Hooniverse Asks: What's Australia's Greatest Car?

Mad Max
For almost as long as there has been the automobile, there has been an auto industry in Australia. That industry however, is no more. Holden, GM’s Australian subsidiary is closing down its factories while Ford and Toyota are right behind in shuttering their lines and turning off the lights.
Australia once had a vibrant auto industry, the localized production driven by insanely high import tariffs (57.5%) and a limited issuance of mandatory import licenses. Those were abolished in the mid-1980s which started the long slow slog to irrelevance. Today this is causing an employment crisis in the nation, with thousands of former auto workers now finding themselves with a skill in search of an industry.
Over the decades those workers have built a bunch of really cool and interesting cars and trucks—or, I guess more appropriately “Utes.” In honoring the now moribund industry what we’d like to know today is which of those do you think was the greatest car ever to be built in Australia?
Image: Wikipedia

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  1. tonyola Avatar

    1971 Holden GTR-X

  2. Jason Newman Avatar
    Jason Newman

    The Greatest would be the Phase 3 GTHO it’s not the fastest by today’s standards but was purpose built to win at Bathurst. The B&W pic is the most famous one of the car doing 140mph+ between Sydney and Melbourne and one of the reasons speed limits were put on our highways

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      It’s worth linking to the story, a really great read. Note the top speed on the limiter was 141 mph (its all metric in the article now), and they actually timed acceleration from 120-140 mph in 8.9 seconds! On a public road… the world was a different place then, I doubt even early on a Sunday morning you would get a clear enough road now.
      Funnily enough, one of the rarest parts for those restoring the Phase III is the rev limiter. They were disconnected when racing at Bathurst (and probably by most owners), and the top seed was 154 mph on Conrod Straight.

  3. karonetwentyc Avatar

    It may be the obvious choice, but that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment of the XB-series Ford Falcon GT Coupé being – inarguably, I think – Australia’s best-known motoring icon.

    1. Jason Newman Avatar
      Jason Newman

      Rear wheel arches designed to take 10 inch rear slicks for racing look so much better than when stock tyres fitted.

        1. Simon BiTurbo Avatar
          Simon BiTurbo

          I never knew they raced it!
          As someone with a bit of a love affair with BL missed opportunities this makes me very happy 🙂

    2. karonetwentyc Avatar

      Apologies for this submission – I’m still having problems with the graphics in the article banners not loading correctly and, having forgotten to do the right-click / View Image dance on it, picked the one car that was most likely to end up being in that spot. Ugh.

  4. karonetwentyc Avatar

    And from completely the opposite end of the spectrum: the VW Country Buggy. A car can’t get much more basic than this – even in comparison to the Type 181 / Thing – and for its intended purpose that is something that I can very much appreciate.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      A good deal more suitable for its intended purpose than the Mini Moke, that was an alternative, and that had a fair run in Australia

  5. Alff Avatar

    The Lightburn Zeta Sport, without question.

  6. Jason Newman Avatar
    Jason Newman

    Greatest Aussie powered cars SLR 500 Torana with the 308ci Holden V8, and the Ford Performance Vehicles F6 with the 4.0 turbo inline 6

    1. Maymar Avatar

      I admit to feeling a strange fondness for the Torana because it sounds roughly like how locals pronounce “Toronto” ( and also, it’s smallish hatchback with a V8).

  7. Joram Avatar

    I love the unique niche market of the flashy, ’70s surf van and pick up that only the Australians could master to perfection, with the Holden Sandman, Ford Sundowner and Chrysler Valiant Drifter:

  8. Joram Avatar

    And I almost forgot the Chrysler Valiant Drifter:

  9. 0A5599 Avatar

    Any car from down under becomes interesting in the Northern Hemisphere.

  10. mdharrell Avatar

    The Australian Six: “The Car with an Aust. Constitution 75% Aust. Manufacture.”
    Just like the country’s own constitution prior to the Australia Act(s) of 1986.

    1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      While my vote went to the Efijy, owning a 2005 GTO obligates me to upvote the GTO recommendation.

