(first posted 2/12/2015) It is looking increasingly likely that the next Holden Commodore will be an imported, front-wheel-drive, Opel-based product. A Commodore being based on an Opel is hardly anything new, with a full-size Opel being used as the basis for the first (VB-VL), second (VN-VS) and third (VT-VZ) chapters in the Commodore story. Surprisingly, this also wouldn’t be the first time a front-wheel-drive platform has been considered for the Aussie Holden. Were it not for an Opel that was impressive and flexible enough for Holden to use, the 1988 VN Commodore could have been based on the 1986 GM H-Body.
Holden managed to get a solid decade of mileage out of the original Opel Rekord-derived platform, with the VH, VK and VL revisions improving upon a solid base with newer and better engines as well as more imposing styling. Still, archrival Ford’s Falcon had taken advantage of its larger platform and appearance (including 3.54 inches of extra shoulder room) and the easing of the fuel crisis to snatch the number one sales slot. Holden engineers knew as early as 1982 that the next Commodore would have to be bigger in every dimension and look it.
Being a small market, General Motors-Holden executives knew that the economies of scale were in favour of using an existing GM platform for a new Commodore. Designing, engineering and tooling a unique Holden would have taken longer and cost $AUD100 million extra, and Holden had experienced significant financial losses in the 1980s. GM-H wanted to bring a new Commodore to market by 1987, but the successful VL revision of 1986 – featuring a Nissan-sourced, imported straight-six and turbo six – bought them an extra year. The 1988 Commodore would bear the VN series designation; Holden reserved ‘VM’ as a contingency in case they had to squeeze some more life out of the existing platform.
GM-H Managing Director Chuck Chapman and Ray Grigg, Director of Planning, started shopping GM’s global portfolio for a suitable car. In 1981, sensing Opel might be of use again to them, Holden’s people had sent testing standards to GM’s European division so that they could be used in the design and engineering process for Opel’s Rekord replacement.
Opel’s new full-size sedan would ditch the Rekord name for Omega, with a sedan and wagon available; a more luxurious, six-window flagship sedan would bear the Senator nameplate. These new Opels would have slippery, aerodynamic styling, including flush window glass, and an impressively low coefficient of drag of just 0.28. The UK would receive rebadged versions known as Opel Carlton and Senator.
Chapman and Grigg were very interested in the new Opel, which was larger than its predecessor; the wheelbase, for example, was now 107.5 inches. There was just one catch: Opel wouldn’t widen it. Holden’s European counterparts were too concerned expanding the car’s width would have a negative effect on aerodynamics, and thought the size increase over the Rekord was sufficient.
The most promising candidate for the 1988 Holden seemed to have been eliminated from contention. Interior space was just too high a priority for the Australian market. Holden executives asked their former co-worker now stationed in Detroit, Leo Pruneau, to see if there was something promising in the pipeline over there. The upcoming 1986 H-Body offered plenty of space and was in consideration, but Holden decided to weigh up alternatives.
Ultimately, it would prove to be $36 million cheaper to take the Opel, cut it down the middle and widen it, among other changes, than to use the longer H-Body as a base. All it took was a back-seat ride by Chapman and fellow directors to convince them the Opel just wasn’t wide enough; ultimately, the VN would be almost an inch wider. Although there was a distinct familial resemblance, Holden’s design team would also make many aesthetic changes to the Opel’s design. In particular, the wagon’s styling was smoothed out due to concerns it looked too hearse-like.
But what engine should power the new, bigger Commodore? By 1983, Holden had been in talks with Nissan to use their straight-six engines in the VL but there were reservations about continuing their use in the VN. Holden’s marketing corps were concerned that a six of such small displacement (3.0) would be at a psychological disadvantage to consumers vis-à-vis Ford’s larger 4.1 six; a plan to initially launch the VN with the Nissan six with an eye to replacing it later was deep-sixed. Holden’s existing 3.3 six, despite having received fuel injection for the VK, was deemed to be a developmental dead-end. Plans for collaboration with Nissan on a larger version of its six went nowhere, as did a proposed six-cylinder version of the existing Holden V8.
