Farewell To Australian Muscle
The End Of An Era

In a matter of weeks, Australia’s automotive manufacturing industry will be reduced to nothing more than a memory. 70 years of industry, innovation, and tradition will be gone forever.

Also gone is the prospect of any true Aussie muscle cars in the future. It’s a shame really, because for all of their shortcomings, both Holden and Fords’ homegrown performance solutions transformed generations of regular Australians into hot blooded petrol-heads. The impending factory closures have been a hot topic recently, and my senses seemed to unconsciously steer me closer to the locally produced vehicles as I navigated the halls of Sydney’s Meguiar’s MotorEx.

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While I can appreciate a well built Falcon or Monaro, I’ve never been a die-hard enthusiast of the locally produced Fords or GM Holdens. Still, I can’t help but feel as though the death of local manufacturing marks a significant loss for car lovers across the entire globe. We’re losing something special, something unique and, in my eyes, something irreplaceable.

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I’ll guarantee local suppliers will try their hardest to fill the sales floor void with specially stickered-up versions of their imported options. No doubt some of these sportier variants will even be fun to drive, but will they ever come close to truly emulating Australian muscle?

Irreplaceable

Initially, the principals behind creating Aussie muscle seem to be quite simple, almost agricultural up until the most recent decade.

Step 1: Find the largest, thirstiest V8 engine available at the time.

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Step 2: Add a set of larger rims. Bigger brakes seemed to be purely optional on older models.

Step 3: Create a new badge, preferably one that begins with the letter ‘G.’

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Step 4: Shoehorn all this new equipment into a conservative family saloon.

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Step 5: Prove your project by racing said new car at the Bathurst 1000, Australia’s most challenging motorsport event. Winning back to back should guarantee an almost God-like status amongst fans.

Of course, I’m over simplifying and making light work of the process; if only it were this simple. We’d certainly have nothing to lament if creating a replacement was this easy. There’s still a missing piece of the puzzle; that unexpected beauty that lies in the simplicity.

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You see, the real classics, modern included, all exhibit an intangible quality. Aussie muscle isn’t rocket science. It’s all there, right in front of you, yet I still can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that made some of Australia’s most iconic cars so, well, iconic.

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Perhaps it’s the raw brutishness, or maybe it’s the absurdity of auto manufacturers throwing stupid amounts of extra power into cars that were designed to be taxis for the masses. Even without being able to define what has made our cars so unique, there’s not mistaking Aussie muscle for cars from other corners of the globe. Not even when you’re looking at the American muscle cars of the 60’s and 70’s they were trying so hard to emulate.

There’s an unmistakable charm surrounding the original generation of Aussie muscle cars like the Ford GTHO Falcon and Holden GTS Monaro. As simple as they first seem, they’re greater than the sum of their parts. Like all true classics, they captivate, fascinate and command attention.

The Future
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The V8 Enforcer featuring in the Mad Max films was probably the international audience’s first real glimpse of Australian muscle. The 1973 XB Ford Falcon coupe’s transformation into a post-apocalyptic warrior turned it into one of the world’s most iconic movie cars, but the majority of parts were aftermarket items bought off the shelf. Pretty wild, right? Would the movie, or the Enforcer, have had the same level of impact if based on a Mustang or a Hyundai? These are the limited options in this brave new world.

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Most children growing up in Australia are forced to choose sides at an early age. Actually, choose is the wrong word; 99 percent of the time your allegiance was determined by the color your parents (and their parents) chose to fly during the Bathurst 1000. Holden Red or Ford Blue. Times might be different now, but I remember the battle being pretty serious back in primary school. Friends could be made or lost depending on the color of your lunch box.

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Looking to the future where cars are simply imported, rather than being built by the hands of friends and family, is it likely that your favorite car will still play such a major part in schoolyard politics? Will tomorrow’s children argue how the merits of a Mercedes-AMG outweigh the raw performance of the latest Nissan GT-R? Or will cars simply become just another boring utility like a fridge or a washing machine? Hopefully, future generations care enough to continue the family tradition of sharing spanners and building family projects together.

Australia is vast and unforgiving land; our ability to drive, to cover great distances, has played an important role in our overall independence. Cars, auto manufacturing and the icons of Aussie muscle have all been an important part of Australian culture my entire life. Indeed it’s a legacy that’s spanned generations.

It’s uncertain how important the automobile will remain to Australians in the future. Either way, I’m certainly thankful for the car-centric Australia that I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up with.

