Five Decades of Motoring in Australia – The 1970s

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The sixties had been a decade of establishment, with many new and innovative models, design and concepts and a flood of new makes previously unavailable in Australia. The seventies was very much a decade of consolidation for the car market down-under. Local manufacturers saw the need to tailor their cars more to the needs of the Australian driver rather than sell product that had been designed for different markets with different driving conditions, and the cars they produced reflected this.

Ford Falcon GT-Ho Phase III

The Big Three local manufacturers – Holden, Ford and Chrysler entered the 1970s with a stanglehold on the local car market. Each manufactured locally built 6s and V8s in sedan, station wagon, panel van and utility formats, and each had their performance supercars – the Holden Monaro, Falcon GT and Valiant 265 Pacer, offered for the first time as a 2 door coupe with the VG model, introduced in 1970. But just as the American 340 Duster’s superb performance failed to impress Americans, the performance of the Pacer failed to impress Australians. Enter the Charger.

Chrysler Valiant Charger

Based on the 1971 VH Valiant but built on a shorter wheelbase, with a clean, sporty look, it was 130 kg lighter than any Valiant sedan, but it still had room for five. A $2800 base model allowed high production runs, lowering the cost of the sportier models. The Charger was marketed brilliantly by Chrysler – their clever advertising campaign used the slogan "Hey, Charger" and the image of a hand giving the two fingered "V for victory" sign. Right across Australia, people shouted ‘Hey charger" and gave the victory signal every time one drove by.

Holden Monaro

Ford was the last of the Big Three to introduce a 2 door coupe version of its Falcon. Arriving in 1972 and based on the XA Falcon, it was available in a range of models from a regular 2 dooor sedan to an almost Bathurst-ready GT. In 1978, as the XC Falcon range was coming to an end and the new XD model was almost ready, Ford released the limited edition Falcon Cobra, an end of an era 2-door GT Falcon that is looked upon today as the crowning glory of a memorable decade for the Ford Falcon.

1975 Falcon GT Hardtop

In 1974, the classic fastback shape of the original Monaro was dropped with the introduction of the HJ Holden. The new Monaro, based on the HJ sedan, has a beefier front and re-styled rear end that for the rev-heads was a step backwards in terms of styling. The Monaro GTS coupe was discontinued during the HJ production run, towards the end of 1975. A four door Monaro was introduced but it was largely avoided by the purists to whom the Monaro will always be a 2-door car. With the arrival of the HZ Holden in 1977, the Monaro name was dropped totally though a 2 door coupe continued to be made for a while and the 4-door Monaro was re-named the Holden GTS.

Holden Torana GTR XU-1

Late in 1970, GM-H suprised everybody with the release of the XU-1 option for the Holden Torana GTR, creating the GTR XU-1. This little rocket was created by Harry Firth in the Holden Dealer Team workshop to take over racing duties from the Monaro GTS 350. Firth’s idea was, rather then go head to head with Ford’s Falcon GT HO on a power race, it would be smarter to use a smaller, more nimble package (which would be easier on tyres, brakes and fuel) with a power-to-weight ratio similar to the Ford’s. The XU-1 was built and homologated purely for series production racing, with Bathurst the main target.

When the LJ Torana was introduced in February 1972, the two-door GTR was continued and the GTR XU-1 came into regular production. By this time, the GTR XU-1 was aquitting itself very well on the racetrack and was undergoing constant development, with each facet of the car being improved as required for racing until the ultimate version was released in September 1972. A new shape was introduced with the LH Torana in 1974. Unlike the earlier Toranas that were based on the Vauxhall Viva, the LH was in effect an HQ Holden built on a smaller scale which slotted in between the new 4-cylinder Gemini and HQ Holden. The sports model was badged as the SL/R and optioned with a 5.0-litre V8. It was identified by large front and rear air dams (spoilers) and SL/R 5000 declas on the front guards and on the rear spoiler.

The XU-2 tag was not used for the stillborn LJ V8, as is commonly thought. With the facelifted LX model in February 1976, the hatch version of the SL/R with engines optional up to the 5.0-litre V8 became known as the SS. Late 1977 saw the arrival of the A9X option (above right, racing at Bathurst, 1977), perhaps the most desirable Torana of all. This package was available on all SL/R 5000s and 5.0-litre SSs built from September 1977 onwards, and once again was introduced to homologate these improvements for touring car racing and, in particular, Bathurst. With the arrival of the UC, the last Torana of that body shape, in March 1978, all high performance V8 models were dropped due to their dwindling market.