Although GM-H didn’t pick an American car for the base of the VN, they were impressed enough by an American engine: Buick’s fuel-injected 3.8 V6, extensively revised for 1988. It was chosen for its reliability and flexibility, with quite a flat torque curve; compared to the VL’s Nissan six, it was 10% more powerful, and with 20% more torque but had the same fuel economy. Power was 167hp – more than the old carbureted V8 – and torque 215 ft-lbs.
The 5.0 OHV V8 would return, extensively revised, with port fuel-injection. While the VL’s carbureted V8 was good for only 163hp and 238 ft-lbs – scarcely torquier than the imported turbo six and with fewer horsepower – the fuel-injected V8 had an impressive 225hp and 295 ft-lbs. 0-60mph was under 7 seconds.
To keep costs down and local content up, the VN would receive a lot of carryover componentry from the VL. Although the Opel’s independent rear suspension was impressive, it was ditched in favour of a revised VL live rear axle. It was a cheaper option – much the same as Holden’s use of rack-and-pinion steering rather than Opel’s recirculating ball unit – and Holden engineers were also concerned about the IRS’s compatibility with the torquier V8. That V8 torque also led to Holden sourcing the Turbo Hydramatic 700, used in the Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro; the manual transmission offered was a new, Australian-made five-speed Borg Warner unit. Additionally, all VNs had four-wheel disc brakes. Still, a lot of VL DNA remained.
The VL revision had managed to claw ground back from the Falcon with private buyers, but not with fleet operators. The new, more capacious wagon – with a longer 111-inch wheelbase – would help. Family buyers would also appreciate the roomy new wagon, as it had available third-row seating. Holden would also re-enter the ute segment in 1990 with a VN-derived Commodore Ute, known as the VG.
The VG would also be joined by a familiar luxury nameplate, Statesman, used on a long-wheelbase version of the VN known as VQ. This new flagship would feature independent rear suspension, a taste of things to come for lesser Holdens. An even more upscale version would also debut, resurrecting the Caprice nameplate.
The VN lineup consisted of several tiers. At the low end were the Executive sedan and wagon, aimed at fleets. The mid-range Berlina was for private buyers, with the choice of sedan or wagon, and at the top was the plush Calais sedan. The latter was well-equipped with remote central locking, power windows, rear-seat air conditioning vents, security system, cruise control, and a choice of velour or leather seats.
More sporting variants included the S, a V6 trim level with the V8’s larger front disc brakes, the Calais’ 15-inch wheels and firmer springs and suspension tuning. The V8 engine would arrive a year later in 1989, with the SS V8 becoming the hero model of the VN range. Holden Special Vehicles would also fettle the Commodore range, launching SV3800 and SV5000 models with tuned engines and suspension and subtle (by HSV standards) bodykits.
The VN Commodore was praised for its spaciousness and its responsive and economical V6, but it was the latter that would also earn its fair share of criticism. Quite simply, the V6 was coarse and unrefined. In addition, it had an over-eager throttle that took many drivers by surprise.
The VN’s lack of refinement also carried over to its interior which, despite a clean and modern layout, had too many chintzy trim pieces. Paintwork was also subpar, but Holden was dedicating itself to improving quality and later Commodores would be better finished.
The V8 was a huge leap in performance over its predecessor and had a more balanced power delivery than the V6, but all VNs suffered from nervous handling at high speeds. The SS disappointed critics with its fairly soft handling and an excess of body roll and understeer. Bump absorption was also an issue on all VNs: the suspension would hop around on rough surfaces. Blame the live rear axle.
Despite these flaws, the VN Commodore won Wheels Car of the Year for 1988, giving the new EA Falcon a thrashing in the process. The EA Falcon had quickly presented itself as being underdone, with an old-tech three-speed transmission, poor refinement and shoddy assembly quality, although these faults would be addressed in the EA II and EB revisions.
Holden’s bigger Commodore had proved itself to be a compelling full-size sedan, albeit a little rough around the edges, and would enjoy a reputation for being robust and fairly reliable. Toyota must have been relieved, as they received a badge-engineered variant of the VN as part of the Australian government’s Button Plan in 1989. The Lexcen, named after the late yacht designer Ben Lexcen, was available only with the V6 and automatic transmission; trims were GL and GLX.
