Five Decades of Motoring in Australia – The 1960s

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The major styling feature introduced during the sixties was the ‘Coke bottle effect’, in which the boot and rear door panels were swept upwards over the wheel arch creating a profile which resembled that a Coca Cola bottle. The first Australian car to incorporate the Coke bottle ‘hump’ was the XR Falcon in September 1966. The styling of the car was inspired by the Mustang, copying both the coke bottle style line and the long bonnet and deep, stumpy boot.

Whereas the fifties were dominated by British made 4-cylinder cars, the sixties saw Holden, Ford and Chrysler erode the supremacy of the imported 4-cylinder car and establish the locally built 6-cylinder models as the Australian motorists’ premier vehicle of choice. Nonetheless, all the major British car manufacturers (BMC, Triumph, Rootes Group, Vauxhall, Jaguar, Rolls Royce/Daimler) continued to sell their range of models in Australia, and were joined in ernest by the Germans (Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes), the French (Citroen, Peugeot, Simca and Renault), the Swedes (Volvo and Saab), the Czechs (Skoda) and the Italians (Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati, Ferrari), who all cemented their place in the Australian market for a slice of the action in the sixties.

1962 Mercedes Benz Fintail 220SE

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). Mercedes Benz dominated the luxury car market, which had previously been dominated by British makes like Jaguar, Rover and Humber, with its Fintail series, which went on sale in 1961, a year after its release in Europe. Mercedes offers a range of models (230, 250 and 300) with the choice of petrol or deisel engines. So well received were these vehicles, the 113 Series Pagoda 230SL sports convertible was introduced in 1963, followed by the 600 GL (Grosser) in 1966. For a while, Mercedes sold more 600 Grossers in Australia than any other market.

1966 Mercedes Benz 600 GL Grosser

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.

1960 Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle

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 (complete knock-down) 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.

1962 Fiat 600 Bambino

Fiat began the decade with its 600 Bambino, 1100 and 1800 models, and made a major push into the small car market in 1965 with its 850 range and all new 124 series (sedan and coupe), followed by the sporty 125 sedan a year later. The smart looking 128, a replacement for the 850 series, arrived in 1970, along with the 6-cylinder 130 sedan and coupe. By then, Fiat and Lancia (now part of the Fiat group) had both developed reputations as rust buckets, possibly because it made its cars from inferior steel purchased cheaply from Russia, and began losing ground against the superior Japanese product it was up against. For Lancia, the 1960s were financially a disaster and it had to be rescued by Fiat. In terms of product, the decade was excellent; Lancia’s extensive range of Flavia, Fulvia and Flaminia models included numerous striking, styling classics.

Alfa Romeo GTV 105 series

Lancia’s 1960s coupes and convertibles, along with the Alfa Romeo 105 series (introduced 1963) and Fiat’s 1960s sports models, were some of the most delightful and affordable sports cars ever offered to the Australian public. Alfa’s ugly ducking, the Giulia (introduced 1962), was the only 4-door sedan to wear the four-leaf clover badge until the arrival of the 1750 series in 1968. Alfa’s superb convertible, the Duetto spider, arrived in 1967.

Lancia Fulvia Coupe

Of the rest of the Europeans, Borgward went broke in 1961; Porsche developed its niche in the luxury sports car market with the famous, distinctive and durable 911 series, (introduced 1964); Volvo built its reputation as a staid but reliable, safe car with their 142, 144 and 164 models (introduced 1967); Saab began to be taken seriously when it replaced the strange looking Saab 96 with the 99 series in 1967; BMW had tested the waters with the New Class (introduced 1962), but like Saab and Volvo, began taking things very seriously in 1968 with the introduction of the E3 series, from which BMW’s curent model range has evolved. Of the three major French players, Peugeot and Renault made the biggest inroads into the Australian market.

Saab 95

In the mid 1960s, Renault Australia was set up in Heidelberg, Melbourne. Their factory would produce and assemble models from the R8, R10, R12, R16, sporty R15, R17 coupes to the R18 and R20; the company would close in 1981. Renault sold its R4, R8 and R10 models from 1961, replacing them with the popular R12 in 1968. The larger R16 (introduced 1966), with its unusual liftback styling, developed a small but devoted following. Interestingly Renault Australia did not just concentrate on Renaults, they also built and marketed Peugeots as well.

