One thing that always fascinated me was the difference in manufacturers and branding for automobiles between countries and regions. To table the situation in Australia and hopefully provoke thought, I present to you: Kalon's biased, misinformed, incomplete and totally unauthoritative guide to Australian motoring.


Aussies love their cars. Our attachment to motoring and specifically motorsport is woven in to us - the large distances SHOULD mean we also love to fly, but our heavily regulated and overpriced airlines make it too expensive. We have grown up with the off-cuts of the growing foreign motoring industry - the Fords and such, and have changed it to fit, given it our own "unique" twist, integrating it into the culture, evolving it into a way of life for the Land Down Under.

We have our Roads and Traffic Authoriy. We get 4 demerit points as a learner driver, going at a maximum of 80km/h. We spend (now) 3 years as a "P Driver" with a whopping 90km/h limit. As a full driver we get 12 demerit points, 110km/h limit and we lose up to 3 for realtively minor offences, and drink driving is punished even more severely but still unfortunately common practice. We have shit roads in some states, we have bad accidents. And we love it!

We grow up on a diet of weekends chock full of motorsport - rally, supercars, speedways, superbikes, Formula 1. Throughout it all is a long running battle - for our attention and devotion to one "code", to a racing team, to a manufacturer. Our greatest icons of motorsport become successful businessmen and brand names, drifting in to myth, erasing the face, the deeds and instead selling us tyres, shock absorbers and mileage service at the same time. Robert Jane became Bob Jane T-Marts. Peter Brock sells us Bridgestone tyres. Mark Skaife sells us fake wood floor pannelling, complete with a shot of his garage covered in high-gloss floorboards with a Commodore parked on it. Atrocious.

The true renaissance of motorsport came from the foundation of the Australian spirit - rebellion. The dominating force of motorsport was foreign - foreign manufacturers established foreign races in our contry, and brooked no opposition. In true fighting spirit, we established our own manufacturer, clawed our way up to be competitive, strived to be number 1.

The old enmity

Ford v Holden.

Holden is an Australian car manufacturer. Holden is THE Australian car manufacturer.

Established by James Alexander Holden in 1856 as a saddlery, it evolved in to motorbike sidecars for the war effort in 1913. In 1926, General Motors Australia (GMA) is formed, then merged in 1931 to form General Motors Holden (GMH) in 1931, using the now-famous "lion and stone" emblem that stands as the mark of Aussie motoring to this day. It is Aussie to its core - built, designed, manufactured, owned in Australia.

Ford, on the other hand, was an invader. Its simple blue emblem. Its gas-guzzling vehicles. Its American ethos. What possible force could stop us hating it?

Behind all this is something that sets us as a motorsport country apart, and (partially) explains our bloodlust for everything that goes "vroom" - Supercars.

Supercars and "The Mountain"

Supercars has it's origin in the NASCAR races of America. However, the unlike mind-numbingly large numbers of laps around a boring, donut-shaped ring, its custom-built stock, it's showgirls, Supercar racing is all about the delicate balance of performance, reliability and HANDLING. And a big beer washup at the end of the day. Supercar racing is based around standard car bodies, and as such has lead to safety, performance and handling improvements in their passenger class brethren. The track layout required for Supercar racing means that any tracks, including F1 tracks, reserved for those magnificent totally unobtainable beasts, now have more mundane competitors. Supercars represent the epitome of commercial stock racing - they must use standard commercial vehicle bodies, with different degrees of cusomisability based on the level of racing.

The development of the Supercar race lead to a number of things. New tracks. Development of the handling/reliability/performance trade-off. Heroes. Villains. Rivalry. It is because of Supercar racing that there is such a healthy desire (some would say obsession) with motorsport and motoring in general in our wide brown land. And it is because of one race that Supercars got as popular as it is.

The Bathurst 1000

Bathurst is a small country town of little other repute with lots of charm, a thriving farming industry and steady growth opportunities in the New South Wales (NSW) outback. It has its origins in the gold rushes, the layover towns and small country establishments. But it also has one other thing. A whopping great big bloody mountain right on its outskirts. Its steep slopes and the relatively flat surrounds makes it the perfect place to put a challenging and testing race circuit. The Bathurst course is twisty, windy, narrow in some places, has sharp, steep rises and sudden drops. Perfect for Supercar manufacturers to test their mettle. But it does more than this to the CARS.

Bathurst is a LONG race. The 4+ km circuit is raced to make up a total of 1000kms (previously 500 miles!) makes it a test for the drivers, pit crews and support staff. Co-drivers are essential and often play an important tactical role in winning at The Mountain, often "graduating" to move on to primary driver status. Bathurt is the pinnacle of Supercar racing - millions of spectators tune in by the tube to follow their team - watch the Holden Commodores take on the Ford Falcons. Tens of thousands of people flock to a small counrty town, to watch their team fly around the course, cheering every lap. Which leads kind of nicely to the breakdown of manufacturers in Australia.

Who makes what

Rather than a comprehensive list, I thought I'd list the eye-catching (for both good AND bad reasons) of each manufacturer...

Holden - known for making a variety of medium to large passenger cars.

Astra. A new contender, the Astra is a re-badged Opel, with a 1.8-2.0l engine, with little modification. Nice to drive, popular for its price and economy and styling. Has a bigger brother in the Vectra, 2.0-2.2l with same basic styling - also a re-badged Opel.
Barina. A chicks car. Small (1.3l). Bubble shaped. Annoying.
Commodore. Their most popular car and Australia's chosen son, consistanly at #1 or #2 of the most popular cars in Australia. The Commodore is Holden's "stock" car. It is large, weighty, but backed up with top-notch brakes, powerful engines, and due to its history in Supercar racing, has a huge range of both official and after-market modifications available. Comes in standard Commodore, with engines up to 5.2l V8, the more luxurious Calais and Berlina models, or tuned and sporty as the classic Australian hoon icon - the Monaro.
Statesman. Top of the line luxury, also variant as the Caprice.

and finally...