  11. Papa Van Twee Avatar
    Papa Van Twee

    Ute, better believe it!

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      The greatest if you view a ute as a 2-door sports car with a lot of luggage space… HSV GTS Maloo, 576 bhp worth of LSA, huge brakes etc

    2. outback_ute Avatar

      The greatest ute if you want a workhorse (or show pony in this case!), the Falcon RTV with 8″ ground clearance, a 2200 lb load capacity and 5000 lb towing.

      1. Maggie Dee Avatar
        Maggie Dee

        A great nomination outback-ute. This thing (reportedly) cost Ford around $200m to engineer over the standard ute. Perfect for running any road in Australia. Good ground clearance, modified steering, composite sump guards, stronger rear end, electronic diff lock, 4L straight 6, 5.4L V8, manual or auto, ute or one tonner body! Sad thing is…. The Ford ute of today has exactly the same underpinnings, which means the RTV could still be built for next to zero development dollars. Ford US chose to stop selling it around 2008 so they could sell a few more Thailand trucks. Very, very bloody disappointing Ford!

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          There must be a market rationale behind this?

          1. Maggie Dee Avatar
            Maggie Dee

            Yes to support their (then) new slave factories in Thailand!
            For the last 8 years it would have cost them NOTHING to engineer. It is still the same chassis and vehicle in 2016.

          2. Sjalabais Avatar

            But given the vehicles developed for the Thai factory are a proven concept, too, the fantastic pickup above is probably more expensive to make, too?

        2. outback_ute Avatar

          I wouldn’t be surprised if it cost less than that, Ford Australia did some of the mid-cycle upgrades for that much in the 1990s! I think sales were a slow-burn for the RTV, because it was pretty slow building awareness. By the end there were quite a few councils using them for parks & recreation maintenance for example, same for utilities suppliers. I could believe the numbers didn’t add up for the FG, and Ford Australia was a very risk-free zone financially by then.
          Which is a shame because I want one! The front suspension and steering is changed quite a bit for the FG however, eg steering rack now positioned ahead of the axle, so unfortunately it is not a simple swap to convert one.
          Sjalabais, Ford makes the FG/FGX Falcon ute (actually they have ceased taking orders I believe), but not the raised RTV version.

    3. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      And it’s record breaking Nurburgring time for a ‘commercial vehicle’

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        Hard to tell from the inside, but that looks like ‘just’ an SS ute, not a HSV!

        1. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          Yes, it is just the ‘ordinary’ SS. Think how much quicker an HSV would be? Maybe we’ll have a chance to find out now that Vauxhall have seen a niche in the UK market for the Maloo?
          And by the way, what an excellent contribution you’ve made on this page.
          Well done!

  12. karonetwentyc Avatar

    The Chrysler Valiant Charger Six-Pack deserves at least an honourable mention for using bigger sixes and more carburettors where V8s would normally have gone – and to great effect. I still don’t quite get muscle cars, but these always struck me as being interesting.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      And a chance to post one of the official Chrysler publicity photos. Chrysler Australia sure did make good use of a Chrysler USA cast-off unwanted truck engine. Did any ‘factory’ US motor use multiple Webers?

      1. karonetwentyc Avatar

        As it should be.

  13. karonetwentyc Avatar

    One more nomination: the Leyland P76. Although a failure in the marketplace, it’s always seemed as though this was more due to circumstances surrounding the car rather than through any real fault of its own. It’s a could-have-been, to be sure, but in terms of Australia engineering and building a car for Australia, this one may arguably be more Australian than the rest.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      The design has a very strange “droopy masculinity”-thing going on. The could have been that wasn’t.

