As Australia's car production era comes to an end, we celebrate some of the finest machines made Down Under
21 October 2017

The lines of Australia’s final car production plant have now ground to a halt.

Holden, the country’s final car producer, will follow Ford and Toyota’s lead by moving production elsewhere. Given Holden, which has been owned by GM since 1931, has been making cars in the country for seven decades, it seemed fitting to look back at some of the finest cars that have been made in Australia.

Would you add any cars to the list? Let us know in the comments below.

1948-1953 Holden 48-215

Not many car brands can claim to have got off to a rolling start, but Holden, with its domestically-developed 48-215, did just that. The model was celebrated for its excellent towing ability, comfortable ride and impressive fuel economy – all traits that made it a better overall car for Australia than the previously strong selling Austin A40. Such was its popularity that more than 120,000 were produced.

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1968-1969 Holden HK Monaro

One of the most striking Holdens produced is this, the HK Monaro. Borrowing a typically ‘60s pillarless coupé design from the Opel Commodore, the HK was affordable but extremely desirable for the fashion-minded driver. The top of the range GTS 327 had a four-barrel 5.3-litre Chevrolet V8 engine that produced 249bhp and drove tyres complete with red bands. The fact the model was a Barthurst winner in ’68 cemented its place in the Holden hall of fame.

1973 Ford Falcon XB GT Pursuit Special

Arguably the most iconic non-Holden Aussie car there is; it's Mad Max's '73 Ford Falcon XB GT. As menacing as it is famous, the car was a 1973 model, and was six years old when the film came out. Shame that the supercharger thrusting from its bonnet wasn’t operational during filming, but its on-screen presence is second to none.

1975-1978 Holden LX Sunbird

At a glance, the LX Sunbird was just a facelifted version of the LX Torana. But look deeper – or take a ride – and the technical advances it offered become clear. Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS) is the name of the then radically improved chassis setup introduced with the 1975 model. With it, the pre-update car’s roly poly handling was gone, swapped for a sharper, more appropriate stance that finally suited its macho exterior. The ’78 VB Commodore that followed used it’s own take of RTS and quickly became a Holden icon, setting the brand on a path that ensured many more performance legends would be produced.

1978-1980 Holden VB Commodore

Think this looks familiar? That’s because the VB Commodore was heavily based on the Opel Senator aka Vauxhall Viceroy, borrowing its stylish front end and combining it with the more compact rear of the Opel Rekord. It was at its best with a Nissan-sourced six-cylinder. You could say the car was Australia’s cherry-picked global product, but it also had genuine Aussie genes thanks to a comprehensive local re-engineering.

1987 Holden VL Commodore Touring Car Championship racer

Holden was already famous for its racing at home, but on the world stage the name was still fairly low scale. Cue the opening round of the 1987 World Touring Car Championship where former Ford racer Allan Moffat entered a VL Commodore, finished in Rothmans livery, with fellow Aussie John Harvey. The unlikely entrant was only beaten across the line by six factory-supported BMW M3s, but then later awarded the win when the German squad were found to be running with lightweight panels – against regulations. The Commodore wasn’t able to follow up its WTCC win with anymore silverware, but its surprise performance at the opening international race means it stacks up, albeit behind a long list of domestic championship successes, as one of Holden’s most impressive motorsport achievements.

1997-2000 Holden VT Commodore

The success of the best-selling Commodore, which was produced in 303,895 units, was key for the birth of many great hot Holdens. The VT Commodore led to the HSV-developed VTII GTS in 2000, which channelled an E39 BMW M5-embarresing 402bhp to its rear wheels thanks to the 5.7-litre supercharged V8 up front. The two-door V2 Monaro also owed much of its existence to the Commodore. The VT was a sales success and the forebear to other great things.

1997-present Supercars racers

Australia's answer to the BTCC uses 'Supercars' - 5.0-litre, V8-engined muscle cars, often based on road-going saloons like, unexpectedly, the Volvo S60, Mercedes-AMG E63 and Nissan Altima. It's been going since 1997, although only since 2013 have cars been able to enter which aren't, you guessed it, Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores. 

2007-2017 Holden HSV Maloo

Chances are you think of a 'ute when you think of an Australian car, and no 'ute is better known in the UK than the HSV Maloo. A handful have been brought to the UK, mostly as Vauxhall VXR8 Maloo-badged variants. Thank God for badge engineering.

2013-2017 Holden HSV Gen-F

Australia’s engineering talents can at least bow out on a high, because the HSV Gen-F, Holden’s last hot model, is also one of its best. Powered by a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 packing 577bhp and 546lb ft of torque, the four-door muscle car can go pound for pound with the Mercedes-AMG E63 S but for a much lower price. The car’s HSV-tuned magnetic dampers mean it’s got the agility to match, making this arguably the best all-round machine to have come from the Lion-badged car maker’s home soil. The W1, the run-out special, was brought to the UK as the Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R. And we drove one. 