The Lexcen wasn’t the most unusual Commodore derivative, though. The VN was the last Commodore to be assembled in New Zealand, and the base model Berlina (positioned beneath the Executive, oddly) was available with Holden’s 2.0 Family II four-cylinder. Power was 122hp and torque 129 ft-lbs. This engine was related to the 2.0 SOHC four used in GM J-Cars, including the Pontiac Sunbird. Later overseas market Commodores would receive a 2.6 “Dual Ram” six-cylinder sourced from Opel.
The VP revision of 1991 would address most of the VN’s flaws. Fit and finish was improved, and the Statesman’s independent rear suspension was fitted to Calais and SS models and offered as an option across the rest of the range. Noise, vibration and harshness were greatly reduced, and anti-lock brakes were offered for the first time. Overall, VPs handled better, rode smoother and sounded quieter. Cosmetic differences were minimal albeit controversial: Calais gained rear fender skirts, and the Executive gained an acrylic grille reminiscent of the Mercury Sable’s lightbar.
The VP would last until 1993, when it was replaced by the VR. This new series, with an extensively revised interior and exterior among other improvements, remains extremely common on the roads to this day. The VN and VPs, though, are becoming quite scarce. While the powertrains have proven themselves reliable, particularly the trusty V6, used Commodores tend to be bought by people who drive them hard. In particular, the powerful V8s are extremely thin on the ground.
Despite its smooth, European styling, this Commodore wasn’t a dapper dandy. It was rougher and tougher and simpler and better-suited to our shocking rural roads and extreme heat. The Commodore was like a dependable bloke with an Akubra and an arm full of tatts.
The book “Project VN: An Australian Car for the 1990s” by Pedr Davis and Tony Davis, which tracks the development and launch of the VN, was an excellent source of information for this article.
Automotive History: The Valiant in Australia – Part 1
I never liked the VN – they shoved that widened body on much narrower tracked VLADIMIR chassis and it had hideous side overhang ad a result. The auto trans with the course V6 always had significant vibration issues and the whole car felt like exactly what it was – a whole lot of bits and pieces from different corners of GM global empire thrown together in an unresolved whole. Nothing special about any of these series of Commodores!
extremely dicey in the wet as well
but the engine sounded good and they were tough
Yeah – for all the advertising fuss, it was basically nothing more than a Magna-ised Opel with a Buick motor, and an Oldsmobile roof if you checked the Statesman option. Parts-bin special, pure and simple.
We bought a Mitsubishi Magna instead – a FAR superior car. FWD vs. RWD wasn’t an issue for us. As I said to the rival salesman, I couldn’t care less if it had five cylinders and four wheel drive – he didn’t get the reference. Not a car guy. But there were so many buyers who wouldn’t go past the Holden name, and never considered the competition. They were the losers.
There not hideous at all, my grandfather still has his 1990 VN Commodore it has absolutely no rattles and the transmission has NO Vibration. They do not have a narrow track at all and they have stood the test of time. And there not dicey in the wet they handle extremely well.
Compared to what though Jason? The VR was a big step forward for the Commodore. The front track width was 40mm wider.
The VR was defiantly a big step but it was a big step backwards. The finish on a VN Was much neater and the viewing was a lot better in the VN. The suspension was terrible on the VR, not to mention the sway bar issues they had.
ours was a VR which did a 180 spin at about 20kmh and was t-boned turning right at some lights on a wet road. I assumed that a VN/P with the narrower track would be at least as bad though.
That book is a beauty. Do you know if there is one for the VT?
Another eye opener, William. From over here in the States, it’s always enlightening to read your distillations of a market history that seems exotic to us. And the design memes of that era are shown to be pretty universal. The car says 1984 Audi 5000 to me, as that was the version of that “observation deck” look that we saw here. Looking at the wagon, I think “Camry”, with a nod to the airy Peugeot 504. US Tauruses and Sables fattened it a bit and filed off the creases, but mostly maintained expanses of glass that made these cars easy to look at, into and out of.
1984 Audi 5000 with a Chevy Corsica front end, is what I was thinking.
Living in the (former) largest car market in the world (China surpassed the U.S. recently), I could never understand why GM and Ford allowed so many different designs around the globe….but I’m glad they did. And now that they are really serious about “world cars” I’m a bit sad.
Maybe it’s because I come from a Ford family, but to me these Holden designs are quite interesting but run a second place to the Ford designs.
