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Historial - What if Holden built the WA Kingswood?

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by Crowny, May 19, 2014.

  1. Crowny

    Crowny Member

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    Hi All,

    I was reading a book the other day called Heart of the Lion which is a history of Holden. It mentions that in the 1977 Holden was originally planning to introduce a model called the WA Kingswood (one year before they actually introduced the Commodore). I have seen concepts of it and it looked very modern for the time and got me wondering whether things would have turned out differently if it had been built. Would Holden have kept the market leadership from Ford? Would they have avoided the factory closures of the early 80s? Would Holden still be manufacturing cars in Australia? Would the Commodore or Camira have been built at all or would the Torana and Kingswood continued for much longer?

    In this book it was stated that it cost more to adapt the Opel Rekord design to Australian conditions than it would have been to design a new car. With this in mind could Holden have spent less money in the design and development and used the savings on new engines. Could fuel injection have been introduced sooner? I would be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this.
     
  2. XUV

    XUV Member

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    Could've been worst, It could've been the Griswold Wagon that seats 9 ........ holiday roaooooooood
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  3. davey g-force

    davey g-force I'm a sceptic...

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    Is 'historial' even a word?
     
  4. ari666

    ari666 250,000 hits

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  5. Calaber

    Calaber Nil Bastardo Carborundum

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    Crowny

    In the mid 1970's, Holden was faced with extremely difficult decisions about which direction to take, principally arising out of actions taken by oil producing countries overseas, which had restricted supplies to world markets and caused serious increases in fuel costs. Car buyers were, for the first time, faced with the need to consider fuel consumption and the vehicles currently under production in Australia were pretty uneconomical. Japanese vehicles had made considerable inroads on the Australian market due to their low price, comparatively high levels of standard equipment and fuel efficiency. Holden, Ford and Chrysler were all forced to re-think the types of vehicles they were going to replace their current models with.

    Chrysler became Mitsubishi Australia and the Valiant was killed off in 1978, replaced by the Sigma. Ford had invested heavily in Australianising the Cortina, fitting it with a six cylinder engine, and downsizing the Falcon to produce the more Euro styled XD in 1979. The Falcon remained a comparatively large car, but was far more modern and less American in appearance than its predecessors. Ford also began to upgrade the 250 cube 6 with an alloy head and improved fuel consumption in the XE a couple of years later.

    Holden was torn between the WA, retaining the traditional sized Aussie 6, or downsizing to the Euro Commodore to enable better fuel efficiency. The old red motors were torquey but their development potential was limited by their small capacity, OHV rather than OHC design and crude fuel systems. The cost of developing a new car and new engines was more than Holden could cope with at that time. They even toyed with an extended version of the Camira as a replacement for the Kingswood but this idea was canned in favour of the Commodore.

    The Commie was chosen because Holden believed that Australians wanted a smaller (though not small) car, rather than the normal size they had been buying up to that time. The Commodore was modern, roomy, stylish and offered the most suitable design for adaptation to the Australian market. As it turned out, the basic design was so weak, road testing of prototypes actually caused the bodies to crack and they required extensive strengthening for our conditions. These sorts of problems led to the development costs of the Commodore greatly exceeding original anticipated costs.

    Would the WA have succeeded and saved Holden? Probably not. It was heavily based on the original HQ design, which dated back to the mid to late 60's in its gestation. It would have been difficult to make the car appear more modern and in keeping with the styling of the 1980's and its weight would have cruelled the existing six cylinder engines. Even if Holden had the money to develop it fully as a complete car, it would have looked out of date against its principal competitor, the XD Falcon.

    Would the Camira have been built if the WA had proceeded? Most definitely yes, because it represented a modern European car with excellent internal space, handling and braking and was seen as a sensible alternative to a larger model. It was far more modern than the Torana, more fuel efficient and better designed. Unfortunately, it had design faults (like shocking rust traps in the firewall) and was poorly built in Australia which effectively killed it as a serious opponent to its peers. Holden eventually sorted out most of the quality control issues, though the rust traps remained. (I've owned four of them and the rust-ability of the Camira is bloody awful). However, it all came too late for the Camira and it died in 1989, replaced by a Holden version of the Camry (which at that time was a much better car).

    Should Holden have developed a fuel injected engine sooner? Yes, they were very late doing so and again, due to lack of money, it was half-hearted and did not sell well in the VK. They needed new, modern engines and body designs, not rehashed 1960's technology, but simply couldn't afford it. Look at the bloody awful four cylinder "Starfire" engine. What a waste of effort that was, but it was all they could afford at the time. It was only by getting agreement with Nissan that Holden was able to properly address the lack of a modern six cylinder engine for the VL in 1986 that their fortunes turned for the better.

    For too many years, management at Holden failed to read the market trends overseas and didn't see the tsunami coming. The Australian market was changing and traditional big cars with old fashioned, inefficient six and 8 cylinder engines were soon going to start losing favour with buyers. Large capacities would be acceptable but only if they gave good fuel economy. Holden's didn't and their engines were too old to upgrade to meet new expectations. Later, they made other bad decisions based on unit cost of the imported models and decided to market cars made in Korea rather than Europe. None of the Korean models have ever achieved the sort of quality, engineering standards or competitiveness that the Euro's did and Holden has lost its market share in almost every segment of the market where it once lead or was near the top.