Related stories: 

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS review

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R review

Join the debate


21 October 2017

In 2005 i bought a new Monaro. Its the best car i have ever had, and no doubt why i have it still. The combination of a chevy small block V8,  a manual box, the most comfy car seats i ever sat on, great looks, reliability are unmatched to this day. It can even be very economical on a run. 

The real shame is that GM didnt try to sell the commodore here in more than VXR form. Perhaps if they had exported more cars Holden would have survived?

21 October 2017
Good lord who wrote this crud! No mention whatsoever of the most famous and highly regarded Australian muscle car ever. The phase 3 GTHO XY Ford Falcon. The fastest four door production car in the world back in 71. Sweet 380hp 351ci Cleveland V8...ran 14s 1/4's. Or the stillborn phase 4 falcon with a reputed 160mph top end in 1973...only 5 or 6 made before public outcry stopped the project. What about chrysLerags efforts...the E49 valiant charger....a lovely looking coupe running a howling 300hp 4.3 straight 6cyl with triple webbers....reputedly quicker to 60 that the phase 3 falcon. But no all Australia ever made were do it even add the prettiest holden of them all.the hq monaco with a imported 350 chev. Seriously autocar....what a disservice to the immensely rich auto culture Australia has had.....the beautiful falcon xb hardtop coupe...not my cup of tea but the a9x holden Torana 2 door. Do your research....I mean the holden hell!

21 October 2017
What about fords locally developed 4.0l turbo online six in the Falcon...much like skylines...easily tunable to 800 plus hp....a total commodore fest, why because they were rehashed as vauxhalls? Whoopy do...with only one mention of a Ford and no local chrysler products. Nonsense. Clearly a clapped together article researched on Wikipedia by the tea boy. Australian car legends were Borne out of Bathurst success and this article has totally missed that critical point.

21 October 2017
Fancy not even mentioning one GTHO Falcon! Quick Clearly missed that one on Wikipedia. Australian greats my ar$$.

22 October 2017

GTHO Falcon an iconic Aussie car and worth a fortune now. More modern Falcon XR6 turbo and G6E don't even get a mention, probably as Ford kept them down under whereas GM brought the Commodore to the UK as the VXR Vauxhalls. As Mr Cropley hails from Oz I'd have expected more from Autocar. Shouldn't have overlooked the Territory SUV either. Using the smooth 4.0 straight 6 out of the Falcon it was a well executed SUV, not as upmarket as X5 etc but a very decent drive. Lack of diesel option until later in its life probably ruined export chances to UK though. Chrysler Valiant was a good effort in its day too, and the Holden Kingswood of the 1970s was part of the scenery in Australasia. Perhaps Autocar could have detailed the Leyland P76 (still V8) as a hero of Aussie car manufacturing......

22 October 2017

holden clearly have a great history and it’s sad they finished. However I lived in aus for a while back in the late 00’s. I went to look at the big holdens as they were so cheap compared to anything from the eu and I wanted to support the local economy.

when I got there they had all the big cars lined up and looking like they had been styled by Halfords and max power magazine. Still it was what the locals drove  and I wanted to support local. When I looked at the cars all the steering wheels were peeling apart and the dash boards were warping from the sun. I asked the salesman why he didn’t move them into the shade. He smiled and said the people who buy these cars don’t want quality, I can knock the price down, sell them quicker and don’t lose out as I can claim they came from the factory like that and claim back the price reductionn.

that was all I needed to hear, so I bought a new mondeo instead, which was still over half the price of a 3 series. 

22 October 2017

This article is all but a well disguised GM/Vauxhall Ad.  Only the token Ford which was heavily modified was included in this GM fest despite the Many Falcons made down under and were V8 champs too....  Aussie greats GMs? That is the question.

22 October 2017

It's a terrible shame that car production has finished with the closure of both the Holden & Toyota  manufacturing plants this month but really it's not a surprise car manufacturing in Oz has been in decline for over forty years, Leyland were the first major manufacturer to pull out in the mid seventies after years spent developing the P76 finally getting it to the market then pulling out less than two years later. In the eighties Chrysler sold their assembly plant to Mitsubishi who also pulled out in 2008 after the Mitsubishi 380 failed to sell. Last years closure of the Ford plant saw the end of that company's manufacturing which stretched back even longer than GM's ownership of Holden. While few will probably care that much about the loss of the products of the Toyota plant the loss of the Commodore & Falcon will be much felt not only in Australia but anywhere that fast cars with V8 engines are appreciated for what pleasure they give to their drivers.

23 October 2017

Who wrote this?  Holden's PR department?

23 October 2017

Very sad a lot job losses.


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