MORE THAN THE LIONíS SHARE

I LEARNED SOMETHING INTERESTING THE OTHER DAY: APPARENTLY, I HOLD THE DISTINCTION OF HAVING PUBLISHED MORE ISSUES OF WHEELS WITH A HOLDEN ON THE COVER (OR A CLOSELY RELATED HSV) THAN ANY OTHER EDITOR IN KNOWN CHRISTENDOM.

Ged Bulmer

I havenít done the maths to confirm if this is right Ė and given that the great Peter Robinson sat in the editorís chair for almost twice as long as I did, I have my doubts Ė but Iím happy to wear it.

By the time I graduated to Wheels after cutting my editing teeth at in-house rival Motor (where I also published my fair share of Holden covers), Iíd worked out that Aussies liked reading about Ďourí cars over just about anything else.

Of course we dabbled with all manner of other marques from Italy, Germany, Japan, the USA and the UK, but finding a reason to put a Holden (or a Ford Falcon for that matter) on the cover generally translated into strong sales.

After all, Aussie newsstands were then, as they are today, littered with imported car magazines of every colour, shape and persuasion. So the one thing an Aussie car mag could do that no foreigner could touch us on was own our patch.

It helped that during my stint at Wheels, Holden Ė and, by association, HSV Ė went on an incredible local product offensive, the likes of which hadnít been seen before, or since.

Inspired by the zeitgeist it tapped with the reborn Monaro, the General spun model variants off the Commodore platform at an astonishing rate. For a while there, it looked like Holden could actually become a global player.

Meanwhile, chief crayon twirler Mike Simcoe and his talented team of designers at Fishermans Bend served up a slew of eye-popping concept cars to galvanise public attention and fuel the mediaís voracious appetite for Holden stories.

It was a clever ploy that kept Holden in the headlines and Commodore at the top of the sales race throughout this centuryís first decade.

HSV really came of age, too. As the 2000s rolled on, the Clayton performance outfit backed its increasingly daring and differentiated design with greater engineering divergence from the core product, culminating in 2017ís brutal W1.

So yes, I ran a few Holden covers over the years, and Wheels sold plenty of mags off the back of that coverage. Iím not embarrassed by that; in fact Iím proud to have done my bit to support our car industry.

In the end that small effort, and the far more significant efforts of tens of thousands of others whose livelihoods depended on our domestic manufacturing industry, was not enough.

Too many Aussies had fallen out of love with something we were once all so fiercely proud of.

Yes, weíve all now heard the arguments about how it was inevitable our car industry had to die.

How our lack of scale and cost competitiveness against the big manufacturers from Asia meant we were always doomed. But when itís such a part of the national psyche the way Holden is Ė when itís in our books, our songs, our poems, our DNA Ė that economic rationalist stuff provides cold comfort.

Call me a dinosaur, say Iím in denial, but I refuse to believe a country this clever could not have found a way to continue doing something we were so good at. And I confess that a little part of me lives in hope that, just as the Brits managed to bring their car industry back from a neardeath experience, someday there might again be something we can call, with pride, an Aussie car.

And if there is, itís going on the cover.

By the time I graduated to Wheels, Iíd worked out that Aussies liked reading about Ďourí cars

Uncloaked dagger

One of my favourite Holden covers was December 2005ís scoop of the VE Commodore.

It wasnít the prettiest cover but it was immensely satisfying, partly because we had the scoop eight months ahead of the eventual reveal, and partly because we had to work so hard to make it a reality. Wheels secured the images via a secretive spy photographer who crept into GMís Milford Proving Ground in the USA, then had our graphic designers carefully strip the camoufl age from the car and, using a mix of Photoshop, inside intelligence and creative licence, gave Australia its fi rst real glimpse of the stunning new VE.