      1. karonetwentyc Avatar

        Speaking as someone who generally isn’t keen on ’70s cars, the styling actually appeals to me in an odd way. From some angles, the rear three-quarters are reminiscent of the NSU Ro80, the midsection is definitely American / Australian, and the sloping nose with little wasted space between the top of the wheelarch and fender line is a bit predictive of trends that would start popping up in the ’80s. Oh, and the Triumph Stag-alike grille works well on that nose.
        While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it elegant, it’s certainly distinctive and purposeful. Always thought it was a shame that these never got the shot at the market that they deserved.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          I like it, and I’m generally very much into 70s cars. But as @outback_ute explains below, you can tell it’s a design-by-committee, or at least meddled with. The recessed lights and ‘negative’ lines around the front inject the droopy sadness, while the Mazdaesque hips, big, flat hood, general width and wheel dimensions speak just one language of implied power. All the chrome bits are applied sensibly and well.

      2. outback_ute Avatar

        The car was initially styled by Michelotti, but then modified by BL. Changes I can think of are they extended the nose, the headlights were flush on the original version, and raised the trunk line.

    2. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      And they did give us the tall block, longer stroke version of the Rover/BOP 3500/215 V8 with it’s stock 4.4 litres and ability to go beyond 6.0 litres while weighing less than nearly all mid capacity four cylinder motors.
      And, if it’s important you can fit this 44 gal drum in the trunk.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        ….is that a 1970s range extender drum?

        1. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          The outback option.(Before Subaru grabbed the name.)

        2. outback_ute Avatar

          A 44-gallon drum (imperial gallons, aka 55 US gallons). Not too many sedans will fit one of those, a definite party trick for the P76!

