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Australian Motor Vehicle Manufacture

Pre-World War II | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s and beyond


Of the continental European carmakers, Mercedes and Volkswagen made the greatest impact in the 1960s as both had assembly facilities in Australia (Port Melbourne and Clayton in metropolitan Melbourne) and led the way for other manufacturers to begin assembly of their cars in Australia. As a result, Mercedes Benz began to dominate the luxury car market with its Fintail series, which went on sale in 1961, a year after its release in Europe. British makes like Jaguar, Rover and Humber had to take somewhat of a back seat. Mercedes offered a range of models (230, 250 and 300) with the choice of petrol or diesel engines. So well received were these vehicles, the 113 Series Pagoda 230SL sports convertible was introduced in 1963, followed by the 600 GL (Grosser)

Assembling Mercedes Benz 220S cars at Australian Motor Industries' Fishermans Bend plant


In 1958 Australian Motor Industries negotiated an agreement with Daimler-Benz to assemble and distribute Mercedes Benz vehicles in Australia. In recognition of this new agreement the company was renamed Australian Motor Industries and a new subsidiary company was formed to handle the Mercedes Benz franchise.


Lanock Motors company were appointed Volkswagen distributors for the State of New South Wales in 1954, and by 1957, this company, along with Regent Motors and other Australian shareholders, formed Volkswagen Australia in a 49% - 51% partnership with the Wolfsburg parent. The aim was full local manufacture. The first locally made panels were used in 1960, and full local manufacture at a new plant at Clayton in suburban Melbourne was achieved by 1962. Australian made VW parts were identified by a kangaroo marking next to the VW symbol stamped on the part. The 100,000th Australian delivered Volkswagen was produced in 1961. By 1962, Volkswagen was the 3rd largest producer of cars in Australia behind only GM and Ford, and the 10th largest VW market in the world. Volkswagen purchased all Australian held shares in the local subsidiary in 1963, and Australia became a base for the export of cars to the rest of the South Pacific. Type 2 (Transporter) and Type 3 Volkswagens were assembled at the Clayton factory from CKD kits. The Volkswagen Dune Buggy was developed and manufactured at the Clayton plant. In 1968, Volkswagen ceased full manufacture in Australia and reverted to total CKD assembly. The plant and property were written off or sold (Nissan took over the Clayton factory buildings), the body jigs ending up in Brazil and the exchange engine equipment in Malaysia. Later in the year, Volkswagen Australasia disbanded, and formed another company, Motor Producers Ltd., to control the assembly plant, while LNC Industries were appointed distributors. Nissans, Volvos and later, Mercedes Benz trucks, were assembled alongside Volkswagens from 1968 until 1976, when CKD assembly of Volkswagens ceased. By this time 250,000 Volkswagens had been assembled in Australia.

  • Volksagen in Australia: Clayton

  • BMC

    The Austin 1800 was released in Australia in December 1965. The Mark II, a much improved car, was released in November 1968, with a price tag of $2,476. All the 1800s built by BMC Australia were badged as Austins - no Morris or Wolseley versions were built here, though a few have been privately imported. All up a total of 56,918 Austin 1800 saloons over 5 years of Australian production, making it the most successful medium sized 4-cyclinder car sold in Australia in the 1960s. The Austins Kimberley and Tasman, which were based on the Austin 1800 but with an extended boot, were developed to make the car look more 'normal', the 1800's unusual elongated shape having earned it the nickname of landcrab. The new models went on sale late in 1970 and clocked up just over 15,000 sales in their short production run of less than 3 years. Sales of the Mk1 topped 900 per month but sunk to only 250 per month once its reputation became tarnished. Production ceased in late 1972 and the manufacturer had to sell of a stockpile of several thousand unsold cars at below cost.

    • BMC in Australia: Zetland


      The Austin 1800's biggest rival in the 4 cylinder medium size car range was the British made Rootes Group's Hillman Hunter which came to Ausralia in 1967. Born into an era of car manufacturer rationalisation where many manufacturers were being amalgamated, renamed or even closed down, it was released in the year the troubled Rootes Group was taken over by Chrysler Corporation, during their first foray into Europe. Chrysler Australia took over the Rootes brands in Australia as well as the operation of their Port Melbourne factory. The principal Rootes model sold and assembled in Australia was the Hillman Hunter and this car became a steady seller for Chrysler until 1973. First introduced into Australia as the Arrow, the Hunter was a conventional design, square four-door sedan (and later estate) with a live rear axle and ohv engine (initially 1725cc with a 1496cc in 1970). Its engine had already been previously used in other Rootes cars. The body design was little changed during its production run (1966-1979) and its shape again was shared with other Rootes products such as the Humber Sceptre, Singer Gazelle and the Sunbeam Vogue, most of which never made it to Australia.

