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American Cars in Australia in The Sixties.
Hi To All,

Australia enjoyed a Golden era in the Sixties decade with some models of American cars that would be manufactured to suit right hand drive conditions. Chev, Ford and Chrysler were the three main players of the decade, rolling out models such as the Dodge Phoenix, Ford Galaxie, Chev Impala, and Pontiac Parisienne.The reality was that sales and ownership of these American cars over that decade was never big, due to the fact that they were more expensive to purchase that the locally made Falcons, Holdens, and Valiants of the day.So to and for Australians,they took on a persona of falling into more of a luxury car class, being more bigger, bolder, brasher, and stylish than what Australians were used to with their local products.The American cars offered more luxury and style,with lots of power accessories,compared to the local Falcons, Holdens and Valiants, but it came at a higher price, a price that mainstream Austalians did not want to pay for or could afford. On the other hand, it's also interesting to note, that fuel prices in Australia throughout the Sixties were mostly cheap, along with running costs, and so driving the more powerful thirsty American cars, did not tend to present itself as a major problem to most people here.The Seventies decade soon changed all that as history has shown.

Up until 1960, all Studebakers sold in Australia were fully imported. The Studebaker Lark was introduced in 1959, and turned out to be ideally suited to Australian conditions. Most were being sold with the V8 which gave it plenty of power compared to the competition. Having been restricted in sales by import quotas, during 1960 the Studebaker Corporation made a decision to set up a local assembly plant.

By the end of the year they were ready for local production from CKD( COMPLETE KNOCK DOWN) kits in Melbourne. 1961 was to be a big year for Studebaker in Australia but a credit squeeze limited sales of Australian assembled vehicles to 709 units. 1962 saw 1,069 Larks and Hawks, 119 station wagons, 26 commercial vehicles (mostly Champ pick-ups) being assembled and sold. Sales in 1963 reached 1,441 units, the highest sales level Studebaker would achieve in Australia.

A fall in sales in the US and internal financial problems in the corporation had a flow on effect in Australia. In December 1963 production ceased at the South Bend plant in the US, and thereafter the cars were made in Canada except for the Hawks, Avantis and trucks, which ceased. Australia's new registrations for 1964 dropped to 991 units, and then again to only 492 units in the following year.

Australia did not receive any true 1966 vehicles and continued assembling 1965 specification cars in 1966, the output totalling 621 units. 1966 was the last official years of production; only 13 leftovers were sold in 1967, including 10 Chevrolet-engined Studebaker Larks, a station wagon and two ambulance bodied wagons, a style that was unique to Australia. 1968 saw a single Studebaker Cruiser registered in February and the last new Studebaker, also a V8 Cruiser, registered in October 1968.

The Big three's US Models in Australia

Up until the time they commenced manufacturing vehicles in Australia, America's big three - Ford, General Motors and Chrysler - sold a number of fully imported models from the US and Britain. With the introduction of locally built and designed vehicles, the cars were all gradually phased out.

Chrysler's Dodge Phoenix was one of the last US-based cars to be assembled by the Big Three in Australia, with assembly ceasing in 1972.

Ramblers were assembled from CKD kits at Australian Motor Industries' Port Melbourne factory until the demise of Rambler in 1969.

Ford Australia entered the 1960s with the Custom 300 and Fairlane 500 as the only US-sourced vehicles in its Australian model lineup, both of which were assembled at Ford's new Broadmeadows plant. By the time of the 1962 model changeover, the Custom 500 had become a very basic model used mainly for taxis in the US; its importation to Australia would soon cease.

Ford Fairlane

Ford Australia sold a locally assembled version of the American Ford Fairlane which had taken its name from Henry Ford's estate, Fair Lane, near Dearborn, Michigan, from 1959. It was Ford Australia's top of the range model until an Australian-assembled version of the full-size American Ford Galaxie replaced it in 1964.

Initially, the Fairlane 500 sedan was offered, but this was soon joined by the Ranch Wagon. These featured a 332 cu.inch V8. From April 1962, a 221 cu.inch V8 was offered instead. The Ranch Wagon was deleted at the end of 1963. There were now just two sedans in 1964, with either a 260 cu.inch or a 289 cu.inch V8. As the Fairlane was only slightly larger than the locally built Falcon, a decision was made to replace it with the larger Galaxie 500 at the 1965 model changeover, and use the Galaxie as the Ford flagship car in Australia.

