With the revelation that the next-generation Commodore will be based on the FWD Opel Insignia (albeit with an AWD version as well), Holden has opened a new chapter in the book of Commodore. Today we take a look at Five slightly obscure facts about the Holden Commodore.
The very first Commodore was, rather controversial at the time, basically an Opel Rekord with a new nose grafted on it (sound familiar?) with engines carried over from the HZ Kingswood. But when it came time to produce a wagon version Holden were a bit stuck - because the wagon sheet metal had to be imported from Opel in Germany it wasn’t as quite a seamless process as Holden may have liked. This was particularly obvious when it came to the keys - the VB wagon had one key for the ignition and doors, but another separate one for the rear hatch…
While Commodore success became commonplace at the annual race at the legendary Mt. Panorama circuit in New South Wales, neither the original VB, nor the VN from 1988 had any success there. And it wasn’t due to any lack of motorsport success on the part of the VB, as Peter Brock’s HDT team took the championship in emphatic fashion in 1980 in a VB, but Bathurts success eluded it. The VN, on the other hand, was largely one of the many victims of the dominance of the mighty Nissan GT-Rs that had a stranglehold on The Mountain in that era of the sport.
As well as never winning at Bathurst, the VN also suffered the ignominy of being sold as a Toyota in Australia. Under the misguided “Button plan” the Australian government forced on local manufacturers in order to reduce the amount of protection they received via import tariffs, Holden sold a number of Toyota models rebadged as Holdens - the Holden Apollo was a Camry and the Holden Nova was a Corolla. In return Toyota got to sell the VN Commodore as a Toyota Lexcen, but only with a 3.8-litre engine. It didn’t work and Aussies largely ignored the badge-engineered cars.
Back in the mid-1990s General Motors first started teasing Holden about producing a left-hand drive version of the Commodore for US consumption. This led GM to give Holden a large sums of money and tell it to go away and sort a LHD version of the forthcoming VT platform. The result was displayed in the Buick XP2000 concept of 1995, which, apart from the nose, gave away a few early glimpses of the VT’s styling. GM chickened-out, however, and Holden used the engineering development it did to sell LHD VTs into Asia, Brazil and the Middle-East as Chevrolets.
While there is currently outrage over the next-gen Commodore being based on an Opel, the VE and VF are actually the only Commodores NOT based on an Opel! Everything from the 1978 VB right through to the 2006 VZ was based on the GM V Platform developed by Opel in the 1960s. The Europeans finally dropped the ancient platform in 2003, but Holden soldiered on with it until the VE’s development saw the introduction of the Australian designed and engineered Zeta Platform in 2007. The Zeta platform would also be used under the fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro before being replaced by the Alpha platform-based sixth-gen Camaro.