IF, LIKE ME, you love chatting cars, 2018 was packed with significant dates.
Regular readers will know of my enthusiasm for VW’s Beetle… it turned 80 in 2018! Bugs invaded the planet like no other car before or since. From Herbie to off-road racers, these days the Bug has an astonishing international enthusiasts’ following.
Holden bench-marked the Aussie family car formula in 1948 (so it was 70 last year) with its iconic 48-215, helping establish Australia’s midcentury-modern, house-inthe-suburbs culture.
With tyre tracks everywhere from the Snowies to the Kimberley the Land Rover (also 70 last year) is a hugely relevant rig for Aussies. Also born in 1948 (so also 70) was the Morris Minor that many of our more experienced readers trundled to school or work in.
At the other end of the fast/slow scale, also 70 was Porsche. It began its path to being the world’s best-respected sports car brand in 1948.
Holden’s Monaro arrived in 1968 with the first Holden (Chevrolet) V8 engine option, spilling the first blood in Australia’s half-century Ford V8 v Holden V8 punch-up.
The mighty Ford Escort and Datsun 1600 were 50 last year, too… Both legends, particularly the Datto as this model really made the world wake up and take notice of the emerging Japanese car industry.
In 1978, Mazda gave us its iconic RX-7 (40). Also 40 was Holden’s Commodore.
In 1988, the ‘Big New V6 Holdens’ (as the VN series was advertised) arrived for a fair fight with the also-new EA Falcon (both 30). Holden Special Vehicles’ iconic first production model, the wild winged wonder Holden Commodore SS Group A SV was 30, too.
So, there were plenty of celebrations in 2018!
There’s a few for this year, too. You’d be stupid to overlook the first Mini (60) that was so brilliant, so cool and so right that it was sold until 2000, an incredible 41 years. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch for mention in 2019 but Ford’s Falcon name-plate arrived in 1959, too, as a US 1960 model - which is the year the Falcon was launched in Australia.
Holden’s Aussie-designed V8 arrived in 1969… happy 50th! The mighty six-cylinder LC Torana – and its bold GTR model – is also 50 this year.
Ford’s European-inspired but Aussie-tough (except for those door handles!) XD series arrived in 1979 so is 40 this year.
Plenty of Aussie car nuts will raise a beer to Peter Brock’s domination at Bathurst 40 years ago. Stamping absolute authority on the Torana’s 1970s racing success, Brock put his SS A9X Hatch on pole, led the race for the whole day and the whole way, won by six laps and set a new lap record on the last lap. That occurred just a month after he won 1979’s 20,000km around-Australia Repco Reliability Trial.
Turning 30 in 2019 is the world’s most popular sports car, the Mazda MX-5. Toyota’s second-gen MR2 turns 30 this year, too, although in contrast to three decades of the MX-5’s popularity, seeing an MR2 now is a sad reminder of the reality of Toyota’s now-lost sports-car prowess.
Holden’s born-again EFI V8 is also 30 this year. The roar of the iron lion is stamped into many car nuts’ souls as the noise of every cool dad’s car (and almost every Aussie cop car) for the next decade.
The first two HSV-branded V8 models, the now-coveted SV89 and SV5000 are both 30 this year. All this spurred Ford Australia into building a 1990s V8 Falcon and establishing its performance vehicles division, Tickford.
Also making international headlines in 1989 was Toyota’s Benz-bashing Lexus premium brand (if you care!) and Nissan’s incredible allwheel drive, twin-turbo R32series GTR. Happy 30th!
HSV’s first 5.7-litre GTS -and Senator optioned with that torquey stroked 215kW mill – was launched in 1994.
HSV’s best-remembered foes, the Nissan 200SX and Subaru WRX, arrived in ’94 too. All being 25, these four glorious enthusiasts’ models became eligible for H-plates (in Victoria) on Jan 1 so interest in these is bubbling… but real car nuts already know that!