Although the Fairlane was a solid seller, Ford felt it could do more if it engineered and developed a home-grown luxury large car, and worked towards creating one in the form of a stretched Falcon from its XR Series, which at that time was being developed. The concept of an Australian luxury flagship became a reality in March 1967 when Ford reintroduced its Australian-developed Fairlane, a luxury, long-wheelbase version of its mainstream Falcon, positioned between the Falcon and the Galaxie.

Ford Galaxie

The Ford Galaxie 500 was the last of the "Yank Tanks" (as Australians used to call them), to be sold in Australia; it was withdrawn in 1973 when the locally built Fairlane LTD was introduced. The early models, fully imported and sourced from Ford of Canada, were available in extremely small numbers. 1963 saw an increase in the number of Galaxies available to the Australian buying public, and in the 1964 model year, even larger numbers of Galaxies were available through selected Ford dealers when local assembly commenced at Ford's Homebush plant in Sydney's inner west. From 1969, all Galaxies were again fully imported from Ford US and converted to RHD at the Broadmeadows plant in Victoria. The last Galaxie, a 1972 model, was sold new in 1973. It was replaced by the local version of the LTD, which was a plusher, rebodied Fairlane.

Ford Mustangs of course, never made it out to Australia in the Sixties at all, full stop. Those small numbers that did arrive, had to be converted to RHD by their owners at great expense.

Chevrolet Bel-Air

Pontiacs and Chevrolets were assembled in GM-H plants in all capital cities from imported CKD chassis and pre-war Chevrolet bodies stamped and built in Adelaide up until 1958. Pontiac in America introduced the famous Wide-Track chassis in 1959, however Australia continued to use the Canadian export chassis kit under a new body. It came with the 283 cubic inch V8 Chevrolet small block engine. Australia's GM offshoot, GM-H, assembled these cars from Canadian sourced CKD kits, as did New Zealand, the Netherlands and South Africa. Sold as the Pontiac Laurentian and Chevrolet Bel-Air, the pair kept up with US styling, however mechanical developments were slower coming. The automatic transmission was available in the US from 1950 but not until 1959 in Australia. The V8 was released in the US in 1955 but not until 1960 in Australia. The Laurentian and Bel-Air remained in local production until 1

Pontiac Parisienne and Chevolet Impala

The Pontiac Parisienne debuted in Australia in 1964 and was available as a locally assembled 4 door sedan (pillared) with the 283 cubic inch engine. In 1965 the Pontiac Parisienne 4 door (pillarless) Sport Sedan Hardtop and Chevrolet's Pillarless Impala Sports Sedan were introduced, but two years later the (1967 Model) the pillared sedans ceased to be available. 1965 also saw the introduction of the 327 cubic inch V8 for the Pillarless versions and the 283 cubic engine remained as the power plant to the pillared versions. In 1966 the Pontiac Parisienne Thin Pillar cost $5,799 and $6,099 Australian,for the Pillarless, or Sports Sedan version.

1968 was the last full year of Chevrolet and Pontiac production in Australia however some 1969 examples were put together for buyers wishing to have the traditional big car. Between 1970 and 1973 local dealers imported Chevrolets to fill the void before General Motors Holden (GMH) returned to the low volume market with small batches of 1974 and 1975 Caprice Sedans.

It is understood that all these were brought into Melbourne and converted to right-hand drive by Chapel Engineering and subsequently sold through major Holden dealers. A number of larger dealers imported small numbers of convertibles, coupes, GTOs and Firebirds during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Chrysler Royal

In 1956, Chrysler Australia consolidated each of the badge engineered marques it was assembling into one car - the Chrysler Royal. This was a facelifted version of the 1954 Plymouth, and it was to continue in production until 1963. The Royal soon began losing sales as it was viewed as being outmoded and expensive. Late fifties Dodge Custom Royals and Royals were available in RHD as well, but were only offered in a four door version .The saving grace for Chrysler at this time was the French Simca Aronde - a popular 4 cylinder compact car which Chrysler Australia assembled from CKD kits at their Keswick factory.

Dodge Phoenix and Simca Aronde

Local engineers developed a unique to Australia Aronde station wagon, with a then novel for Australia wind down rear window and tailgate. (Chrysler USA acquired an interest in Simca in 1958, hence providing the basis for sourcing of this car). Assembly of the Aronde ceased in 1964. Between 1960 and 1972, Chrysler Australia assembled Dodge Phoenix cars from US-made components at its Adelaide plant alongside Valiants.