      Simca became part of the Rootes Group in 1958, and in a deal with Chrysler Australia, which had affiliations with the Rootes Group, the Simca Aronde was assembled from CKD kits at their Keswick factory in Victoria. The Simca Aronde continued to be produced until 1964: the very last Aronde was built in Australia from existing, left over parts. The Aronde's eventual replacement would be the new Hillman Hunter in 1967.

      • Rootes Group in Australia: Fishermans Bend

      • RENAULT

        The idea of Renaults and Peugeots being produced in the same factory is like pairing up Ford and Holden production, but it did happen right here in Australia. The story began when a Melbourne company, Continental & General Distributors, built a new 70,000 square ft assembly plant in Dougharty Road, West Heidelberg, Melbourne in 1959. It was originally used to assemble Austin trucks. In 1961, the company entered into agreements to assemble cars for Peugeot and Citroen, having previously assembled such cars as the Simca Aronde, NSU Prinz, and Studebaker Lark.

        Enter Renault (Australia) Pty Ltd, which was established in the late 1950s to organise the importation and contract assembly of Renault vehicles in Australia. In August 1966 Renault Australia purchased the assembly facilities of Continental & General Distributors, and stopped producing everything else, except for Peugeot models; they continued to be built alongside Renaults. Apart from Australia, Canada was the only place where the two brands manufactured side by side. Models including the Renault 10, 12, 16 and 18 were assembled here. Australian production of Renaults ended with the closure of the Heidelberg West plant in July 1981 with LNC Industries then taking over importation and distribution of Renaults in Australia.


        The Simca Aronde was manufactured by the French automaker Simca from 1951 to 1963. It was Simca's first original design (earlier models were all to a greater or lesser extent based on Fiats), as well as the company's first unibody car. "Aronde -hirondelle" means "swallow" in Old French and it was chosen as the name for the model because Simca's logo at that time was a stylized swallow.

        The 90A Aronde was produced in Australia from 1956 by Northern Star Engineering which, along with Continental and General Distributors, had been contracted to assemble the model from CKD kits, using local content. In July 1959, Chrysler Australia announced that future production of the Aronde would be undertaken at its factories in Adelaide. In late 1959 the P60 was introduced, selling alongside the 90A well into 1960, and a five-door P60 station wagon was introduced in late 1961.The wagon, which was unique to Australia, was based on the four-door sedan and featured an extended roof-line and a tail-gate fitted with a wind-down window. Australian production of the Aronde ceased in 1964.


        The marque has a heritage in Australia that is far longer than all but a handful of automotive brands, and certainly far richer than any other import. Although Peugeots of all shapes and sizes had been on Australian roads for many years prior to 1953, it was then that Peugeot became a household word in this country with a stunning victory in the first Redex Round-Australia Trial. Maitland chemist Ken Tubman and John Marshall not only came home ahead of far bigger and more powerful cars, but amazingly their Peugeot 203 was in stock condition. Eleven 203s were entered and all finished. First of the fancied Holdens was Lex Davison in fourth. This success was followed up by outright victory for the 403 in the 1956 Ampol Trial too.

        By the time of Tubman's victory, the 203 had been around for a few years, having gone on sale in Europe in October 1948 and arriving here in 1950. The first 203s to be sold in Australia were imported minus paint (undercoat in red excepted), tyres and battery. In 1953 they started to arrive at the docks additionally minus their wheels and bumpers. J.F. Regan had imported the cars and had them painted and assembled by a contractor near his Auburn showroom.

        These were followed by 403 (1955-1960), 404 (1960-1968), 504 (1968-1979) and 505 (1979-1983) models, all except the 403s and early 404s were assembled at Renault's West Heidelberg plant and sold through Renault Australia's dealer network. Only the saloon of the 504 was assembled in Australia, while the Break and Familiale models were imported fully built-up from France. Australian assembly ended at the factory in July 1981 when Renault closed its plant where the cars was assembled. Assembly was taken over by Leyland Australia in 1981 and continued until March 1983 when Leyland Motor Corporation Australia ceased to exist and its place was taken by JRA Limited. JRA became the Australian distributor of Peugeot cars, which were now fully imported.

