How did the Falcon and Commodore get their names?

The Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore are undoubtedly the two cars that will be remembered most fondly in the hearts of Australians as the years pass. But just how did the Falcon and Commodore get their names? In most cases, the names of modern cars are the result of hundreds of hours spent by marketers in boardrooms trying to conjure up a name that they believe resonates with the target audience. But in the case of the Falcon and the Commodore, there is a little bit more to the story! Read on to find out about the origins of the names of these two great cars.

The Ford Falcon

Unbeknownst to some, the Falcon has a history long before it ever hit the shores of Australia with some experts believing the name goes as far back as 1935 when Edsel Ford used the name plate on an early luxurious motor vehicle. It didn’t hang around long though, and by 1938 the Falcon had been rebranded as Mercury, which of course went on to become the long-lived ‘luxury’ division of the Ford Motor Company.

The Falcon then reappeared in 1955 as a Chrysler concept vehicle, which was built with the intention of going head to head with the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet’s Corvette. After only 2 or 3 were built, the idea was shelved once the costings of developing a low volume, high priced vehicle didn’t quite stack up. Now from here is where the story goes one of two directions depending on which side you believe. The first story goes that in 1958, both Chrysler and Ford had internally named their new small car the ‘Falcon’. In the auto industry all names need to be registered with the Automotive Manufacturers Association, and in a case of true coincidence Ford managed to register their ‘Falcon’ a matter of only 20 minutes ahead Chrysler, ensuring the name was Ford’s. Controversy ensued and Chrysler was left searching for a new name.

On the contrary, the other much less exciting story is that Henry Ford II called up Chrysler boss Tex Colbert and asked for permission to use the Falcon name. Colbert was happy to allow the name be used as Chrysler had their eye on another name… The Valiant.

Two years the later the Falcon made its way to Australian shores and after a few early hiccups became one half of Australia’s much publicised Holden v Ford rivalry.

The Holden Commodore

As some of you may know, the Holden Commodore didn’t actually start its life on Australian shores. Some 60 years ago, Opel were building a car called the ‘Rekord’. In 1967 a slightly upspec-ed Rekord was rebranded as the Opel Commodore and marketed as a faster and better looking alternative to the dating Rekord. While the naming process isn’t as interesting or long winded as the Falcon, the Commodore was named after the naval officer rank.

After 10 years of Commodore production the name was brought to Australia and utilised under the Holden banner. The original model, the VB Commodore shared its likeness with both the Opel Commodore C and the Rekord Series E. Right through until 2007 the Holden Commodore drew on a design used by the Opel Omega and Opel Senator before being replaced by the first truly Australian designed Commodore – the VE. So while in 2018 the Commodore will be replace by an Opel, remember it’s not the first time that Australia has been graced with a European designed Holden.

What other car makes and models should we look at the origins of? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Aussie Cars that never were

When we think about Aussie cars, our minds drift towards the Commodore, the Falcon, or the Territory. However, what about those Aussie cars that didn’t quite go as far in the public domain as these classics? Australia has produced some awesome cars that didn’t quite reach the lofty heights laid out in planning. In this article we will take a look at three Aussie cars that didn’t sell in the intended quantities, but still hold a special place in Australian automotive history.

Ilinga AF-2

The Ilinga (aboriginal word meaning ‘distant horizon’) AF-2 was designed by Tony Farrell in partnership with Victorian businessman Daryl Davies. The intention for the Ilinga was to be a high-performance luxury coupe utilising aluminium body panels over a steel chassis, using a modified Leyland/Rover 4.4 litre V8 to provide the power. Before running into financial difficulties, two prototypes were built and orders were taken, however the 1970’s oil crisis ensured the closing of Leyland Australia, meaning the Ilinga had lost its engine supplier. One of the prototypes lives in the carpark entrance of the Melbourne Museum, whilst the other is nowhere to be found!

 

Giocattolo

Born in 1986, the Giacattolo was the brainchild of Paul Helstead and F1 engineer Barry Lock. With plans to build Australia’s first Supercar, Helstead and Lock took an Alfa Romeo Sprint and dropped a 5 litre Walkinshaw Holden Group A V8. Producing 220kw and 500Nm, the car was a rocket, capable of powering the Giocattolo from 0-100 in under 5.5 seconds while having an electronically limited top speed of 260kph. With upgraded tyres, brakes, transmission and a supremely high tech suspension package, the Giocatollo was akin to a Go-Kart on steroids. The $80,000 price tag however was a bridge too far for consumers, and production ceased after only 3 years and 15 units were built. To take a look at the article we put together on the Italian/Australian pocket rocket earlier in 2017, click here.

