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1980 - 1990

Holden VC Commodore
Toyota Corona

At the beginning of the 1980’s the 3 big car manufacturers were still producing vehicles, Holden, Ford and Chrysler. However it was not long until Chrysler sold the company in 1981 to Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd. The 80’s were the time of fuel efficiency and new laws to try and stem pollution made by the growing car industry. The battle lines were drawn by Holden bringing forward the Holden Commodore into the 80’s with excellent fuel efficiency, something Fords muscle cars were lacking. The Commodore wasn’t just fuel efficient it was also a racing car, with a HDT Commodore (Peter Brock’s version) being released. Ford was battling with rising fuel prices and gas guzzling muscle cars.

Fuel Crisis

Ford was struggling for a replacement for the failing Falcon XD, considering reworking already established European Ford cars. These projects were subsequently cancelled and Ford went back to enhancing the Falcon, but with pressure from the Government due to strict pollution rules, and a fuel crisis, Ford were stuck. That year also saw Peter Brock win the Bathurst 1000 again, this time in the Holden Commodore. By 1982 the fuel crisis eased and Ford released its new more fuel efficient and powerful XE Falcon. The Falcon eclipsed sales of the Holden Commodore and began its 6 year stint as the best selling Australian car. By the end of 82’ Holden had released 3 versions of the Commodore, the VH Commodore being the latest, despite slipping behind in sales. The VH won at the Bathurst 1000 that year.

Holden VS The Rest

Holden VS Ford continued into the middle of the decade with Mitsubishi and Toyota battling it out for the rest of the market. Toyota had started out building engines locally after buying out British Leyland and eventually assembling full cars, including the rear wheel drive sedan Corona T140 series. Whereas Mitsubishi having brought out Chrysler, focused on the Sigma based on Chryslers designs. However, they never challenged the might of the Ford and Holden’s race cars, with the Commodore winning the Bathurst 1000 in 83’ and 84’ before being dethroned by the Jaguar XJS in 85’. Holden had continued to release smaller 4 and 6 cylinder cars in including the JD Camira and the RB Gemini. It wasn’t until 1986 that Holden added V8 engines back into their models with the VL Commodore.

Holden claimed back the Bathurst 1000 title for two consecutive years in 86’ and 87’ still in the Commodore. The Ford Falcon XF turned out to be the best selling model in the history of the Ford Falcon range and would not be replaced until the 1988 release of the EA Falcon. 1988 saw the end of the Ford Falcon dominance with the release of the VN Commodore, the body work was larger than the previous model. This meant that the size of the car matched that of the Ford Falcon, so it became more appealing to Australians. That year also saw the release of the MF Barina which was subsequently marketed under many different manufacturers, more notably, the Suzuki Swift. The Isuzu Faster Japanese made Ute was put into production by Holden and marketed as the Holden Rodeo.

The Big 3

By the end of the decade, Holden had reclaimed its number 1 spot as Australia’s top car manufacturer, taking over from Ford. However, 88’ and 89’ saw the Ford Sierra win the Bathurst 1000 for those consecutive years. Although the Ford Sierra was heavily sold in New Zealand, it was never commercially sold in Australia, only being used for Touring Car championships. Toyota began to make its move into the top 3 Australian car manufacturers replacing Chrysler and overcoming Mitsubishi. This was largely in thanks to Holden sourcing cars from them, such as the Holden JK Apollo. Isuzu also became a prominent Japanese manufacturer in Australia, in a merger with General Motors forming Isuzu-General Motors outsourcing to Holden. Ending the year with the Holden Commodore as the bestselling car, Ford had to come up with something special going into the 90’s.