        Citroen IDs being assembled at the West Heidelberg factory


        The Citroen ID was the only Citroen model to be assembled in Australia. It as a less complex version of the DS, a revolutionary car that stunned the automotive world when it was unveiled in 1955. Lauched two years later, the ID lacked the DS's fancy steering, brakes and gearchange, but it was still like something from another world. Citroen originally sent ID kits from France to England, where they were assembled and then shipped to Australia. Then, in 1961, Continental & General signed a deal with Citroen to assemble the ID at its factory in the Melbourne suburb of West Heidelberg. Most of the parts came directly from France, rather than through England, which led to the sophisticated 'Parisienne' tag being added to locally assembled cars. It used some locally sourced components such as interior trim.

        The ID might have been slightly dumbed down in order to make it more affordable than the expensive and luxurious DS, but it was still brimming with cutting-edge technology for the time. It shared the DS s unique hydro-pneumatic suspension system that used hydraulic lines that filled small spheres on each corner of the car with gas. Changing federal government policy encouraged companies to switch to full local manufacture, but that didn t suit Citroen s local assembly model. As a result, the last Australian ID was assembled in 1967 and the factory continued to make Renaults and Peugeots.


        Nissan first began assembling cars in 1966, when Pressed Metal Corporation began assembly of the Datsun Bluebird 1300. This deal ended after about a year and a half, however, but by 1968 Motor Producers Ltd. of Melbourne began assembling Datsuns again at their Clayton plant alongside Volkswagens and Volvos. By 1971 locally assembled cars were to include the 1200 and 1600 saloons, with at least 60% local parts content. A deal lasting until 1976 was signed with Motor Producers. Nissan used the Clayton factory to build cars in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. The factory was sold to Missan in 1976 and Australian assembly of Volkswagen ceased shortly after. Nissan models produced in Australia included the Pulsar, Pintara, and Skyline. By the end of the 1980s however, Nissan was facing financial difficulties, while Nissan's local car assembly lines closed in 1992.


        Fully imported examples of Vauxhall cars became available in Australia since 1954 and 1957 respectively, and the marque had built up a small but strong following. Early Velox and Wyvern models were assembled at Vauxhall's Luton plant in England, as well as in Australia (by Holden in Melbourne) and in New Zealand at the GM plant in Petone, near Wellington. From the mid-1950s, Holden built a quantity of Velox utilities as well as the 2-door Vagabond Convertible based on the EIP Velox. These had a separate chassis - prefixed EBP - with the Australian bodies fitted to them. The Velox was also assembled at the General Motors New Zealand. The PA Velox (1957 62) and PF Velox (1962-65) was also assembled at the General Motors Holden plants throughout Australia, and the General Motors New Zealand plant.

        Vauxhall Victor FC

        Holden HD

        GM-H were faced with somewhat of a dilemma with the the sale of the British made Vauxhall Velox/Cresta and the smaller Victor in Australia. As the 1960s progressed, with each new model released by Vauxhall and Holden, the single source of origin of the design of the two cars became increasingly obvious and sooner or later GM-H would have to bite the bullet and stop importing and assembling Vauxhalls. That happened in 1966, a year when the Holden HD was released. Both designs were created in mid-1962 using many styling themes created by GM's European division, Opel, for what became the 1965 Opel Diplomat, including the rear window which is concave in side view and convex in plan view.

        The Opel Diplomat design was effectively transposed with a little external modification to both the HD Holden and the FC Series of the Vauxhall Victor, which was released in all other territories but Australia in 1966. The similarities effectively brought to an end the assembly (and sale) of the bigger Vauxhalls in Australia. The smaller Vauxhall Viva continued to be fully imported for a few more years, but the new model of 1967 was re-badged and marketed as the Holden Torana. The Velox, Cresta, Victor and Viva quietly disappeared from showrooms around the country.

        Toyota Corona cars were assembled at Australian Motor Industries' Fishermans Bend plant


        Toyota got its foot in the Australian car market door in 1958 when Thiess Bros. began importing Landcruisers for use in the construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. These vehicles performed well and in a short number of years gave Toyota an enviable reputation. Their first locally built car, the Toyota Tiara, which was assembled in Australia from fully imported parts, rolled off the company's former Port Melbourne production plant in 1963. Its heavy promotion on the popular TV quiz show, Bob and Dolly Dyer's Pick A Box, was for many Australians their introduction to what would become Australia's bigest selling motor vehicle manufacturer. The shovel-nosed medium compact sedan, the Corona, and the Holden-Falcon sized six cylinder Crown arrived in 1964. The first Crown to be sold and assembled in Australia was the second generation S30 Model, which features dual headlights and a 2-lite six cylinder engine. The S50 shape was replaced in 1971 by a new model, the S60.