The Chrysler Valiant was introduced by Chrysler Australia in 1962 with production ceasing in 1981. Initially a rebadged locally assembled Plymouth Valiant from the US, the Valiant range was sold throughout Australia and New Zealand, as well as South Africa. The first locally assembled Valiant, the American 1961-model R Series, was released in January 1962. It was assembled at Chrysler's Mile End facility (South Australia) from imported CKD kits. Chrysler replaced it with the American 1962 S-series (SV1) Valiant after only 3 months of production. The first fully Australian manufactured Valiant, the AP5, replced the S Series in May 1963.

The Sixties then, was an end to an era when America's RHD cars came and went into Australia's history books on that scale, which may never be repeated again in the future.But then again!

Hope you found that interesting!


Good info Greg.
It is surprising how many 61 - 64 chevs are in Bundy most where sold new in the district seems to be a lot of those chevs where ever you go around the country. I also remember there where lots of Galaxies in western Victoria. Lots of American branded commercial vehicle's manufactured here too.
Ps I remember going to pick up a friends EL GT at the broady plant and a senior engineer that we knew gave us the tour. There was 7 brand new XC coupe shells in 1 shed and we had a look at Bill Bourkes XW GT 428 that was cool. He also told us about a few other Bourke 1 offs

He has all the vices I admire and none of the virtues I despise
Wow thanks Greg. Interesting.


Now someone needs a similar post for the Canadian cars... Smile

1971 Boss 351  
1972 Q code 4 speed convertible 
1971 Mustang Sportsroof  351-2V FMX 
1973 Mach 1 (parts car)
Here is a link to an article on the special Studebakers that were used by Victoria Police (amongst others). This included some very interesting cars. Many being 289ci. (Studebaker, not Ford), manual trans, dual exhaust, Dana 44 cars. There also 2-door "pursuit" cars.
The total was something like 300 cars. Quite a lot given the small total for Studebaker in Australia.

I am toying with buying the modern Ausi muscle car. I am looking for a Pontiac G8 GT which is a Holden Monaro(think that is the right model) with a 5.7 liter lt1 with about 400 hp in it. I was actually surprised at the number of Ausis on the site. Rarely saw vintage Mustangs in Europe. See them around here a couple of times a week.

Bright lime 72 Mach 1 with 351C 4V, with summit 600 carb(have a Holley too), Edelbrock dual-plane manifold, Hooker headers, 3 inch exhaust with flowmasters, 17 inch Eleanor wheels, FMX tranny, A/C, P/S, front disks and 350 rear gear. Drive it to work every day.
rottenralph;193411 Wrote:I am toying with buying the modern Ausi muscle car. I am looking for a Pontiac G8 GT which is a Holden Monaro(think that is the right model) with a 5.7 liter lt1 with about 400 hp in it. I was actually surprised at the number of Ausis on the site. Rarely saw vintage Mustangs in Europe. See them around here a couple of times a week.
Monaro is right. they wake up nicely with a supercharger on them. Heaps of mustangs in Aus you see more of them than old falcons these days

He has all the vices I admire and none of the virtues I despise
Good read. Thanks for posting it.

John J
Luke;193450 Wrote:
rottenralph;193411 Wrote:I am toying with buying the modern Ausi muscle car. I am looking for a Pontiac G8 GT which is a Holden Monaro(think that is the right model) with a 5.7 liter lt1 with about 400 hp in it. I was actually surprised at the number of Ausis on the site. Rarely saw vintage Mustangs in Europe. See them around here a couple of times a week.
Monaro is right. they wake up nicely with a supercharger on them. Heaps of mustangs in Aus you see more of them than old falcons these days

the Monaro was the GTO over here, the Commodore is the one you're think about that is a G8 in the US. decent cars except i don't really like the interiors.
Just looked it up you are correct Sir. Chevy Caprice is 1 of ours too. They move out with a vertec on them and have a fair bit more room

He has all the vices I admire and none of the virtues I despise
yeah i know i good bit about both, my brother had a 04 GTO, I had a friend that had 04, 05, and 06 GTOs (not all at the same time), and another friend that had an 08 G8 GT that he put a procharger on and made over 700 horsepower. Personally I'd like to have a Boss Falcon.
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