1962 Peogeot 404

Peugeot built itself a solid reputation, first with its 404 sedans and wagons introduced 1960 (which was based on a popular design by Pinin Farina which it shared with the Fiat 1800/2100/2300, Alfa Romeo 2600 Berlina sedan, Lancia Flaminia and Austin Cambridge A60/Freeway), and later with the 505 series (introduced 1968); From 1977, Renault Australia also assembled Ford Cortina station wagons under contract- the loss of this contract led to the closure of the factory.

Simca Aronde Wagon

Of the other French manufacturers, Citroen sold its DS Pallas model and the odd 2CV (‘odd’ being as much a reference to the occasional sale as to the vehicle itself, which was somewhat odd!); 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.

The Mini car revival

The BMC Mini, which revolutionised the small car market on its release in Australia in 1961, is one of the greatest designs of Automobile Engineering and one of the classic designs of the twentieth century. Its designer was Sir Alec Issigonis, the man behind the Morris Minor, Britain’s most popular car of the 1950s. In 1950 Issigonis experimented with a Morris Minor prototype with front wheel drive which was discarded, but later the idea would be used in the Mini. Issigonis established the dimensions of the Mini’s interior by sitting his wife and children on chairs in his kitchen, two in front and two behind, and then basically designed the car around them.

Morris Mini 850

The Mini made owning a small car fashionable and played a major role in Australia not going totally American in its preferred size and style of car. It was with cars similar in size to the Mini that many Japanese car manufacturers made their first tentative steps in the Australian new car market with vehicles like the Mazda R360 and the Honda N600 (see "The Japanese Automoble Invation" below).

Honda N600

A number of European car manufacturers developed their own mini sized cars in the early 1960s, but the majority opted for slightly larger vehicles, but small cars nonetheless. Such a vehicle was the Vauxhall Viva, which would be modified for Australian conditions and released some years later as the Holden Torana.

Morris 1100

Ford took the easy way out and released the Ford Consul/Anglia’s eventual replacements – the Cortina and the Escort – with the same specifications as their British counterparts. BMC, who had developed the Mini, released a larger variation of the Mini theme, and called it the Morris 1100. Before the decade was out, the 1100 would be given a larger engine and re-named the 1500, and a new model, the medium sized Austin 1800, would replace the now ageing Pinin Farina-designed Austin A60/Freeway.

1964 Austin Freeway

Luxury car standards of roominess and riding comfort within an overall length of under 4.2 metres were just two of the outstanding characteristics of the Austin 1800 promoted on its Australian release in December 1965. The Austin 1800 offered silent, high speed cruising, unsurpassed road holding and cornering powers, excellent luggage space and built in safety and longevity from what at the time was probably the strongest body shell ever planned for quantity production.

Austin 1800 Utility

Designed by Alec lssigonis, the new 1800 followed the basic design conception of the BMC Mini and 1100 models with transversely mounted engine and transmission unit, front wheel drive and Hydrolastic suspension with "a wheel at each corner". However, this world renowned design was now translated to a medium sized family car. The biggest single factor in achieving such roominess was the ‘east-west’ engine location, a first for a car of this size and a formula that is common today, which gave 70% of the car’s length as passenger and luggage accommodation, resulting in rear passenger room being larger than the current Holden and Ford Falcon models. The advertising slogan used by BMC to promote the Austin 1800 was "car of the century". Given that it revolutionised car design and became the prototype for the best in turn of the century asutomotive design, it title was truly justified.

Austin 1800 Mk II

The Austin 1800 was released in Australia in December 1965. The Mark II, a much improved car, was released in November 1968. 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.

Austin Tasman

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.

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 Australia 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.

The Hillman Hunter that won the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon

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. Developed in Britain as a highly successful rally car, the Hillman Hunter’s greatest claim to fame was winning the 1968 London to Sydney car marathon, an event which the manufacturer failed to capitalise on.

Ford Cotina Mk I

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. For further details on Ford’s activities during the 1960s relating to the development of the Ford Falcon, see the separate entry, The Big Three: Ford, below.

