Because today, 20 October 2017, is the day that the Holden production lines will come to a halt after almost 70 years, I thought that rather than recount the history of Holden – which can be found at many places from Wikipedia onwards – I would run through a few interesting CC finds. So let’s start with this 1968 HK model Brougham, which was the top of the line of the sixth-generation Holden, and looked like it was a fresh restoration. A closer look at it and its long tail can be found here.
With the Brougham being 49 years old and a low volume model to begin with it is a fairly unusual sight. There are many more plentiful Holdens kicking around though, such as this HQ Premier. There were 485,560 HQ Holdens produced in total over 3 years, and a 6-cylinder automatic Premier would have been one of the most common combinations. After the HQ the tail lights were moved out of the bumper.
HQ’s aren’t exactly everywhere any more, but nearly half a million units of production does leave a mark if you know what I mean. No pun intended in relation to the dent on the door by the way, well not at first! This is the ‘standard’ HQ front end, while the Premier had twin 5-¼” headlights instead of the 7” singles.
While the HQ was the most prolific Holden, this was mainly because of its lengthy production run from 1971-74. On the other hand the most beloved Holden is probably the EH model, either that or the FJ, and it was the fastest selling Holden ever with 256,959 built in just 18 months. This looks like a base model, that lives in one of the older suburbs not far from the city where you would have the freedom to have an older car as an occasional driver.
Here is an FJ, well if you squint a bit, set up for some sort of competition. It was a rushed drive-by shot, and I did not realise until later it was a little out of focus. Note the grille was originally chrome, not painted. While the original 48-215 Holden debuted in November 1948, production ramped up relatively slowly, with less than 8,000 cars having been built by the end of 1949 so perhaps you might say the impact of the car far outweighed the numbers on the ground in the early days, and there were 40% more FJ’s built than 48-215’s.
I shot an EH wagon a while back at a (giant) hardware shop that was quite different from the very original sedan above. This one has been done up and it looks like every aspect has been touched. The EH had Holden’s new 6-cylinder engine that was used for twenty years subsequently, so there is plenty of scope to upgrade when rebuilding them. This car had ‘P’ plates in the window indicating a provisionally-licenced driver; one that has had their licence less than 3 years. Who says young people aren’t interested in cars?
To switch to a completely different wagon, the Adventra that was built from 2003-2006 (this is one of the later ones) was a pretty ideal crossover wagon in the mould of the Subaru Outback. But it was not as versatile as a ‘proper’ CUV (such as the Ford Territory released at the same time), with only an optional add-in third row of seats for example, and with only a V8 available until the VZ update most buyers looked elsewhere.
This is a VZ Berlina wagon, the standard Commodore wagon. Berlina was the third tier trim level in the Commodore line-up, just below the Calais. These wagons were truly vast, with 2752L/97.2cu.ft of cargo space and roughly 7 feet of floor length. Yes not as big as a full-size US wagon, but when the 5033mm/198″ overall length was too large in many places something a foot and a half longer is a non-starter.
The final Commodore wagon is much smaller, sharing the standard sedan wheelbase and having about 30% less cargo space. This is a VF model, with what is by now a rare accessory at least on normal passenger cars; a bull-bar. Animal strikes are still a significant hazard in rural driving, especially at dawn or dusk.
To take a giant step back, this is the HD model that replaced the EH. One of the nicknames was “Highly Dangerous”, referring to the protruding front fenders also known as ‘kidney slicers’. The HD had one of the shorter runs of any Holden model, being replaced after just 14 months and sales were down by 10% compared to the EH, so the poor acceptance is not just a matter of perception.
This is a 1975 HJ Kingswood, which sat between the Belmont and Premier. The Kingswood name became so ubiquitous with this generation of car that many people simply refer to all of them as Kingswoods. There was also a sitcom called “Kingswood Country”; no prizes for guessing what car the title character drove.
Here is another ‘typical’ old still-in-use Holden, a WB One Tonner – there isn’t much standard about this one. Starting at the front there is obviously another bull-bar, covering a front end from the luxury Statesman which has a different grille and headlights. There are what look like ROH Stryker chrome wheels, truck-style door mirrors and an enclosed service body with racks that may well have been home-built on the original flat deck tray. A versatile work vehicle to be sure.
Talking about building a vehicle to suit your needs, this is a rather larger scope version of that. With Holden having ceased production of the WB One Tonner in 1984 and without a replacement in sight, a small company in Newcastle New South Wales came up with their own version. Based on the Commodore station wagon, they added a new rear chassis section with leaf springs to provide the load-carrying part and closed in the rear of the cabin. As with any aftermarket conversion of this nature, the cost was rather more than a factory vehicle and not a lot were built, even before the 1999 Falcon 1 Tonne pickup debuted and made it obsolete.
The Commodore sedan that was in production at the same time as the WB (or one of them, they were updated more frequently) was this 1983 VH model, which was the last one to have chrome bumpers. Front sheetmetal adopted the Opel Senator rather than Rekord/Commodore and the engines were updated to meet more stringent emissions requirements, and are known as the ‘blue’ motors in both 6- and 8-cylinder forms, but EFI was not yet part of the mix. It was also the last car with L, SL. SL/X and SL/E trim levels, with the latter two replaced by Berlina and Calais. I am still training myself to shoot these whenever I can, because the early Commodores aren’t “everywhere” any more.
Going slightly later we have a 1987 VL Calais, and due to the offset front number plate and 19” wheels (from a more recent Commodore) I’m going to assume this is one of the Turbo versions. When this debuted in 1986 it was the first production turbocharged car in Australia, with the Nissan RB30 engine (3.0L inline six) putting out 150kW/202hp and sending the car to 100km/h in about 7.5 sec (take off a couple of tenths for the 0-60mph), before you wound it up. They have been pretty popular to modify, including drag racing and I have seen one that looked almost standard and still used the original driveline (ie no Powerglide or 9″ swaps) run a mid-8 second quarter mile, with a 155mph terminal speed. Not bad going!
Getting into the 1990s, here is a 1994 HSV Senator 185i. This was nearly the most expensive Holden you could buy (behind the long wheelbase HSV Grange), with a price of AUD$52,300 – the entry level Commodore was $25,700 at the time. The Senator was intended as a more low-key and luxurious car version of the high-performance HSV range.
This 1994 Statesman is included even though it is not a great photo, but because it marks a moment in time. Not the time when Holden was cribbing Oldsmobile styling cues for their flagship car, but one referenced by the registration ‘number’ – SYDNEE. It was in 1993 that the International Olympic Committee announced Sydney as the host city for the 2000 Olympic Games, with IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch pronouncing Sydney in rather a particular way referenced by the plate here. It was also the moment that made the then New South Wales Premier John Fahey possibly the happiest human being in history! See the video here.
More modern again is a green and gold 2002 Monaro, celebrating our national sporting colours. While the Monaro became somewhat of a modern-day classic seemingly from the moment it went into production, there are still a few being used as daily drivers.
As an illustration how old Holdens never die, here is one of quite a few WB models I’ve seen still earning a living. Because the WB was the last of the original Holden line and the commercial models were not part of the Commodore line-up until the ute returned in 1990, many owners just kept driving them, regarding the new less-robust, electronic-filled models as not worthy. Especially for a panel van like this, which was not replaced.
So there you have it, a wide cross-section of Holdens that demonstrate while there may no longer be new cars coming from the Elizabeth assembly lines, the contribution that the company and its workers have made to the automotive landscape in this country won’t be going anywhere for a long time yet and will never be forgotten.