rules are when a third generation comes along and reaches driving age!

For some, the connection goes much further. Pictured is Mark Austin and his son at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground.

You could have taken more or less the same photo 30 years ago, when Mark was a kid and attended the Holden Christmas picnic with his dad. You can read more about them in a separate story on page 112. Suffice it to say there are already three generations of this family with strong emotional ties to building cars locally.

The decision to cease doesn’t belong entirely to GM, as the issues are far broader and I have to say that successive governments have assisted this to happen. Yes, I understand the intentions were good, and so too was much of the reasoning, but it’s a dreadful result.

So I guess it’s time to roll out the standard line we like to use when speaking at a funeral: we’re not here to mourn a loss, but to celebrate a great life. And it has been great. It’s been 69 years of adventure and fun with local cars, so that’s something to be grateful for.

This issue we wrap up what has been a 10-month coverage of Holden and its iconic products. Enjoy… (Our heartfelt thanks to GMH for giving access to Lang Lang.

It not only meant a lot to us, but every participant on the day.)

Guy ‘Guido’ Allen

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