HSV. Holden Special Vehicles. Oh yeah. The top-of-the-line street machines, these babies are tuned to the eyeballs for performance and looks. If you can't afford a Ferrari, buy a Clubsport or SS Commodore HSV. Yowch!

Ford - brought in from the good ole USofA. Or at least brought in from USA...

Falcon. The main contender for the top spot with the Commodore, it's rounded styling and sleek lines make it very popular. But remember - you are either a Ford Falcon man or a Holden Commodore man. And never in-between. As an aside, you don't see many mixed Ford/Holden couples...
Ka. Yuk. Horrible styling, terrible to drive, ugly all over and under powered. Why bother??
Laser. A long-running small car, the Laser competes with the Astra and Nissan Pulsar for major brand small car sales. Nicer styling recently has really helped boost flagging sales.
Focus. THe same as the European models, but only recently (2001) brought in to Australia. Needs a few years until I can make a suitably sarcastic comment... but I'd like it (if I was a Ford man...)

The Rest

Mitsubishi Magna - the contender with Commodore and Falcon, it's traditional red has been a main-stay for non partisan people.
Hyundai Excel. Vvvvrrrr p-tish! A small car you'd expect to be a chicks car, it is often seen hotted up by, uh, "Mediteranean" gentlemen - lowered, mag wheels, blower valves. Considering it only managed 89kw to start with, getting a 20% boost is laughable...
Mitsubishi Mirage. Looks like a Hyundai Excel. Same characteristics, but more chicks drive them and thus shunned as a hooner.
Nissan Pulsar. Used to be a bread and butter boring car, the 2001 model was totally overhauled and looks sportier and sexier than ever - boosting its strong sales. Available in boring LX (1.6l) or the sleeker Q or ST (1.8l). I drive one - all white, number plate ZIP33Y. They go really well and have power everything, great handling and enough power to surprise that 318 Beemer at the lights.
BMW 318. Cheaper each year, still a mark of daddy having too much money. Sports and other models available.
Mercedes Benz C180. Ditto.
Mazda 323. Multi-variant, from hatch to wagon to sedan. Non-descript - as in no truly bad points or outstanding ones.
Toyota Camry. Much like the Mazda 323, a non-descript and ubiquitous small-to-medium like so many others.
Chrysler Voyager/Toyota Tarago. Virtually identical, they are people movers and minibus family main-stays.


This turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. In reality, to go through cars in Australia would take many many nodes, outlining history, manufacturers, the races, the heroes etc etc. I just hope ...

Maybe a sub-quest?? Please feel free to add to this writeup, mare softlinks, or /msg me with corrections...

2002.12.18 at 03:07 Girlfriend says You may want to link your last node in some places to Sui's nodes on Bathurst and Bathurst 1000. BTW, I would dispute that Bathurst has little else going for it, being an ex-local...:-)
2002.12.18 at 03:21 semprini says re: cars in australia: Awesome w/u, however the commodore comes with a 5.7l v8, not a 5.2 as you stated. Typo?
2002.12.18 at 03:21 Sasha Gabba Hey! says re Cars in Australia: Good writeup, on a subject I wholeheartedly approve of. I find the past era's cars more interesting though - hopefully we can make this subject really comprehensive.
2002.12.18 at 03:24 BlakJak says I liked your Cars in Australia ... you might want to check out my new wu on Honda, which covers some of the same material
2002.12.18 at 03:27 Sasha Gabba Hey! says re Cars in Australia: Don't be too hard on Ford, since the XA, they've been designing cars specifically for Australia. Also, you can say "Wogs".
2002.12.18 at 04:13 discofever says re Cars in Australia: Funny - I heard that the Subaru WRX was huge in Australia. Am I wrong?
2002.12.19 at 00:37 Sasha Gabba Hey! says I prefer Holdens, except for 1972-1979 when Ford had the XA-XC series - Those cars were beautiful. More than both though, I like Chargers.
2002.12.19 at 02:34 discofever says re Cars in Australia: Ah! Well, remember : the Holden Monaro gets rebadged for the US here pretty soon. Heard some great things about that car... Kalon's Aside: I can't wait to hear about how the Monaro goes down with the Americans. It may be a tweaked Commodore, but it has history, cult status in Oz and is a bloody good car to boot...
2002.12.21@18:28 sailorDR says re Cars in Australia: Indeed, the Holden Monaro is to be sold in the States as the Pontiac GTO. Eh... Also, we don't have the Falcon, Ka, or Laser. That's all your guys' crap :) Kalon's Aside: sailorDR must be in Amercia - we _DO_ invent/rebadge "crap" like the Ka and Laser - and oh boy is it crap.... :-D

Holden cars were an Australian government initiative in the late 40's to establish a 'local' car company. The original 48-215 (Often mistakenly known as an 'FX') was designed with help from Chevrolet (USA), and in fact the first Holden's were registered as Chevrolets.
There were some truly Australian car companies, such as Bolwell which produced sports cars out of the Mornington Penisula until relatively recently; Lightburn (A washing machine company) which produced the Zeta - Its main claim to fame (besides almost total obscurity) was the fact that the driver made the car go in reverse by turning the ignition key in the opposite direction, thus making the engine run in reverse. There is one in the Birdwood museum in South Australia; and Hartnett - again small, strange-looking cars.

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