1962 Vauxhall Cresta, which shares many design features with the FC Holden

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. Fully imported examples of these cars had available in Australia since 1954 and 1957 respectively, and the marque had built up a small but strong following. 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 Vauxhalls. That happened in 1966, a year after the Holden HD was released.

1966 Holden HD Station Wagon

1966 PC Vauxhall Cresta Estate

The design of the HD had been effectively transposed with a little external modification to the PC Series of the Vauxhall Velox/Cresta range (compare Holden HD with PC Vauxhall Cresta below), which was released in all other territories but Australia in 1966. The 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.

Vauxhall Viva

While the variety of European four cylinder cars on offer failed to make major in-roads into the family car market that was dominated by the six cylinder models being manufactured locally by GM-H, Ford and Chrysler, they still sold well in a new market that the low priced Mini helped create – the second family car.

The Japanese car manufacturers, who at this time were developing new models in a bid to launch their product onto the international market, also began releasing their similar sized four cylinder vehicles in Australia at this time. Their cars were not only ideally suited for the second car market – their performance, level of equipment and low price was the prefect hook to get the first batch of Baby Boomers to choose a Japanese manufactured vehicle for their first car.

The Japanese Automobile Invasion

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.

Toyota Tiara

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.

Toyota Corona

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 in Australia was the second generation S30 Model, which features dual headlights and a 2-lite six cylinder engine.

Toyota Crown S50

The S50 shape was replaced in 1971 by a new model, the S60. The futuristic looking sports car, the 2000GT, was Toyota’s first sports model to hit our shores; it began to be sold in limited numbers from 1968. An amzingly low 351 units were built, the few that survive are today collectors’ items.

Toyota 2000GT

Nissan’s history in Australia dates back to 1934 when Datsun Phaetons were sold locally in small numbers. In the sixties, it was the famous Australian automotive industry figure, Sir Lawrence Hartnett, the man behind the FX Holden, who initially secured distribution rights for Datsun vehicles in this country. While visiting the 1960 Melbourne Motor Show, Hartnett saw the newly release P310 Datsun Bluebird which had been brought to Australia for evaluation. Impressed with the car, he decided to import 100 of the cars with his own money, and in the process helped to start the massive growth of Japanese vehicle sales in Australia.

Japanese Trade Mission display

Later that year, an exhibition of Japanese cars was held in Brisbane to gauge their possibilities for sale in Australia. They were displayed in Brisbane in November 1960 on board the Japanese Trade Mission ship, Aki Maru. The vehicles on show included the Datsun Bluebird 310 sedan, Toyotpet (Toyota) Tiara sedan, Daihatsu Midget Trimobile minitruck, Daihatsu F175 pickup, Toyo Gogyo (Mazda) 360 Coupe microcar, Hino Commerce van and Mazda K360 minitruck.

Datsun Bluebird

At the time of the exhibition, Hartnett’s 100 Datsun Bluebirds were being shipped to Melbourne and the tiny Mazda 360 Coupe had already been sold in small numbers in Perth. The rare Hino Commerce van was based on the front-wheel-drive Renault Estafette van from France. Hino produced several Renault cars under licence before specialising in trucks.

While some of the vehicles on board would have been mystifying to the Australian public, it would not be long before Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mazda and others joined Datsun (Nissan) as household names for the Australian motorist. Nissan itself subsequently reached agreement with the Hartnett Organisation and commenced local assembly of the banana-shaped Bluebird models in 1966 at the Pressed Metal Corporation plant in Sydney.

Datsun Fairlady SP311

The pretty, full-imported Datsun Silvia CSP311 hardtop (see below) went on sale at the same time. The B10 Datsun Sunny, sold here as the 1200, and the MG-like Datsun Fairlady SP311, were introduced in the following year. The Prince Skyline and Nissan President took care of the luxury end of the market.

Nissan Cedric 31 Series

The fully importe 4-cylinder nissan cedric 30 series was introduced in australia in 1961 but did not sell well; its strange name gave the impression of it being old and doddery, and not the sort of vehicle anyone under the age of 80 would want to drive. The 31 Series (Mks 1-3) were available from 1962 to 1965; it was replaced by the still awkwardly named Nissan Cedric 130 Series, which was in fact a good looking 4-cylinder 2-litre engined car designed by Italian stylist Pinin Farina. Sadly, it too, failed to make much of an impact in terms of sales and popularity. The last Cedric to be sold in Australa was the 130 Series Mk 4, in 1971.

