Friday, October 20, signals the death of the mainstream automotive industry in Australia. After nearly a century of manufacturing, production will halt when General Motors closes its Elizabeth plant, its last in the nation.
This is going to be a sad day for automotive fans across the globe. Even though many of the most famous Australian cars came from American companies, they were always unique to the Land Down Under.
The Aussies never really removed themselves from the muscle car era of their American counterparts. Their idea of a car was a big sedan with a shouty V8 and rear wheel drive. While the rest of the world shifted to front wheel drive cars with small engines, Australians kept with tradition.
GM was the last holdout in Australia for mainstream vehicles. However, with doors soon to be shut on the South Australia plant the company will exit the country.
A few weeks ago, Toyota finished production of its Camry and Aurion in Australia. Ford meanwhile ceased operations in October of last year.
It’s the end for mass production cars, but Australians will still have a few home-made vehicles to call their own.
Iveco will continue the production of the PowerStar semi truck at its Dandenong, Victoria plant. PACCAR will still produce a wide variety of Kenworth semis as well, in Melbourne.
At the other end of the scale, Australia will still make some low-volume specialist cars. Most notable is Elfin, which is owned by the famed Walkinshaw Performance brand. Even though it only builds a few hundred vehicles a year, these little roadsters still have a traditional Aussie formula. Rear wheel drive and a big V8 up front is really all you need.
In addition to Elfin, there’s also Bolwell Nagari. Also with extremely low production numbers, this little kit car is all about performance. With a 3.5-liter Toyota V6 and weighing just 2,100 lbs, it’s pretty quick.
There’s also a number of replica manufacturers and kit car builder that seem to absolutely love modifying the Lotus 7. Not to mention the race cars still built in Australia as well.
At some point the mainstream production could bounce back though. Toyota is thinking about returning at some point and Mahindra is also taking a look at moving some production into the country. With several factories sitting vacant, the time may be right for an upstart to move in as well.
But now is a time for mourning, and for Holden and Ford fans to unite in grief. We will all miss Australian-made cars.