In 1969, Peter Brock driving a Holden HT Monaro met Allan Moffat on the mountain at Bathurst. Moffat was driving a Falcon GT-HO … and so began the greatest rivalry of the Bathurst era.
Although ‘Brocky’, as he was known affectionately, placed only third in that race, he soon became a fan favourite. His boyish charm contrasted with Moffat’s taciturnity and the two went on to embody the Ford-Holden ‘war’.
The pair continued to race against one another throughout the 1970s until joining forces at the Mobil Holden Dealer Team in the 1980s, after which they remained firm friends until Brock’s death in 2006.
However, the Holden versus Ford debate was hotly contested in the schoolyard while Brock’s easy good looks attracted more women to the sport.
And the racing cars became aspirational favourites for anyone with a licence and a job or access to credit.
In order to race a car at Bathurst, the manufacturer has to produce at least 200 units for general sale. The Torana, after Brock’s win in 1971 in a Victorian race and multiple wins thereafter, was eminently desirable while the Ford GT-HO was the muscle car to own. However, while the Torana became a standard Holden offering, Ford didn’t produce many of the Falcon GT-HO models.
The cars that defined us
Australia was no doubt behind the US when it came to car worship but the 1970s moved us closer together. For many of us, the first family car was a Holden FJ or an FX (although Holden never used FX and it was officially the 48-215). By the 1970s our parents might have graduated to an EH or an EJ or even a Holden Kingswood (whose name evokes laughter if you’re old enough to remember ‘Kingswood Country’).
So what were the cars that excited teenagers and those in their 20s?
Well, who can forget the Charger (‘Hey, Charger!”) by Chrysler Valiant. While it had sporty lines, most of us didn’t rate Valiant although Chrysler was the third-largest auto manufacturer in Australia at one time.
We tended to stick with what we could afford: a Kombi van that could not only transport your musical instruments to a gig but was also great for surfing safaris, or a Holden EH or an EJ.
The Camaro, another sporty-style vehicle, was regarded as a bit of a compensatory car. The Torana, of course, was the most desirable, not least because it came in a hatchback model from 1975…and an attachable lightweight ‘tent’ arrangement that converted your vehicle into a campervan. However, it didn’t mitigate the popularity of the infamous Holden Sandman, launched in 1974 and clearly designed for recreational use. The bright colours and larger-than-like Sandman logo proclaimed its various uses to the world.
For those who valued comfort and wanted a driving vehicle, the Datsun 180B and the 240Z were the models of choice with the cachet conferred by their speed. And those who needed a sense of community had the Celica and the Celica Car Club with their special acknowledgement to other Celica drivers.
Outliers were the VW Beetle because they were easy to fix yourself, and the Mini, especially the Cooper S model that not only raced at Bathurst but also was used as a police vehicle in NSW and in the UK.
No matter what car you owned in the early 1970s, you were fine as long as it was purple or maroon. Even better if it was painted in metallic purple. You couldn’t lose.
In the end, though, despite (or because of) the foreign influence on our cars, it was considered unAustralian to own anything but a Holden. As the ad went, “We love football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars.”
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