Long before the curse that is the SUV came along, Aussie families rode around in sedan-based station-wagons. They rode as well as a sedan, went just as hard, handled much the same and, in the case of the XM Falcon version, they also looked cooler than a polar bear’s bum. From the rear three-quarter, that glasshouse and round tail-lights thing still rocks and I’ll take mine in 60s bathroom green with a white roof. Ta. The only catch is that the six-banger is a bit hard to fiddle with its cast-in-one head and inlet manifold, but who cares. If ever a car said ‘kick back and cruise’ this is it.
I know this is bordering on local muscle, but the GLX was a less of a hard-nut than the VH Pacer yet still managed to look tough while offering genuine practicality. The factory code for the GLX option was A16 (I think) and as well as a chance to option up the 318 (in auto only) my pick in the day would have been the 265 Hemi and a four-speed with a floor-shift. These things went hard back then and will still feel pretty good even now. And the electronic ignition advance and clever carburettor (ELB) meant that, driven sanely, these could get down to around 10 litres per 100km on the highway.
Okay, so you’ve got to get a five-litre V8 example and they’re starting to get a bit pricey. And, yes, I know they’re not a steel bumper car. But is it just me, or is the VN shape really coming into its own a full three decades after it was first seen? And while they’re not new cars by any means, these old VNs with the injected bent-eight and the four-speed auto actually drive like a much more modern car. The two other cars I’ve nominated here require some patience on the driver’s part… not the VN Calais. Torrens has one of these and I’ve ridden in it lots. It’s beaut.
Although way too young to need my own family car when the R-Series Valiant arrived here in 1962, I was so smitten that I would have loved my dad to trade the family Holden in on one.
First the performance available from the amazing 225-cube Slant Six motor made competing Holdens and Falcons look pathetic by comparison. Then there was the flamboyant styling. While Chrysler had been the style kings of Detroit since the late 1950s, its sensational Plymouths, Dodges and De Sotos had been exotics, beyond the reach of ordinary Aussie families. But with the R-Series we suddenly had a snazzy, affordable family car featuring a good serve of Chrysler’s styling chutzpah.
The arrival of the EJ/EH models marked the end of the era of derivative and dated looks for Australia’s own. The new wagons looked as good as the sedans. The EH’s new ‘red motors’ quickly pushed the EJ into the shadows, ending the 15-year run of the trusty old ‘grey motor’.
A 179 manual EH Special wagon was a handsome car that covered all the family’s needs – it was a six-seater with heaps of luggage space, a champion camper teamed with a tent and it was cheap to run and DIY-friendly to maintain.
Best of all with a 179 manual you finally had a Holden that could push the speedo needle to the magic ton (on a downhill run with a bit of tailwind).
The Aussie Falcon really came of age with the ‘Mustang-bred’ XR model. Its fresh shapely body styling won approving nods all round. Perhaps more importantly, thanks to the previous XP model’s clean durability record doubters were finally coming to believe that the Aussie Falcon was truly ‘Trim, taut and terrific’, a car that was engineered and built to meet the demanding duties that family cars were expected to perform in our wide brown land.
But as always with me it’s all about the engine. The XR Falcon gets a big tick from me because for the first time a post-war Australian family car, the entry-level model, offered a V8 engine option – the sweet 289 Windsor.
Come on, I could hardly avoid nominating the last of the Kingswoods, since we bought a sedan way back in 1982 and have kept it ever since.
Putting the ownership issue aside for a moment, to me these things represent the end of an era and become increasingly unlike the ‘normal’ cars you see scuttling about the streets these days.
Plus they’re a a very useable and handsome classic with enough performance, handling and brakes to cope with modern traffic.
There’s no doubt wagons are very much back on the collector radar and if I happened to have an HZ truckster to go with my sedan, that would be great.
But really, if I was going to all the trouble of getting another car, I’d swing towards Chrysler. That’s based on two things: I like the feel of the product and I reckon this generation is one of the most handsome wagons, ever.
That light and airy glasshouse, with the big six working away up front – yep, a pretty good way to travel.
This is one of those love-hate relationships. I look at the spec of the Ford coupes of this era and wonder if it would be a smart buy.