    3. Alff Avatar


  14. outback_ute Avatar

    I had a go at this years ago, so here for your reading pleasure is a slightly dated list… Note there is a distinct lack of the hi-po cars from recent years (this was written 8 years ago), I’d have to try to find space for the current HSV GTS I think as the last and best of the breed, but the trick is which car gets pushed out of the list to make way for it?
    (Ed: I thought it was top 10, but its actually a top 20… Also I posted them in order, but I’m not sure if the replies will appear that way)
    1 1896 Shearer steam car
    This was built at Mannum on the Murray River in South Australia by David
    Shearer who was a blacksmith and agricultural machinery manufacturer.
    This was a side project for David Shearer who wanted to build a steam
    car. After commencing work on the car in 1885, it was first driven in
    1896 and is powered by a two cylinder 20 horsepower steam engine. It
    also features a type of rack and pinion steering and a differential, de
    rigeur today but not 111 years ago! The vehicle is currently in the
    National Motor Museum at Birdwood and was operational until the boiler
    was removed for restoration in recent times.
    2 1913 Caldwell Vale
    This is the one I dropped a hint on in the German list thread. Caldwell
    Vale started off building trucks & tractors (also called road
    tractors), that were simply astonishing for 1907. They featured both
    four-wheel drive and steering – the steering was in fact power assisted,
    as turning the wheel engaged a clutch that drove the steering
    mechanism. They had 80hp, which is really quite a lot for 1907, at only
    800rpm from a 4 cylinder 11.25L (!) engine (6” bore x 6” stroke) – this
    was needed as they would be used to pull loads of 50 tons. One truck
    featured the first known use of a tipping tray. They built the best
    part of a hundred of these trucks & tractors, and in 1913 built a
    car. It was tested successfully on the sand dunes at Botany Bay, but
    unfortunately the company went out of business because of legal costs
    incurred in a lawsuit – ahead of their time in that regard too… The car
    was sold and eventually used on a Queensland sheep station until the
    1960s – I wonder what has happened to it?
    3 1919 Australian Six
    Over 30 manufacturers were introduced between 1900 and 1920, but the
    most serious attempt to establish an indigenous car manufacturer was the
    Australian Six. This was the work of Frederick Gordon who after
    consultation with Louis Chevrolet (who by that time was not with the
    company bearing his name), bought in the main mechanical components from
    the same suppliers as Chevrolet, and built a large, strong six-cylinder
    car of the type which had been proven to be very popular in the
    Australian market in the boom following the Great War. Over time, local
    content was increased to 60%, but with the small scale of production
    the cars were never profitable and regular problems such as supply
    delays forced the price of the cars to gradually rise to 50% above the
    initial level. Despite the cars themselves being perfectly sound and
    proving to be reliable, only 900 vehicles in total were built with the
    last batch of 20 in 1930. As many as 16 vehicles survive today. It is
    said that one million pounds was lost over the course of the venture,
    and it should be noted that at this time the government did not see fit
    to provide any protection or assistance to the local industry.
    The other major attempt to establish an automobile manufacturer was the
    Lincoln which was produced by George Innes – the American manufacturer
    of the same name started a year later. Despite this, legal action was
    undertaken by Ford after purchasing the US Lincoln company in 1922 to
    prevent the use of the name. Innes won the case, but Ford threatened
    and rather than spend yet more money on legal fees Innes changed the
    name to Lincoln Pioneer. Over five years 200 cars were made before the
    inevitable occurred, and only one is known to survive.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      4 1934 Ford Coupe Utility
      This is the truly Australian car. The genesis was a letter from
      the wife of a Gippsland pig farmer who wrote to Ford asking them to
      build a car that they could use to drive to church on Sunday, and take
      the pigs to market on Monday. In 1932 banks would lend a farmer money
      for a working vehicle only, so it also had to double as family transport
      if required. The “church on Sunday” part of the “brief” is easy to
      underestimate from today’s perspective – in those times in small rural
      communities the Sunday church service was one of the main social events
      and you wore your “Sunday best” – turning up in a truck Beverly
      Hillbilly style would be demeaning.
      Ford put designer Lewis Brandt on the task, and he looked at the
      existing buckboard (poor comfort & weather protection without a
      solid roof) and pickup (with separate cabin and tray) vehicles which
      were too unrefined and workmanlike. The coupe utility was based on the
      Ford passenger car, with a third roof pillar behind the doors providing
      additional body strength at the join between the cabin and tray, and a
      stylish appearance. When Brandt was asked what it was on a trip to Ford
      head office in Detroit, he said it was a “kangaroo chaser”.
      This started off a continuous line of vehicles, including Mainlines,
      Zephyrs and Falcons to the current day where their comfort and
      performance advantages over the more basic pick-up opposition is still
      5 1948 Holden 48-215
      The right car at the right time, the Holden struck the ideal balance
      between the small, economical British cars and the large, powerful
      American cars that were available on the market. With a rugged yet
      light body that had enough room to cram in six passengers, a 138ci
      (2.3L) 6cyl engine that gave strong performance and remarkable economy
      the car was not particularly technically advanced but this only helped
      make it cheap to run.
      Established in 1857 as a leather goods manufacturer, and later branching
      into coach and then truck body building, Holden was building 20,000 car
      bodies per year when it was contracted by GM to body all of its
      imports. In 1932 the effects of the great Depression led GM’s local arm
      to merge with Holden Motor Body Builders to form General Motors –
      Holden’s. The Holden car’s genesis was in the Australian federal
      government’s request for submissions for the manufacture of an
      Australian car. Ford also submitted a proposal for a V8-powered car to
      be produced in a range of bodystyles but Holden’s proposal of a more
      economic sedan was successful.
      6 1965 Chrysler Valiant AP5
      The Valiant had a real impact on the local market, offering something
      that was distinctly different from the fairly basic alternatives, yet
      was much more accessible than the next level of larger, more expensive
      luxury cars. It had style, performance and a certain amount of
      prestige. The contrast is illustrated most vividly by a simple
      comparison of horsepower – 145hp for the Chrysler against 75 for Holden
      and 100 if you went for the larger engine in the Ford.
      As with many local versions of overseas-originating vehicles, the
      Valiant adapted and evolved to its new environment with subsequent
      models. The 1963 AP5 was the first to be fully manufactured rather than
      assembled from CKD kits, and it had some changes from the US model. It
      took years for Ford and in particular GM to respond effectively, for
      although they introduced larger engines and more luxurious trim,
      Chrysler yet again got the jump in 1965 by introducing a V8 before the