As dire as I’ve made the future sound, we’re still in good hands for a few years yet. We can count on the creative and passionate folk in garages around the nation to preserve the memory of the Australian Dream for as long as possible. Hopefully, some enthusiasts will even continue to modify and reshape their classics into their own ultimate versions.

Farewell Aussie muscle, you will be missed.

Matthew Everingham
Instagram: matthew_everingham
matt@mattheweveringham.com

The Cutting Room Floor
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36 comments

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1

For some reason I actually dig the giant wheels. Some cars lend themselves to the look I suppose.

2

Some absolutely incredible cars....... and then.......... Over sized Simmons. Yawn.

3

Yeah, but to that extent, the same could be said for jap cars with with 14's etc.

4
Miles Hayler-MacMillan

As a Pom who only moved here 5yrs ago, I never understood the obsession with these cars.

And I think you summed up pretty well why they're dying:
"...for all of their shortcomings..."

5

Shortcomings? You mean like the R35 GTR's weak transmission when it first came out and voiding warranties for using launch control LOL? Or all those Toyotas that got recalled? MK3 Supra headgasket failures?

Author6
Matthew Everingham

Growing up as a fan of technology over 'cubes' I would have agreed with you but after spending a considerable amount of time around these classics (and the not so classic builds too) they've really grown on me. They're so unique in the world of cars. Like musicians, most people won't appreciate them until they're all gone.

7
Miles Hayler-MacMillan

And the uncompetitive costs, and lack of government support of course!

8

To much government support. Why should the gov keep bailing out car companies? Poor build quality and bad value for money compared to imports, perhaps due to overt union collusion with workers, has kept buyers away. But if you meant high tax on cars then I'd agree there needs to be more gov support.

9
Miles Hayler-MacMillan

I'm not saying they should, but that they previously had, and it's what people seemingly expected. I can think of far better places for governments to spend our dollars!

10

Its not the govt's problem or the build quality its that Production costs in Australia are higher and instead of taking a bit of a hit in the profits greedy corps (GM + Ford) pass those costs onto the consumer and basically price themselves out of the market. Move production to a cheaper country like China, Taiwan etc use the same designs and technology and produce a similar car but at a fraction of the costs. Capitalism at its finest.

11

No big loss. They are about as interesting as fossils anyway. Purely for the boofheads.

12

I'm classic Jap Sports Car with turbo 4 cyl owner & I love the sound of a blown v8 or throwing a clunking old torana with a 4 speed around.

Author13
Matthew Everingham

I think dinosaur fossils are interesting, but I guess I'm just a boofhead. :p

14

Maybe no big loss in the demise of the muscle car scene, but seeing any period race car is cool. The guys pedaling classic touring cars at your local race track are far from the label of "boofhead".

15

There should be no such thing as cars built for the entire world.

Since every country has its own culture, environmental conditions, fuel availability, degrees of urbanization, etc., each country should have vehicles to suit those conditions.

America should have different cars from Australia, Germany should have different cars from Japan, Saudi Arabia should have different cars from Bolivia, etc.

At most, a particular platform should be built for a region, not the whole of the Earth.

They say diversity's a good thing, so I want a world full of Falcons, GTOs, Skylines, Atoms, S-Classes and Alpines. A world of straight-sixes, V8s, turbo-fours, flat-sixes and everything else we can dream up.

Not different configurations of skateboard chassis and electric motors.

16

A guy outside Chicago used to have a 100-point replica of The Last of the V8 Interceptors, and I got a chance to check it out at a restaurant parking lot when I lived there.

It's the most visually-threatening car I've ever seen - even more so than a GNX, and that's saying something.

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17

The Nankang script on the tyres kinda spoils the authenticity of that beautiful Monaro GTS

Author18
Matthew Everingham

#StronglyAgree.

19
MPistol HVBullets

I swapped my Chevy SS badges to Holden Commodore badges just to try to show some respect for what the Aussie's created. Even fly an Australian flag (sticker) on the passenger side of the car - US flag on the driver side - but everywhere I go, I've got people dying to know what the hell I'm driving. And I mean everywhere. I've got people pulling up in my driveway at home to ask questions about it. So despite the sadness of losing what you had - it wasn't forgotten. And that "global" approach to car making, got this American to notice what you were doing down under, and I appreciate it.