There is a very interesting (if dated) book from the mid-60s called American Business Abroad: Ford on Six Continents that addresses this question very well.
After World War I, in the period when Ford first started looking seriously at expanding production around the world, Henry Ford was quite determined that Ford should offer the same models (initially of course the Model T and Model TT) in all markets everywhere. Ford found out quickly that was easier said than done. Each market had its own rules, some specifically with protectionist intent, and those rules were different in each market. Henry had hoped that the promise of building local factories would enable Ford to arm-twist local governments into backing off from unfavorable regulation, but that didn’t work out either.
Beyond that, each major market had different tastes and expectations that weren’t necessarily compatible. What was just the right size for one market was too big or too small for others (or in the case of Australia, not durable enough). Even if the specs lined up, nationalism was an issue; in ’30s Germany, driving anything perceived as a non-German car became a really politically risky thing to do.
Ford and GM eventually, grudgingly accepted that, but for a long time tried to insist on having non-U.S. products designed in Detroit. That ended up becoming a problem as well for a couple of reasons: First, the U.S. design teams wouldn’t necessarily grasp local tastes, so the local organizations would get stuck trying to sell products that weren’t what anyone in that market wanted. Second, GM (and Ford after the war) operated on a profit center model, so if one division wanted to get something from another, they had to buy it at a markup. The local organizations finally convinced the parent companies (not all at once, but over time), “Look, we can do a lot of this stuff cheaper ourselves, and it will be better tailored for what we actually need.”
It really wasn’t until the advent of the European Economic Community that it started being practical to integrate even the European organizations, and even after that, North America and Australasia remained very different kettles of fish in terms of rules and expectations. In the past 15–20 years, there’s been a push to get regulators to “harmonize” more of the safety and emissions regs, but it’s only been quite recently that it’s really been practical to have real “world cars” in more than name.
So, it’s not a matter of the large companies allowing different designs. Both Ford and GM would have loved to have world cars since well before WW2, but they kept having to admit it wasn’t really working and wasn’t practical.
That’s a great explanation. Cheers.
The light blue one looks like an early 90s Geo Prizm that got caught in a taffy-pulling machine. Lol
Good, clarifying writeup once again William! Never having seen Aussie cars in the metal your overviews of them make a lot of things clear.
These cars resembled the Euro Senators a lot but were also clearly different, it is very interesting to see the different application of the same themes in a different context. One notable difference is that these were meant as mainstream cars rather than upscale, like the Omega and particularly the Senator was intended to be. Hence, despite their size, in detail they seem to resemble the midsize Opel Vectra more.
Minor erratum: the UK Omegas were Vauxhall Carltons, not Opels.
i never even had the faintest idea, that the oh-so German, Cologne built Ford Granada MkII was available elsewhere as a Ford Falcon!
It wasn’t. Ford Australia copied the styling but there’s actually little relation between them.
If you see the earlier 80s Falcons they look almost exactly like a Granada, until you peer at the details.
Or under the skin, of course! The Falcons still had solid axles and (for the most part) inline sixes whereas the Mk2 Granada had semi-trailing arm independent rear suspension and either inline fours or V-6s.
Ford UK had 4 wheel independant suspension and 4 wheel discs as standard in 1966 and a V6 engine.
Yup — the Mk4 Zephyr/Zodiac/Executive with its peculiar pendulum-link semi-trailing arms. I’m told they have odd, not very confidence-inspiring handling, although I’ve never seen one in the metal much less driven one.
Don’t forget the spare wheel under the bonnet and the ability to offer a masterclass in understeer!
There was also the V8 4WD version of the MK4 developed for police use that solved the chronic understeer though only one survives today, Locals here installed V8 and straight 6 engines into MK4s the Essex V6 had a shocking reputation from new and after 66 we ONLY got the 3L Zodiac engine all other options were deleted. After 3 models of popular and competent cars the MK4 successfully promoted the Aussie Falcon as Kiwis Ford of choice they were so bad that the last of them were offered with free petrol for 12 months, the first case of discounting seen here.
If I remember correctly, the only shared parts (dimensionally) between the 1977 Mk.II Granada and the 1979 XD Falcon were the headlights and turn indicators and they were altered at the first facelift to XE.
