The first Holden Commodore was actually heavily based on the Opel Rekord
As Oz edged another month closer to a world without homegrown Commodores this week, we pause to reflect on the little known origins of the car.
That’s because the Commodore is not quite the true blue, dyed in the wool, homegrown Aussie product that you might think.
Just as the next “Bombodore” will be little more than a rebadged Opel, so too was the very first VB model back in 1978.
It was a rebadged, re-engineered version of the Opel Rekord.
We first encountered this humble car on a trip to Iceland several years years ago.
We were there to drive the new Benz GL wagon, you know the big 7 seat Bismarck.
About three hours out of London, Iceland was all the rage back then and they held a number of international car launches there.
So there we were, zipping along in the middle of nowhere when we spied this car pushing up weeds next to a servo.
What the hell? Stop the car!
How in the name of God did a Commodore come to be sitting in a vacant lot on the other side of the world, we wondered?
Spot the Commodore . . . or is that Rekord?
The truth is the average Aussie would have no idea our beloved family banger is an imposter.
It and subsequent models, and even many of the names that Holden has used over the years such as Berlina, Senator and even the VE Omega – are all derived from Opel.
To cope with our harsh Australian conditions, however, the donor Rekord was strengthened substantially for its role as the VB.
It also had the longer nose from the Senator model grafted on to accommodate Holden’s larger straight six and V8 engines.
Even the name Commodore was taken from Opel.
The Opel Commodore was an in-between model positioned between the mid-sized Rekord and the larger Admiral.
It was produced between 1967 and 1990, although German production actually ceased in 1982.
As well as a sedan and station wagon, the latter called the Caravan, there was also a two-door version of the car and a panel van.
In Holden’s defence, it’s said to have spent almost as much money ‘‘Australianising’’ the Rekord as it would have cost to build a completely new car – around $110 million.
And, just for the record, other versions of the Rekord were sold in different markets around the world with various names and drivetrains.
In the UK it was badged Vauxhall and in South Africa it was initially a Chevrolet before reverting to the original Opel name.
A version of the Rekord was also produced by Daewoo in South Korea where it was named the Royale.
The South African version remained in production right into the early 90s.
Brockie was apparently red hot to give the go-fast treatment to the closely related Opel Monza Coupe, but the project never got off the ground.
The Rekord that we came across by the side of the road was a 2.0-litre four-cylinder model with a four-speed auto that looked, for all intents and purposes – like a VB.
We’ve got to say it was certainly the weirdest feeling seeing what we though was an Aussie ‘‘Commodore’’ so far from home.
This car’s plates had been removed and it had been put out to pasture with about 66,000km on the clock . . . at least that’s what the odometer said.
Diesel and petrol versions of the car were produced with diesel versions carrying a raised bonnet to accommodate the taller engine.
The diesel was never sold in Australia but history will remember the four cylinder petrol version of the car.
The notorious 2.0-litre ‘‘Starfire’’ Commodore was very much a product of the oil crisis of the 70s and one that is not fondly remembered.
Wonder if we’ll see another four cylinder version of the car?
Just for the record, or is that Rekord – the Rekord was replaced by the Opel Omega in 1986.
Should Holden have killed the Commodore name, like Ford did with the Falcon.
Or it is just business as usual with another Opel?
What do you reckon?