Author20
Matthew Everingham

That's awesome to hear, mate. In Australia, Most performance Commondoor (Commodore) owners think that changing to Chevy badges is the quickest way to add 15kW to the rear wheels. I'm glad your adding some balance back to the force.

21

I feel like as an American the Australian muscle cars seem much cooler than domestic muscle cars, especially aftermarket. Like in America you almost never see anyone driving a muscle car with a blower sticking out the hood. And almost never have I seen a 4 door muscle car, it wasn't until the SS came overseas from down under did I ever see a 4 door muscle car, and those were already rare. The Australians to be honest did muscle better than the Americans did, even today.

22

Literally zero of those cars ever get driven on the road.

23

Hypodermic, you need to get out more on the streets of sydney. On most cruise nights, blowers, tunnel rams etc are a common sight.

24

All I see is cars getting defected for having a BOV, bigger than stock wheels or having a pod filter.
In the 5.5 years ive lived here I've never seen a car with a blower / bug catcher driving around legally, anywhere in Aus.
The cops here are the definition of anal.

Author25
Matthew Everingham

While a good number of the cars doing the show circuits sit parked pretty in garages, I know of quite a few blown/mental cars that somehow hit the streets on a regular basis. This might be even be worth a story later on down the track. :)

26

Hypodermic, are you referring to cars with superchargers out of the bonnet? If so, the local car club in my area has a few cars like that (quite a few actually), and they get brought out every time they car a club run. And that's every few months. So they definitely are street driven.

27
MPistol HVBullets

as far as sedans (and the envious ute's) without a doubt, Australian cars were always an envy of mine - otherwise you were left with the German cars in America for performance sedans........ but I do think America, at the moment, the Camaro and Mustang are the best coupes they've ever been

28

Just sent this article to my good friend in Australia who is building a Commodore SSV. Putting down 450hp at the wheels with a 6.0L. I asked him if he knew what lead up to this and here's his response.

"mixture of government, economy and just plain stupidity by Holden. The dealerships or stealerships I like to call them, killed it. There's no quality after care, once you drove off the car lot car sales would be rubbing there hands together and that was that. If you had any issues they didn't want to know about it, or if under warranty they wouldn't fix it properly, there useless, they lie, and people got sick of it. But to completely shut down the factory and stop making cars is ridiculous, then import a horrid looking shitbox front wheel drive and call that a Holden Commodore that's just plain insulting. So guna hang onto mine, all upgrades I do, I keep the stock parts, so far I hav all original pieces for the car if needed."

29

As Matthew said, cost of labour has alot to do with it. I'm a sales rep for a national performance parts company & I earn nearly double what my american equivalent does. Everyone complains that aussie companies charge more, well, it is because we have to. It costs more to do business here.

Author30
Matthew Everingham

All good points and a good perspective, but there's also a lot to do with the cost of labour in Australia, and city dwellers buying different styles of cars to suit newer needs. E.g. More SUV's and more smaller city cars, less larger family saloons, which were the bread and butter of Aussie Manufacturers.

31

It's the vw mentality that's killed off the commodore. Some ex-vw boss actually said the rwd poses no real advantage over fwd so now the old rwd v8 commodore is going to be a boring imported vauxhall insignia with a v6 at the top if the range. Goodbye Aussie muscle indeed.

32

I'm sure the real issue was they couldn't compete with any of the imports elsewhere, if they made Germans and Americans and Japanese want to buy the cars in a profitable amount they (Aussie v8's) would be doing fine, but if you can't sell it abroad let alone at home how many options are left as a business?

33

The Grange with the braking pararchutes!!!!!
Luxury drag racer? Only in Australia!
Even tho the Commodore and the falcon are no longer in production their spirit will live on in the mod scene here.

Author34
Matthew Everingham

Let's hope so!

35

I'm a huge fan of all kinds of cars for all kinds of different reasons. I love the creativity that some people have. But, I just have a hard time connecting with the Aussie styling. I think the main thing for me is the wheel size they go with on a lot of the cars. I like the old muscle with more meaty tires. Those look great. But the wheel sizes on some of those cars............eh, just not my thing I guess. To each their own.

36

Thats the show scene here if it doesn't have big wheels and isn't painted in the right brand of paint it wont judge well. Theres show winners on leaf sprung rear ends with shiny paint and polished parts meanwhile cars with fully custom chassis and suspensions and insane bodywork get ignored because they don't fit the mold. Judging needs a shake up.

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