        Founded in 1926, Australian Motor Industries (AMI) began car assembly operations in 1952. It produced a wide range of Standard, Triumph, Mercedes-Benz cars, as well as variety of Rambler models from American Motors Corporation (AMC) up to 1987. Assembly of Toyota automobiles began in 1963. The Japanese company took a controlling interest in AMI in 1968 and increased its investment until AMI renamed itself as AMI Toyota Ltd in 1985.


        Up until 1960, all Studebakers sold in Australia were fully imported. The Studebaker Lark was introduced in 1959, and turned out to be ideally suited to Australian conditions. Most were being sold with the V8 which gave it plenty of power compared to the competition. Having been restricted in sales by import quotas, during 1960 the Studebaker Corporation made a decision to set up a local assembly plant using imported CKD kits. A local assembler was commissioned to fulfill the task. The long established Canada Cycle and Car Company which owned a former aircraft hanger on five acres in the west Melbourne suburb of Tottenham accepted the challenge. The first locally assembled Lark Wagons on sale in Australia were the shorter wheelbase version of 113 inches, (2.87 metre) with manual transmissions. The retail price was £1895.0.0 or ($3790.00 ) for the manual and £2045.0.0 ($4090.00) for the automatic version. 1961 was to be a big year for Studebaker in Australia but a credit squeeze limited sales of Australian assembled vehicles to 709 units. 1962 saw 1,069 Larks and Hawks, 119 station wagons, 26 commercial vehicles (mostly Champ pick-ups) being assembled and sold. Sales in 1963 reached 1,441 units, the highest sales level Studebaker would achieve in Australia.

        A fall in sales in the US and internal financial problems in the corporation had a flow on effect in Australia. In December 1963 production ceased at the South Bend, Indiana plant in the US, and thereafter the cars were made in Canada except for the Hawks, Avantis and trucks, which ceased. Australia's new registrations for 1964 dropped to 991 units, and then again to only 492 units in the following year. Studebaker assembly was transferred from Canada Cycle and Car Company to Continental & General's factory in West Heidelberg in October 1964. Australia did not receive any true 1966 vehicles and continued assembling 1965 specification cars in 1966, the output totalling 621 units. 1966 was the last official years of production; only 13 leftovers were sold in 1967, including 10 Chevrolet-engined Studebaker Larks, a station wagon and two ambulance bodied wagons, a style that was unique to Australia. 1968 saw a single Studebaker Cruiser registered in February and the last new Studebaker, also a V8 Cruiser, registered in October 1968.

        Australian assembled Rambler Hornet


        As the American car manufacturer American Motors Corporation's (AMC) Rambler cars were compact in size (by US standards), they made an ideal international competitor, and between 1961 and 1965, AMC opened thirteen foreign assembly plants, from Costa Rica to the Philippines. In October 1960, Australian Motor Industries signed an agreement with AMC to assemble Rambler cars at their Port Melbourne factory from knock-down kits. The kits were produced at AMC s Kenosha plant in Wisconsin. To earn tax benefits under Australian Government rules that encouraged local component production, many parts such as seat trim, carpets and some electrical comnpnents, were sourced locally. Outside colours were chosen by AMI and were the same as used on AMI assembled Triumph and Toyota cars of that period. The distinctive AMI exterior emblems were used on Ramblers, as well as Triumph and Toyota cars assembled by AMI from 1968 onward.

        AMI assembled a broad range of AMC cars, all with right-hand drive and carried the Rambler brand name. This meant that Australians could purchase a Rambler Javelin, AMX, Hornet, Rebel, or Matador long after the Rambler marque was dropped from use on the equivalent U.S.-market models. AMI ran into financial trouble during the Australian credit squeeze of 1961 and the company was forced to sell off many assets and vehicle stock to remain solvent. Part of the restructure resulted in the sale of their share in the Mercedes Benz franchise to the German parent company. In 1963 the company secured the Australian franchise for Toyota cars and began assembly of the Tiara range. From this point the financial position of the company steadily improved and by 1967 AMI was assembling 32 different models for the Australian market, as well as importing fully assembled Toyota Corollas for its dealer network.