Holden in the 1970s

Whereas, in the previous decade, GM-H had introduced no less than four new body styles for its family sedan, in the 1970s there were only two – the HQ in 1971 and the Commodore in 1978. Prior to the HQ, the HT (1969) and the HG (1979) were merely facelifts and model updates of the all-new HK of 1968. The major change in those years was the introduction of the HT Brougham in 1969 to counter the growing popularity of the Ford Fairlane. Like the early Fairlanes, the Brougham was merely a beefed up and stretched Premier.

1971 Holden HQ Kingswood

The 1971 HQ was arguably a high point of GMH styling, and an Australian classic. They still proliferate the Australian landscape (an icon of cars that were "built to last") in their various configurations of body styles and engine combinations. Facelifted as the HJ in 1974, the HX in 1976 and the HZ in 1977, during the life of this body style, the recreational panelvan, the Sandman, was first seen in July 1976 in HX mode, and the Statesman was released as a replacement for the lame-duck Brougham.

Holden HZ Statesman

The Statesman grew out of the WB Holden, originally intended to be the last of the HQ shape, and to sell alongside the Commodore (1978). The WB never made it as a separate model, but appeared in modified form as the Statesman de Ville and Statesman Caprice, and as a Holden utility and panel van, since such vehicles could not be derived from the new Commodore design.

Holden VB Commodore

Monday 13th November 1978 was a watershed for GM-H, because on that day the Opel re-engineered Commodore was released. GMH engineers had naturally made changes to ensure the durability of the car in Australian conditions, but the real gamble was whether Australian’s would be accepting of the all-new body style as a suitable replacement for the traditional large family sedan. The public didn’t reject the smaller car, but their preference for the more traditional size became clear when the Falcon became the No.1 selling car in Australia during the lifespan of the first generation Commodore. The body shape introduced in 1978 as the VB Commodore would go through four facelifts but the Commodore would essentially maintain the same design for a decade, until the all-new, larger VN, unveiled in 1988.

Holden Sunbird

Holden’s LH series Torana was introduced in 1974 offered only as a four-door sedan. It was one of the few cars worldwide engineered to occupy four, six-and eight-cylinder engines. This trend continued until Holden introduced the Sunbird in 1976; essentially the four-cylinder Torana with a new name. Designated LX, both the Sunbird and Torana introduced a three-door hatchback variant. In 1975, Holden introduced the subcompact Gemini, the Australian version of the "T-Car", based on the Opel Kadett C.

1975 Holden Gemini

The Gemini was an overseas design developed jointly with Isuzu, GM’s Japanese affiliate; and was powered by a 1.6 litre four-cylinder engine. Fast becoming a popular car, the Gemini rapidly attained sales leadership in its class, and the nameplate lived on until 1987. Holden discontinued the Torana in 1979 and the Sunbird in 1980. The closest successor to the Torana was the Camira, released in 1982 as Australia’s version of GM’s medium-sized "J-Car".

Chrylser Valiant in the 1970s

The 1969 model Valiant VF, which was a facelifted version of the 1967 VE, was iself facelifted in 1970 as the VG. Externally there were very few differences, apart from the now rectangular front lights, while the interior remained almost identical in every way.

Chrysler VH Valiant Pacer

A year later, Valiant fans everwhere breathed a collective sigh of release upon the release of the all-new VH Valiant. Its all-Australian design was a clearly departure from the flat sheetmetal, creased edges of the 1960s, its style reflecting the flares and wide lapels of the disco decade. Part of the VH range was the new Charger, a 2-door hardtop that was marketed brilliantly and was every bit as competitive in the marketplace as Holden’s Monaro and Ford’s Falcon GT.

Chrysler VJ Valiant

By the time of the release of the VJ Valiant in 1973, Chrysler’s market share was in its fourth consecutive year of decline. The VJ’s remained unchanged on the outside aparts from a few styling changes that were restricted to a grille makeover, round headlights and revamped tail lights. The VK/CK Valiant (1975) was another mild makeover of the previous VH and VJ models. The obligatory new grille design combined with a revised tail light assembly made up the more obvious of only a handful of changes, leaving many to ask why Chrysler had indeed bothered.

