A love letter to the Commodore.

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Germany has the Volkswagen Golf. America, the F-150. Japan? That’s gotta be the Toyota Corolla. Britain? Well… They don’t make much of anything anymore but I mean, how much of a representation of Britain is the E-Type Jaguar? I’m going to make a pretty bold statement here and suggest that despite how ubiquitous all of those cars are… I honestly think the best car ever made, is the Holden Commodore.

This one be mine

Is there not a more Australian thing, seeing a VE commodore Ute in a Bunnings? I mean granted there’s no Blue Heeler in the back of it, and I wasn’t in a shearer’s singlet and a cork hat, but still. This is by far the greatest vehicle of my people, the Fourth Generation Commodore.

Holdens have been a big part of my life and the life of my Family. I remember my mum used to consistently get speeding tickets in the black HZ that we used to own. The first car I ever worked on with my parents was a 1974 HQ Wellside ute. This black ute, which I named Leo’s Revenge, is a ute that I bought off a mechanic for $8k, who had repaired it after the old, fat bloke who owned it before me crashed it. So yes, it’s a repaired write-off. It’s also got 250,000 km on the clock. But I don’t know. There’s just something so incredible about this vehicle. Sure, it’s a General Motors product, so not truly Australian in the fact that it’s owned by an American company, but Holden, much like SAAB, desperately tried to resist the GM bean-counters in every possible way, by daring to do things differently.

Holden and SAAB are closely tied in a way. Have you ever driven a SAAB with a 2.8L HFV6 under the hood? Well if you have, chances are that that engine was built in Australia at the Elizabeth plant. In fact, despite its European origins, the HFV6 engine was honed and perfected in Australia, which is why I chose to go with that instead of the V8. Sure, the V8 is more stereotypically Aussie and harkens back to the days when we used to produce V8 engines ourselves (in the form of the hallowed “Iron Lion” 5 Litre and 308 V8s), but in terms of wanting to support Aussie workers, the V6 would’ve been a better choice as that engine was cast and produced here.

The VE Commodore also represented a political truth, that there is a stark difference in the way our parties act. Kevin Rudd and his Labor party helped to save the Commodore (and subsequently Ford and Toyota too), by providing incentives to GM to keep Holden alive during its mass-culling of brands during the GFC. Basically, after US Congress bailed GM out after the GFC, they were ordered to start pruning brands off to cut their operating costs. Saturn, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Hummer and Saab all got the chop, Opel was sold to PSA, and Daewoo became GM Korea. GM also had its crosshairs aimed squarely at Holden, but old mate Ruddy stopped that, by providing GM with a reasonable exit strategy. Essentially, they were to continue through to 2013, where the deal would be re-negotiated by the next government. When the Liberals were in power, they essentially chose not to extend the subsidies, favouring the idea of importing cars from countries where the labour was cheaper. Try as they may though, Labor instilled a defined exit strategy in their contract that was iron-clad, preventing GM from simply fucking off and abandoning all their workers. So as such, they were given a five-year timeframe to retrain and find suitable employment for workers if they did choose to leave the country. As such, in 2013, GM announced that Holden would shift to becoming a full-time importer by 2017… And well, look how that turned out. We got “Commodores” in name only, that did not represent the car that preceeded it. We got a rather competent FWD German saloon car, (that was actually a Peugeot underneath), but that was beside the point. It wasn’t a real Commodore. There was no Ute for starters, and for another, no V8 option, and all the base models were FWD… That’s not what Dazza wants. Dazza wants a RWD skid machine, even in V6 form.

So, in 2020, COVID and slumping sales figures marked the death of Holden. GM pulled out of all RHD markets, in order to reduce costs upon the request of a second bailout.

Now the many and the few out there would argue “Why not let this company fail?”

I would argue that the large bulk of the population are hired in the private sector, and as such they lack the protection of the government… The point of the government is to regulate, and in a sense what Rudd did, was provide an incentive for this big company to continue to directly and indirectly hire people. After all, that’s the point of a government corporate policy. Encourage things that you want from the corporate through incentives, and discourage things through taxation. Don’t want to have big polluting industries? Impose a carbon tax. Want to encourage Auto manufacturing in your country? Provide incentives to the automotive sector. Governments themselves actually suck at producing consumer products like vehicles, what they specialize in is regulation and common-good infrastructure. It’s why the idea of a Toll Road spooks the shit out of me as a Western Australian.

