Great Automotive Rivalries: Commodore vs. Falcon

Classic Cars

The Australians are also obsessed about their V8 muscle cars to a point that not all Americans are fully aware of.

What would happen to the Mustang vs. Camaro rivalry if you turned it upside down, gave it a funny accent and then made everyone involved much, much bigger drinkers? Welcome to Australia’s version of the Ford vs. GM rivalry. On the surface, the rivalry might seem to be about the same as it is when it comes down to a choice between Ford and Chevy, but it isn’t. The Australians take it much more seriously, and allegiances are passed down within families.

Ford’s presence in Australia began in 1925, when it quickly slapped together a factory in order to locally produce the Model T. Ford Australia grew quickly, and it was only a few years before it was building Australia-specific models. Holden is a much older company, having first gotten into business making saddles, branching out into cars in 1908 and becoming a part of GM in 1931. The companies were always competing with each other, but it was only a few decades later that members of the public really started to care. There were two big contributing factors in this.

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The first was the start of the Armstrong 500 in 1960, an annual race which has since evolved into the Bathurst 1000, also known to many Australians as "the big race". There have been a number of different marques which have won this race, but the overwhelming number of them have been won by either Ford or Holden and there have been quite a few years when these where the only marques to participate at all. The race weekend has now evolved into something much more than a simple motorsports event, but more on that later.

A few years after the start of the Armstrong 500, the North American Mustang would debut, and this would kick off a whole new era of cars both in the US and in Australia. Down under, this would come in 1966, when a new generation of the Falcon debuted with the option of the same 289 V8 that was found in the Mustang. This was advertised as a "Mustang bred Falcon", and Holden would respond with a muscle car of its own: the 1968 Monaro. The Falcon is still the Australian flagship for Ford performance, but Holden fans now tend to look up to the Commodore. Australian muscle car history is not so different from ours in America.

There was the rise in the mid Sixties, the decline in the mid Seventies, and then the slow working back toward today, when they offer some really great muscle cars again. But unlike in America, where the decline of the iconic pony cars was accompanied by a drop-off in their involvement in motorsports, no such drop-off occurred in Australia. Aussie race fans have had an annual motorsports pilgrimage going since 1960, and fathers have passed their brand preference on to their sons. The brands even have colors associated with them, with Holden being red and Ford predictably being blue, and fans wear these colors for race weekend.

Fights have been known to break out between the two different factions, and authorities have begun limiting the amount of alcohol which spectators are allowed to bring in. This limit has been in place since 2007, and to give you an idea of why Australians think you’re a wuss, that limit is set at 24 cans of beer per person per day. Of course, this is only for high-alcohol beer. Those who drink lower-alcohol beer (such as what is unfortunately more common in the US) are allowed 36 can a day. Wine drinkers, although it’s difficult to imagine there are many, are allowed 4 liters per day.

If there is a limit on whiskey or just generally being a psychopath, it hasn’t been widely reported. Australian brand allegiance is therefore still very much like it was in America in the late Sixties and early Seventies. There are still plenty of Americans with this attitude, but it is far more common Down Under. It’s still a good ol’ rivalry over V8 muscle cars. Awesome.

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