Chrysler CL Valiant

1976’s new Valiant, the CL, was intended to be a whole new model, an intermediate sized car based on the Plymouth Volare / Dodge Aspen which had been big sellers in the US. Unfortunately cost cutting measures enforced upon the manufacturer in light of the growing trend of Australians to favour smaller 4 cylinder cars saw the VL ending up as little more than a re-worked VH. Industry insiders read the move as the writing was on the wall for the Valiant and rumours abounded that the CL would be the last Valiant. It wasn’t; the 1978 facelifted CM, the last re-working of the VH design of 1971, would be the last of the prestigious lineage of Valiants that had graced our shores since the 1962 introduction of the ?R? series.

When the CM hit the showrooms, the Mitsubishi sourced Chrysler Sigma’s sales figures were significantly outstipping the Valiant. There was no Charger, Utility or Panel Van in the CM range, only two sedans and a wagon. The facelift was kept to a minimum to save money. The last Valiant was manufactured on the Tonsley Park assembly line on 28th August 1981, not by Chrysler Australia but by Mitsubishi Motors Australia limited, which had taken over Chrysler Australia’s operations and placed its own top-selling 4-cylinder Sigma as its frontline model.

Chrysler Centura

The Chryler Valiant was not the only 6-cylinder Chrysler sold in Australia. The "other" Chrysler Six was the Centura, which in reality was the French Simca 180 into which Chrysler Australia’s engineers at the Tonsley Park plant fitted the Valiant Hemi engine (a straight six), and an Australian Borg-Warner gearbox, tailshaft, and differential (a four cylinder version was also offered). The Simca 180 was an automotive orphan. It was designed for the British market as a replacement for the big Humbers of the 1960s, but Rootes UK initially turned it down, so it ended up being first manufactured in Spain.

A second production plant was established in Britain where the car was released in 1970 and marketed opposite the Rover 2000 and Ford Granada. It failed miserably and Chrysler were left with hundreds of bodies and components stockpiled. Around that time, Chrysler Australia found themselves without a car to sell opposite the 6-cylinder Holden Torana and Ford’s Cortina, and believed the Simca 180 fitted the bill. It was agreed that the components would be sent to Australia and the car sold as the Chrysler Centura.

Immediately prior to the Centura bodies arriving in Australia, the French had conducted nuclear tests in the South Pacific, and the Australian Waterside Workers Union introduced bans on handling French products. The newly elected Labour Government (1972) failed to intervene, so the car bodies were left on the wharves until 1974 when the tests stopped. As a result of two years of exposure to the salty air, many Centuras started rusting before they were built! The Centura was eventually released in 1975, some eight years after the Torana and TC Cortina had made inroads and established their market share, and was considered by many as too little too late.

The Centura was available in two models, the KB and the KC upgrade. It quickly earned a reputation as a bad handler, partcularly the 6-cylinder version in which the heavy engine caused weight distribution – and hence handling – problems. Before it reached its third anniversary, the Centura was dropped. The 4-cylinder Spanish Simca 180 faired much better – it enjoyed a production life of ten years.

Ford in the 1970s

Ford entered the 1970s with the XY Falcon as its flagship family sedan. The XY was the third facelift/update of the landmark XY Falcon introduced in 1966. The XA model (1972), a totally new design, was the first Falcon completely designed and built in Australia.

1972 Ford XA Falcon

By the time it was released, the US version had been discontinued some 18 months earlier, and the designers had the opportunity of designing a more ‘Australianised’ car. The result was a bulky, coke bottle design, sleek but featuring a bigger, more roomy body and available with a wider choice of engines and a longer list of options. In fact, the XA sported arguably the boldest design of any Falcon model to date. There were a plethora of body and engine choices on offer; the range started with the Falcon, then Falcon 500, Futura, Fairmont, and the high-performance GT.

1976 Ford XC Fairmont Hardtop

After a break of seven years, Ford re-introduced a two door hardtop version based on the sedan but with a lower roofline and wider rear wings. Marketed under the ‘Born on the Wind’ slogan, the XA was a great success for Ford of Australia and a confident statement of its independence. The XB (1973) featured a slight restyle of the previous model, and featured a cleaner but more aggressive front end with a forward sloping bonnet. The XC (1976) was a further re-style of the third generation Falcon. The refined look was achieved by reducing the slope of the grille and introducing large rectangular headlamps. The XC was the last of the style commenced with the XA in 1972.

1979 Ford XD Falcon

The XD Falcon, released in 1979, marked the start of Ford’s determined push to become market leader in Australia, a goal they ultimately achieved, but one that at the release of the XD, was beyond their grasp. Developed at a cost of $100 million, the investment soon paid off and the XD quickly began outselling the Commodore. During 1980, however, sales of the big family cars stalled as new car buyers turned to smaller 4-cylinder cars in droves. Prices of locally manufactured vehicles were spiralling upward much faster than wage increases and the cost of living, and the public began resisting the rising prices. The heady days of the 1970s when the big 6’s and V8’s were king were over.