        The Australian Rambler Rebel was assembled from 1967 until 1971, even though the last year of the American model was 1970. 345 Rebels were assembled in 1970 and a further 307 in 1971. Australian Rebels were equipped with the dash and instrument cluster of the 1967 Rambler Ambassador for all models and was continued with the Australian assembled replacement AMC Matador. A total of 24 AMC AMXs, all 1969 models, were made by AMI between August 1969 and July 1970. All featured the 343 cu in (5.6 l) V8s. While the AMX was marketed as a performance muscle car in the U.S. marketplace, in Australia they were advertised as personal luxury cars. One AMC Gremlin as assembled AMI in Port Melbourne for evaluation purposes, but they never went into production. One fully built Pacer was also received for evaluation purposes but no cars were ever built here.

        One of the rarest Australian-built muscle cars is the Javelin, by American Motors Corporation. AMC produced kits in the US, shipped them to Port Melbourne and they were assembled them by Australian Motor Industries, just up the road from Holden's headquarters. The Javelin and The Javelin coupe sold here for about $7,500 in 1968, which was almost double the price of the XT Falcon GT and Holden Monaro GTS 327 at the time. Roughly 250 Javelins were built in Australia from 1968-72.

        The Rambler name was dropped in the United States in the US in June 1969, but was continued in all international markets. Matadors were the top selling Australian assembled Ramblers in the 1970s. A total of 118 Hornets and 145 Matadors (118 sedans, 27 wagons) were sold during 1974. Registrations for 1975 were 136 Hornets and 118 Matadors (85 sedans 33 wagons). In 1976 there were 88 Matadors (78 sedans, 10 wagons), while 1977 saw just 24 Matador sedans and 3 wagons. CDD Kits for 80 Matador coupes arrived in late-1974. Assembly began in 1976, the cars were marketed as 1977 models. The Government of New South Wales selected the Rambler Rebel and the Matador as official vehicles in the 1970s.

        Toyota took a controlling interest in AMI in 1968 as a contract with the British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd was signed. Still assembling Ramblers until production at the Melbourne plant ceased in 1978, the company retained a niche market as the sole U.S. sourced cars available in the Australian marketplace. Approximately 14,000 AMC/Ramblers were assembled in Australia by AMI from 1961 to 1978.


        Up until the time they commenced manufacturing vehicles in Australia, America's big three - Ford, General Motors and Chrysler - sold a number of fully imported models from the US and Britain. With the introduction of locally built and designed vehicles, the cars were all gradually phased out. The larger Vauxhalls began to be phased out with the advent of the similarly styled Holdens in 1965; the small 4-cyclinder Viva stayed around until it was replaced by the Holden Torana in 1967, which in reality was a re-badged HB Viva. Ford Zephyrs and Zodiacs from England were withdrawn from sale in 1962 at the changeover of the model from the Mk II to the Mk III. This was done so as not to detract from sales of the local product, the Falcon, which was of a similar size and specifications. The Britisn made Cortina, which replaced the Anglia, continued to sell in Australia into the 1980s, as did the smaller Escort. Both were an essential part of Ford Australia's model line-up. Chrysler's Dodge Phoenix was the last US-based car to be assembled by the Big Three in Australia, with assembly ceasing in 1972. The Ford Galaxie 500 was the last of the "Yank Tanks" to be sold in Australia; it was withdrawn in 1973 when the locally built Fairlane LTD was introduced.

        GMH car manufacturing plant, Dandenong, 1964


        Pontiacs and Chevrolets were assembled in GM-H plants in all capital cities from CKD chassis and pre-war Chevrolet bodies stamped and built in Adelaide. Following the war, production re-commenced. In 1960 and 1961 the Pontiac Laurentian came with the 283 cubic inch V8 Chevrolet small block engine. 1961 was the last year of the Laurentian. Pontiac in America introduced the famous Wide-Track chassis in 1959 however Australia continued to use the export chassis kit under the new bodies. The Pontiac Parisienne debuted in Australia in 1964 and was available as a 4 door sedan (pillared) with the 283 cubic inch engine. In 1965 the 4 door (pillarless) Sport Sedan Hardtop was introduced and two years later the (1967 Model) the pillared sedan ceased to be available. 1965 also saw the introduction of the 327 cubic inch V8 for the Pillarless versions and the 283 cubic engine remained as the power plant to the pillared versions. In 1966 the Pontiac Parisienne Thin Pillar cost $5799-00 and $6099-00 for the Pillarless, or Sports Sedan version. The Thin Pillar was no longer available after 1966. A number of larger dealers imported small numbers of convertibles, coupes, GTOs and Firebirds during the 1960s and early 1970s.