But every time I see one in the flesh, I’m instantly drawn to it. The first of our locally-built coupes – albeit a direct lift of the American car – has a fair bit of historical significance.
Somehow, that long-tail look has survived and just screams sixties optimism, particularly with the ‘space age’ tail-lamps. Love it.
As Un-Australian as it sounds, I don’t feel any devout devotion to the classic Red v Blue – anything with wheels seems to catch my eye so this one will be a bit of a mix.
My first pick for an Aussie-family transporter would be the XB Fairmont. An XW would be lovely but far too expensive, and I find myself more drawn to the XB’s curves. It’s a handsome thing, and if I could have one with a factory 302 to cruise about in – that’d do me well.
The last of the Kingswoods, and a classic in its own right. Thanks to three magic words: “Radial Tuned Suspension”, the car steered far better than its understeer-ridden predecessors.
Guido found a tasty one for $16,000 in a recent edition of Today’s Tempter. He doesn’t admit to buying it – yet.
V8s are getting on in price, but many received heart transplants back in the 80s. I’m not necessarily a ‘numbersmatching’ sort of guy, so I’ll take what can get – condition depending.
Give me a wagon, with some louvres and a roof rack for the surfboard I don’t have. It’s a famously (or notoriously) simple and spartan car but I think that’s part of the appeal.
Lastly, something a bit more modern to mix it up. The VE chassis was a breakthrough car for Holden, and the R8 Clubsport had a stonking 6.0lt LS2 (6.3lt post-2008), room for five and could be had with a chunky T56 Tremec six-speed. These things are pretty affordable these days, with VE1s hovering around the low 20s. Again my wagon love shines through as I’d ideally take the Tourer based off the Sportwagon body.
For those after a more modern Aussie family car, you’d be hard-pressed to go past the VE Clubby.
I love the look and shape of the XB-GT that was so much racier than Holden’s HQ. What’s more it was family friendly with acres of interior space to keep everyone happy. Its big boot easily swallowed everything needed for a summer beach holiday. The wrap-around dash looked so cool and then there was the throw-you-back in the seat, tyre-shredding grunt that only Henry’s big 351, mated to a four-slot manual could deliver, accompanied by baritone exhaust note. The exterior was a bit badass with its nostril bonnet, sectioned grille, mag wheels, front and rear spoilers and big GT351 stickers on its side and bum. If I did have to tone it down, I’d settle for a GS with a 302 V8 and auto box.
I lugged my family about in one for over a year, where it served duty attending sporting events, several nurseries, family gatherings, and as a shopping cart, Bunnings dweller, golf cart, ambulance, hospitality unit, pet carrier, bike carrier, furniture van, and occasionally a weekend warrior. The GTS was a beaut thing to drive, extremely refined and while it happily pootled about the burbs going about its many aforementioned duties, point-to-point on a challenging piece of blacktop, not much could stay with it. Damn I miss it.
Call me sentimental. Last but not least I’d have what I believe is the ultimate Holden Commodore and their fastest and finest family ferry. A 2017 VF Series 2 SS-V Redline auto. Its quality, fit and finish is world-class and its performance per dollar unrivalled. It has all the bells and whistles to keep everyone comfortable, safe and entertained and they are an absolute delight to pedal fast and slow. Long distances are as easily undertaken as breathing and they just look the business.
If you wanted to make a statement, I reckon it’s impossible to go past the Chrysler by Chrysler hardtop.
Of course they’re almost impossibly rare in good condition and they’re getting expensive, but if you found one you’d be king of the street.
With that extended wheelbase and power everything, this was the height of local luxury. And you got the premium engines: either the 265 Hemi six or the 360 V8. I wouldn’t be too troubled about which one you got, though the V8 probably suits the long wide and proud Americana feel to the whole thing.
Yep, I’m probably stepping into muscle car territory here, but the fact is an XR6 is a family car.
I know because I own a BA XR6 Turbo and it’s been the main transport for our young family for several years.
It’s had some niggling electronic issues, but it remains a great car.
No shed is complete without a screaming eighties rocketship, and my favourite is the VK Calais.
It’s the giant digital dash that gets me every time I sit in one – that plus the two-tone paint.
And the engine? Would a V8 manual be too much to ask?