Mid-size Ford cars assembled in Australia included the Ford 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.

Japanese consolidation

At the turn of the 1970s, the Japanese manufacturers began grabbing big handfuls of market share from the British who, until that time, had a strangelehold on the 4-cylinder end of the market. But the Japanese had also set their sights on other market sectors. The original Toyota Crown model released in Australia, the S50, was replaced in 1971 by a new model, the S60. Its styling was distinctive and seen as very modern and if Toyota had a chance at knocking Holden off its throne as king of the 6-cylinder car market, the S60 was the car to do it.

1972 Toyota Crown S60

The Crown sedan and wagon were better equipped that the local product, but Holden were by that time so firmly entrenched as the market leader, the Crown was never a serious threat to the General’s supremacy. Holden pushed the fact that their car was Australian born and bred (the fact that it was owned by the US car giant, General Motors, was not mentioned) for all they were worth, and the ploy worked. The last Toyota Crown to be sold in Australia was the 5th series, the S80 and S100 models. Released in 1975 in Australia, the four door S80 sedan and wagon were now fully imported. The sale of the Crown in Australia ceased when the S100 was replaced by the S110 in 1979.

1973 Nissan President

Over at Nissan, the President, a luxurious 6-cylinder motor vehicle that was selling in small numbers. The H150 Series Nissan President continued to be available in Australia until 1973 but was never a threat to the big three. Boosted by its win of the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon, Chrysler’s Hillman Hunter sold steadily in Australia in the later years of the 1960s, but they became overshadowed when Chrysler Australia commenced assembly of the Mitsubishi Galant in 1972.

Mitsubishi Colt Galant

This small-medium 4-door sedan, badged as the Colt Galant, was developed from Mitsubishi’s entry model into the Australian market back in 1965. By this time, the Mitsubishi was a conspicuously more modern car, and by 1973, the Hunter was phased out; the last Rootes car to be marketed in Australia.

Japanese entry into the performance market

The Japanese had more success in the performance car market however, especially after the oil crisis of 1973 when fuel prices soared and consumers began to look seriously at high performance fours. The leader of the Japanese pack was Datsun, whose 240Z filled a gaping hole. Whereas the British and Italians had the compact 4-cylinder end of the sports market sewn up and the big three were concentrating on the 6 and V8 end, the Japanese saw a (worlwide) need for something in between, and Datsun’s 240Z fitted the bill perfectly.

1972 Datsun 240Z

In 1968, Toyota had developed a sports car that was not dissimilar to the 240Z called the 2000GT, but the manufacturer failed to see its potential outside of Japan and ended up selling around 300 in Japan only. A couple made it to Australia and turned heads wherever they went. Very much the sports car that ‘should have been’ rather than ‘might have been’, Toyota missed a golden opportunity with this gorgeous looking sports car that barely got beyond the ‘design exercise’ stage. Instead, they developed a 2 door sports variant of their Corona sedan. Called the Celica, it arrived in Australia around the time of the 240Z and was an instant success.

1972 Toyota Celica Liftback

The Celica looked very much like a down-sized Mustang – there were two models, a fastback with a sloping hatch door not dissimilar to Mustang’s. Datsun took their 240Z in a different direction; later variants were designed and marketed in a way that caused them to be viewed as a poor man’s Ferrari or Porsche.

Mazda Capella RX2

Mazda gave the Celica and 240Z some competition with the Capella RX2 (1972) and the RX7 (1978), both rotary powered 2-door coupes. Holden got in on the sports sedan act with the Torana GTR, a beefed up GT-version of its new Vauxhall Viva-based LC Torana but with a 6-sylinder engine shoe-horned under the bonnet. Ford jolned the frey by importing the British designed and built Ford Capri, and by dressing up its new Escort in GT livery.

Ford Capri

Over at British Leyland, the ailing manufacturer was pinning its hopes on a car it had developed to take on the big three – the Leyland P76. Not the prettiest looking car around, it didn’t sell as well as was hoped, and the oil crisis of 1973, which heralded a move away from the bigger cars, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Leyland P76

A coupe version, named the Force 7, was stillborn. All British Leyland cars, apart from the MG and Rover, were withdrawn from the Australian market when the local production plant in Zetland, Sydney, closed down in 1975.