        From 1949, the Australian built Chevrolets kept up with the US styling, however mechanical developments were slower coming. The automatic transmission was available in US Chevrolets from 1950 but not until 1959 in Australia. The V8 was released in US Chevrolets in 1955 but not until 1960 in Australia. Chevrolet's Pillarless Impala Sports Sedan were produced from 1965, and had become more popular than the pillared Bel-Air by 1968. 1968 was the last full year of Chevrolet and Pontiac production in Australia however some 1969's were put together for buyers wishing to have the traditional big car. Between 1970 and 1973 local dealers imported Chevrolets to fill the void and then General Motors - Holden (GMH) returned to the low volume market with small batches of 1974 and 1975 Caprice Sedans. It is understood that all these were brought into Melbourne and converted to right-hand drive by Chapel Engineering and subsequently sold through major Holden dealers.

        General Motors-Holden entered the 1960s with the FC and ended it with the Monaro - quite an achievement and a reflection of the progress the company made in establishing Holden as the leading car on the Australian market. The General began the decade on a high note with the release of a new model, the FB, in January 1960. Although built on the FE/FC floor pan, the body of the FB was a major improvment over the FE-FC, first introduced in 1956. The styling was modern and eye catching, and featured prominent fins on the rear of the car, and a deep, one-piece wraparound windscreen. The FB was given a bigger more powerful motor, but the effects were negated by the extra weight. The introduction of the FB also saw the end of the 217 Business sedan but also the release of the Left Hand drive version for the export market. Total Production: 155,161.

        The EK (1961) was a facelifted version of the FB. Powered by a 2.26-litre 6-cylinder engine, it was available as a Standard Sedan, Special sedan, Standard station wagon, Special station wagon, panel van and utility. The EK was the first Holden to offer an automatic ("hydramatic") transmission as an option on all models. This transmission was imported from America, and was regarded as one of the best available in the worldTotal Production: 150,214. The EJ (1962) featured a totally new, squarer body with subdued rear fins, but with few significant mechancial changes. A new model, the Premier sedan, was introduced with the EJ. The EJ was the last model offered with the popular 'grey motor', which had been in use since the first Holden produced in 1948, albeit with a few refinements. Total Production: 150,214.

        The EH (1964) was a restyled version of the EJ design, the major change being a squaring off the of the tail. Holden Motor Company's greatest seller at the time, this model introduced the new "Red" motors using an oversquare design with a seven bearing crankshaft. They were the first Holden to use hydraulic valve lifters, and external oil pump and oil filter for easier servicing. Total Production: 154,811.

        The HD (1965) was a totally new design, barrel shaped to make maximum use of cabin space, and with fins on the front and rear extremities. It came with three engine options: 2.45-litre 6-cylinder '149', 2.95-litre 6-cylinder '179' and 2.95-litre 6-cylinder 'X2'. The critics of its styling - and there were many - said the HD stood for 'Holden's Disaster'. This model was considered the ugly duckling after the public's acceptance of the EH's shape; even so, production during its short lifespan was a respectable 178,927.

        The HR (1966) was a quick-fix styling exercise which saw the basic body shape retained, but with the unpopular fins removed. GM's US stylists redesigned the somewhat unpopular HD shape and came up with one much more appealing to the Australian public. The HR became one of the most popular Holden models ever, with a total production run of 252,352 units.

        The HK (1968) was new from the ground up. The model range was re-named - Belmont Sedan, Belmont station wagon, Belmont panel van, Belmont utility, Kingswood sedan, Kingswood station wagon, Kingswood utility, Premier sedan, Premier station wagon and expanded to include the Brougham sedan (the Premier with a modified roofline and extended boot) and a 2-door hardtop marketed as the Monaro coupe, Monaro GTS coupe and Monaro GTS 327 coupe. The engines offered wree: 2.65-litre 6-cylinder '161', 3.05-litre 6-cylinder '186' and 3.05-litre 6-cylinder '186S', 5-litre V8 '307' and 5.3-litre V8 '327'. Total Production: 199,039.

        The HT (1969) was a mechanically updated, restyled version of the previous model. Two Three-speed manual gearboxes, a 4-speed manual gearbox and a 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission (of which there are two types), were offered. Total Production: 183,402.

