Plus a few gems from HSV.
General Motors today announced the saddening news that it will shut down Holden, its Australian car division, after 165 years in business. Holden already stopped producing its own cars back in 2017, being relegated to selling rebadged versions of other GM models like the Chevrolet Equinox. Throughout the company's many decades in business, it managed to produce some legendary cars. Only a small handful of Holden models were ever offered in the United States but some were so heralded, tales of their greatness spread even in the pre-internet days. Here are a few of our favorites.
We couldn't possibly talk about Holden without mentioning the Australian ute. Though the idea is originally attributed to Ford, Holden's version is the one we covet most due to the availability of a high-performance HSV Maloo version. Most Holden utes were basic utility vehicles, similar to the original Chevy El Camino. But unlike the El Camino, which died back in 1987, Holden kept making the ute long into the 2010s. A range of engines was available but the coolest versions were powered by Chevy-sourced V8s.
The Holden Monaro name was first used back in 1968 as a reference to the Monaro region in New South Wales. We wanted to focus on the third-generation model (built from 2001 to 2006) because it finally gave US car enthusiasts a taste of Australia's excellent car building talents. It was sold in the US as the Pontiac GTO, reviving another legendary nameplate. The GTO was already pretty outdated by the time GM decided to bring it stateside but the latter versions packed an LS2 V8 producing around 400 horsepower.
The Holden Caprice (also known as the Statesman) was a full-size, rear-wheel-drive sedan that was only ever brought to the US briefly as the Chevy Caprice (a police vehicle). Holden positioned the car towards government officials and business people but private owners could buy them in Australia. Most were sold with one of several V6 engines but you could also get a 6.0-liter V8 or a more powerful LS series V8 on the HSV version called the Grange.
The Commodore is the most well-known Australian car outside of Australia and the final version wasn't cheap for GM to develop. The fourth-generation car (known as the VE) was launched in 2006 and, because it was the first Commodore to ever be developed in Australia rather than using an existing Opel chassis, it cost GM around $1 billion to develop. The VE generation GM Zeta platform was used on the sedan, wagon, and ute body styles and even made a brief stint in the US as the Pontiac G8.
The VE Commodore was replaced in 2013 with the VF, also known as the final generation (as the fifth-generation was just a rebadged Buick Regal). This version of the Commodore was also offered in the US as the Chevrolet SS, though Holden's demise made its time as an export quite short. While we prefer the styling of the VE, the VF will always be remembered as the final Holden to ever roll off the assembly line in Australia.
We wanted to include a special section for Holden Special Vehicles (HSV), Holden's performance tuning division. HSV has created some outrageous cars over the years under the nameplates ClubSport (based on the Commodore), Coupe (based on the Monaro), Grange (based on the Statesman and Caprice), Maloo (based on the Ute), Senator (based on the Berlina and Calais), and the GTS (based on the Commodore).
Over the years, HSV used basically every great GM engine you can think of including the LS7 from the Corvette Z06 and the LSA from the Camaro ZL1. The final HSV model, the GTSR W1, was produced in a limited run of just 275 units and packed a 635 hp LS9 from the Corvette ZR1.