    2. outback_ute Avatar

      7 1968 Nota Fang
      If Bolwell was the Ginetta of the Australian industry then Nota is its
      Marcos. (NB – this was written after the following car) Established by
      aircraft engineer Guy Buckingham in 1952, Nota has been around
      off-and-on more or less continuously, and like the Marcos GT the Nota
      Fang has been a constantly evolving presence. The fundamentals of the
      Fang are quite straightforward – essentially it is a mid-engined
      evolution of the traditional Lotus 7 style Clubman car. As per standard
      practice it used the powertrain of a standard bread-and-butter vehicle,
      in this case it is the Mini that donates its subframe-mounted engine to
      be installed behind the seats. When the Mini ended local production,
      Lancia power was chosen to take over.
      The Nota Fang is still available to purchase, with a Honda or Toyota
      drivetrain, and it has been joined by a couple of new models – the story
      8 1969 Bolwell Nagari
      Australia’s answer to Lotus, TVR or perhaps more accurately Ginetta – as
      three brothers combined to produce an evolving series of sports cars
      from 1960 using readily-available production mechanicals. The Mark IV
      saw significant sales as a kit car with 4cyl engines, and two subsequent
      models were evolutions switching to the ubiquitous Holden 6cyl engine.
      The Nagari was a significant evolution, switching to the Ford 302 V8 and
      sold as a fully-built car instead of a kit. Styling had cues from
      Lotus, Ferrari and Lamborghini. There were plans for exports to the US,
      however new Australian Design Rule car regulations really bit hard –
      with no allowances given for a 100 unit-per-annum manufacturer against
      requirements designed for a 100,000 unit-per-annum multinational, the
      cost of things like crash testing (and facilities required) combined
      with the oil crisis affecting sales to bring a temporary end to Bolwell
      Cars after only 140 Nagaris had been built. Variations included a 351
      engine option – staggering performance in a 920kg car! – and a rare
      Bolwell would return years later with the VW Golf-powered Ikara, and is
      working on yet another comeback with a Toyota-powered sports car.
      9 1970 Morris 1500 Nomad
      Not all “British” cars sold in Australia were simply facsimiles of their
      UK source vehicles. Perhaps the best example of the unique local
      versions, the Nomad had a couple of features the original Morris/Austin
      1100 did not, and which took its specification to as modern as you could
      want in 1970 – namely an overhead cam engine, a hatchback and a 5 speed
      gearbox. Interestingly, in 1966 BMC imported the first Renault 16
      hatch into Australia – they even loaned it to local Renault executives!

    3. outback_ute Avatar

      10 1972 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase IV
      I have chosen this to represent the zenith of the Australian muscle car
      era which flourished briefly in the late 60s and early 70s. In 1972 an
      article in the Sydney newspaper by Evan Green titled “160mph Supercars”
      created an enormous controversy, highlighting the homologation
      requirements that saw 300 Bathurst race cars (aka “bullets on wheels” in
      the article) have to be sold to the public. Within days several state
      governments were threatening to boycott fleet purchases from the
      manufacturers, and ban registrations of “super cars”, and the quickly
      manufacturers folded and abandoned the Bathurst specials they were
      working on. This was complemented by a change in touring car
      regulations to avoid the requirement for homologation specials.
      The GTHO Phase III is celebrated for its dominant 1971 Bathurst victory
      (taking the first 6 places) and being the fastest four-door car in the
      world at the time, and these days fetching near million-dollar
      pricetags, yet the Phase IV would have eclipsed it. All areas were
      improved, including the engine, aerodynamics and handling, and it had a
      top speed of 170mph as confirmed by the owner of one of the three
      surviving cars. Only four cars were built, three by the race team and
      one that went down the production line.
      11 1972 Holden Torana GTR XU-1
      The giant-killer, and a truly versatile competition car, the XU-1’s
      highlight was its performance balance. With components taken from
      larger cars and development by Harry Firth, it had fantastic handling
      with brakes and tyres also well-matched to its weight and speed. It won
      on the race track and in the forests. The Supercar Scare mentioned
      above saw the end of a V8 “XU-2” replacement, of which a few prototypes
      had been constructed and one was even raced.
      12 1972 Chrysler Charger R/T E49
      The third member of the “Bathurst special” triumvirate was the
      Weber-fed, straight six powered Charger. With the celebrated Weber
      carburetor setup had been perfected in Italy giving 302 bhp from the
      4.3L (265ci) engine. In acceleration the E49 posted faster times for
      the quarter mile and 0-100mph (14.4 sec) than the much more powerful
      GTHO (mainly courtesy of lower gearing).
      Chrysler always operated on a lower budget than its GM and Ford
      counterparts, and this was reflected in its race team. The E49
      iteration of the Charger R/T finally had a fourth gear in its box, but
      the non power-assisted brakes were said to have cost 5 sec per lap
      around Bathurst. Despite this, the Charger had the performance to land
      on the podium twice, with a heartbreaking “if only” tale that might have
      seen victory. The factory team had realised fuel economy could be an
      advantage, and with the E49’s 35 gallon () tank managed to do the entire
      500 mile race on one pit stop. Unfortunately the spanner in the works
      was attempting to attach the new set of tyres with a new set of wheel
      nuts – the cold wheel nuts would not go on the hot studs, and ultimately
      the car was sent back out on the old set of tyres, having squandered
      crucial, agonising minutes, to finish two laps down in 3rd place.

