Unique Cars - - CONTENTS -


Long be­fore the curse that is the SUV came along, Aussie fam­i­lies rode around in sedan-based sta­tion-wag­ons. They rode as well as a sedan, went just as hard, han­dled much the same and, in the case of the XM Fal­con ver­sion, they also looked cooler than a po­lar bear’s bum. From the rear three-quar­ter, that glasshouse and round tail-lights thing still rocks and I’ll take mine in 60s bath­room green with a white roof. Ta. The only catch is that the six-banger is a bit hard to fid­dle with its cast-in-one head and in­let man­i­fold, but who cares. If ever a car said ‘kick back and cruise’ this is it.


I know this is bor­der­ing on local mus­cle, but the GLX was a less of a hard-nut than the VH Pacer yet still man­aged to look tough while of­fer­ing gen­uine prac­ti­cal­ity. The fac­tory code for the GLX op­tion was A16 (I think) and as well as a chance to op­tion up the 318 (in auto only) my pick in the day would have been the 265 Hemi and a four-speed with a floor-shift. These things went hard back then and will still feel pretty good even now. And the elec­tronic ig­ni­tion ad­vance and clever car­bu­ret­tor (ELB) meant that, driven sanely, these could get down to around 10 litres per 100km on the high­way.

HOLDEN VN CALAIS 1988 – 1991

Okay, so you’ve got to get a five-litre V8 ex­am­ple and they’re start­ing to get a bit pricey. And, yes, I know they’re not a steel bumper car. But is it just me, or is the VN shape re­ally com­ing into its own a full three decades af­ter it was first seen? And while they’re not new cars by any means, these old VNs with the in­jected bent-eight and the four-speed auto ac­tu­ally drive like a much more mod­ern car. The two other cars I’ve nom­i­nated here re­quire some pa­tience on the driver’s part… not the VN Calais. Tor­rens has one of these and I’ve rid­den in it lots. It’s beaut.


Al­though way too young to need my own fam­ily car when the R-Se­ries Valiant ar­rived here in 1962, I was so smit­ten that I would have loved my dad to trade the fam­ily Holden in on one. First the per­for­mance avail­able from the amaz­ing 225-cube Slant Six mo­tor made com­pet­ing Hold­ens and Fal­cons look pa­thetic by com­par­i­son. Then there was the flam­boy­ant styling. While Chrysler had been the style kings of Detroit since the late 1950s, its sen­sa­tional Ply­mouths, Dodges and De So­tos had been ex­otics, beyond the reach of or­di­nary Aussie fam­i­lies. But with the R-Se­ries we sud­denly had a snazzy, af­ford­able fam­ily car fea­tur­ing a good serve of Chrysler’s styling chutz­pah.


The ar­rival of the EJ/EH mod­els marked the end of the era of de­riv­a­tive and dated looks for Aus­tralia’s own. The new wag­ons looked as good as the sedans. The EH’s new ‘red mo­tors’ quickly pushed the EJ into the shad­ows, end­ing the 15-year run of the trusty old ‘grey mo­tor’.

A 179 man­ual EH Spe­cial wagon was a hand­some car that cov­ered all the fam­ily’s needs – it was a six-seater with heaps of luggage space, a cham­pion camper teamed with a tent and it was cheap to run and DIY-friendly to main­tain.

Best of all with a 179 man­ual you fi­nally had a Holden that could push the speedo nee­dle to the magic ton (on a down­hill run with a bit of tail­wind).


The Aussie Fal­con re­ally came of age with the ‘Mus­tang-bred’ XR model. Its fresh shapely body styling won ap­prov­ing nods all round. Per­haps more im­por­tantly, thanks to the pre­vi­ous XP model’s clean dura­bil­ity record doubters were fi­nally com­ing to be­lieve that the Aussie Fal­con was truly ‘Trim, taut and ter­rific’, a car that was en­gi­neered and built to meet the de­mand­ing du­ties that fam­ily cars were ex­pected to per­form in our wide brown land.

But as al­ways with me it’s all about the en­gine. The XR Fal­con gets a big tick from me be­cause for the first time a post-war Aus­tralian fam­ily car, the en­try-level model, of­fered a V8 en­gine op­tion – the sweet 289 Wind­sor.


Come on, I could hardly avoid nom­i­nat­ing the last of the Kingswoods, since we bought a sedan way back in 1982 and have kept it ever since.

Putting the own­er­ship is­sue aside for a mo­ment, to me these things rep­re­sent the end of an era and be­come in­creas­ingly un­like the ‘nor­mal’ cars you see scut­tling about the streets these days.

Plus they’re a a very use­able and hand­some clas­sic with enough per­for­mance, han­dling and brakes to cope with mod­ern traf­fic.


As Un-Aus­tralian as it sounds, I don’t feel any de­vout de­vo­tion to the clas­sic Red v Blue – any­thing with wheels seems to catch my eye so this one will be a bit of a mix.

My first pick for an Aussie-fam­ily trans­porter would be the XB Fair­mont. An XW would be lovely but far too ex­pen­sive, and I find my­self more drawn to the XB’s curves. It’s a hand­some thing, and if I could have one with a fac­tory 302 to cruise about in – that’d do me well.


There’s no doubt wag­ons are very much back on the col­lec­tor radar and if I hap­pened to have an HZ truck­ster to go with my sedan, that would be great.