A motoring icon of 1970s Australia was the Sandman, a panel van and ute produced by Holden in Australia between 1971 and 1979. Unlike the normal van which had rubber strips on the floor of the cargo area and little else, the Sandman was decked out for recreational use with everything from fridges, televisions and sound systems to waterbeds. With its noticeably extended rear roofline, it proved popular among the drive-in crowd liked the idea of opening up the back to watch a movie. It wasn’t too long, however, before the Sandman gained notoriety during the latter half of the 1970s as a mobile venue for getting intimately acquanted with members of the opposite sex.

Holden Sandman

It earned such nicknames as shaggin’ wagons and sin bins, dreaded by the mothers of teenage girls (fearing their daughters would be seduced by the young male Sandman drivers) and by the teenage girls themselves (fearing they would be raped). To the young men who drove the vans, however, the Sandman represented a lifestyle of freedom, sun, sand and surfing. The Ford Sundowner and Chrysler Drifter also competed with Holden’s Sandman in the panelvan arena, but they never quite achieved the cultural icon status the Sandman seemed to evoke. By the early 1980s however, the Sandman had largely lost its place in the contemporary Australian culture, and became merely a trade vehicle and an icon of a bygone era.

New Japanese cars in the 1970s

It was in the 1970s that other Japanese automobile manufacturers – Honda and Daihatsu – made their moves on the Australian market. Daihatsu sold its first passenger vehicle in Australia – the 4 cylinder, 800cc model F30, known as the Berlina Compagno – in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until January 1975 when Daihatsu replaced its independent distributor in New South Wales with a national company, that it began marketing cars in Australia seriously.

Isuzu Florian

Mitsubishi continued to sell its latest version of its Colt sedan up until and after its takeover of Chrysler’s Australian operations in 1980; Isuzu, which these days only sells trucks in Australia, enjoyed sales success with the Italian-styled Florian four door sedan. The Isuzu Florian’s replacement was re-badged and sold as the Holden Gemini.

Honda Prelude

The Honda brand name came to Australia in the mid 1950s when independent firms imported Honda motorcycles. The trickle grew to a steady stream by the 1960s, with Honda motor vehicles joining motorcycles, notably the tiny Honda S600 sportster and Honda N360 or Scamp. In the late 1960s, Honda Motor Co. decided on a national approach to motor vehicles sales. In February 1969, Honda Australia Pty Ltd was set up with a capital of $100,000 and a staff of two. It was the first Honda subsidiary in the world set up primarily to sell cars.

1974 Honda Civic

In July 1972 the sub-compact 4-cylinder Civic was introduced initially in two-door coupe format, followed by a three-door hatchback version that September. With the transverse engine placement of its 1169 cc engine and front-wheel drive, like the British Mini, the car provided good interior space despite overall small dimensions. The second generation Civic, offering a more angular shape, increased engine power, and larger dimensions in all models, made its debut in 1980.

Honda Z600

The Honda Z600, designed and built by Honda, went on sale alongside the first Civics. In Japan it was marketed with an air cooled, 354cc 2 cylinder engine with a 4 or 5 speed transmission driving the front wheels. Exported cars were given a 598cc engine, which was rated at 36 hp (26 kW). The 354 cc version was also available in Australia. A Honda Z featured in the Australian film Malcolm as a get-away car that split into two. The first generation Honda Accord was launched in 1977 as a two-door hatchback. It was larger than the tiny Civic. In that year the Accord won Wheels magazine’s Car of the Year award.The Accord sold well, due to its moderate size and great fuel economy. In 1978 an LX version of the coupe was added which came with air conditioning. In 1979 a four-door sedan was added to the lineup. The Prelude joined the Honda range in 1979.

1976 Toyota Corolla

The Corolla name is the second oldest in the Toyota stable, following the Land Cruiser, and while never an exciting drive, with over 35 million Corollas sold worldwide, it has become the most popular car line in history. The first generation Corolla was introduced in 1968. Toyota quickly recognised the need to make the Corolla larger and endow it with more power.

Thus the second generation Corolla arrived in 1970, with its wheelbase stretched and power coming from a new 1.2 litre version of the OHV four. The Third Generation Corollas were released in 1975, and featured a raised center section in the grille that carried back to more angular bodies. Now there were a total of five Corolla models available, including two and four door sedans, a 2 door coupe, SR5 sports model and 5 door station wagon. With a new chassis, the 1979 Corolla was a more sophisticated and satisfying car than any Corolla before it.