Nicely-written. I have always liked this design, and only wonder how it would’ve did if sold in the U.S. It styling was certainly better than most American GM large cars of this time. Funny that the 1991 VP’s would start to look a big B-body bloated whale Caprice-like with the fender skirts and bulbous headlights/front end.
Under 7 seconds for a late-’80s sedan, not bad.
Agreed about the VP looking like the ’91 Caprice. Perhaps some cross-pollination at the design studio?
GMH were importing Chevrolet powertrains I suspect they knew what the actual cars looked like most changes to the VP were under the skin they redid the panel work for the VR.
Heres a Chevy with Dores in the background Do ya reckon they were cribbed? I do
That Red EA Ford Falcon is quite the good looker..in red with those alloy wheels.
It’s a shame Ford Europe didn’t take it instead of the Euro and Hatchback Granada.
Great lookers for sure. Car and Driver ran a scoop photo of one back around ’85 under the caption ‘Aussie Art’ – that was before any of the local mags had photographed one!
We seriously considered one in late ’89, but they were selling so fast the local suburban dealer didn’t have one to test-drive (supposedly). We weren’t impressed with the space utilisation – rear seat space was so-so, the trunk was an awkward shape – so we looked elsewhere. As it turned out, they had a terrible reputation for build quality, which unfortunately was nothing new from Ford Australia.
As with the VN Commodore, there are very few of these around today.
Reading about Australian cars is a lot like Christmas morning – you know you’re getting something good, but you’re just not sure what it will be.
This was a very good and enjoyable article. Having dipped my toe into the Holden Monaro and Ford Fairlane pool a while back, your articles are certainly deepening my interest in the rolling iron of Australia.
When I lived in Oz I drove an EL Falcon, but considered a VS Commodore. The interior of the Holden was one thing that struck me, how angular and almost Japanese it seemed. I still preferred them over the VT for some reason, inside and out.
What I wonder about the Falcadores is what they will do for utes once they cease Australian operations. Will Aussies only have access to rebadged, generic Japanese pick ups? Say it ain’t so!
The utes arent selling now no need to wait until production ends the Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado have taken the sales from the domestic utes already, A friend bought a new XR6 Falcon ute recently and at the time wondered why they sell so poorly it was a nice ute he kept it mere months and traded it for a diesel Mondeo a much better car nicer to drive more grunt very economical he answered his own question.
Tradesmen and government departments have moved on to the much more versatile Japanese pickups, especially now that V6s have become the norm. Nowadays utes tend to be bought by older farming types who have always had a ute, or young guys who see it as a cheap two-seater V8.
My forty-something neighbour recently sold his XR6 Turbo ute for a 4WD Ranger.
It is an interesting situation. The cab-chassis Falcon since AU redressed the versatility to a large degree as you can have a flat tray or service body, I think what has held it back are the lesser ground clearance compared to Japanese pickups and reliability/quality issues in particular when the BA was introduced. People just don’t want to deal with hassles for their work vehicle. Of course the Japanese pickups are not perfect, but better.
The ground clearance issue was dealt with via the lifted RTV model, which went into a lot of fleets but as with anything new awareness spreads gradually, and they didn’t carry it over to the 2008 FG new generation. Which is a big shame for me as it is just what I want!
Probably just as big a factor is the lack of twin-cab, and fleets wanting to standardize vehicles.
I think the problem with Falcon cab chassis is two-fold. First its price, it’s more expensive, think >$5K than the cheapest Japanese. Secondly, unless you get LPG, the Japanese win hands down on the fuel consumption department.
The thing is absolutely brilliant. The ride height is perfect to load and unload stuff easily, can be speced for 1 ton payload, bare bones XL or fancy XR6 and can tow 1600+ Kgs. Note that some of the 2WD Japanese trucks have a ride height that is close to the Falcon ute.
A good diesel engine and a price $5-10K cheaper would have probably helped the old girl.
Here’s that lifted RTV version John H spoke of, with an aftermarket heavy-duty box instead of the regular ute tray.
Another very nice writeup that explains where these cars came from–to my eye, Aussie cars of the 80’s and 90’s always remind me of Opel designs with more robust V6/V8 power. I think the VN came out looking quite stylish, all things considered, and I especially like the “all glass” roofline of the Statesman and Caprice variants. I also wonder what sales might have been like had Detroit decided to run a variant of this instead of GM10…with some detail tweaks I think the Commodore would have made a better Lumina than what we actually god, and the Statesman/Caprice roofline resembles the Cutlass Supreme’s. An interesting “what if?”