But re­ally, if I was go­ing to all the trou­ble of get­ting an­other car, I’d swing to­wards Chrysler. That’s based on two things: I like the feel of the prod­uct and I reckon this gen­er­a­tion is one of the most hand­some wag­ons, ever.

That light and airy glasshouse, with the big six work­ing away up front – yep, a pretty good way to travel.


The last of the Kingswoods, and a clas­sic in its own right. Thanks to three magic words: “Ra­dial Tuned Sus­pen­sion”, the car steered far bet­ter than its un­der­steer-rid­den pre­de­ces­sors.

Guido found a tasty one for $16,000 000 in a re­cent edi­tion of To­day’s Tempter. pter.

He doesn’t ad­mit to buy­ing it – yet.

V8s are get­ting on in price, but many re­ceived heart trans­plants back in the 80s. I’m not nec­es­sar­ily a ‘numbers- smatch­ing’ sort of guy, so I’ll take what I can get – con­di­tion de­pend­ing.

Give me a wagon, with some lou­vres uvres and a roof rack for the surf­board

I don’t have. It’s a fa­mously (or no­to­ri­ously) sim­ple and spar­tan car but I think that’s part of the ap­peal. al.


This is one of those love-hate re­la­tion­ships. I look at the spec of the Ford coupes of this era and won­der if it would be a smart buy.

But ev­ery time I see one in the flesh, I’m in­stantly drawn to it. The first of our lo­cally-built coupes – al­beit a di­rect lift of the Amer­i­can car – has a fair bit of his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.

Some­how, that long-tail look has sur­vived and just screams six­ties op­ti­mism, par­tic­u­larly with the ‘space age’ tail-lamps. Love it.


Lastly, some­thing a bit more mod­ern to mix it up. The VE chas­sis was a break­through car for Holden, and the R8 Clubsport had a stonk­ing 6.0lt LS2 (6.3lt post-2008), room for five and could be had with a chunky T56 Tre­mec six-speed. These things g are pretty af­ford­able these days, with VE1s hov­er­ing around the low 20s. Again my wagon love shines through as I’d ide­ally take the Tourer based off the Sport­wagon body.

For those af­ter a more mod­ern Aussie fam­ily car, you’d be hard-pressed to go past the VE Clubby.


I love the look and shape of the XB-GT that was so much racier than Holden’s HQ. What’s more it was fam­ily friendly with acres of in­te­rior space to keep ev­ery­one happy. Its big boot eas­ily swal­lowed ev­ery­thing needed for a sum­mer beach hol­i­day. The wrap-around dash looked so cool and then there was the throw-you-back in the seat, tyre-shred­ding grunt that only Henry’s big 351, mated to a four-slot man­ual could de­liver, ac­com­pa­nied by bari­tone ex­haust note. The ex­te­rior was a bit badass with its nos­tril bon­net, sec­tioned grille, mag wheels, front and rear spoil­ers and big GT351 stick­ers on its side and bum. If I did have to tone it down, I’d set­tle for a GS with a 302 V8 and auto box.


If you wanted to make a state­ment, I reckon it’s im­pos­si­ble to go past the Chrysler by Chrysler hard­top.

Of course they’re al­most im­pos­si­bly rare in good con­di­tion and they’re get­ting ex­pen­sive, but if you found one you’d be king of the street.

With that ex­tended wheel­base and power ev­ery­thing, this was the height of local lux­ury. And you got the premium en­gines: ei­ther the 265 Hemi six or the 360 V8. I wouldn’t be too trou­bled about which one you got, though the V8 prob­a­bly suits the long wide and proud Amer­i­cana feel to the whole thing.


I lugged my fam­ily about in one for over a year, where it served duty at­tend­ing sport­ing events, sev­eral nurs­eries, fam­ily gath­er­ings, and as a shop­ping cart, Bun­nings dweller, golf cart, am­bu­lance, hos­pi­tal­ity unit, pet car­rier, bike car­rier, fur­ni­ture van, and oc­ca­sion­ally a week­end war­rior. The GTS was a beaut thing to drive, ex­tremely refined and while it hap­pily poo­tled about the burbs go­ing about its many afore­men­tioned du­ties, point-to-point on a chal­leng­ing piece of black­top, not much could stay with it. Damn I miss it.


Yep, I’m prob­a­bly step­ping into mus­cle car territory here, but the fact is an XR6 is a fam­ily car.

I know be­cause I own a BA XR6 Turbo and it’s been the main trans­port for our young fam­ily for sev­eral years.

It’s had some nig­gling elec­tronic is­sues, but it re­mains a great car.


Call me sen­ti­men­tal. Last but not least I’d have what I be­lieve is the ul­ti­mate Holden Com­modore and their fastest and finest fam­ily ferry. A 2017 VF Se­ries 2 SS-V Redline auto. Its qual­ity, fit and fin­ish is world-class and its per­for­mance per dol­lar un­ri­valled. It has all the bells and whis­tles to keep ev­ery­one com­fort­able, safe and entertained and they are an ab­so­lute de­light to pedal fast and slow. Long dis­tances are as eas­ily un­der­taken as breath­ing and they just look the busi­ness.


No shed is com­plete with­out a scream­ing eight­ies rock­et­ship, and my favourite is the VK Calais.

It’s the gi­ant dig­i­tal dash that gets me ev­ery time I sit in one – that plus the two-tone paint.

And the en­gine? Would a V8 man­ual be too much to ask?

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