General Motors has taken one more step towards wiping out the history and legacy of Holden in Australia with the deletion of the Holden portion of its global media website.
Pulled down in the lead up to the 50th anniversary of one of the most important and much-loved models in the history of the Australian automotive history – the HQ Holden – it follows on from reports earlier this week that Holden’s service and spare parts outlets are set to be renamed ACDelco over time.
Both actions are unprecedented as well as unexpected in the local car industry, as the American owner of Holden since 1926 continues to expunge the Lion brand’s public face, name and logo from public view forever.
It is a process that started after the announcement of Holden’s demise in February 2020, and is on course to erase the Fishermans Bend-based brand’s 72-year history of manufacturing and importing vehicles in Australia by the end of this decade.
Read more about the Holden
While GM Australia and New Zealand still operates holden.com.au and holden.co.nz respectively, with servicing, parts, warranty and customer support information as well as some superficial history, it ignores key historic models like the first (48-215/FX), HR, HQ and VN, as well as the final Australian-designed, -engineered and -built Holden, the VF Commodore from 2013 to 2017.
In fact, the look back at Holden’s history seems to stop at 2012 in the brand’s timeline with a photo of an unsuccessful American import, the Chevrolet-made Volt.
The unannounced takedown of the Holden portion of the US corporation’s global media site is especially indicative of GM’s motives, given that it has operated over four decades as a source of detailed news and archive (including images) material going back to before the introduction of the first Holden car in 1948.
Any attempts to access the Holden press material at media.gm.com is met with a ‘404 Page Not Found’ blank page.
Meanwhile, ACDelco, under other names including AC-Delco and AC, has been part of GM since 1918 and so is a known brand associated with Holden through its dealer network from the beginning.
Reports suggest that some of the remaining Holden dealer service outlets have been in discussions with ACDelco executives to rebrand, though when this is likely to happen is not yet known. As part of Holden’s exit strategy in Australia, GMA must supply servicing and spare parts for models going back to a certain age for up to 10 years.
Under the GM Specialty Vehicles moniker, GM is gearing up for the release of the Chevrolet Corvette in Australia, alongside the right-hand-drive re-engineering and sale of imported Chevrolet Silverado pick-up trucks.
HQ Holden at 50
The gradual erosion of Holden’s history comes just as one of its most beloved models hits a major milestone.
More than half a million HQ-based vehicles were made and sold in Australia and exported around the world between 1971 and 1974. It was also the most changed Holden in history up to that point.
Besides completely all-new styling that must surely go down as one of the most beautiful in the history of Australian cars, the HQ married a strong front sub-frame and monocoque rear body section to make the resulting perimeter-frame construction tougher and more durable at a time when much of this country’s road network was still punishingly harsh.
The HQ was also an early example of platform modularity, with Holden’s clever engineers stretching the standard sedan and Monaro coupe’s standard wheelbase to create a roomy wagon (an Aussie first in this regard), a long-wheelbase luxury model known as the Statesman, as well as one-tonne ute and vans for commercial vehicle purposes.
Safety was big on the HQ’s agenda too. While the passenger car versions’ coil-spring suspension all round was hardly cutting-edge tech globally, all locally produced large family cars to that point persisted with rear leaf-spring suspension.
Of course, Holden tuned the ride for comfort ,so there was much criticism about how sloppy the regular Belmont and Kingswood models handled from many motoring magazine circles, but there was no denying the benefits to roadholding and control that this move brought.
The HQ’s local pioneering ways also applied to the through-flow ventilation systems, sensationally thin windscreen pillars and deep glass areas that helped enormously with vision at a time of no driver-assist systems. Options like disc brakes, radial tyres and power steering also became far more accessible thanks to Holden’s efforts, though without these, the HQ was too heavy at parking speeds and dangerously slow at stopping in certain conditions.
Then there was the introduction of the Sandman during the HQ years, a marketing exercise that helped fuel the panel van craze of the 1970s, riding on the sexual-freedom and surfie/beach culture revolutions that defined the nation on the world stage as much as the era.
While the HQ was never deemed to be a ‘Great Australian Road Car’ like the locally developed Ford Falcon GTs of the same era were, the latter did eventually help mould what became the ultimate version of the HQ generation, the HZ series of 1977. It righted many of the HQ’s wrongs, with radial-tuned suspension transforming how big Holdens steered and handled.
But by then, Holden was in a dilemma, as soaring fuel prices from 1973 and the move to smaller and more efficient Japanese cars prompted GMH to look to the smaller Opel Commodore V-car that was in the pipeline for Europe for 1977.
Radically different to the HZ Kingswood and Premier it sat alongside, early big sales of the VB Commodore from late 1978 led to the earlier-than-anticipated demise of the HZ sedan and wagon soon after, as well as the cancellation of the WB Kingswood facelift that was planned for 1980 to take over, killing off the HQ line as well as the last true big Australian Holden… until the VE Commodore of 2006, but that’s another story.
For now, if you’re an Australian of a certain age, the HQ represented everything that was good, bad and ugly (ironically for such a pretty car) about the Australian car industry in general and Holden in particular, serving as a slice of unique history that should never be forgotten.
Are you listening, GM?
Happy 50th birthday, HQ!