    4. outback_ute Avatar

      13 1973 Ilinga AF-2
      This was intended to be a true Grand Touring car, powered by a 220hp
      version of the 4.4L Leyland P76 engine and featuring comfortable seating
      and good luggage capacity. It featured fully-integrated air
      conditioning, a self-seeking radio/cassette player, digital clock,
      anti-lift windshield wipers, remote-control door locks, electric
      windows, quartz-halogen quad headlights under electrically-operated
      flaps. and a delay switch which automatically extinguished the lights
      and locked the car if the driver forgot to. Top speed was over 135mph.
      The project was badly affected by supply problems with the BW auto
      transmission, as well as the fuel crisis and a general lack of willing
      partners – only two cars were built.
      14 1974 Leyland P76 Targa Florio
      This was car treads the fine line between woeful and wonderful. This
      was a native project of BMC Australia, and lead the way in so many areas
      compared with its rivals. Helped by having an enlarged version (4.4L)
      of the aluminium 3.5L Rover V8, the P76 was very light for its size, and
      gave good performance combined with economy that bettered its 6cyl
      rivals. McPherson struts, standard front disc brakes and flush-mounted
      windscreen were some of the up-to-date features that forced the other
      local manufacturers to have a serious look at what they were doing. The
      woeful side of things is represented by the car being built on a
      production line originally set up for far narrower cars, leading to a
      ridiculously high number of cars needing repair before they left the
      The Targa Florio was a special edition of the car released to
      commemorate the stage win on the 1974 World Cup Rally by Evan Green and
      John Bryson. The car shared the highest number of stage wins.
      15 Holden Overlander
      Like the AMC Eagle, this was the first “crossover” vehicle, preceding
      the current trend by a good 25 years. However this vehicle was a
      conversion by engineer Arthur Hayward who ran Vehicle Engineering &
      Modifications Pty Ltd in Launceston, Tasmania, and demonstrated true
      Australian ingenuity. In an era when 4x4s had folded metal interiors
      and bone-shaking rides, this was comfortable, powerful and smooth – and
      actually had very decent off-road ability due to good clearance, wide
      track width and a low centre of gravity. By building a subframe to
      convert the wishbone front end into a leaf-sprung Dana axle sourced from
      a Chev Blazer, and running a complementary rear axle and Dana transfer
      case mated to the original Holden V8 and TH400 auto (the only option
      available). To give an idea of the thoroughness of the conversion, the
      purchaser was supplied with spare axles as otherwise they would be hard
      to obtain in Australia Over 120 vehicles were converted including utes,
      wagons, panelvans, cab chassis and two sedans (using the top of the
      line luxury Statesman model!).