        • GMH in Australia: Fishermans Bend

        • FORD

          In 1925, Ford Motor Company of Australia was formed and local production of the Model T began in Geelong, Victoria. Prior to 1960, Ford in Australia sold a succession of 'Australianised' versions of British Fords. They were moderately successful cars, but failed to compete with the various other marques available. After World War II, Ford recommenced assembly of imported Ford models at its plant in Geelong, Victoria, which it had established in 1925 as an outpost of Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited. In the 1950s, the UK sourced Pilot was assembled there, then the Prefect, Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac. Mid-size cars assembled at Geelong in the 1960s included the Ford Anglia, Escort and Cortina from the UK. These were adapted for the Australian market: for example, from 1972, the Cortina was available with the option of either a 3.3 litre or 4.1 litre 6 cylinder engine. In 1977, lack of capacity meant that the Cortina wagon was in fact assembled in Renault's (now long since closed) Australian factory. Ford also assembled the Canadian Ford V8.

          In the mid 1950s, Ford needed additional manufacturing capacity and so obtained a site on the Hume Highway in Campbellfield, in 1956. This was connected with the GeelongPlant by dedicated rail sidings at each end using specially designed rail wagons carrying components between the factories. In 1959, assembly operations were moved to Campbellfield, and the Australian headquarters was shifted there in 1961 to a purpose built modernist glass curtain wall building (with a dedicated computer centre) and a Plastics Plant added 1972.

          Ford Australia entered the 1960s with the Custom 300 and Fairlane 500 as the only US-sourced vehicles in its Australian model lineup, both of which were assembled at Ford's new Broadmeadows plant. By the time of the 1962 model changeover, the Custom 500 had become a very basic model used mainly for taxis; its importation to Australia soon ceased. For 1962, the Fairlane had been downsized to bridge the gap between the compact Ford Falcon and the full-size Galaxie in the US, and was thus a smaller car than the traditional Yank Tank. Initially, the 500 sedan was offered, but this was joined in September by the Ranch Wagon. These featured a 332 cu.inch V8. From April 1962, a 221 cu.inch V8 was offered instead. The Ranch Wagon was deleted at the end of 1963, while there were two sedans for 1964, with either a 260 cu.inch or a 289 cu.inch V8. As the Fairlane was only slightly larger than the locally built Falcon, a decision was made to replace it with the larger Galaxie 500 at the 1965 model changeover, and use the Galaxie as the Ford flagship car in Australia. Although it was a solid seller, Ford felt it could do more if it engineered and developed a home-grown luxury large car, and worked towards creating one in the form of a stretched Falcon from its XR Series, which at that time was being developed. The concept of an Australian luxury flagship became a reality with the ZA Fairlane, in March 1967. Limited numbers of the Ford Galaxie 500 continued to be sold until 1973, when they were replaced by the local version of the LTD, which was a plusher, rebodied Fairlane

          In the mid fifties, Ford had decided to set up a new assembly plant in Australia and produce a version of what would become the Mk II Ford Zephyr, but it was during a visit to the US to view the design of the new Zephyr that Charles Smith, the Managing Director, was shown the soon to be launched American Ford Falcon. He immediately cancelled plans to build the Zephyr at the new Broadmeadows plant, and instead switched to an Australian variant of the American Ford Falcon. Utilising the existing Geelong plant to produce engines and body panels, Smith employing dozens of Australian suppliers to provide components. It was on 28th June 1960, that the first Australian-built XK Falcon rolled off the production line, launching the longest continuous model line in Australian motoring history. The XK was very similar to its American counterpart, but later models had increasly more local input in design and specifications. The Falcon remains Ford's most popular model in Australia, which is also the only country in which new Falcons are now built.

          The XL (introduced 1962) was a re-vamped version of the original XK, with a few mechanical upgrades and styling changes. This model was replaced in 1974 by XM, again a revamp with styling and mechanical changes, and the first 2 door coupe to be offered by one of the Big 3. The luxury model was now called the Futura. The XP (introduced 1965) was the last facelift of the original Falcon before the arrival of the XR, a whole new design based on the popular American Ford models, the Mustang and Thunderbird.

          The XR was one of the most popular Falcons ever released in Australia and did much to establish the marque's name and reputation. Towards the end of the model run in 1968, a beefed up version of the XR sedan ushered in the era of the Falcon GT. The XT Falcon (introduced 1968) was a mildly updated version of the XR, as was the XW (introduced 1969) and XY (introduced 1970), the last in that body shape. The XW represented the first real attempt to more definitely differentiate the Australian Falcon from the styling of its U.S. equivalent.

