8 of the Best Australian-Built Cars
Australia’s automotive production industry drew its curtain to a close with the shutdown of General Motors Holden in 2017, leaving behind a 70-year history of designing and making our very own Australian cars. Despite its death, it has left a legacy is recognised by contemporary car lovers for its sizeableness, durability and performance.
Here are the best cars from the Land Down Under:
1. 1934 Ford Coupe Utility
This collector’s classic is the first Australian-built ute and was instrumental in fortifying the future of the then up-and-coming automotive manufacturing industry.
The car was developed in 1933 as a response to a letter from a rural Victorian farmer’s wife who wants a regular car “to drive to church on Sundays” and a pick-up truck “to take the pigs to the market on Monday” and couldn’t afford to buy two vehicles.
An Aussie Ford designer by the name of Lewis Bandt modified a Ford Model 40 coupe with a tray in the back and the rest was history. The actual unit featured a four-door, five-window Model 40 front-end and rear with a luggage compartment that has a wooden-framed utility section. The outer panels were made of steel and welded to the body of the coupe for a sleeker appearance.
Ford’s 1934 ute sold around 22,000 units between 1940 until its end of production in 1954. It evolved into the Ford Falcon ute, which Ford Australia produced in 1961 until 2016 when its car manufacturing operations ended.
2. Holden VF Commodore
The VF Commodore is the last car made in Australia, making it indelible in the subconscious of every Aussie car enthusiast. Its last unit was made at the GM-Holden Elizabeth facility in North Adelaide in 2017, serving as a “farewell gift” to the automotive industry by Holden’s workers who were said to have kept standards high right to the end.
A descendant of Holden’s first medium-to-large Commodore sedan made inV, VF Commodore was first introduced in 2013 as an executive car.
It has sedan and station wagon variants under the luxury Holden Calais (VF) nameplate and a commercial utility variant called Holden Ute (VF). Like other Commodore models, it features a roomy and comfortable interior, great road-holding capability, reversing camera, and a self-parking system. The models with high specification levels such as Calais-V and SS-V redline have collision alert system (standard, forward and reverse) and a colour heads-up display.
3. Ford Territory
Ford Territory is Australia’s only home-grown SUV and also the first local vehicle to feature electronic stability control. It won various automotive awards and recognition, including being the first SUV to win the prestigious Wheel’s “Car of the Year” title in 2004 because of its acceptable handling and child carrying capacity.
Introduced in 2004 as a midsized crossover family mover, it is a spacious, car-like, high-riding 5-door sports wagon with the same underpinnings of the iconic Ford Falcon. Between 2004 and 2016, the Territory had been manufactured and sold in a total of five series (SX, SY, SYII, SZ, and final SZ II). Both rear-wheel drive (RWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) configurations were available in the Australian market, with the AWD having an optional anti-lock braking system to control the car's motion downhill.
The car comes in five-seater (two rows) and seven-seater (three rows) variants. The seven-seater option has a removable rubbish bin, cup holders (which are not common for cars made in 2004), and a handbag holder. The seating rows have a theatre-like arrangement where the first row is the lowest and the last row is the highest. The middle and back rows can also be folded flat into the floor for additional cargo space.
4. Toyota Camry Hybrid
The Camry Hybrid is the only mainstream petrol-electric car built in Australia and the last car made in Australia by Toyota before the company shifted to fully importing its vehicles for local distribution. It is considered to be the most technologically advanced vehicle made locally and also one of the most successful Australian-built cars ever sold with more exports than Holden and Ford.
This midsize sedan has a comfortable and spacious interior with a trunk space of 13.1 cubic feet, good visibility in all directions and user-friendly interior controls. It also has better acceleration than the standard Camry. Built for Australian roads, the Camry Hybrid has also become the car of choice for Aussie taxi operators because of its reliability and fuel economy benefits. It has a good road-holding capability, strong acceleration and a smooth transition from all-electric mode to the gasoline engine.
5. Ford Falcon
Manufactured by Ford Australia from 1960 to 2016, this full-sized car is of the best-selling Australian-made cars. It has made over 3,000,000 sales in seven generations to 2003 in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Each Falcon and range of derivates from the XA series of 1972 onward were designed, developed, and build in Australia. The XK to XY series, in particular, was re-engineered from the American-influenced Falcon of 1960 to 1971 to endure the harsher Australian environment and weather conditions.
The Ford Falcon XY is particularly venerated because of its performance, build quality, and refinement, which was superior to competitors at the time. The Ford Falcon XY GT, a sports sedan based on the Ford Falcon XY, is of great historical significance for Aussie racers because it put the country on the map after winning the 1971 Bathurst endurance race and becoming the fastest four-door car in the world in the 1970s.
6. HSV GTS Maloo
Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) GTS Maloo is the world’s fastest production ute. It has the body of a VF Commodore and a supercharged LSA V8 engine. Its name is derived from the Aboriginal word “maloo”, which means thunder and a fitting name for the roar of the bi-modal exhaust.
It uses the same massive 6.2-litre motor of Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which sends all 578bhp through the rear wheels and a staggering 546lb-ft of torque. This power makes it a super ute that can travel at 60mph in about 4.4 seconds. The custom-built torque vectoring system and tricked-out traction control unit help keep the light rear axle in-check.
7. Holden HK Monaro GTS
HK Monaro is considered to be a modern classic akin to Ford GT-HO. It’s a rear-wheel-drive coupe with a design that dated back to the 1960s and revived in 2001 and stayed in production for four years. The car’s body was modelled on various concept cars and was used by several different brands.
The Monaro GTS is a high-performance grand tourer made by Holden Special Vehicles in Australia from 2001 to 2006. It has a look that borrowed a few styling cues from the American Camaro. Its two variants are the GTO and the GTS, which are differentiated by their engine and exterior design. The GTO was originally powered by a 255 kW (342 bhp) Chevrolet LS1 V8 engine while the GTS had a Callaway C4B V8 engine producing 300 kW (402 bhp). The GTS also has contrasting colour accents on its bumper and side skirt.
8. Mitsubishi Magna
Produced over three generations between 1985 and 2005 by Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL), this mid-size car was developed as a replacement for the Mitsubishi Sigma. Its Japanese platforms were re-engineered for the Australian market and conditions.
Magna debuted as a mid-size sedan before offering a station wagon in 1987. Over time, its variants grew in size. By 1991, a luxury variant called Mitsubishi Verada was introduced. It was the first Australian-made vehicle to be exported worldwide in large numbers as Mitsubishi Diamante. The third and final iteration Magna/Verada was presented in 1996, which came with an all-wheel-drive (AWD) configuration in 2002 and a substantial styling update in 2003.
Despite being replaced by Mitsubishi 380 in 2005, the Magna has set the tone for spacious, durable and fuel-efficient vehicles that can rival the popular Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore.
There are a few other Australian-made vehicles that many car collectors dream of owning. Despite the demise of the Australian car manufacturing industry, it cannot be denied that we once have created some of the best cars in the world for decades.
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