    5. outback_ute Avatar

      16 Holden Sandman
      Something that was perhaps a unique Australian phenomenon was the panel
      van and its 1970s moment in the sun. This was when a strong youth
      culture adopted the humble tradesmans mobile workshop/toolbox to take it
      to the beach or the drive-in. The Australian iteration of the panelvan
      was, like the ute it was based on, a step apart from similar vehicles
      available overseas – these were not solely the domain of fleets and
      tool-of-trade buyers. With the rear compartment decked out with a
      mattress, surfboard or even velvet and mirrors, the vehicle became a
      “Shaggin’ Wagon” (cruder terms also existed!) that struck fear into the
      hearts of parents of teenage daughters. The stickers say it all – “If
      the van’s rocking, don’t bother knocking” and “Don’t laugh, your
      daughter could be inside”.
      17 1978 Holden Torana A9X
      The last hurrah for the Australian muscle car, the Torana A9X was the
      result of touring car racing’s homologation requirements although in
      theory the need to build special vehicles had been removed back in 1972
      with the new “Group C” regulations. Modifications were then allowed to
      production vehicles for racing – but the key point was it had to be
      production-based. With the 1974 introduction of the LH model Torana,
      which featured an unprecedented range of 4, 6 and 8 cylinder engines,
      Holden’s motorsport weapon of choice became the 5L V8 SL/R 5000. V8
      power and slick racing tyre grip levels soon exposed weaknesses in areas
      such as the rear axle – hardly surprising as it had its origins in the
      original Opel unit designed for a 4 cylinder. So the car evolved, with
      larger wheels under large fibreglass bolt-on wheel arches with the L34
      “option pack” and then a stronger axle with the A9X. This option pack
      also featured the deletion of rubber rubbing strips in the bumper bar,
      which sounds strange until you find out this was to ease the
      installation of sponsor’s signage on race cars!
      Like the earlier XU-1, the A9X was a very well-balanced race car. Much
      lighter than its Ford Falcon opposition, its smaller engine was more
      than compensated for in being allowed to run similar size tyres. It
      should not be a surprise that Australian touring car racing almost
      became “Formula Torana” for a few years. The highlight was Peter
      Brock’s 1979 Bathurst 1000 victory by a triumphant 6 laps – even setting
      a new lap record on the final lap to underscore his dominance.
      18 1989 Giocattolo Group B
      Yet another Australian sports car that never quite made it, the
      Giocattolo was the work of Paul Halstead, who had earlier been the
      Australian agent for De Tomaso cars and former F1 designer Barry Lock.
      The car was a modified Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprint bodyshell with a
      mid-mounted engine – originally this was intended to be powered by the
      Alfa V6 but changed to a Group A version of the Holden 5L V8 – not only
      did this give substantially more performance but it was also much
      cheaper! The car was more sophisticated than it may first appear – body
      panels were made from Kevlar, and the suspension was completely
      The Giocattolo was also severely affected by inflexible government
      regulations geared only at the large manufacturers. Import duty
      designed to protect local industry meant the ZF transaxle cost $35,000
      per unit – of course there was no local alternative, yet no exceptions
      could be made to assist a local manufacturer… A highly ambitious follow
      up vehicle was on the drawing boards in 1989 when the operation wound
      up in the face of the recession, featuring a carbon fibre body worthy of
      a true supercar as the Alfasud origins of the Group B’s body did it no

