Down Under

If you couldn’t tell by the title, we are diving into the world of a car culture on the other side of the planet. Australia, known by many as just “Straya”, is an interesting place. It’s Known for its expansive uninhabited landscapes, creepy critters, and Kangaroos. As far as the car culture there, It’s pretty great and some consider it the best in the world. As with most other countries they get all the cool stuff and have for years. Nissan Skylines and older versions of the STI and EVO frolic there. The ownership of a car is a big deal to anyone especially those who are purchasing their first one. Some people equate this process to losing their virginity in Australia, its a big deal. Over the years the Aussies have been able to buy some pretty sweet cars from manufacturers Such as Holden and Ford. Yea I know, Ford, whoopty doo. Except they’ve been getting much cooler variants than we get here! In fact, a lot of their cars are cooler than what we get here. Let’s look into a few of these companies and see what they have offered in Straya but forgot about us.

So for a long time the two big boys down under have been Ford and Holden. Toyota was also a major local car manufacturer since the early 60s but wasn’t a big part of the rivalry. Holden is a subsidiary of GM. This is a brand loyalty battle that has been going for a while now. One of the most iconic cars from Ford was the 1971 XY Falcon GTHO, a modified Falcon GT. When it was released it was the fastest production car in Australia and the fastest production 4 door car in the world. It was powered by a 351 Cleveland V8 engine that was rated at 300 hp but , per the times, was underrated for political reasons and really made somewhere between 350 and 380 hp. It was equipped with a special handling package, special brakes, and a nine inch differential with Detroit locker. The successor to the GTHO never made it into production as there was a media driven scare of 160mph capable cars out in the streets and the non-enthusiasts didn’t like that. Clean examples are worth a pretty penny similar to our muscle cars of the day with one example recently going for seven figures at auction.

The Ford Falcon was and always will be an Australian Icon among car enthusiasts. The last ones rolled off the assembly line a few years ago. The Falcon turned into a real world-class super saloon towards the end of its career. Just within the last few years Ford has halted the local production of the Falcon in Australia with the last one rolling off the assembly line in 2016. The limited edition Falcon Sprint was a 1,400 car run at the end to commemorate the Falcon. 550 of them were the 4.0L turbo XR6 models which were nothing to sneeze at but the 850 of them were XR8 models. These were propelled by a supercharged 5.0L V-8 plucked out of the Mustang, a great engine. Both engines made very respectable power though with the turbocharged six cylinder making 435hp and the supercharged V-8 making 462 horsepower. Ford has this feature on their forced induction cars though called “overboost”. This gives you additional horsepower for 10 seconds when you stand on it. This bumps the power of the 6 cylinder to 496 and 536 for the V8 respectively. That kind of power in a rear wheel drive 4 door sedan is awesome. Australia has gotten high powered 4 door, rear wheel drive cars for years. Why not us Ford?

The Ford’s Nemesis for years have been homebread vehicles from the GM subsidiary company Holden. The Monaro was produced between 1968 and 1977, then again from 2001 to 2005. The first generation of the Monaro was the HK, a two door pillarless hardtop coupe. It was offered in a base model, GTS, and GTS 327. Cars could be ordered with a few different model six-cylinders or Chevrolet sourced V-8s with the the top model boasting 250 hp from its…..you guessed it, 327 cubic inch V8. The Monaro was Holden’s main car in Series Production racing in response to Fords introduction of the XW Falcon GTHO Phase 1. The 327 was phased out for a more powerful Chevrolet 350 in the HT model but it wasn’t long before the 350 was replaced with Holdens own 4.2L and 5.0L V-8s. The Monaro was continuously updated including the HG,HQ,HJ,HX, and HZ models. That’s almost a new version every year the car was in production haha. Holden ceased production of the Monaro in 1977.

After 20 some years on hiatus the Monaro returned for 2001. It should look familiar to us here as it shared its basic body design with the Pontiac GTO of the era. The first version, the V2, was based off the VX series Commodore and was available with either a 3.8L supercharged V6 or GMs vulnerable Gen 3 5.7L V8. As the Monaro was slated to end production for a second time in 2006 Holden wanted to build a special version as a farewell to the name, enter the CV8-Z. If you are waiting for something really special here im sorry haha. The CV8-V was a regular Monaro with some fancier body parts and special paint colors. During its production run, Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) got to play with the V2 producing some special edition cars. The HSV coupe was a high performance grand tourer that while it looked like a fancy Monaro did not carry the same name. Think of HSV like Mercedes’ AMG division. The HSV coupe came in two flavors, the GTO and GTS models. The GTO offered a 342 hp LS1 engine and the GTS a Callaway C4B engine rated at 402 hp. The GTS model was discontinued after the 2004 model year but it was replaced with an all-wheel-drive version dubbed the Coupe4. That same year the regular GTO model received GMs revised LS engine, the LS2 good for 400 hp. The HSV coupes ended production along with the Monaro in 2006

So when I think of obscure Australian cars the ute comes to mind. I say obscure but is it really, or is it genius? Now to clarify i’m really talking about the car versions as in Australia they also call what we call trucks, utes as well. The car versions are pretty much new El Caminos. The Aussies are pretty sure they invented the ute back in the 1930s when a farmer’s wife wrote Ford of Australia asking them to build a car they could take to church on Sunday and the pigs to market on Monday. Ford and Dodge were offering chassis cabs here with optional beds on them a few years prior but I will let that slide since they still rock these things down there. Some of them cleary have beds in the back similar to the old El Camino, others actually have flat beds on them like a cab chassis. Ford has offered the Falcon ute for awhile with the new version powered by a turbocharged inline six-cylinder but by far the most popular ones have been from Holden. Being a GM subsidiary the latest versions have the front ends of the Pontiac G8 or , my favorite, the Chevrolet SS sedan. The HSV Maloo would bet my pick as its the latest australian built super ute. This car along with many others was one of the last to be built in Australia. It was produced in GTS and GTSR forms and powered by either a 550 hp LSA engine in the GTS or a 580 hp LSA engine in the GTSR. Both engines were mated to a 6 speed manual transmission as standard. The Maloo name has been around since the 1990’s but went out with a bang with the GTS and GTS R models.

On one hand I think these kind of Utes would sell well in the states with there every day civility, utility, and tire shredding power for plenty of hooning. On the other hand it would be hard to compete with America’s love affair with the pickup truck. Either way I think they are pretty badass. It’s a shame that these and the Australian super saloons have come to an end. Holden, Ford, and Toyota were the largest manufacturers of cars in Australia and have all closed their doors, no more local manufacturing. Ford closed their factory in 2016 after 90 plus years of manufacturing cars for the locals. Holden and Toyota followed last year. The local producers could not compete with the low or zero import tariffs over the last 10 years and the country is now flooded with foreign cars that are cheaper to buy. There are now more car brands sold there than mainland Europe, UK, Japan, or the United States. The country did export some vehicles but not enough to compete with the surrounding developing countries, namely Thailand. Workers there are paid about a $12,500 a year as opposed to the average Australian manufacturing workers $69,000 a year salary. The Australian manufacturers simply could not compete and keep their heads above water. It’s a bummer but at least there were many Falcons and Commodores built over the years for the second hand market to chuck skids with! From all of us here at Gearbox have fun, be safe, and keep the shiny side up!

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