Nissan Cedric 130 Series

The Datsun Silvia CSP311 was a luxury coupe based in the chassis and mechanicals of the Datsun Fairlady SP311 sports car. It had the same engine as the Fairlady 1600, a 1595cc 96hp 4cyl. R series engine with twin SU carbs. The total production run of Silvias between 1964 and 1968 was only 554. For the design of the Silvia, Nissan engaged the services of a German designer by the name of Count Albrect Graf Goertz, who assisted their in-house designer Kazuo Kimura.

Nissan Sylvia Coupe

Goertz was trained in Germany and in the 1950s traveled to the United States where he worked for Studebaker, designing the Studebaker Starliner. He then returned to Germany, where he was employed by BMW. His work at BMW included the gorgeous 507 convertible. He then moved to Porsche, where he was part of the design team working on the 911. His first job at Nissan was to take over the Silvia project. According to Goertz, the Japanese designers saw the design process as being an amalgamation of seperate ideas.

Goertz designed the car as a single entity that included many of his trademark features seen previously on cars like the BMW 507, such as a long bonnet line that lunges forward of an open grille, large wheels and wheel arches and small, delicate bumper bars. The Silvia was the first Japanese car designed using a full scale clay mock-up. Goertz later worked on other projects for Nissan including a four seater version of the Silvia that never reached production. He also came up with the concept and initial designs for the Datsun 240Z, unfortunately Nissan chose to heavily redesign the 240Z, eventually settling on a blander design for the production version, rather than the bold design by Goertz.

Isuzu Bellet

The first Honda vehicle to be sold in Australia, the S600 sportster, arrived in 1965. Honda Australia Pty Ltd was established in 1969. The Honda N600 arrived on our shores in 1968; Honda Civics were the next models to be introduced, in the early 1970s. Isuzu entered the Australian car market in September 1965 with the four-door Bellett sedan. The GT was introduced a year later. The Bellet soon began winning rallies and races around Australia and quickly built a similar reputation among the young people of its day as the Subaru WRX enjoys today.

Isuzu Florian

Isuzu’s smart-looking Florian 4-door sedan, styled by Italian designer Bertone, was introduced in 1969 and sold for five years belore Isuzu withdrew from selling cars in Australia after being taken over by General Motors. The Florian and Mazda’s 1500 were both great, good looking cars, but unfortunately they became lost in the shadows of the Toyota Corona and Datsun 1600 sedans which were expertly marketed, and ended up cornering the 4-cylinder market.

Mazda R360 Coupe

Mazda first tackled the Australian car market with a three wheeler mini truck in 1959. In the following year, the Mazda R360 Coupe, the first Mazda 2-door passenger car, arrived. Mazda put one on display at the 1960 Sydney Motor Show and sent one R360 Mini Car to Western Australia to test and evaluate under Australian road conditions in 1962. The Familia 800 was introduced in 1964. The beautiful looking Mazda 1500, was styled originally for Alfa Romeo by the Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro for Bertone in 1962.

Mazda 1500

Alfa pulled out, choosing instead to use the same Pinin Farina design used by Peugeot, BMC and others for their mid-sized four door model, and Mazda snapped it up. The car arrived in Australia in 1967. In that same year, Mazda released its first car to wear the Cosmo name (called the Cosmo Sport 110S). It was also the first in a distinguished line of rotary engine sports cars from Mazda. Cosmos were built by hand at a rate of only about one per day; only a handful made it to Australia.

Mazda Cosmo Coupe

Another Japanese car manufacturer, Hino, entered the Australian market in 1963 with the Hino Contessa. The first Hino cars were in fact Renault 4CVs built under license from the French. The Contessa was Hino’s first attempt at creating a car from the ground up; the attractive 2-door coupe variant was styled by Italian car designer Michelotti. A 4-door sedan followed. Upon the death of Hino’s founder in 1965, motor car production was taken over by Toyota.