Joss JT1/JP1/Vanguard

With more comeback tours than John Farnham, what started out as the Joss JT1 was supposed to be Australia’s answer to iconic supercars such as the Enzo Ferrari and Lamborghini Murcielago. It has never eventuated unfortunately, as numerous attempts to get the project off the ground including renames to JP1 and eventually Vanguard have fallen flat. Featuring a 6.8 litre V8, the 940kg supercar was fast enough to achieve 0-100kph in less than 3 seconds and run the quarter mile in a tick under 12 seconds in stock trim. Only 1 Joss has been built to date and the outlook looks bleak, however we’ve been in this position before only for Joss to announce that the project has been fired into life again! So who knows, maybe there’s still hope for the Joss JT1/JP1/Vanguard?

Have you spotted any of these low production Aussie cars on the road? Or maybe you’re the proud owner of one of the very few remaining Giacattolo’s? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Party up front, Business at the back – The best of Holden Performance Utes

As the production of Australian cars winds up, we will continue to take a look at some of the locally built cars that will be fondly remembered by the Aussie motoring community. In this installment, we look back on a few of the most memorable Holden performance Utes; cars that took business and mixed it with pleasure.

Although Ford is generally credited with designing the world’s first Ute in Australia with the Coupe Utility in 1934, Holden soon joined the world of Ute’s with their 48-215 (FX) Utility in 1951.

Designed as workhorses for Australian farmers and tradesmen, the humble Ute continued to evolve with handling and power improvements, however was never sold or intended to be a performance based vehicle. 

This all changed for Holden at the 1990 Sydney Motor Show, when Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) unveiled the VG HSV Maloo Ute.  Quickly becoming the star of the show the ‘Maloo’ (Aboriginal word for ‘thunder’) was powered by a 5.0-litre V8 engine with 180kW/400Nm and only available in Alpine White and Maranello Red to enhance its exclusivity. You don’t see many of these driving around today!

 Although Holden had been fitting V8’s to their Ute’s for many years, it was in 2001, with the release of the VU Series, that Holden upped the game with their own true performance model, being the VU SS Ute.  Based on an all new platform, the Holden team spent a huge amount of time optimizing the Ute for improved aerodynamics and reduced wind noise, and the result is a very smooth, flowing exterior design.  The VU Ute was fitted with a 225kw Chevrolet 5.7L Gen 3 LS1 Engine placed between the strut towers as well as what was a first in a Ute at the time, independent rear suspension. This added to the 17” alloys, sports seats and sports suspension. What did they cost at the time? $36,490.

 

HSV stepped up the game to another level with the VZ Maloo R8. A far more aggressive exterior design clearly differentiated the HSV enhanced Ute from the Holden performance variants. Fitted with the then new 6.0 litre LS2 V8 Engine, the VZ series also boasted 19” wheels and traction control.

In 2006, Aussie motorsport legend Mark Skaife set a world record with the VZ Maloo, clocking 271.44km/h on a closed road in South Australia and becoming the “World’s Fastest Production Pickup/Utility”.

 

As part of Holden’s continued marketing drive around the performance angle of its ever popular Ute range, a new marketing campaign was needed to launch the new VF SS V Redline Ute.  Holden decided to ship the Ute to one of the world’s most famous testing grounds, Germany’s 20.8km long Nordschleife. With high hopes and a vehicle test engineer behind the wheel, the SS clocked a blistering 8:19.47 around the 170 turn track, becoming the fastest Utility to do so. There was no official record given there was no ‘utility class’ but regardless, the time was an impressive achievement.

 

The Holden Performance Ute collection wouldn’t be complete without the final variant of the iconic Aussie vehicle. Enter the HSV GTSR Maloo. HSV decided to honour the performance Ute by sending it out with a bang and a model truly representative of performance in every sense of the word. Power was well and truly taken care of with the 435kw Supercharged LSA 6.2L V8 engine. A tuned HSV performance suspension package plus numerous electronic aids takes care of handling while stopping power is handled by the massive 6 piston calipers and two piece discs. 20” wheels and an aggressive styling package complete the head turning aesthetics.

Although it is a sad day to see the traditional Aussie Ute finish production, we will always have the memories of such an Aussie institution.