One point of confusion though–discussing the VN’s widening versus the Omega base, it is stated “ultimately, the VN would be almost an inch wider”. I’m assuming that’s an inch wider than the VL? Because if they went to all the trouble to create entirely new tooling to widen the Omega platform only an inch, that seems like a lot of work for very little result!
The wider body was planted on top of the VL platform it took until the VR/S to resolve the narrow track handling suspension issues, Holden got a lot of breathing room when sorting the VN out because of the woeful Falcon it was so bad it made a flawed car like the VN seem good, Falcon came out only partially baked and almost entirely unproven they leaked oil from new which is a roadworthyness fail in OZ they only had a 3 speed trans, the engine was designated 3.9L it became so unpopular the redesigned cam cover to stop the oil leaks became a whole new 4.0 engine yet all they did was fix the leaks and AOD trans solved the high rev high fuel consumption issues, meanwhile Holden smoothed its car out adressed its handling problems redesigned the front and rear sheet metal and had a hit on its hands.
I think it is an inch wider than the Omega, it is nearly 3″ wider than the VL. New tooling was needed anyway so it would be pretty easy to add an inch in width during that process, likewise with front & rear screens etc. The carry-over VL platform was a restriction as Bryce has noted. It does sound strange and they probably could have stood to go wider but an extra inch of rear shoulder room would be noticeable when trying to fit 3 guys in the back seat.
I wonder if Holden cast their eyes over to the USA for design tips when they were creating the Statesman VQ? The wrap around rear window seems to have been taken from the 86-91 Mercury Sable.
Likewise I wonder if GM looked over at Holden when they were designing the Cutlass sedan for its debut in 1990? the side profile and back window set up on the 1990-97 Cutlass sedan do has a resemblance to the VN Statesman.
With most of the global automakers with design studios in different parts of the world, designers from one studio often ended up in one of the overseas studios. A promising designer might go from head of a U.S. divisional studio to running one of the overseas styling centers and then back to the States in some more senior managerial capacity. For instance, the first head of Ford of Australia’s local design center was Jack Telnack (who’s American), who a few years later ended up as VP of Ford’s European studio and then executive director of North American design. So, some of the same design people move back and forth as they go up the ladder.
I’ve always been a fan of both the Senator A and Senator B. From the days that not only BMW but also Opel and Mercedes-Benz had straight six gasoline engines.
And I also remember the (last model) Opel Omega with the straight six BMW turbo diesel. My neighbor had one,
a blue wagon. Nice diesel rumble.
I’ve read that the upcoming new Mercedes E-class (2016/2017) will be available with straight six engines again.
Sweet Opel 3.0 liter 24v engine.
The V8 5 speed transmissoins and rear axles from the VN were exported to Lotus for installing in the Vauxhall Lotus Carlton Elite, being the only ones GM had that could cope with the torque the twin turbo 6 produced so dimensionally the two cars must have been very close.
Do I understand correctly that Holden widened a car by a whole inch?
Not sure that would make that much difference?
I was wondering about that too. Is that comparing like to like as regards width? The annoying thing about trying to make sense of width dimensions is that there’s no consistency about whether the quoted figures include side mirrors or not, so if the VN was really significantly wider than the Omega, maybe it was an inch sans mirrors than an Omega with mirrors…
Clearly the Holden execs did think it mattered, after all they were in the middle of 10 years of losing sales with a narrower car. In the end the VN Commodore was still 60mm narrower than the Falcon, but at least that was in the same ballpark.
Given that most panels show some change from the Omega I don’t think it would have been difficult to add the extra width when the new tooling was made.
Nice article William. I think it is worth mentioning that in 1986 Holden had a $750m bail-out from GM, which no doubt influenced a lot of cost-cutting measures for the VN like carrying over the VB-VL platform, and moving to the cheaper Buick V6. The exchange rate of the Yen increased quite dramatically at this time, making the cost of the Nissan RB30 too high.
The other thing is that these were very light cars. For a 107.5″ wheel base and 191″ length the base sedan was 1311 kg / 2890 lb, even the V8 SS weighed 1403 kg / 3093 lb. Performance and fuel economy were good but there was a downside, they were pretty flimsy.