Hino Contessa

The company was eventually incorporated into the Toyota organisation at which time, production of the Contessa ceased, however Hino trucks continued to be built. A total of 247 fully imported Conessas were sold in Australia. 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.

1967 Mitsubishi Colt

The first Mitsublishi car to go on sale in Australia was the Colt, in 1965. Mitsubishi had established itself in Australia as Mitsubishi Motors Australian Limited a year earlier. Also during 1964, the company’s first plant opened in Tonsley Park. This plant also served as home for Chrysler Australia. Chrysler Australia had previously occupied a plant in the country, located in Keswick near Adelaide.

Not surprisingly, Chrysler and Mitsubishi began working close together in their Australian facility, with cars designed by Mitsubishi entering into the Chrysler Australia family of products. Additionally, Chrysler opened an engine manufacturing plant in Lonsdale, also near Adelaide, and those engines began turning up in Mitsubishi automobiles. The 1980s saw the departure of Chrysler from the Tonsley Park plant and Mitsubishi formed a new subsidiary to take over the full operations. During that time, the Colt and Sigma vehicles were still produced under Mitsubishi, but those vehicles were later replaced with the Magna and Verada models.

1963 Studebaker Lark

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.

By the end of the year they were ready for local production from CKD kits in Melbourne. 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.

1965 Studebaker Cruiser

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 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.

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.

The Big three’s US and British Models in Australia

Up until the time they commenced manufacturing vehicles in Australia, America’s big three – Ford, General Motors and Chrysler – sold a number of fully importe 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.

Vauxhall Viva Series 1

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 one of the last US-based cars to be assembled by the Big Three in Australia, with assembly ceasing in 1972.

Rambler Rebel

Ramblers were assembled from CKD kits at Australian Motor Industries’ Port Melbourne factory until the demise of Rambler in 1969.

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 in the US; its importation to Australia would soon cease.

1964 Ford Fairlane

Ford Australia sold a locally assembled version of the American Ford Fairlane which had taken its name from Henry Ford’s estate, Fair Lane, near Dearborn, Michigan, from 1959. It was Ford Australia’s top of the range model until an Australian-assembled version of the full-size American Ford Galaxie replaced it in 1964.

Initially, the Fairlane 500 sedan was offered, but this was soon joined 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. There were now just two sedans in 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 th Fairlane 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 in March 1967 when Ford reintroduced its Australian-developed Fairlane, a luxury, long-wheelbase version of its mainstream Falcon, positioned between the Falcon and the Galaxie.

1973 Ford Galaxie

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. The early models, fully imported and sourced from Ford of Canada, were available in extremely small numbers. 1963 saw an increase in the number of Galaxies available to the Australian buying public, and in the 1964 model year, even larger numbers of Galaxies were available through selected Ford dealers when local assembly commenced at Ford’s Homebush plant in Sydney’s inner west. From 1969, all Galaxies were again fully imported from Ford US and converted to RHD at the Broadmeadows plant in Victoria. The last Galaxie, a 1972 model, was sold new in 1973. It was replaced by the local version of the LTD, which was a plusher, rebodied Fairlane.

1960 Chevrolet Bel-Air

Pontiacs and Chevrolets were assembled in GM-H plants in all capital cities from imported CKD chassis and pre-war Chevrolet bodies stamped and built in Adelaide up until 1958. Pontiac in America introduced the famous Wide-Track chassis in 1959, however Australia continued to use the Canadian export chassis kit under a new body. It came with the 283 cubic inch V8 Chevrolet small block engine. Australia’s GM offshoot, GM-H, assembled these cars from Canadian sourced CKD kits, as did New Zealand, the Netherlands and South Africa. Sold as the Pontiac Laurentian and Chevrolet Bel-Air, the pair kept up with US styling, however mechanical developments were slower coming. The automatic transmission was available in the US from 1950 but not until 1959 in Australia. The V8 was released in the US in 1955 but not until 1960 in Australia. The Laurentian and Bel-Air remained in local production until 1964.

1964 Pontiac Parisienne

The Pontiac Parisienne debuted in Australia in 1964 and was available as a locally assembled 4 door sedan (pillared) with the 283 cubic inch engine. In 1965 the Pontiac Parisienne 4 door (pillarless) Sport Sedan Hardtop and Chevrolet’s Pillarless Impala Sports Sedan were introduced, but two years later the (1967 Model) the pillared sedans 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 £5,799 and £6,099 for the Pillarless, or Sports Sedan version.

