Cars of Australia – March 2012

Although we hear of the increasing globalisation of all sorts of things including the car markets, it is clear that there are still considerable differences in needs, tastes and budgets around the world, so it remains quite hard for any manufacturer to offer exactly the same products in places as diverse as Western Europe, America, emerging markets such as Africa or China and affluent but vast countries such as Australia. That means that a visit to an unfamiliar country, as well as offering all the other tourist delights, can also fascinate the car enthusiast, who may even struggle to identify all the vehicles that they see on the road. I knew from my 2003 visit to Australia that I would find not just an array of Holdens and Ford Falcons but all sorts of other things, some of which would look familiar but sport unexpected badges and some of which would not even look like anything I had seen before. In the interests of creating a photographic record of some of the less familiar cars that I saw, I present this report which thread which illustrates just some of those cars that you may not have seen before unless you have also visited the Antipodes.There is huge diversity of product on show. Although top selling cars like the Holden Commodore are much in evidence, the rather unscientific conclusion from just observing cars on the roads of the southern half of the country is that Australians buy at least a few of everything, so there are all sorts of different models to see. It would also seem that they have ignored the trend in Britain and other European countries increasingly to choose from thirteen different shades of grey, as brightly coloured cars are clearly popular.  With a favourable climate, and no salt on the roads, rust has not claimed cars like it has in Britain, so you do also see a lot more cars that are 20 or 30 years old, clearly still in daily service. What you don’t see in huge quantities are prestige European cars, such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes, and I discovered that the reason for this is that there is a massive tax levy on the purchase and running costs for such cars.

Many of the more unusual cars that I saw were whilst I was driving, or caught off guard, so this report only presents a relatively small subset of the interesting things I saw. Here are the ones that I did photograph, though.


There are quite  a few Alfas on Australian roads, with examples of all recent models in evidence. The only one that I managed to photograph was this facelifted 33 car.

I had stopped in a pull-off to take pictures of my car when this one drove past. Wow! A Sapphire 234, a very rare car in the UK, but to see one in Australia was definitely unexpected. Thinking that was it, I completed my photos, and drove on, only to come across this car parked up, giving me the chance to photograph it. As I was doing so, the owner emerged from the cafe by which it was parked. He told me he thought that there are about 6 of these cars in Australia and he likes it, as he “likes eccentric old things”. It is certainly that! Not a particularly well rated car when it was new, the Jaguar 2.4 that was launched at the same time finished it off.

You don’t see many American cars in Australia as the lack of right hand drive is more or less a show stopper, so imagine my surprise when walking from my hotel to the car park around the corner when I came across this vast behemoth, a 1976 Eldorado Coupe!

This fabulous 1966 Fleetwood Eldorado Convertible was parked up outside the Marriott in Sydney and was creating lots of interest. The owner was on hand and he was only too happy to let people sit in it and pose for pictures.  
The Chinese are just starting to sell cars on the Australian market and this is one of the first brands to put a toe in the water, the Chery G7. It was the only Chery I saw in three weeks.

Another American Classic, this Stylemaster dates from around 1950.

The rest of the world would probably think that this is a Mitsubishi Sigma, but in Australia, these cars were badged as a Chrysler.

In effect, that Sigma was the follow on to this, the Centura, an Australian adaptation of the European Chrysler 180/2-litre. Even though it sported a large 4 litre engine, it was not successful, and with all the cars now 35 years old, it was quite a surprise to find this example parked up at Port Adelaide.
The only Ferraris I saw were in Melbourne and Sydney, which is not entirely surprising, as these cars are far more costly in Australia than they are in Europe. Having spotted a 599 GTO on the street as I drove into Melbourne, I was hopeful of seeing a few more models, and was rewarded the following morning with a couple of 458 Italia cars. The passenger in the black one saw me take the picture and gestured approvingly of my action.

There have been Australian built Falcons since 1960, and as one of the best selling cars on the market throughout the whole of that period, you do see plenty, with those of the most recent three model generations the most prevalent.