American Hero – Top American Import

When it comes to American muscle cars it’s hard to look past the iconic Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. Although there are a number of other stateside classics that will go down in history as American greats, it’s the Mustang and Camaro which typify what the scene is all about. In this article we’ll take a look at the two US classics, what made them special and how they were received in Australia.

In 1961, Lee Iococca, the Vice President and General Manager of Ford had a vision. This vision was to build a car that could seat 4 adults, have bucket seats, a floor mounted shifter, weigh no more than 2500 pounds, be no longer than 180 inches long and sell for less than $2500. After a few years and a couple of interesting looking prototypes, from this vision the Ford Mustang was born, with the first car rolling off the production line in March 1964.

In Australia, the Mustang has gone through periods of great popularity mixed with periods of little interest, mostly as a result of the cost of importing and RHD conversion proving to be a bridge too far for local consumers. However, early Mustangs were a hit from the get go, with up to 200 first generation Mustang’s being imported by Ford Australia in 1965, converted to RHD at their Geelong plant and sold to the public for around $6000. The timeless design was received well by enthusiasts in Australia. Throughout the last 50 years, early year Mustangs have remained a desirable car for Aussie enthusiasts which are reflected in modern day re-sale values.
Of course, it would be remiss of us not to mention the current 6th generation Mustang which has proved to be a hit on our shores. The rear-wheel drive 5.0 litre V8 producing 306kw/530Nm is somewhat filling the void that has been left by the departure of the Falcon, providing the public with a high powered substitute for the XR8, albeit in coupe form.


On the General Motors front, the main competition to the Mustang over the years has been that provided by the Camaro. The Camaro was born in September 1966 as an answer to the booming popularity of the Mustang. Featuring a long hood, short deck, seating for four and a unitized body construction with a separate front sub frame, the Camaro came with engine options ranging from a 230ci straight six to a 427ci V8.


The Camaro was received well in Australia in the beginning, and was successful in Australian motorsports, further thrusting the classic car into stardom. Bob Jane would win both the 1971 and 1972 ATCC at the wheel of a Camaro ZL-1. Much like the Mustang, the Camaro went through a period in which they were less desirable to the Australian public which, unlike the Mustang, has not really recovered in the form of Camaro Australian sales. Unfortunately for Australian motoring enthusiasts, in its current 6th generation guise, there are no formal plans for the Camaro to reach Australian dealership floors.


Which generation Mustang’s and Camaro’s are your favourite. Would you like to see the latest Camaro on Australian showroom floors? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

Driving for a Cause – Classics cars at the Variety Bash

The Variety Bash was founded in 1985 by none other than Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith, after he invited a few mates to make the trip from Bourke in far western New South Wales all the way up to Bourketown in northern Queensland. Along the way teams would recreate the Redex Car Trials of the 1950’s whilst raising money for the Variety Club of New South Wales, a charity which to this day still raises money for children with special needs. There were a few rules for participants; all cars had to have been manufactured pre-June 1966, have no performance modifications and meet a number of safety considerations such as carrying a certain amount of water, oil and be prepared for the harshest of Australian conditions. Other ‘rules’ were fines for things such as not having enough fun, cheating (or not cheating enough!), going too fast or not fast enough and taking the event too seriously. At the end of the day, the event isn’t a race; it is an enjoyable fundraising event to help those in need!

Dick Smith’s car for the first event was a 1964 EH Holden, which he went on to use in all Variety Bash’s up until 2001, throughout which time he raised upwards of $2 million. The old Holden has had almost all of its parts replaced at one time or another, with the exception of the driver’s side door which remains original! The car now resides in the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney after a broken front chassis rail brought an ending to its bashing career.

A tradition that has stuck since the events early days is that of weird and wacky car designs and competitor costumes. From a Mad Max V8 Interceptor replica to Hippy Vans and even Limousines, the Variety Bash has seen it all throughout the years! A quick look through the Variety Bash’s cars for sale section of their website gives you an idea of the sort of vehicle required for such a journey. Highlights include a 1976 Cadillac Grandeur Opera Coupe, a 1991 Ford F150 Ambulance, a tiger striped Mercedes Benz 450SEL and a 1984 Rover SD1 V8. None of which would generally sound suited to a cross country road trip, although fit the theme that’s made the Variety Bash a truly iconic Aussie event.

Whilst the event was originally founded in New South Wales, Bash’s now take place around all states and territories of Australia, each with their own unique travel itinerary. To get involved, head over to the Variety website and start your fundraising!

Have you ever participated in the Variety Bash? Or are you in the process of putting together a car for the 2017 event? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us all about it!