While we’ve had most of the year to get used to a Holden-free marketplace, it’s still an undoubtedly sombre moment — knowing that the once juggernaut-like marque is going to be gone for good in 2021.
In light of this, the NZ Autocar team thought it would be good to pool together our favourite Holden memories from over the years, ranging from incredible launches, to track-day and po-po near misses, to near botched photoshoots … the memories go on and on. So long, Holden. You’ll be missed.
Peter Louisson — Senior Editor
First off, I’d like to say that I always appreciated how generous Holden was with its press vehicles. One time after one of their events I took a Commodore wagon to Phillip Island to watch the opening round of the World Superbikes. To be able to drive right up to the fence and watch the racing from the car is quite something, especially if the weather turns, and it sure can there.
I never owned a Holden and for that I’m not sorry. It’s not that the company didn’t produce some appealing vehicles, particularly in a styling sense. But too often their build quality and interiors let them down, as did their tendency to hang onto horrid drivetrains for too long. I’m thinking Cruze and Trax.
I attended plenty of well run and interesting press events with Holden, and not many clangers either, thanks to Ed Finn and his crew. I unfortunately missed the Chatham Islands finale. Best press drive from my perspective was the jungle drive of the Colorado in Thailand. The on-road drive to the main event was great, mainly interesting and varied highways. But the steep ascent through jungle and poorly formed tracks to the summit overlooking a giant buddha was particularly memorable, and showed just how capable the vehicle was. Glad it hadn’t rained much in the previous 24 hours or we might never have made it.
Kyle Cassidy – Editor
It was quite a moment. It was during our Car of the Year drive down at the old Taupo track, in a VZ Commodore SV6. It was raining, and I reckoned the Holden’s traction control was hindering my awesomeness. I exited the old hairpin and was fumbling for the T/C off button on the console. I duly found it and then 1.2seconds later was swearing and wrenching on the steering to try to correct the slide. But the rear end found the wet grass and I was gone-burger.
My short motoring writer’s career flashed before my eyes, as the big bruising armco barrier came into view. I thought, jeez this going to hurt when, crrruu bang. I’d stopped. Saved by the kitty litter. I’m ok I thought, but then I could see publisher Mark Petch running up the old pit lane. Maybe I wasn’t safe after all.
I later blamed the manual sequential shift mode for initiating the slide, I’d snagged the limiter in second moments after clicking the T/C, but as M.P said afterwards, remember, when you turn the safety button off you need to switch your brain on. Duly noted. The other good part? Louisson was in the dunny at the time and missed it all.
Matthew Hansen — News Editor
Holdens were an integral part of where my passion for cars started. My earliest memory is me asking my mum to change the tape in the VHS recorder during the 1997 Bathurst 1000 — my heart having been crushed by Peter Brock’s early race demise. My first instance of driveway envy was when the neighbours down the road got a VS-generation ClubSport (dark metallic purple on tri-spoke wheels … delicious). And my first-hand experience of speed in any ‘recreational’ capacity was in an uncle’s VT ClubSport.
Maybe my best memory was when I scored one as a press car a few years ago. I was fresh to the whole loan vehicle thing, and it — the last ever HSV ClubSport R8, the 30th Anniversary VF — was just my third ever loan vehicle. It doubled as my first V8, too. That week I drove it as much as possible (much to my wallet’s dismay), and swore to myself that I’d one day have a Holden V8 of my own.
Tom Gasnier – Photographer
As the office’s token Holden fan (there has to be one), it was simply too hard to pick just one memory, so I narrowed it down to these few.
Attending the media launch for the VE Commodore in Australia. I’m fascinated by the engineering side of the automotive industry, so the visit to Holden’s design studio and Proving Ground in Australia was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
During our access-all-areas tour, we got to see first hand every step of the VE Commodore design process from sketching through to clay modelling and to talk with designers and engineers involved. I had only been working for the magazine for a few years at that stage and was largely oblivious to the amount of work involved in designing and building a car. This trip opened my eyes to a whole different side of the industry.
The second leg of this trip saw us visit the Lang Lang proving where we witnessed the new cars being put through their paces around the various handling tracks. But the real highlight was riding shotgun with Holden’s chassis guru Rob Trubiani while he drifted a brand-spanking new SSV around the circuit until the tyres shredded themselves into oblivion …
Later that day on our road drive we had a run in with the boys in blue which afforded us the dubious pleasure of being the first ever VE Commodore to be pulled over by the Police. We were let off with a warning (after the cops had taken a few photos of the car!). Never one to miss an opportunity, I rattled off a few of my own photos of the sheepish-looking journo in front of the Police cruiser which later ended up being published in a book on the VE Commodore’s build story.
Another experience that sticks in my mind involves a brand-new HSV GTS and a can of petrol. I wanted to produce a hero shot for our magazine feature on the new supercharged HSV, so settled on a night time shoot using fire to light the car [photo in lead]. Myself and a fellow photographer set off at dusk to a secluded spot where we could execute our dubious art without any hassle from the public. In our excitement to play with fire, neither of us spotted the big steel gates at the entrance of the access road.
A few hours passed and with a selection of successful shots in the bag, we made our way back to the main road only to find that we had been locked in! With both of our phone batteries dying we frantically made calls to security, in order to try and find the keyholder. At around 2am, after several visits from security guards who didn’t have keys, we finally got released from the carpark, on the proviso that we drove straight to an ATM to pay for our release! Naturally I complied. Despite the drama, the photos were worth the effort, and it’s easily the best $60 I have ever spent on a photoshoot.
The very same car would also feature at my wedding just a few months later. After a polite email to the local HSV manager he very kindly agreed to loan me the GTS (thanks Andrew). There were very few examples of GTS in the country at the time, so it was a real treat to get one to myself for an entire week. Our wedding happened to be at the very top of the country which meant a five-hour drive over some choice roads. I don’t think I stopped smiling (my wallet wasn’t as amused!) for the entire trip.
I kept the car as a secret, including from the wife to be, surprising everyone on the day with a perfectly colour matched and perfectly fitting car. Of course the wedding was memorable for other reasons too, but the experience only served to strengthen my passion for the brand. One day there’ll be an HSV in the garage (Lotto win pending).