A Look Back at the Cars of 1989

The final year of the 1980s closes out a decade of varying hair styles, musical tastes, the Indiana Jones and Star Wars sagas (before they got truly silly) and an innovative decade of car engineering and design. Holden’s VN Commodore was reaching the end of its design life, and still packed a 5044cc V8. The SS was a hot looker thanks to well integrated body mods, and was the last Commodore without an independent rear. The VN of 1989 featured an upgraded 3.8L V6 which was quieter and more reliable, and would also be the basis for the Toyota Lexcen. Ford had revived one of the brand’s most popular nameplates with its own, inhouse designed, Capri. A slim looking two door, available with a hard or soft top, the Capri didn’t set the automotive market alight and was available for just five years. The later models had a stylish “jeweled” look to the tail lights, and featured pop up head lights. Unfortunately, the entry level model was hobbled by a three speed auto. Mitsubishi was moving the Magna along quite nicely with a design based on the American Galant. Essentially a “cut and shut” build, with some minor design changes but widened to suit the Australian lifestyle, the TN Magna came with two, four cylinder engines for power only. One sucked fuel via a carbie, the other pushed fuel in via fuel injection. Neither could be said to be “powerful” with the EFI version shunting out just 93kW from the 2.6L capacity engine. Toyota’s Camry of 1989 was a complete revamp of the original hatchback version that was imported from Japan. An effectively expanded version of the Corolla of the day, it had been in production in that shape for just two years, after Toyota Australia switched local manufacturing away from the venerable Corona nameplate. Originally available with a front driven chassis powered by a four cylinder, a V6 option came along soon after. Mercedes-Benz was starring with the C-Class in 1989. The 190 design was in overhaul mode, with 1989 seeing prototypes for what would be the 1993 release of the C-Class model range. The design was a freshen up of the 190 sedan, with a sleeker profile and more aerodynamically suited for the autobahns. BMW was in a good mood too, with the E34 5 Series selling well against its main competitor of the day. In 1989 the design was still fresh, having been released just two years before. 1989 saw the release of the 520i, featuring an updated straight six that produced 110kW. The M5 was also virtually brand new too, with that year’s model packing a 232kW straight six. What kind of car did you have in 1989? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below this article! 

Identity Crisis – Rebadged Cars

Rebadged or badge engineered cars have been common place on public roads for decades, with manufacturers and in some cases governments searching for ways to efficiently manage automotive production. In this article we take a look at four examples of rebadging that have been relevant to the Australian automotive landscape over recent years. VF Holden Commodore SS – Chevrolet SS Back in 2013 at Daytona Speedweek , a VF Commodore sporting Chevy badges was unveiled to the US public to a mostly positive reception. It’s wasn’t the first Commodore to be exported and rebadged oversees, however it will be the last. Since the late 90s, Commodores have been exported overseas in various guises. From the Chevrolet Lumina in the Middle East and South Africa, to the Omega in Brazil as well as Vauxhall and Pontiac variants in the UK and US respectively, the Commodore has been rebadged significantly over the years. The Chevrolet SS in question struggled sales-wise in the US, with the lack of a manual option drawing much criticism amongst the very automotive enthusiasts the car was intended to target. A shame really, that the Americans never truly had the chance to appreciate one of Australia’s most loved cars. Nissan The Ute – Ford Falcon XF The Ute was one of the simplest rebadge’s you are ever likely to see, with everything from the indicator stalk mounted horn to the grill and steering unmistakably Ford. Even under the Nissan logo on the front grill was a Ford oval shaped space. The Nissan Ute was sold as a result of the model sharing scheme known as the Button plan in the mid-late 80’s. The idea of the plan was to rationalise the Australian automotive industry by inducing car manufacturers into sharing the platforms of key cars. Toyota Lexcen – VN Holden Commodore Another rebadged model as a result of the Button plan was the Toyota Lexcen, which was named after Ben Lexcen, the designer of the American Cup winning ‘Australia II’ and its innovative keel design. Kind of ironic that a rebadged car, with little innovative design features, was named after a man who designed one of the most iconic innovations in Australian sporting history, isn’t it? Anyhow, the Lexcen was better received by the Australian public when compared to the Nissan/Ford of above and the Holden/Toyota model sharing scheme would last until 1997. Differences were mostly limited to the grill, badges and some minor interior changes.   Toyota 86 – Subaru BR-Z – Scion FR-S Sold in Australia as the Toyota 86 and the Subaru BR-Z, and in the US at one point as the Scion FR-S, this rear-wheel drive bundle of fun is one of the more popular modern day badge swaps. Featuring design work and product planning from Toyota and engineering and production from Subaru, the 86 was Toyotas attempt at re-entering the ‘drivers car’ market, whilst the BR-Z was Subaru’s attempt at creating a rear-wheel drive to complement its felt of all wheel drive options. With a four-cylinder engine that whilst zippy won’t set the world on fire, the ‘Toyobaru’ has become a favourite amongst sports car enthusiasts looking for a solid ‘bang for your buck’ option.   Do you own one of these rebadged cars? Or maybe you own another rebadged ‘classic’. Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below

Sinful Conversions - Engine Conversions That Cause a Stir

In the automotive community, we’re no strangers to engine conversions. Whether it be a neat LS-swap or dyno warping Barra-swaps, we tip our hat to clean and well-engineered engine transplants. However, not all engine conversions make the automotive gods happy, some are downright riot-inducing, with enthusiasts from all corners kicking up a stink. In this article we will take a look at a handful of controversial engine conversions. Ford Barra Powered HG Belmont Searching for something a little different from the tonne of LS-swaps around these days, this owner decided to take the ever-popular Barra engine and slot it into the early 70’s Holden. With a sub-11 second quarter mile time the old “Holden” will towel up many popular sports cars, whilst still being used by its owner as a daily driver!   Skyline GTR Powered Torana Dropping powerful engines in smaller cars has been a passion of many a person since the dawn of time. As automotive enthusiasts, we can’t help but look at a car, bike or boat and wonder what we can do to make this faster? Well, in the case of the LX Torana, dropping a twin turbocharged RB26 under the hood is sure to make the trip from A to B in quite a hurry! There are of course a few Holden enthusiasts who are none too happy with a Japanese heart beating in the Aussie legend.   LS1 Powered XY Falcon – XYYNOT This XY Falcon will surely cause a stir amongst both Holden and Ford fans, with one of the most iconic Falcon’s receiving a Chevrolet heart. Featuring a Harrop blower, the cammed, near stock LS1 is producing a solid 458 rear wheel horsepower and is used throughout the Australian drifting circuit!   1967 Pontiac Firebird with Toyota Prius Hybrid System Coming completely out of left field is this Prius-powered 1967 Pontiac Firebird. Enough to make any rev-head cringe just a little bit, this engineering marvel has set the owner back just over $10,000US to date and is expected to be on the road by 2019.   LS1 powered Porsche 911  Porsche fans – turn away now! Replacing the iconic flat six in the rear of this 1986 911 is the tried and true LS1, resulting in a horsepower gain of over 170hp! From a purely performance point of view, when you take into consideration other upgrades including wheels, tyres and suspension, this Porsche is a bit of a weapon. However, the purists still cringe at the thought of anything other than the flat six gracing its engine bay. Have you heard of any crazy engine swaps that make purists cringe? Or maybe you’re in the process of your own engine swap? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

The Future Of The Auto Industry Down Under

We spoke to Rare Spares Ambassador and Racing Legend, John Bowe about the future of the automotive industry in Australia and the end of Australian car manufacturing. [More]