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Eighties Big Hair to the Beginning of The End (1980-1999) | Shannons End of An Era | Part 3

By Shannons - Published on 29 September 2019

The easing of the oil crisis, means the larger Ford Falcon proves to new car buyers that ‘size does matter’ up against Holden’s smaller Commodore. We hear directly from Holden’s Designers and Engineers as to why they adopted the smaller Opel based platform, to go up against Ford’s larger family sized XD Falcon.

This rivalry would continue the classic Ford versus Holden duel, lasting for more than the next three decades, both on the race track and on showroom floors. It would take Commodore some years before it returned Holden to a large scale family sedan, even adopting a Nissan six cylinder and turbo engine in the meantime.

The winds of change had well and truly started to blow, as Chrysler bowed out as a local manufacturer with the last CM Valiant, before Mitsubishi took over the Adelaide plant for their Sigma and the later medium sized family car, the Magna.

Not long after changing their own badges from Datsun, Nissan also decided to close local manufacturing and concentrate as a vehicle importer. The effects of the Button Plan, which intended to cut Government protection tariffs to local manufacturers in the face of a more competitive and open economy, had already started to have an impact as sales of imported vehicles continued to rise at the expense of local manufacturing.

A model-sharing plan that saw Commodores dressed as Toyota Lexcens and a Ford Falcon Ute wearing Nissan nomenclature was known as ‘badge engineering’ – what was going on!

The small car success had seemingly everyone’s mum driving - either ‘Corolling-along’ or a Ford Laser.

Then the unthinkable – Holden and favourite son Peter Brock, part ways. Watch a defiant Peter Brock as he more than ruffles the mane of an agitated Lion, live on national TV. This would see the Bathurst champion lose his Holden Dealer Team and HDT performance car business, ultimately giving rise to Holden Special Vehicles and a dynasty of race-inspired performance road cars, and the Holden Racing Team. In years to come, HRT would dominate the new-era V8 Supercars series, unearthing a new wave of young drivers including Craig Lowndes.

Increasing sales of imports, including a wave of lower priced entry European brands started to offer prestige motoring with affordability like never before, plus a rise in the new look recreational type soft-roader, called the SUV was making an impact with family buyers. The Aussie station wagon has lost its shine as new SUV’s dominates a new category with the likes of the Honda CR-V, the Subaru AWD wagons and the prestige of BMW and Benz now offering family motoring.

In response, Holden is aggressive with multiple developments off the VT platform, including a return to the Holden Ute, which had been missing in action. Long wheel base luxury derivatives and performance HSV extensions, as well as AWD utes and wagons, plus a focus on exports to the US and Middle East, are all part of the plan to keep Holden in business.

Watch as a Sunday afternoon pencil sketch, secretly became the basis for the return of the Holden Monaro, capturing the hearts of Holden fans as the covers are removed. Making cars in Australia was becoming a fight for survival, before Toyota elected to focus on Camry exports and dropped the local manufacture of such an enduring nameplate as Corolla.          

Shannons End of Era. Celebrating Aussie Motoring History.