1972 Toyota Corona

First released in 1957, the original shovel-nosed Toyota Corona (Latin for Crown) has become increasingly popular with collectors, partly due to the rarity of these cars on the road today, and no doubt also due to their amazing strength and build quality. The Mark II, released in 1964, featured several mechanical improvements. The Corona T100-Series, released in 1974, were built as a 4-door sedan, 2-door hardtop coupe and 4-door wagon. It was this model that established the Corona’s dominance in the mid-range 4-cylinder car market.

Introduced in Japan in 1978, the next generation T130-Series Corona featured a boxy design with more elegant lines. 4-door Sedan, 4-door Wagon, 2-door Hardtop Coupe and new 5-door Liftback were manufactured with 1.6 or 2.0 liter engines. A production plant in Altona, Victoria was established and began the production of Corona engines in 1978, following the progressive growth of Toyota Motor Corporation Australia.

1976 Toyota Cressida

The Toyota Cressida was a mid-size, high-end luxury sedan introduced by Toyota in Japan in 1973, and first exported to Australia in its second generation in 1977 as a replcement for the Corona Mk II. The same chassis, with slightly different bodies were available in other countries as the Toyota Mark II, Toyota Chaser and Toyota Cresta. The Cressida name was retired in 1992, but the chassis and Mark II, Chaser and Cresta names continued production in Japan until the early 2000s. Because of its luxurious characteristics, the Cressida is often said to have provided the inspiration for the Lexus brand, which is a separate division from Toyota.

1972 Datusun 1200

The B10 model Datsun Sunny was launched in 1966 as the Datsun 1000 and although production in Japan ended in 2004, it remains in production today for the African and American markets. The second-generation Sunny, the B110 Series, was launched in 1970 in Australia as the Datsun 1200. This new model was slightly larger in all dimensions to match its market rival, the equally popular Toyota Corolla.

Datsun 120Y Coupe

The third generation Sunny, sold as the Datsun 120Y in Australia, was released in 1973 just as the petrol supply crisis of the 1970s began to bite. The cars disappeared off the showroom floors as fast as the importers could bring them in, thanks not only because of its misery fuel consumption but also because it was one of the least expensive cars available. At the time body styling was also a hit with buyers. The 120Y was replaced in 1978 by Nissan’s final rear-wheel-drive Sunny, which was manufactured from 1978 to 1982.

Datsun 1600

The Datsun 510, sold alongside the Sunny, was similar to the Sunny, but larger. It was powered by a sporty 1600cc engine, and marketed in Australia as the Datsun 1600. It proved to be one of Nissan’s most popular models ever sold in Australia. It was replaced by the all-new Nissan N10 series in 1978. With the model changeover, the Australian assembly of Datsun/Nissan vehicles at the company’s Clayton plant ceased. The N10 was fully imported to Australia as the Nissan Pulsar.

1978 Nissan Pulsar

Manufactured by Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru vehicles were first importe into australia around 1970. subaru is the japanese astronomical name for the star cluster called pleiades m45, which is what all those stars are in the subaru logo. in greek mythology pleiades is refered to as the "Seven Sisters", refering to the 7 daughters of Atlas and Pleiade (one daughter is called Maia), but the Germans refered to the star cluster as the "Hen with Chicks".

Subaru FF1

The first Subaru available in Australia was the FF1, a 4-wheel drive vehicle available as a 4-door sedan and a station wagon. In 1973, it was replaced by a new model, the first generation Subaru Leone, which was imported by Subaru Australia. They was powered by a 1600cc front-wheel-drive engine. Leone was available as a 4-wheel drive sedan and station wagon and as a GL 2 door coupe.

Subaru Leone DL

European cars in the 1970s

Many major European manafacturers gained market share in Australia during the 1970s, though an economic downturn in the 1980s saw a few of them leave. Much of their success during the 1970s can be attributed to the large number of migrants from mainland Europe who, unlike Australian born motorists of that time, were quite familiar with these makes and models and were a ready market for them.

Renault R12

Renault enjoyed a particularly good run with its R8, R10 and R16 models, which won car of the year awards and rallies. The R12, introduced in 1969, was equally as popular during the early years of the 1970s.

Citroen CX

Peugeot’s 404 series had given the marque a good reputation in the 1960s and its replacement, the 504 sedan, continued to keep up the marque’s sales figures. Citroen, ever the oddball in the market, serviced its diehard devotees but made little impact on the general car sales market until the arrival of its new CX models in 1975. Winner of the Car of The Year, the CX gave local dealers not only a new model to sell but also a legitimate foot in the door of the booming executive car market. The smaller but similarly styled Citroen GS had been released in 1971.