          The new ZA Fairlane, which was a stretched XR Falcon with an extended boot, came onto the market a year after the XR Falcon. The ZB Fairlane of 1969 was a stretched version of the XT Falcon, but the ZC Fairlane marked the first noticable change away from the Falcon, opting for vertical headlamp orientation. For long a US styling device, it was unusual that Ford in Australia would go to this design after it had been abandoned across the Pacific. By necessity it did raise the front wings to accomodate the lights and this gave the ZC a larger and more imposing look than the Falcon and the previous Aussie Fairlines.

          Chrysler plant, Tonsley Park, Adelaide


          In 1956, Chrysler Australia consolidated each of the badge engineered marques it was assembling in one car - the Chrysler Royal. This was a facelifted version of the 1954 Plymouth, and it was to continue in production until 1963. The Royal had been losing sales for years and by the time of its demise, the Royal was viewed as being outmoded and expensive. The saving grace for Chrysler at this time was the French Simca Aronde - a popular 4 cylinder compact car which Chrysler Australia assembled from CKD kits at their Keswick factory. Local engineers developed a unique to Australia Aronde station wagon, with a then novel for Australia wind down rear window and tailgate. (Chrysler USA acquired an interest in Simca in 1958, hence providing the basis for sourcing of this car). Assembly of the Aronde ceased in 1964. Between 1962 and 1972, Chrysler Australia assembled Dodge Phoenix cars from US-made components at its Adelaide plant alongside Valiants.

          In the 1960s and 1970's, Chrysler initially imported, then assembled the Valiant - developing a unique Australian version of the Chrysler A-body car. Initially, Chrysler assembled the Plymouth Valiant - rebadged "Chrysler" and sold as the R and S-Series, but by 1964, they developed a local version, with distinctive styling and named the Chrysler Valiant, so that the car would have a separate identity from the US Plymouth and Dodge variants. The reason for developing a distinctive car was concern that the local manufacturer could not afford to make substantial styling changes as quickly as in the US. Hence, a modified appearance would minimise the risk of accusations that Australia was sellng "last year's model".

          The Chrysler Valiant made a place for itself in Australian motoring history, mainly due to the heroic efforts of Chrysler Australia's engineering team. Their six cylinder engines and special body styles, such as the Charger, Utility, and Drifter, made the Valiant unique and truly Australian, despite its USA roots. In January 1962, after the Plymouth Valiant enjoyed its successful release in the US, Chrysler created the R, a locally-assembled (from mainly American components) version. It had a single engine, the 225 (3.7 litre) slant six, which was still exciting at the time, and either a push-button Torqueflite automatic or a three-on-the-floor. It put out about twice the horsepower (145 vs 75) as the popular Holden and cost only about 10% more. The vehicle was essentially an American Valiant, with styling that was to influence the 2005 Chrysler 300. 1,009 R Series Valiants were made. The S Series took over two months later.

          The AP5 (Australian Production 5), introduced in 1963, with a more conventional look, a clean front end, was the first Valiant to be made in Australia at the newly completed Tonsley Park assembly plant. There was also a Regal version, adding some luxury. The AP5 was based on the equivalent American model. The AP5 was much more Australian than the R and S Valiants, hence the Australian Production (AP) name, and was pitted against the XL Falcon and FB Holden. They shared general body designs with the 1963-1966 American Valiants, but had a slightly different roofline and grille and trim differences. Total production: 49,440. More information

          The AP6 (1965) was an evolution of the AP5, having a facelifted split grille and introducing to the range the V8 engined Valiant "Regal", along with the Wayfarer  utility. The release of the 1965 VC Valiant heralded the true beginning of the Battle of the Big Three . The Chrysler stylists had been busy creating a car that looked longer, lower and sleeker than any previous model, even though it was basically only a facelift of the previous AP5/AP6 design. Total production: 43,344.

          The 1967 VE Valiant was an all new design, the bodywork sharing some sheet-metal with the US Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Dart; despite the US content the VE was unquestionably the most Australian Valiant to date. It was the first Valiant to take out Wheels Car of the Year  award. Total production: 68.688

          The face-lifted VF Valiant (1969) ushered in a new elegance and style lacking in so much of the competition, and with the introduction of the Pacer, Chrysler clearly indicated they were out for a slice of the muscle car market that as now being serviced by the 4 door Falcon GT and 2 door Holden Monaro GTS. Based very closely on the US Dodge Dart, the 2 door Pacer was the right car at the right time, and paved the way for Chrysler's big gun in the muscle car stakes - the Charger. Total production: 52,944.

1962 Vauxhall Cresta, which shares many design features with the EK Holden (below)

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