    Years of dud decisions have cost the company dearly.
     
  6. Not_An_Abba_Fan

    Not_An_Abba_Fan Exhaust Guru

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    I don't think the Australian car manufacturers would have survived no matter what they did. The globe has gotten smaller and overseas manufacturing cheaper, so eventually, either Australia had to compete or cease local production.

    The WA was one damn ugly car by any standards. I'm glad it didn't eventuate.
     
  7. Big-Al

    Big-Al Banned

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    imagine if we still didnt give a **** because petrol was soooo cheap
     
  8. uniacidz

    uniacidz Harden the Frak Up

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    LOL looks like Chevy Chases car in National Lampoons Vacation to Wally World
     
  9. commodore665

    commodore665 expat Saffa

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    Yeah , get some edumication :p
     
  10. commodore665

    commodore665 expat Saffa

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    whoa , that's crazy talk .
     
  11. Troy711

    Troy711 Retired Old Fart Staff Member

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    Imagine of they released the VD Commodore!
     
  12. Calaber

    Calaber Nil Bastardo Carborundum

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    I thought they did....oh, wait, that was the VL.
     
  13. Jxfwsf

    Jxfwsf Well-Known Member

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    I'd rather see a VW commodore than a chinadore.

    what do they have left, VA, VI, VJ, VM, VO & VV
     
  14. Hangman

    Hangman Aspiring Sociopath

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    There's an early commy around with a mis-stamped tag that's VD. Pretty sure I have an old Just Cars mag with it for sale.

    And I'd imagine the Commodore would have already been in development before the WA was to be released. From memory I think the HQ was only meant to get one facelift but ended up getting three (four for commercials/Statesman).

    So no, I don't believe the WA would have changed anything.
     
  15. Crowny

    Crowny Member

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    Hi Calaber,

    Agree about the existing engines being unable to cope with a heavier car. However a question that crossed my mind is could they have adapted the Buick 3.8 in a similar way that they did with the VN. I believe this engine was around in some form at the time and was fuel injected in 1982 which would have given Holden an fuel injected engine not long after Ford and a couple of years before the VK. This could have given Holden the option of a more fuel efficient full sized car to compete with the Falcon. Another option for fuel injection (and a better engine) would have been to adopt a Cadillac motor (also in the General Motors stable). Cadillac introduced EFi in either 1975 or 1976 (at the same time as Mercedes) and would also have been suited to full size cars, again giving Holden the option of fielding a full size car to compete with the Falcon.
     
  16. Calaber

    Calaber Nil Bastardo Carborundum

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    One of the factors determining Holden's choice of engines for the VL was the exchange rate of the Aussie dollar during the early 80's. It was comparatively strong against the Yen, making the Nissan engine (RB30?) an economical choice at the time it was selected. The Nissan engine was also seen as more modern, being an OHC, fuel injected and just the right size, capacity and output for the planned VL. Unfortunately for Holden, the Aussie dollar tanked between the contract with Nissan being signed, and the introduction of the VL. As a result, the engine was more expensive for Holden to purchase, which affected the profitability of the VL. When you look at the interiors of early Commies, you can see where money was saved to offset the increased cost of the engines. The VL was pretty cheap and nasty inside.

    Due to the falling exchange rate against the Yen, Holden needed to look around again for a new motor for the VN. The Buick engine is a much older design, with its origins dating back to the mid 60's, when it was known as the Iron Duke. Over the years, it had been substantially refined, fuel injected rather than carbied and made much more economical. It wasn't selected for the early model Commies because the Aussie dollar was already pretty weak against the American dollar and the engine would have been too expensive at the time the need arose. It would have been even dearer by the time the VL came out - at one stage around 1986 or a bit later, our buck was only worth 55 cents US. For the VN, it was a more economical purchase, larger in capacity for the heavier VN body and better suited to the new model. VN's were run with Nissan engines as prototypes and compared with the Buick. We all know what the end result was.

    There are members on this forum who have fitted RB30's into VN's with great success, owing to the ability of the engine to be extensively and reliably modified for substantially increased power output.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2014
  17. Not_An_Abba_Fan

    Not_An_Abba_Fan Exhaust Guru

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    Wasn't there a VN model in NZ that has the RB30? Or was that the RB28?
     
  18. c2105026

    c2105026 Active Member

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    think it was the Family II motor?
     
  19. Crowny

    Crowny Member

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    Regarding the fullsize (ie Kingswood) or downsize (Commodore) issue I have heard different stories as to why the Commodore was chosen. One story I have heard is that General Motors forced the Commodore on Holden who wanted to keep building the Kingswood and that a lot of the dealers wanted Holden to keep building a full size car. Even after the Commodore was introduced I heard that a lot of dealers wanted Holden to keep producing a full sized car in case buyers weren't accepting of the Commodore ( I reckon they were justified given that the HZ sold 150,000 alongside the Commodore).

    The other school of thought is that Holden willingly went down the Commodore route and that they weren't forced to do so. Can anyone shed any light on which version is correct.
     
  20. VS 5.0

    VS 5.0 Well-Known Member

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