1965 Chevolet Impala

1968 was the last full year of Chevrolet and Pontiac production in Australia however some 1969 examples were put together for buyers wishing to have the traditional big car. Between 1970 and 1973 local dealers imported Chevrolets to fill the void before General Motors Holden (GMH) returned to the low volume market with small batches of 1974 and 1975 Caprice Sedans.

1968 Pontiac Parisienne

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. A number of larger dealers imported small numbers of convertibles, coupes, GTOs and Firebirds during the 1960s and early 1970s.

1960 Chrysler Royal

In 1956, Chrysler Australia consolidated each of the badge engineered marques it was assembling into 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 soon began losing sales as it 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.

Simca Aronde Estate

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.

1963 Dodge Phoenix

The Chrysler Valiant was introduced by Chrysler Australia in 1962 with production ceasing in 1981. Initially a rebadged locally assembled Plymouth Valiant from the US, the Valiant range was sold throughout Australia and New Zealand, as well as South Africa. The first locally assembled Valiant, the American 1961-model R Series, was released in January 1962. It was assembled at Chrysler’s Mile End facility (South Australia) from imported CKD kits. Chrysler replaced it with the American 1962 S-series (SV1) Valiant after only 3 months of production. The first fully Australian manufactured Valiant, the AP5, replced the S Series in May 1963.

The Big three: Holden

General Motors-Holden entered the decade 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.

1960 FB Holden

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.

1962 EJ Holden

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.

1965 HD Holden

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.

1966 HR Holden

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.

1968 HK Holden Premier

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.

1969 HT Holden Monaro

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.

The Big three: Ford

A year after Ford was formed in the US, the first Ford car, a Model A, was imported into Australia in 1904. 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.

Ford Zephyr Mk II

In the mid fifties, Ford 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.

1960 XK Ford Falcon

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.

1965 XP Ford Falcon Futura Hardtop Coupe

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.

1966 XR Ford Falcon

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.

1969 XW Ford Falcon GT

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.

1968 ZB Ford Fairlane

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.

1969 ZC Ford Fairlane

The Big three: Valiant

In the 1960s and 1970’s, Chrysler initially importe, 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".

Chrysler Valiant S-Series

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.

1963 Chrysler Valiant AP5

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.

1965 Chrysler Valiant AP6 wagon

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.

1967 VE Chrysler Valiant

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 9 award. Total production: 68.688

1969 VF Chrysler Valiant

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.

Muscle Cars

1967 XR Ford Falcon GT

The introduction of a performance model Falcon, the XR Falcon GT, in 1967 opened the doors to a new market that demanded performance or sports oriented vehicles from the major manufacturers. A year after the Falcon GT was introduced, Holden went one step further down the sports sedan road by not only introducing its own sports sedan, but making it a 2-door variant of its newly released HK sedan.

Holden Monaro

The new model, called the Monaro, was the first 2-door car based on a 4-door sedan by the Big Three local manufacturers; it was only a matter of time before Ford and Chrysler followed suit with the 2-door Falcon and the sporty Valiant Pacer in 1969.

Chrysler Valiant VG Pacer

Powered by a high-performance slant six, it featured a beefed up suspension, floor-mounted four-speed, snarly exhaust, and built-in tachometer. The slant six put out about 170-180 hp, and the quarter mile was about 17.8 seconds, quite good for the time. The VG (1970) was the first Valiant model to offer a Pacer as a 2 door coupe. The Pacer kept Chrysler in the 2-door six cylinder car race until the release of its head-turning charger in 1971.

1972 Torana GTR XU-1

With Holden’s successful Monaro GTS catering for the full size sporty market, GM-H gave the smaller sector a big shake up in 1969 with the release of the Torana GTR. Based on the LC Torana, this little ripper came with a 2600 cc engine, a four-speed Opel manual transmission, power front disc brakes, a front stabiliser bar, sports suspension and full instrumentation. It was dressed in a choice of bright colours. Front guard flutes, rally stripes and wide sports wheels with matching tyres completed the sporty look.

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