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Why we loved our homegrown Aussie cars
Updated 9 Oct 2019
Not so long ago, there were only two kinds of people in Australia – Holden or Ford.
The tribal divide is hard to comprehend today with the demise of the Aussie marques’ dominance, when everyone’s dad pretty much had one or the other.
As well as Holden and Ford, a handful of other companies made cars Down Under, creating classic vehicles that made their mark.
While there were other vehicles that could lay claim to being the first true Aussie car, the Holden 48-215, aka FX, was the first mass-produced vehicle built with Australia in mind.
It started life as a Chev but, deemed too small for the Yanks, Aussies made it their own when it launched in 1948, thanks to its torquey six-cylinder engine and tough suspension.
Ditto Ford – from its US parent company sprang our own versions under the same name, Falcon.
We fell in love with them for practical and sentimental reasons.
Yes, designers and engineers here ensured they were better for Aussie conditions – long distances, heat, more dirt roads than most Yank tanks would ever see and roomy without being battleships – but we loved these cars that were ours because they were ours.
Post World War II, as we turned away from Great Britain and towards the US, we looked to ourselves and what we could create.
During that baby boom, cars topped the wish list and nothing fit the great Aussie dream of a home on a ¼ acre block than an Aussie-made sedan or wagon in the carport.
And those marques, as well as Chrysler, and more lately Japanese companies that set up here, created cars that made the most of that loyalty, delivering some exceptional vehicles.
Anyone born post-1945 would still surely have their head turned by a Charger or Monaro or Falcon GT, Aussie muscle cars that had world-leading performance and race-proven success that ignited driver desire.
‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ was our auto industry’s mantra.
Topping that list surely was the Ford XY Falcon GT-HO Phase III – the world’s fastest four-door production car when released in 1971, capable of 140mph (about 225kmh) thanks to a 300bhp (Ford said, in reality it was more like 380bhp) 351 Cleveland V8. With 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds, this truly was Aussie muscle to beat the world.
Over in the General’s camp, the Holden HK Monaro GTS of 1968 was a two-door hardtop coupe with a Chev small-block 327 V8 pushing out 250bhp.
It was Holden’ first Bathurst winner and Wheels Car of the Year.
Innovation has been key here and there’s no finer example than the ute – now one of the most popular body shapes on the planet even if the rest of the world insists on calling it a pick-up.
The utility was born here when Ford designer Lou Bandt added a tray to a Ford Model 40 coupe in 1934.
In more recent times, Japanese companies Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota manufactured here, producing cars that created waves with performance, economy, innovation and suitability for our sunburnt country – think the Magna Ralliart, the R31 Skyline and the Camry Hybrid.
And the success over several decades of the Commodore and Falcon cannot be denied either.
For a country with a relatively small population, Australia turned out vehicles that held their own in comparison to similar cars from overseas.
While it’s easy to point out that in recent decades that was due to government help, the fact remains we had a car industry that for decades met our automotive needs, provided massive employment and created many impressive, practical and fun to drive cars.
If you’ve got an Australia-made car in your garage, think about keeping hold of it.
It was made here, was designed to cruise our roads, and it’s a piece of our automotive history.
There's also nothing better than getting your Aussie car maintained by an Aussie mechanic!
You can use AutoGuru to find a range of high quality, local mechanics to service or repair your piece of Australian history, and quickly book them online.
Image credit: Andrew Bone
Lindsay Saunders has been writing, editing and producing words and photos for more than three decades, starting back when he drove a 1971 VW Type 3 fastback.
Now he’s got a Hyundai I30 diesel, a 1999 LWB Hi-Ace (camper project) and wishes his wife’s EJ Holden station wagon was actually his.