MY PICK here is a car that I’ve been guilty of overlooking for decades; the ZG Fairlane. To be honest, I haven’t had much to do with them and reckon the last one I actually sat in was the property of the deadshit father of my girlfriend at the time. So, we’re talking the 1980s, a period in time when the ZG was yesterday’s Fairlane, cheap to buy and, therefore, prime deadshit-bait.
Around the same time, my little bruvver had a HQ Statesman (similar buyer profile, obviously) which couldn’t get near the ZG for interior plushness. I could also never truly get my head around that l-o-n-g tail of the Holden, while the Ford was, to my eyes, a much better balanced piece of work. That said, I seem to remember the Ford copping its share of flak back in the day for looking too much like an XA Falcon with a thyroid problem. But since I reckon the XA was one of the better looking Falcons anyway, I don’t have a problem with that.
And there’s one other good reason to choose the Henry: Holden never offered a 351 Clevo backed up by an FMX tranny. I guess if I had my choice, I’d wind up with the LTD version with those shuttered headlights and centre-console switchgear that looked like a cluster of little gearsticks. Make it black with a black vinyl roof and white trim. Yeah, I’d drive that.
HOW MANY nonnos/zios/ pappous/theios would be looking at this feature and thinking in amazement that we finally are appreciating the Aussie luxury cars they owned with pride.
As much as I love Fords I have never been attracted to the bulging styling that was on offer during the era, but when it comes to the GM offerings you have me converted.
The HX Statesman is getting better with age in my eyes, the Cadillac styled crests and a well proportioned body that is manageble to own and park make this one stylish vehicle. Once a common sight, when was the last time you saw one?
My ultimate pick though is the HDT enhanced Magnum, these cars are stuck in between two decades where simulated woodgrain meets plastic. Subtle body colour coding, unique alloys (if ordered) and the additional HDT cosmetic touches and under bonnet enhancements make me really consider potential ownership.
With every other local Holden associated with HDT soaring in value I think the Magnum would be a solid investment you can enjoy.
TOO MANY choices – that’s the real problem. In an ideal world I’d have a warehouse devoted to a fleet of Australianmade land yachts, maybe headlined by the P5 LTD you see here, complete with the powered headlight covers. How many of those are out there?
I reckon you have to drive these things to full appreciate them, and there’s no better example of this than the Magnum feature car I drove for the first time just the other day. It was truly impressive.
To get a big brute like a WB Statesman to handle halfway decently, without riding like a dray, is quite an achievment. And to have what was then the premium engine tuning for the 5.0lt V8 in the snout was a real bonus. If I owned one now, it wouldn’t be gathering dust in the shed – it would be used.
The other toy that gets the proverbial juices flowing is the Ford Landau. Would have one in a heartbeat. Yes I know they’re a clumsy thing that’s allegedly all power and bad manners, which is half of its charm. Its massive brutish looks and the fact it’s hiding a 351 and a nine-inch under that luxo exterior just has huge appeal. As for the interior, Higgins has likened it to a bordello, which is a little harsh. However I reckon the bordello look is making a comeback...
THE WB CAPRICE took Holden as close as was feasibly possible to making a Cadillac for Australia. Of course, the big V8’s performance, brakes and general road manners would have left Caddys of the era wallowing, which is probably why when WB production ceased we didn’t get a Seville or Cimarron in its place.
With the compact Commodore imminent and fuel economy a top-of-mind consideration for buyers, the days of long-wheelbase Holdens are numbered. During the mid-70s when developing the last-ever Statesman, GMH could have skimped on design advancement but to their credit they didn’t and ensured that the WB would be much more than an HZ in a Hughie Boss suit.
Then and now, the version to track down is a Caprice. Given the cost of getting a bad car back to pristine, you also need to grab the absolute best example you can afford. When new, the top-spec Statesman cost a third more than the base-model De Ville but was packed with gear including power windows, air-conditioning, plasti-wood dash trim and the first cruise control fitted to an Australian car. That all needs to be working or be replaced. Caprice wheels were 7 x 15 inch alloys with 60 Series rubber in place of the De Ville’s steel rims with tall and squirmy 78s. That change alone made a world of difference to the way a WB Caprice held the road. Another feature that made the Americans look neanderthal were all-disc brakes and their massive contribution to dynamic safety.
If you’re concerned about how much fuel that 5.0-litre V8 might gulp, WBs are sometimes sold with operational LPG equipment. However the vast majority of today’s owners are going to use their WB to cruise, enjoy and impress passers-by, rather than as regular transport.
LTD FC For several glorious, socialclimbing days in the early 1990s I owned a FC series Ford LTD and learned why these cars were so symbolic of success in this country. It wasn’t the best example of the breed and it didn’t cost me much; an unwanted trade found skulking behind the office of a dealer, waiting for the wholesalers to come.
The air-con worked, the red leather was intact and just needed a decent feed. It had at some point acquired dual exhausts and the 5.8-litre V8 rumbled just like the ones in those GT Falcons I couldn’t afford to insure let alone buy. Best of all it was white with the obligatory vinyl roof covering just a shade darker.
LTDs back in their new-car days were emblems at the very highest levels. They carried captains of industry and political leaders, even the Prime Minister had one, complete with ‘C1’ numberplates.
They were roomy front and rear with leather-clad seats that were actually comfortable, great air-conditioning, lots of electric gismos and a decent if not cavernous boot. They would cruise easily at 160km/h, which was handy if the PM was in a hurry to see the G-G, and handled as well as 1800kg with cart springs under its bum could manage.
By the 1990s the LTD with its ‘Rolls-Royce’ frontal aspect was seen as outdated and positively gluttonous once petrol hit $1 a litre. Down, down went values and quite reasonable cars went to the wreckers. There are survivors though, including a few still in exceptional condition that have helped carry values past $25,000.
WHAT AUSSIE LUXO MONSTERS of the 1970s and 80s would I want lurking in my shed?
I can immediately think of one I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.
The Ford Landau. A mate bought one in the early 80s cos it was cheap.
Should have been named the Land Yacht for its seasick inducing soft, wafting ride. There was little if any connection between the steering wheel and front end, so navigating a road was all about sawing away on the tiller and heading in the general intended direction. With a 351 in its snout it did have a good turn of grunt if you were game. The interior in my mate’s was awful.
It looked like a bordello and was as cheap and tasteless as the exterior.
But there is one two-door luxo I’d happily park in the drive. The 770 Charger. It sat at the top of the range. Oddly it was the only one to get a V8 powerplant, while the race version had to tackle Mt Panorama and GT-HO Falcons with two less cylinders. I really like the look of the Charger and the 318ci Mopar V8 under its bonnet gives it true performance cred. From what I recall it offered a semi-sporty ride and reasonable levels of handling. It had all the fruit inside, including aircon and cassette player all standard.
And I’d have to have an HDT Magnum. After all it’s a Brock and one of the first models to be fettled by his famed HDT outfit, with acres of room inside and its exterior square styling carried through to the interior. HDT added more urge to the 308ci, made the auto shift slicker and tied down the corners so its handling didn’t scare its occupants witless.