Until recently, Ford sold the Falcon in Estate (Wagon) format as well, and these cars were popular as taxis as well as for personal use.
Until the launch of the current FG model Falcon, the upmarket Fords, fitted with larger engines and more equipment, and generally sporting slightly different styling were badged Fairlane. These are examples.
Looking rather like a combination of the US market Freestyle/Taurus X with a bit of previous generation Explorer added for good measure, is the Territory, a popular SUV which has now supplanted the Falcon Wagon in Ford’s range
In 1980, Europe and America got a front wheel drive Escort, but Australia did not. Instead, a mildly modified Mazda 323 was sold, badged as the Ford Laser. This model was then updated at roughly the same time as its Mazda progenitor, meaning that a wide variety of Lasers have been sold, with three and five door hatchbacks, four door saloons and estate models all offered.
It was only in 2002 that the Focus finally went on sale in Australia, and even now it is not a particularly common sight, though I did notice quite a few of the very latest model.
Ford have forged alliances with plenty of other manufacturers over the years. In the 1990s, the cheap (and rather nasty) Kia Aspire was rebadged as the Ford Festiva, just as it was in America.
With the intent that it could replace the Telstar, a badge engineered Mazda 626, under the codename Project Matilda, Ford went to Nissan for a mid-sized car, calling their version of Nissan’s Pintara the Corsair. It was available from 1989 to 1992 as both a saloon and an estate, but neither sold particularly strongly, and when Nissan closed their Australian plant that year, Ford reverted to selling the Telstar. It was only in 1995 that the Mondeo finally debuted on the Australian market.
This glorious F100 pickup was an immaculate visitor at the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary in Victoria..
This is another Chinese brand that is selling cars on the Australian market. I did see several of these X 240s, and also noted several dealers.

The Commodore has topped the Australian sales charts for 15 years, only deposed during 2011 by the smaller and cheaper Mazda 3. With a complex model range on offer for much of that time, there are vast numbers of different Commodore based cars to spot. These are just some.

Holden used the name Statesman for their largest models for a number of years. Although the body style is unique to Holden, you can see definite styling cues from other GM models, with this one having links to the Oldsmobile Cutlass of the time.
The Monaro is better known to us in Europe as a limited number of these cars were sold here, and they acquired quite a cult following for entirely understandable reasons.
The Ute remains popular in Australia, and forms an important part of Holden’s range even now. These are some recent models.
This is one of the first Holden Utes made, an FJ model dating from the mid 1950s.
Dating from the early 1970s was this Kingswood Wagon
The Holden name has been used for all GM products sold in Australia for some time. Over the last few years, almost all of the European Vauxhall/Opel products have been superceded by the Korean Chevrolet/Daewoo built models instead. The Astra survived until the most recent model change a couple of years ago, when the Cruze took over, also replacing the Viva (the local name for the Lacetti/Nubira) and Vectra was replaced by the Epica. At the bottom of the range, the Corsa was swapped out for the Korean Kalos product in 2002, and the name Barina, which was first used on a version of the second generation Suzuki Swift, was first applied. Barina has followed the changes from Kalos to Aveo in its first and most recent guises. This is an example of the recently superceded model.
The Cruze badge has been used in Australia before the 2009 global car arrived too. The first Cruze models were rebadged Suzuki Ignis cars like this one.
Rebadging was something that Holden started to do in the 1980s, expanding their range with alliances with both Nissan and then Toyota. As a successor for the largely unloved Camira (Holden’s version of the J Car we knew as the Cavalier), two generations of the Camry became the Holden Apollo, and are distinguished from the donor cars by different grilles and lights. They did not sell particularly well, and the venture was ended in 1996, when the Vectra was launched to replace the Apollo.
Prior to this, Holden had gone to Nissan to get a small hatchback, and the Cherry/Pulsar was modified to meet this need, and badged Astra. .
Honda’s range in Australia is only partly the same as that for European markets. Confusingly, both the American and European Accord models are sold. A small saloon badged City sits at the bottom of the range above the Jazz. the Civic is offered, but sales in small quantities. There is a car called Odyssey, but this is nothing like the American one with the same badge. Instead it is a clear evolution of the sort of car that bore the badge in the 1990s which was sold in Europe.

This is the “Big One”, the H1. It was paused at traffic lights outside my hotel right in the middle of Adelaide.

This splendid Mark V saloon was on wedding car duty in Adelaide.