Volvo 144

Of the two Swedish car manufacturers, Volvo and Saab, the former made the most impact on the Australian car market of the 1970s, thanks to its highly successful 142, 144 and 146 sedans and 145 wagon. The 140 Series enjoyed a good reputation as a staid, conventional but very reliable and very safe motor vehicle, the archtypical doctor’s car, a reputation that passed over onto Volvo drivers, who were also labelled as being staid and conventional.

1977 Saab 99 Turbo

Until the arrival of the first Saab 99s, Saabs were viewed as oddities by the Australian driving public in much the same way as Citroens. It took a decade and the introduction of the incredibly sporty Saab 99 Turbo and Convertible to turn that perception around.

Volkswagen had built a plant in Clayton, Victoria, in 1960 to build Beetles and continued their production through the 1870s. By the end of the decade and after a number of facelifts, the loveable Beetle had passed its use-by date and production ceased.

1975 Volkswagen Passat

Volkswagen sold its Clayton plant to Nissan and began fully importing its Passat, Golf and cars and commercial vehicles and Audi Fox (a 4-door squareback version of the Mk I Passat). Volkswagen was not the only European manufacturer to feel the pinch in the Australian market in the 1970s. Several Peugeot models were assembled in Australia, local production beginning with the 203 in 1953, moving through models such as the 403, 404 and 504 in the 1960s and ’70s, to finish with the 505 in the early 1980s. Whilst Peugeot never withdrew from the Australian market, by the 1980s, all models were fully imported.

Peugeot 504

At the very top end of the market, the British built Jaguar, Daimler and Rolls Royce continued to hold their own against their European counterparts – Mercedes Benz and BMW (Audis at this time were nothing more than re-badged Volkswagen Passat sedans). Exotic cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche and Aston Martin continued to be sold to the growing number of Australians who preferred the finer things in life and had the money to buy them.

Mercedes Benz S-Class 280SE

Mercedes continued to built on the reputation they had established in the previous decade. In 1973, Mercedes-Benz introduced the W116 line, the first to be officially called the S-Class. The arrival of the W116 (which included 280, 350, and 450 SE/SEL models) saw the introduction of passive safety into the vehicle design, with features such as anti-lock brakes and a strengthened vehicle occupant shell. The Mercedes-Benz R107 sports coupes were produced from 1971 through 1989, being the longest single series ever produced by the firm, besides the G-class/wagon. They were sold under the SL-Class and SLC-Class model names, respectively. The R107 replaced the W113 SL-Class in 1972 and was replaced by the R129 SL-Class in 1989.

1976 Mecedes Benz 200 W115

The Mercedes-Benz W114 (and similar W115) "Stroke-8" midsize cars were produced from 1968 through to 1976. The W114 chassis used straight-6 engines and were sold under the "230", "250", and "280" model names. The W115 used straight-4 and straight-5 engines and were sold as the "200", "220", "230", and "240". The Stroke-8 models replaced the W110 Fintail models beginning in 1968 and were replaced by the W123 series after 1976.

1976 BMW 528i

BMW, which up until now had sold its cars in the Australian market via a distributor, launched an all-out assault on the luxury car market in 1972. The 5-Series mid-sized E12 models were introduced in 1972 and sold until their replacement in 1981. Designed as a replacement for the popular BMW New Class mid-size sedan, the E12 5-Series models were smaller than the large BMW E3 sedan but larger than the two-door 2002 models. The E12 was replaced by the BMW E28 5-Series in 1981, although production continued until 1984 in South Africa. The E21 series, known as the 3-Series, was a compact executive car that had similar lines to the 5-Series.

BMW E21 is the platform designation for the first BMW 3 Series compact executive car, pProduced from 1975 to 1983, this series was the immediate successor to the BMW 2002 and was superseded by the BMW E30 platform. Completing the BMW range for the 1970s was the E23 7-Series luxury car, model E23, which, like the 3-Series, had similar lines to the 5-Series, but was the largest car in the BMW range.

1978 BMW 730

The BMW E23 is an automobile platform that was the basis for the first BMW 7 Series luxury car, produced by the German automaker BMW. Replacing the BMW E3 large sedan, the E23 was produced for ten years from 1977 to 1987 and was replaced by the BMW E32 7-Series in 1986. These three models were responsible for establishing BMW as a high-quality, luxury the marque at the upper end of the market.

