They Used To Make Those Here

December 4th, 2018
holden EJ

It is a sad reality that during 2018, almost every new car sold in Australia will have been made overseas.

Until very recently of course, this country built cars on behalf of General Motors, Toyota and Ford. Looking back to the 1990s we also had factories where local versions of popular Nissan and Mitsubishi models were made. All gone now.

Back when this country was a long way from anywhere we built an extraordinary range of vehicles to satisfy local requirements. Most were assembled using kits of imported parts combined with locally-sourced components such as interior trim, glass, tyres and paint.

Before World War 2, North American car companies would send complete rolling chassis for a range of models by ship to Australia. They would then go to automotive body suppliers including Holden (part-owned by General Motors) and T J Richards in Adelaide (a Chrysler affiliate) to have bodies added. Ford since 1927 had built complete cars at its factory in Geelong, Victoria.

Following World War 2, British and European brands became more prominent in local assembly and there was a preference for British models over products from Europe and the USA.

That didn’t stop General Motors adapting a Chevrolet design and calling it ‘Australia’s Own’. In 1948 the first Holden car was delivered, heralding a dominance that would see Holden during the early 1960s achieve a 50 percent market share.

US-based compatriots Ford and Chrysler wanted a slice of that pie and released clones of their North American models too. These almost immediately required significant alteration to meet Australia’s unique market and driving conditions.

The British and European brands had already been down that road. Austin, Morris, Ford UK and Standard with its Vanguard had all been back to the engineers with a litany of improvements that were demanded by local buyers and dealers.

Almost every brand that sold here in any volume offered a commercial version of its passenger models; many of them unique to Australia. They included Morris Minor utilities and panel vans, Vanguard, Ford Zephyr and Austin utilities.

In 1954 came Volkswagen, challenging Morris and Standard for dominance of the small-car market. So satisfied with its ‘Aussie experience’ was VW that in 1957 it established a purpose-built factory in Melbourne to manufacture the Beetle and Kombi commercial vehicles. So successful was its programme of enhancing local content that Beetles by 1962 were approaching 95 percent local content and carrying ‘Made in Australia’ stickers on their rear windows.

The other big success story of the 1950s and ‘60s was Australian Motor Industries. The company that would morph into Toyota Australia started life in 1926 as a subsidiary of Standard and by the 1950s was also assembling Mercedes-Benz. An agreement with American Motors in 1960 saw Rambler cars built and sold by AMI until 1978. A relationship with Triumph (later British Leyland) began in 1963 and lasted a similar length of time.

However it was AMI’s link to Toyota that brought huge success. The first local Toyotas were luxury Crown models and the odd-looking Tiara. It was soon replaced by the modern Corona which would challenge Ford’s Cortina for leadership in the medium market segment.

One quirk of AMI’s approach to vehicle assembly was its sharing of paint colours across its model ranges. The white or Willow Green popular with Toyota buyers might understandably have migrated to the Rambler and Triumph production lines, however it was also possible to find massive Rambler Matadors (of which many sold in black as hire cars) assaulting the eyes in Signal Red lifted from the Triumph 2500 palette of paint selections.

At Enthusiast Insurance we know about all of these uniquely-Australian models. We have most of them listed in our database and we’ve got a pretty fair idea of what they are worth as well.

That means, at any time of the day or night, an owner can access the Quick Quote page at www.enthusiast.com.au and organise on-the-spot insurance on a car they have just acquired or owned for a while.  That’s real convenience.

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