    6. outback_ute Avatar

      19 2003 Ford Territory
      An instant success, the Territory was the right vehicle at the right
      time for Ford Australia. With the market rejecting MPV-style vehicles
      in favour of lumbering 7-seat 4x4s, the time was right for a more
      car-like alternative when the Territory was introduced in 2003. It was
      designed to encompass the best attributes of a sedan, people-mover and
      4×4, and really hit the mark, winning numerous awards including sales
      Without visual cues you would not realise you are driving a sedan, it
      feels agile and light on its feet, is quiet and supremely smooth. The
      Territory is truly a world-class vehicle – the new front suspension for
      the current BMW X5 is very similar to the Territory. The inline 4.0L
      6cyl engine provides excellent performance with strong low-rpm torque
      and quite reasonable fuel economy. There is also a turbocharged version
      available if you are in a hurry – with a few modifications it will run
      the quarter mile in the 11 second bracket, which is not hanging around
      for a 2 tonne, 7 seater!
      20 2004 HSV Coupe 4
      This 360hp V8 all-wheel drive coupe was the most extraordinary product
      of Holden’s golden period early this decade under the leadership of
      General Manager Peter Hanenberger. The success of the 1997 VT Commodore
      and its influence within GM empire brought Holden the resources to
      really open up with an astonishing, if ultimately unsustainable, number
      of variants on the Commodore platform.
      The mere 100 examples of the Coupe4 produced is representative – it
      encompassed both the mix-and-match body and mechanicals that were a
      feature of the range, yet like other variants there was no way the
      development costs could be recouped even with its towering $90,000 price
      tag, 50% more than a “normal” Monaro’s $60k.
      A surprise coupe concept car at the 1998 Sydney Motor Show led to the
      production of the Monaro, which found success with exports overseas, in
      particular to the US as the Pontiac GTO. The Adventra crossover SUV was
      the source for the AWD driveline used in the Coupe4, although
      modifications were needed for the lower ride height. The Coupe4 was
      based on the Pontiac GTO body with the revised fuel tank location,
      incorporated the Adventra front floorpan to accommodate the AWD
      hardware, and featured some hand-worked modifications to the wheel
      arches to accept the flares needed to cover the large wheels and tyres.
      Launch: http://www.webwombat.com.au/motoring…sv-coupe-4.htm
      Used car review: http://www.drive.com.au/Editorial/Ar…rticleID=43724

      1. Vairship Avatar

        Nice and thorough job!

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          Glad you enjoyed it!

  15. Maggie Dee Avatar
    Maggie Dee

    For me the ultimate Australian car for crossing Australia is the Holden Overlander. The vehicle in which you can go anywhere in comfort, but then also get home again! All of them had a 308 V8, turbo 400, Dana front and rear ends, airconditioning and any number of fully engineered extras. You could have yours as a wagon, ute, 1 ton or a panel van. Unfortunately timing is everything and this awesomely engineered car was made at the wrong time and only about 200 were built.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Great nomination! Being an aftermarket conversion, the Overlander was arguably better-engineered than if the factory had done it; I’m sure they would have wanted to cut costs and do things more cheaply.
      They did one or two Statesman sedans too.

      1. Maggie Dee Avatar
        Maggie Dee

        Ah, forgot the statesmans! Arthur Hayward’s (the main engineer) daughter in a recent interview said that Holden offered to supply cars to him as the Commodore was starting to be built, but he had to supply it as a full dealer car. He chose not to take it to the next level:(

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          Apart from a great product, it was also a great story I think. Looking for the picture above I found that he sold the design & rights to Molecraft in Western Australia to carry on, presumably at some time after 1984 when new vehicles were no longer available.
          That reminds me of I think the Ford dealer in Seymour Vic ending up with a lot of 4×4 conversion kits for the XY Falcon.

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          A yes, the Oka truck from WA. I’ve seen a couple around, but not very often. Then again, most of them are probably out in the middle of nowhere.

    2. Antonio Milano Avatar
      Antonio Milano

      This reminds me of how the GFC fucked up the world. The then new VE Commodore was fully designed for AWD. It was never followed through because the parent company was a basket case. The room is still there in the VF to fit front diffs and driveshafts. A lot of lost opportunity!

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        I think they probably dropped that before the GFC. After the decision not to produce it in North America was made during development, work just about stopped because they had spent too much money under the new reduced production volumes. The poor sales of the Adventra etc would have made that decision easy.
        On the other hand I wonder if a Zeta based crossover might have been a better bet, although of course that would have meant several hundred million more to develop and they already had the Lambda CUV’s in North America.