1970 Jaguar XJ-6

Launched in 1968, the XJ luxury saloon has served as the Jaguar flagship model for most of its production span, which commenced in 1968 and continues through to today. It was the last Jaguar saloon to have had the input of Sir William Lyons, the company’s founder. The Series Two XJ6, a facelifted version of the original, was available from 1973. The second series included the XJ12 version, with a 5.3 L V12 engine, which was again part of the lineup along with long-wheelbase models and a coupe, now considered a collector’s item due to its rarity. The top 12-cylinder Daimler was called the Double Six.

1976 Jaguar XJC V12 Bi-Turbo Coupe

An 8,378-car run of 2-door XJ coupes with a pillarless hardtop body called the XJC was built between 1975 and 1978. The coupe was based on the short wheelbase version of the XJ. The coupe’s elongated doors were made out of a lengthened standard XJ front door. A few XJCs were modified into convertibles with a retractable canvas top, but this was not a factory product.

1988 Jaguar XJS

This vehicle is not to confused with the XJ-S, a luxury grand tourer that was added to the Jaguar range in 1975 as the replacement for the legendary Jaguar E-Type (or XK-E). Bassed on the XJ saloon, the XJ-S had been developed as the XK-F, though it was very different in character from its predecessor. Although it never had quite the same sporting image, the XJ-S was a competent grand tourer and was, in fact, more aerodynamic than the E-type. The last XJ-S was produced in April 1996, with the XK-8 taking its place.

Renault 17TL

In May 1973, Renault introduced their 15TS and 17TL coupes onto the Australian market. The vehicles were a radical departure for Renault, providing a stylish appearance with good performance and handling. Sales of these early models was slow in Australia due to their relatively high price, and continued through to late 1974. In 1976 a final shipment of 1975 model year 17’s was made and stock piled prior to the introduction of ADR 27A emission controls, these vehicles, again due to their high price, sold slowly through until 1978, when they were withdrawn.

The 15/17 range sold in Europe until the introduction of the Fuego in 1980. The Fuego was sold in Australia but low sales of its cars led Renault to eventually withdraw from Australia. In March 1999, Renault formed an alliance with Nissan to extend its market presence in Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia. New Renaults again became available in Australia in 2001.

Fiat 131

Fiat’s 124, 125 and 128 series cars had sold well in Australia in the 1960s, but had a habit of rusting away at an astronomical rate. Fiat was at this time using Russian steel which was less durable than that used by the majority of other manufacturers and many vehicles were plagued by corrosion. Consequently, Fiat’s market share fell during the 1970s and they eventually pulled out of the market in the late 1980s.

Lancia Beta HPE Coupe

Lancia, which became a Fiat subsiduary in 1969, suffered the same fate and withdrew at the same time. Lancia had continued to sell dwindling numbers of its superb but litle known 1960s era cars, the Fulvia and Flavia, until production stopped in the mid 1970s. The Lancia Beta, the first Lancia produced by the company after it had been taken over by Fiat, was launched in 1972 and was available in 4-door, 2-door coupe and 2-door HPE variants, selling until 1984 alongside the Fiat 131 and 132, with which it had many interchangable components, and the Lancia Gamma and Delta.

Alfa Romeo Alfasud

Buoyed on by motor racing wins, sales of Alfa Romeos continued strongly until well into the 1980s when rust and reliability problems, combined with the falling Australian dollar, led to Alfa abandoning its Australian devotees for a decade. In the early 1970s, Alfa went down-market with its new front-wheel drive 2 and 4-door Alfasud sedans. Designed by Hruska with the Italian designer Giugiaro, it was conceived as car for middle-income drivers who want to drive a real Alfa Romeo. It had performance, good fuel economy and superb roadholding (thank to the wheel-at-each-corner design principle) but quickly built up a bad reputation. The cars were built at Alfa’s new factory in Pomigliano d’Arco (Naples) by largely unskilled workers, using possibly sub-standard steel traded with the Soviet Union, and it quickly showed.

A brillant design but badly executed, the Alfasuds were poorly put together and they’d either self destruct by falling apart or by rusting through. The car was also imfamous for overheating easily in tropical climates. The Alfasud was withdrawn from production in 1983 but by then it had long since been withdrawn from sale in Australia.

Alfa Romeo Alfetta Coupe

The Alfetta sedan was launched in 1972 as a replacement for the 1750 and sold in good numbers alongside the odd-looking but loveable Giulia (production of the Giulia ceased in 1976) and the beautiful Duetto Spider, which debuted in 1966 and stayed in production until 1992. The four-cylinder Alfetta coupe was available from 1975 to 1986 in its various forms.

1974 Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider

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