So anyways, enough of my political rant. Why is the Commodore the greatest car ever made?

Simple. It is all cars to all people and as such it embodies the Australian spirit!

American muscle cars are really exclusionary, and are all about the individual. The Mustang and the Camaro are all about the man behind the wheel, his sinewy muscles gripping the leather-bound steering wheel as a 427ci penis extension throbs under the bonnet. Just him and his girl, cruising the open roads, looking for a rival to defeat. America built its society on the back of war and competition. Their biggest export company is Boeing, a company that exports planes, and has a huge stake in the production of the world’s weapons. Walmart as a whole wages war on the small retail sector by just being ruthless in its low prices. America is a country at consistent war with itself, and consistently chasing that individualist idea. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, one does not say that a spider is inherently evil because it has poison that could kill a creature that is a hundred times its own size, Spiders bite, That’s what they do. America fights wars. That’s what it does. As such this consistent battle encages its people and its very identity. Americans constantly fight to seek individualism, and if you’ve ever read the epic poem Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, you can get a general idea of what America is.

Get to the bloody point! Why do Americans like Big pickups and muscle cars? Because Americans as a whole love the idea of living like thousand-dollar-millionaires. Everything is for them. The sky, you deserve it. The grass, you deserve it. This 2015 Mustang with a powerful 5 Litre V8 engine, and the throbbing veiny adrenaline-soaked musk of the dead cows that line the seats, you freakin’ deserve it… If you accept that working hard is the spirit of success.

But Aussies had an entirely different cultural struggle. We were at a considerable disadvantage when compared to our British overlords. We are more interested in completely disregarding the notion of exceptionalism in that regard. We believe that we should be working for our mates, and if we’re going to have a 6.2L under the hoods of our cars, you better believe that the kids and the dog will be coming along for the experience. Yes, some of us are a rough bunch, but you can grant this about our lifestyle. It’s very family centric. It’s a borderline between Family and Individualism. Customising a Commodore isn’t about you. It’s about your mates. When you were a convict, you shared your rations with the rest of your mates. Why? Well if we stick these bits of meat in a pot with the carrots and potato rations we got, a bit of beef stock and some Billy tea on a couple of fires, you get a ripper bloody stew for the entire crew. Aussies are a sharing culture. We don’ t like tall poppies. We always, regardless of if we like them or not, rip on leaders who claim they’re above is. Why? Because we bloody well hate it when someone says that they’re better than the collective. If your boss is a pompous dick who chooses to drive an Audi, we secretly call them a cunt behind their backs. Why? Because… Why you gotta be better than us? Why do you get to exclude yourself from the rest of society? Huh? I bet you’d snitch my arse to the guards if we were on the first fleet huh?

Therein lies the reason why our muscle cars have four doors and trays and have good handling characteristics. We don’t have anything to prove, we get shit done by making things easier. We make things easy because we can’t be bothered doing things the hard way. Why focus on yourself when it’s way, way more efficient to work together? Why buy two Mustangs when a single Ford Falcon will carry the wife and the kids and save me a few bob on the way so I can build a better home for them?

The Commodore is the muscle car of the people. It’s the car that allows you to carry a fridge to your mates house, and then take him out for beers at the pub, then after you’ve sobered up, go to the dragstrip, and whilst he’s in the passenger seat, you can rip the track up and pull 14s at the strip with no hassles. Commodores are all cars to all people. Sure, they lack the interior refinement of a BMW or the technological sophistication of an Audi and the reliability of a Toyota, but that’s the other thing too. Is there not a more Aussie sight than a bunch of neighbourhood dads standing around the hood of a broken-down Holden?

You can grab a case of beer, crack a few tinnies and do a timing chain swap over a weekend at your mum’s house. Too bloody easy! I remember one time, back when I owned my red wagon, where my housemate, a mechanic, swapped my gearbox whilst he was high, and pinging at the same time! Why? Because that’s what mates do. They enjoy life, they work together, and they do things for others, for the sheer sake of being decent bloody people.

This to me, is why the Commodore is the greatest car ever made. It’s a perfect representation of what Aussies can do if we work together. We can produce a world-class saloon car, that only Australians love. Four seats, a big engine, rear wheel drive, simple electronics. What more can you bloody well want?

Well, that’s why I design parts for them.

Beano out.