“Let’s re­mem­ber the Com­modore the way it should be – not how it went out, but how it lived tear­ing up the Moun­tain”

Motor (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

Keen likes pies, Fo­ges talks Holden, Mor­ley googles

LIKE CO­NAN the Bar­bar­ian, the Com­modore died three times: Once when it was an­nounced back in 2013 that Holden was go­ing to cease man­u­fac­tur­ing, once early in 2017 when they put a firm date on it; and most cru­elly of all, now.

Sure, the Com­modore name­plate will live on, but it’s just not the same, in ex­actly the same way that The Com­modores may still have the same name, but with­out Lionel Richie they are, at most, just two times a lady.

The 2018 ZB Com­modore may well be a very good car, but no mat­ter how closely you sniff the up­hol­stery, you won’t be able to de­tect the phan­tom traces of meat pies from the Ade­laide Oval kiosk. Al­though I do take some com­fort know­ing the ZB will be as­sem­bled in Rus­sell­sheim – if you had to pick one place in Ger­many to make Com­modores, it would be the one named after some bloke called Rus­sell.

But the pain is more than just the death of the iconic Commo – it’s the pass­ing of an era, of a par­tic­u­lar vi­sion of Aus­tralia as the lit­tle en­gine that could, or in the case of most of the Com­modore line-up, the crazy big en­gine that could.

The Aus­tralian car in­dus­try was a lit­tle ray of proud sun­shine, proof that we could take on the world and punch above our weight. And then, sud­denly, it turned out we couldn’t – not with­out gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance – and so a piece of our iden­tity died along­side the chance to buy a ute and haul 1200 litres of air around at 180km/h.

And so here we are, dearly beloved, gath­ered to­day to pay trib­ute to the Com­modore, as the tools fall silent at the Eliz­a­beth plant.

(Oh, and the Camry plant in Al­tona too. But that one has made less of an im­pact on the na­tional psy­che. The death of the Camry is like the chauf­feur who died along­side Princess Diana – just as tragic, re­ally, but El­ton John didn’t write a song about it.)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the tele­phone, pre­vent the dog from bark­ing in the back of the tradie’s ute. The tits at Sum­mer­nats will droop just a lit­tle lower to the ground, avert­ing their nip­ples in grief.

But re­ally, it doesn’t need to be a to­tally down­cast af­fair – not like a mid­dle-class WASP wake, where some­one plays Wind Be­neath My Wings on re­peat and ev­ery­one weeps qui­etly about how the dear de­parted has gone too soon.

In re­al­ity, it should be a lot more like a rowdy New York Ir­ish wake, where ev­ery­one gets drunk and laughs un­til they spit black-and-tan out their noses retelling the story about how the dear de­parted lost his pants and had to run six blocks home wrapped in pa­per tow­els.

I’ll al­ways think of Mel­bourne’s Com­modore de­sign labs like Wonka’s choco­late fac­tory, a won­drous dream-forge pow­ered by gig­gling en­thu­si­asm and rivers of ob­nox­ious Spit­fire Green paint. I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber the Com­modore, not by its sales fig­ures or its P&L spread­sheets, but by the cheek-cramp­ing grin it could give you fir­ing up an LS3 V8 on a cold morn­ing, or by the date-tight­en­ing surge it de­liv­ered when you kicked it in the ribs.

Don Brad­man was bowled for a duck in his last in­nings; Usain Bolt was out­paced by a grand­mother with a walk­ing frame in his fi­nal race; but that’s not what we re­mem­ber them for. Let’s re­mem­ber the lo­cally built Com­modore the way it should be re­mem­bered: Not how it went out, but how it lived, tear­ing up the Moun­tain with Brocky’s mul­let flow­ing ma­jes­ti­cally be­hind, or blow­ing plumes of tyre smoke to cel­e­brate gen­er­a­tions of Aussies get­ting their P-plates and their first used car.

The Com­modore is dead. Long live the Com­modore.

Oh, and the Camry, I sup­pose.

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