Back in 2017, I posted a piece on CC covering the unusual cars I saw on a holiday in New Zealand and the variations that were different to those familiar in Europe, which I titled “It’s A Honda, But Not As We Know It”. Well, we’ve been again, and here’s some feedback.
First up, it’s a great country seemingly universally populated by friendly, helpful and cheerful people, and we were lucky with the weather, even in April (which is really October, if you get my drift) and with an admirable pace of life. And we saw some, to our European eyes at least, unusual cars and unfamiliar uses of more familiar names. I’ll come to those another day, but first something a little more familiar.
I’ve said several times in comments on CC that I consider the Holden Commodore VE and VF series as being the best looking GM cars for many years, and maybe one of the best looking saloons overall of recent years, so going to New Zealand, whilst not really just about seeing Commodores closer to their true Australian home, was an opportunity to do just that. Once a Curbivore, always a Curbivore, after all.
First up, this 2016 Commodore SS-V Redline (VF series) with the 6.2 litre V8 engine. 408bhp and 420 lb-ft of torque no doubt make light work of Auckland’s hilly streets. This example was parked up overnight close to our hotel (we went to the local bakery for breakfast rather than eat at the hotel lobby restaurant), hence the condensation on the car.
And being a careful driver, he’s keeping the wheels well clear of the kerbs. This truly had the air of a personally specified and well cared for car.
In the background, the blue car is a 1998-2001 Renault Clio, one of the very few Renaults we saw.
This red Commodore is a 3.6 litre 2017 version, featuring a neat ski-blade spoiler on the boot. Even better looking in red, in my opinion. YMMV.
The older cars are still around as well. This 2004 example, with clear Opel/Vauxhall Omega/Cadillac Catera overtones, unsurprisingly given its European bloodline, looks carefully maintained and specified.
One Commodore variant that seemed to be more numerous than I expected was the Crewman, the unusual four door, five seat or pickup version of the Commodore, based on the two door, two seat Holden Ute.
This striking example is a 2004 model with a 5.7 litre V8. The Maloo (Aboriginal for thunder) was the basis for a Holden Special Vehicles production, combining the two door ute with the high performance options developed by Walkinshaw Performance and promoted by HSV. Somehow, I suspect it was not a taxi.
This is a slightly calmer 2008 Crewman, with the 3.6 litre V6 engine.
One use the Commodore is familiarly seen in is as a Police highway patrol car for the ever friendly NZ police service. Here, a 2016 3.0 litre V6 car lines up with a 2003 Commodore Berlina (VY series) station wagon, hiding a 5.7 litre V8 under that calm looking exterior. This was just outside the parliament in Wellington.
The VF Commodore has of course now been retired and Australian production has ceased. So what are the police using? The German built Commodore ZB series (familiar as the Opel/Vauxhall insignia and Buick Regal), with 3.6 litre V6 power and a hatchback configuration.
One other example we saw was this 1988 model, branded for the AA, the New Zealand equivalent of the AAA.
The colour and logo are very similar to the UK AA, but the organisations are separate. In fact, the NZAA goes back to 1903 and predates the UK organisation, surprisingly.
Holden production, of course, ceased back in October 2017 and the Aussie Commodore as we knew it came to an end. I know we’re not supposed to look back and so on, but the world is poorer place in some ways without variety and quality, and the Commodore brought a bit of both.