John, IIRC the book actually mentions that it was the exchange rate what killed the Nissan I-6.
That first pic looks like a cross between a first generation Ford Taurus and a Chevy Corsica.
One thing about these cars is, that they were the absolute No. 1 favourite young guys cars ever.
with there good power to weight ratio , smooth styling ( in there eyes anyway)
I still see plenty being thrashed around to this day.
bullet proof cars , hard to kill. the white SS pictured with the 736 SWZ plate is a classic example.
Yep. My son’s mate has killed three of them, last I heard. Inexperience + enthusiasm + oversteer + power pole = never a good mix.
The VR had vastly nicer steering, but that crappy live rear end was still the killer. I don’t exaggerate when I say that when a hooned a pretty new one back in the day, I got some torque steer – no, really! – from a RWD car. Can only presume the combo of big torque and poor axle location actually allowed it move very slightly like a billy-cart steering when all the force was released. And it was still detectable on my brother’s then-new VS 7 years later!
“Commodore – for when there are too many power-poles in your area”.
Tough, reliable, roomy, economical, super-fast for the day – and deeply, deeply unpleasant.
The Nissan 6 was all fitted and tested when the newly-floated Aus dollar meant every one GMH imported was going to cost $5-6K per unit. So they desperately chucked in the Buick V6, so rapidly that they’d barely turned the damn thing off from it’s FWD US use before glueing it into the north-south. The top radiator hose comes from the BACK of the engine, for example. It vibrated, it rattled and it rasped like a gravel-gargler. It sounded shot from new. The rear main seal surely had an external oil-sprayer installed in the RWD cobbling. Awful.
The rest of the engineering was just as casual. They didn’t have time (one presumes) to adjust the enormously sharp throttle tip-in from US preferences, which when combined with a weakly-located solid axle meant even your gran was chucking huge smoky donuts on the way to church. The front track was a good bit narrower than the back (and looked it). The steering, through the biggest and ugliest plastic nasty ever fitted to a car, had a foolish 2.6 turns lock to lock: combine that with the wheelbarrow effect of the narrow front end and the rear axle that was apparently held on with elastic knickers and the thing was a darty menace at speed.
The dash was from playskool and the styling unfinished (to me). They had awful paint, gappy, squeaky bodywork. The fairly stiff ride was worse than the VH two models back.
It didn’t thrash the Falcon: the Falc was an inherently better car that thrashed itself. The Commode had only the 4-speed auto and much better seats over the Ford. The Ford handled far more predictably, steered sensibly (if lightly), had a far nicer ride, dash, a sweetly smooth engine and styling internationally acclaimed at the time.
Sadly, the VeryNasty won everywhere. See reliable, economical and tough above. The pretty Falc blew head gaskets, leaked oil (from above, where it leaked and stunk and annoyed buyers, unlike the driveway pool under the VN’s) and did not have an overdrive for big travel, which wasn’t fun on the bad seats anyway.
To our dear readers around the rest of the world, regard the VN as interesting, by all means. But don’t ever think this poorly-assembled collection of internationalia ever felt like anything other than the parts collection it was – messy enough to feel like it was driving on all those continents at one time, and not necessarily in the same direction, either.
I had the same V6 in an ’88 Bonneville. Not straight-6 smooth but not objectionable. Did they leave out the balance shafts in yours?
They didn’t, so I can only assume the racket and weird vibes were to do with inadequate mounting, perhaps combined with a large and echoey engine compartment – it sat lower and further back for the missing ohc six – and being able to hear two lots of odd-fire 3cyl exhausts (one of which would be largely silenced by the engine in transverse FWD).
I’m not sure what changes were made in the Ecotec version from ’94, but it was immediately way nicer.
Still Plenty Around Here in New South Wales australia ( though mostly on grass)
I just don’t get the thought process that justifies buying in a Nissan engine, widening an Opel, and making do with a Buick FWD engine in a RWD chassis. Wouldn’t developing a Holden version of the 1986 H-car have resulted in a much more cohesive result?
So technically Holden built up an Opel Diplomat C over the Senator B, even the rear design style mimic the Opel taste for small tail lights. Despite the Daewooish C pillar, that Statesman is quite a looker!