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How well do you know the Australian car culture?
Certain cars are linked to international cultures. In fact, some special cars can actually shape and influence cultures. Cars have always been a huge part of Australian society. Funnily enough, many of our most iconic cars aren’t even Australian by birth, yet have somehow managed to leave their mark and become widely associated with our nation.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane together and break down the country’s top 10 cars that helped to define the Australian car culture.
Known simply as the Aussie panel van, the Holden Sandman was originally marketed as the Holden Kingswood in 1971. But by 1974, it was relaunched as the Kingswood HQ Sandman. At the time, its design was comparatively hip and stylish, and was an instant hit with the younger generation. What gives this iconic wagon such a special place in Aussies’ hearts is its connection to the free-loving sun and sand lifestyle. This car was built for the beach, and was ideal for cramming the whole gang inside and stacking surfboards to ride the waves.
The Valiant made its grand entrance onto the Australian scene back in 1962, resembling a rocket ship on a mission. True enough, the Chrysler Valiant was launched to take on Holden’s EK and Ford’s XL. Despite its futuristic look and considerably higher price, Chrysler sold out its limited run of 1008 Valliants in just a few days. A key reason why Australians took to this car so well is its compatibility with the country’s rugged driving conditions. Powered by a 225-cid slant six making 145bhp, it became one of the most popular sedan choice for the average off-roading Aussie.
How did such a typically German car become a bona fide Australian symbol? It may surprise you that the JPS BMW 635 CSi Coupe was in fact originally conceived for the Australian Touring Car Class in 1982. In 1985, it was piloted by Jim Richards and completely dominated the scene at the Australian Touring Car Championship, solidifying its Aussie icon status.
The first Holden to win at the legendary Bathhurst race, The HK Monaro moniker is the archetypal Australian racing car. Hey, it’s in the name! This race-prepped version of the hard-top Kingswood sedan uses the same small-block V8 found in Corvettes. This officially started the tradition that was passed on to the modern incarnations of the Monaro. Performance is what you expect from a muscle car of the 60s, but it’s the heart and soul that bred a generation of Chevy-powered Holden fans.
The original Aussie muscle car, the 1967 Ford Falcon XR GT inspired a series of similar releases after its launch. Engineered in 1967, the XR GT was the first Australian Falcon to have a V8 and was developed initially as a police pursuit vehicle. But it was on the mountain roads of Bathurst where the XR GT found its home, dominating over the Holden camp which eventually led to their infamous rivalry.
This ‘blue meanie’ is the product of a collaboration between Holden and legendary race driver Peter Brock. This joint endeavour represents a serious attempt to turn a road car into a race car. Destroked to a 4.9 litre to meet Group A racing regulations, pinning power at 196kW, the result was raw and tenacious, and was unsurprisingly the fastest car ever build by Brock.
The Mazda RX-7 turned 40 last year, and I think most would agree it deserves its legendary status. The RX-7 first rose to fame on Australian soil thanks to notorious race car driver Allan Moffat in 1979. Mazda Australia approached Moffat about campaigning a vehicle for the Australian Touring Car Championships. He recognised its big potential after running a test in the US, and boom! The rest is history. The Mazda RX-7 runs on a 1.3 litre 13B rotary engine along with the enviable Group C bodykit.
Released in June of 1978, the 200B SX was a sportier version of the 200B sedan and featured a revised grille, front spoiler, alloy wheels, revised door, seat trim and tachometer. Branded as the iconic ‘Datto’, it was conservatively styled and generally quite understated. But its standout features were its bullet-proof reliability and its unique ability to keep speeding hoons under the limit thanks to its superior 2-litre 72kW motor.
The car that immortalised the letters GT-R, Skyline GTR put a decisive end to the ongoing feud between the Holden and Ford in Group A racing two years after its introduction in 1990. It was even required to run with an added weight so that its competitors could keep up. You could say this is one of the most iconic racing cars in the history of Australian motorsport. It not only left its competition for dead out on the track, but it’s also the reason behind the drastic changes to Australian touring car regulations that eventually led to the introduction of V8 supercars series.
This classic turned 40 years old last year and never fails to inspire nostalgia. The SLR 5000 variant is a highly sought-after model and stood out from the crowd with its signature bold paintjob and the deafening roar from its bent eight engine. Out of the box, you get 179kW and 427Nm of wheel-frying torque.
Did your favourite classic car make the cut on our sentimental list? Let us know in the comments below.