This is the only Lamborghini I saw in three weeks. It was parked on a 15 minute parking slot in Fremantle for many hours and whenever I went past it, there always seemed to be quite a crowd of people looking at it and taking pictures of it.

This (rather battered) Lantis is a 4 door version of the shapely 323F Hatchback which proved popular in the UK in the mid 1990s.

The familiar BMC Mini was made in Australia until 1978, and I saw a couple of these models out on the streets.

Locally produced Mitsubishis sold strongly in the 1990s, and the cars were even exported around the world. Mainstay of the range was this, the Magna, which was offered in saloon and estate form. Up spec models were called Verada and were particularly well equipped.

The last locally produced car was this, the 380, a variant of the current Galant. Just over 31,000 of these were made before production ceased in 2008.
From 1978, Pulsar was the name adopted by Nissan for cars that in Europe continued to use the Cherry badge on them. Frequent updates were made. The N12 model, known still as the Cherry in Europe, first appeared in 1982, and subsequently formed the basis for the ill-fated Arna venture with Alfa Romeo.

The Pulsar continued to evolve, with the nameplate being used on cars that Europe knew as the Sunny in 1986 and 1991. The N15 cars were called Almera in Europe, but for Australia the Pulsar badge lived on. When the next car, the N16 was launched in 2000, the differences between the European Almera and the Pulsar/Sentra/Sunny/Bluebird Sylphy became more obvious. Whilst Europe concentrated on the hatchback models, it was the saloon that was sold everywhere else. This is one of the last cars sold before its place was taken by the four and five door Tiida (the car sold as Versa in America).
The latest large Nissan is badged as Maxima in Australia. This car is closely related to the Japanese market Teana.,
This car was parked up on the side of the road in a small town in rural Victoria. As it’s such a long time since I had seen a Datsun 180B Bluebird like this, I just had to stop and get a couple of pictures. I’m not sure that the large sign in the windscreen is strictly true, as when these cars were new they were more renowned for their reliability and high standard of equipment rather than for the sense of fun that came from them.
In the late 1980s, the Bluebird name lived on, being used in Europe for the first British built cars. That model was known as the Auster in Japan, and was more closely related to the Stanza than the Japanese Bluebirds. As if this was not confusing enough, Nissan used the name Pintara for Australian mid-range cars with two distinct generations of the car offered. The first models were offered both as saloon and estate cars, and the second generation came as a saloon and a five door hatch called Superhatch which was then exported to Japan. The model ended production in 1992 when Nissan closed their Australian manufacturing plant.
A lovely classic 911

Not a big seller in the Australian market, but I did spot this car parked up on the streets of Perth, the Latitude.

This very early model R4 was parked up on the side of the road in a little village in rural nowhere in South Australia.
In the early 1980s, Toyota in Europe squeezed the first front wheel drive Camry into the range, between the Carina II and the Cressida, creating a range of cars that were very similar in size. But in other markets they had even more choice, with the long lived Corona nameplate being of similar size. Australia continued to see cars badged Corona in the 1980s and this is an example of the genre.

This Wagon version of the fourth generation Camry was clearly quite popular as despite the cars now being over 10 years old there are still plenty on the road. As far as I know, the design was unique to this market.
Toyota abandoned the Camry in Europe a few years ago, but it is the mainstay of the Australian range, looking very similar to the US market cars. It is not the largest Toyota saloon in Australia, as a variant of the car, with different front and back is also sold, called Aurion.
Toyota did not use the Yaris name for the first generation cars in Australia, preferring the Japanese market Vitz instead. The saloon models like this one, though, were called Echo, as they were in America.
I was familiar with this car, as it looked like a Scion as you would find in America., But here it is called the Toyota Rukus.
This is another familiar looking vehicle, as it is popular in America as the Highlander. In Australia, it is called Kluger.
Despite spending three weeks amassing photos for this thread, there was so much more that I saw, from classics such as the Morris Major, Porsche 356 and Mercedes 190SL all out enjoying a weekend drive in the sun, to more prosaic but unfamiliar cars such as the Toyota Tarego (an updated version of the Previa), a sedan version of the current ford Fiesta, the latest Ford Territory, Holden’s Adventura, an answer to the Audi A6 Allroad, all of which escaped the camera but not my gaze.
2012-04-08 10:14:44

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