Australia is known as the sunburnt country, a place where there are as many deadly creepy crawlies as there are surfing beaches, and where the number of kangaroos outnumber the population almost two to one. But did you know Aussies have also been known to build a decent car from time to time? After almost 70 years of production, an unstable economic climate, cheaper offshore imports and a dwindling market for local cars means that the last of the Aussie-built cars will roll off the assembly line in 2017, but before it goes, here are the best 10 cars from the land Down Under.
What do you get when you take the body of a Holden VF Commodore Ute and cram a supercharged LSA V8 into the engine bay? You get the world’s fastest production ute, also known as the Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) GTS Maloo.
HSV - Holden’s in-house tuning branch (think BMW’s M Division) - only made 250 units of the GTS Maloo; a fitting name given that ‘Maloo’ is the Aboriginal word for ‘Thunder’, the first thought when hearing the roar of the bi-modal exhaust.
The fire-breathing 6.2-litre motor - the same unit powering the track-honed Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 - lights up the rear wheels to the tune of 578bhp and a staggering 546lb ft, which is enough to rocket the super ute to 60mph in about 4.4 seconds, while a custom-built torque vectoring system and tricked-out traction control unit work overtime to keep the light rear axle in-check.
Ford spent half a billion dollarydoos developing the Territory - Australia’s own home-grown SUV - and the tuning specialists at Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) fettled with the two-tonne crossover to produce the F6X.
Powered by a 362bhp/406lb ft turbocharged 4.0-litre in-line six, the most powerful six-cylinder SUV in Australia at the time, the all-wheel drive F6X could crack 60mph from a standstill in just 5.9 seconds and could even handle corners with sports-car-shaming dynamics.
Unfortunately, terrible fuel economy and lacklustre looks meant the F6X 270 failed to fire with Aussie buyers resulting in FPV discounting the high-performing SUV after only 229 were built.
After Toyota Australia decided to split its Camry range into four- and six-cylinder variants (the V6 range being rechristened as the Aurion), a high-performing HSV- and FPV-rivalling model was inevitable. And so, the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) Aurion was born. A beefed-up body kit with a Formula One-inspired front bumper along with upgraded suspension and stickier tyres ensured the flagship Aurion outmanoeuvred its more sedate-looking siblings, but what made this TRD so special was its engine.
The TRD Aurion was the first production car in the world to make use of an Eaton twin-vortices supercharger, which was mated to 3.5-litre V6 producing 323bhp and 295lb ft, which propelled the front-drive sedan from 0-60mph in 6.1s and which gave it a quarter-mile time of 14.2s.
If Holden’s rear-drive 6.2-litre LS3 V8-powered Commodore isn’t enough for you, Walkinshaw will gladly bolt on a supercharger that increases power by 80 per cent. In standard guise, the LS3 V8 makes 409bhp and 420lb ft, but with the W547 kit added, power and torque rise to a supercar-scaring 734bhp and 649lb ft.
Aside from the blower, the W547 also adds high flow injectors, a water-to-air intercooler, custom heater hoses, aluminium coil covers, an uprated camshaft and specially designed cold air intake, ceramic coated headers and cat-back exhaust. The best part? We reckon it looks almost stock standard from the outside, making the W547 the ultimate Aussie sleeper!
Arguably the most iconic Aussie car ever built, the Ford XY Falcon GTHO Phase III was Australia’s fastest production car when it rolled off the assembly line back in 1971.
Powered by a 351 Cleveland V8, Ford said power output was at 300bhp but in reality, figures were somewhere between 350bhp and 380bhp, giving the Aussie rear-drive sedan a 0-60mph sprint time of 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 142mph.
Plans for a successor were ditched at the last minute thanks to the ‘Supercar Scare’ of the 70s, with news outlets reporting on the fear of having 160mph cars roaming public streets. This cemented the legendary status of the GTHO Phase III, with prime examples selling in the past for $750,000AUD.
Back in the early 2000s, Mitsubishi decided to leverage its global rallying success by building a different kind of sports sedan, the Ralliart Magna.
Heavily influenced by the Lancer Evolution VI’s style, the Ralliart Magna adopted its iconic double-deck rear spoiler and aggressive front bumper design along with receiving bespoke suspension and steering tweaks.
It may have looked the part, but the Ralliart Magna had one critical flaw; all 241bhp/237lb ft from its spicy 3.5-litre V6 motor were sent exclusively to the front wheels. Known to suffer from heavy torque steer, Mitsubishi Australia ceased production after only 500 were made.
It’s usually the V8 Commodores that get all the love, but what makes the six-cylinder VL Commodore so special is the fact that Holden stuffed Nissan-sourced turbocharged RB engines into its rear-drive sedan.
A strange mixture of JDM and Aussie engineering, the RB30ET - essentially an R31 Skyline engine with a bolt-on Garrett turbo - made 201bhp, but a popular modification was to use the bottom end with an RB26DETT, the legendary GT-R engine, to squeeze out even more power.
Not only poplar in the aftermarket and drag racing circles, turbo VL Commodores were also the Highway Pursuit vehicle of choice for the Australian Police force.
Ford’s final FPV-fettled Falcon, a swansong to all Aussie-built Falcon GT muscle cars of the past with the letter ‘F’ chosen to represent final and the number ‘351’ to pay homage to the old 351 engines of the 70s and to denote power in kilowatts.
To propel such an important car, FPV grabbed the 5.0-litre Coyote V8 from the fifth-generation Mustang GT and bolted on a supercharger. Although the badge said 351, up to 404kW were available “under the right conditions with overboost” - that’s 471bhp and 542bhp respectively, which was enough for a 0-60mph time of 4.5sec.
Only 500 examples were made, the first and last of which were put to auction on eBay with all proceeds being donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Fed up with selling kit cars to the public, Graeme Bolwell conceived the idea of the Nagari after a working holiday at Lotus in the UK, and what resulted was Australia’s own supercar.
Borrowing Colin Chapman’s philosophy of subtracting weight, the Nagari - an Aboriginal word for ‘flowing’ - weighed just 920kg (2028lb) and was powered by a Ford-sourced V8 which produced up to 330bhp. The wheelbase measured just 2280mm and the front-engine rear-wheel drive layout proved to be a handful at best.
The Bolwell Nagari first went on sale in 1970 and only 100 coupes and 18 convertibles were produced throughout its four-year life span.
Holden’s HK Monaro oozed appeal and street cred from the beginning thanks to more than a few styling cues borrowed from its American Camaro counterpart.
Initially, Holden thought the Camaro’s small-block 327 V8 wouldn’t fit into the Aussie two-door hard-top coupe. Turns out they got the measurements all wrong and the Chevrolet-sourced engine helped Holden to its first ever win at the hallowed Bathurst race track in 1968.
Despite a brief revival of the name in the early 2000s (known in the US as the Pontiac GTO) and after only two generations, the Monaro still remains one of the most sought after cars Down Under.
This feature was written by Australian automotive journalist Tung Nguyen.