Holden's famous five
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The last Aussie-built Holden rolled off the production line in Adelaide yesterday, as the GM branch became the last manufacturer to pull the plug on its operation across the Ditch.
The closure of the Elizabeth plant is the final chapter in Holden’s automotive story that began in 1948. Australian motoring journalist Joshua Dowling reflects on the five most significant models Holden produced.
The HQ Kingswood is still the biggest-selling Holden of all time, with a staggering 485,650 built from 1971 to 1974. Back then it was praised for being smoother, safer and “more elegant” than any Holden before it. A sign of the times: there was a choice of two six-cylinder engines and three types of V8.
1974 Holden Kingswood HQ. Photo / Supplied
The Commodore is born
After a decade of Kingswood domination, General Motors decided to switch to a smaller sedan after two oil crises in the 1970s. The 1978 Commodore was an adaptation of a General Motors sedan from Germany.
It initially struggled in Australia’s harsh conditions while in showrooms it was outsold by the bigger Ford Falcon. But it started Holden’s role in localising the Commodore, a process that would last 39 years.
The 1998 VT Commodore. Photo / Supplied
The Commodore VT model made from 1997 to 2000 was the best-selling Commodore of all time, with 303,895 built. Buyers embraced the sleek European styling and roomy body.
It also didn’t hurt Holden’s cause that the Ford Falcon at the time had a polarising design.
The modern Monaro
Holden stunned fans when it unveiled a sleek two-door Commodore concept car at the 1998 Sydney motor show. Designed to take attention away from the new Ford Falcon, it was instantly labelled the modern Monaro.
Holden, which had no intention of producing the car, caved in to public demand and introduced the car in showrooms in 2001. It would eventually revive Holden exports to the US.
The billion-dollar baby
Unlike every Commodore before it, the VE generation released in 2006 was designed and engineered from the ground up in Australia at a staggering cost of A$1 billion.
The underpinnings would also be used for the Chevrolet Camaro sold in the US. It was the best Commodore built (and the foundation of the VF Commodore that would take Holden to the end of the line in 2017). However, sales of large sedans were in decline even before it went on sale. And there was nothing Holden could do to reverse the slide.