A Brougham Holden That’s Not a Holden Brougham

Some unlikely things turn up on the streets of my home territory, but I never expected to see a Holden WH Statesman 17,000km from Fishermans’ Bend.

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It’s not even the most Brougham of the series, the bodily and mechanically similar Caprice topped it for equipment and ornamentation.

The reader will have quickly worked out that it is related to the Omega B and Cadillac Catarrh, but with a widened body and track.  Unlike the German cousins, it was never blighted by the troublesome Merseyside-built 54 degree V6. A quick check of the DVLA Vehicle Enquiry website reveals that it has 300bhp from its gutsy 5667cc New Generation III V8.

I should properly leave commenting on matters aesthetic to others better qualified, but for what it’s worth, the six-light adaptation of the VT Commodore is handled well, but the differentiation of what’s now referred to as the “facia” disappoints; to me it looks like an obese person with a tiny mouth.

The VT series is notable for being the first Australianised Opel to be permitted to grow to something close to the universal Australian full size car dimensions established in the early 1970s:  111 inch wheelbase, five foot front and rear tracks. Even the iconoclastic 1973-75 Leyland P76 dared not deviate from that particular orthodoxy.

The 1978 Holden Commodore put an end to all of that – an Opel forced on chronically unprofitable GM-H to replace the beloved and big-selling HQ-HZ series.  Holden added strength and shoddiness, and replaced the fine Opel CIH six with an engine more closely related to the 1929 Chevrolet Stovebolt Six.

What they didn’t change was the dimensions, which are close to the Russelsheim template, and remained so for succeeding generations of Commodores, contrary to popular belief in their home market. In my Australian days in the early ‘90s it was disorientating to discover that a car cognate with a Senator B could be had for the price one would pay for a low end Astra in the UK – about £8000 with the fully imported Buick 3.8 litre V6.  An all-Australian 5.0 V8 was a few hundred dollars more.

I’ve said that the mainstream Commodores kept closely to the Opel templates. Not so the utes, panel vans, coupes, and the Statesmen and Caprices. The latter two were envisaged as “Australian Cadillacs”, and appealed to a similar demographic. They were never big sellers, but that was no bar to the efforts which Holden put in to differentiate them from their shorter-platformed brethren.

The WH Statesman was by no means the most mannerist of the breed. I’ll conclude with the one which was – the  90-91 VQ – a hymn to the perpendicular flush-glass baroque era:

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13 thoughts on “A Brougham Holden That’s Not a Holden Brougham”

  1. Holden’s spin on the Omega B manages to succeed, though it’s a blend of GM effects. It has a Buick feeling, some Opel and some Oldsmobile while the side-glass strays into late-model Crown Vic territory. And you show a 91 Holden which seems to be a direct rip-off of the ’85 Granada (and not Olds better-handled Cutlass or Mazda’s more original 929 coupe).
    That British V6 was a disaster- it’s the chief reason the Catera bombed and presumably blighted the reputation of the Omega B too.

    For a change, a Holden that does not look worse than the Opel it’s based on.

    Isn’t this Opel-to-Holden model where GM ultimately got the inspiration to kill off Buick without deleting the nameplate?

  2. The VQ Statesman is far more slab-sided than the Granada, much closer to the Mazda 929 / Cosmo, which was available in Australia at the time when the VQ was being designed. I think the Mazda was a more common sight than the Holden. Its approximate successor, the Sentia was very popular in Australia, despite being fully imported and far more expensive than the Commodore, Falcon, and Magna / Verada. The smart money presumably considered it was well worth it.

    As for Holden badge engineering, it’s a recondite business worthy of a story of its own. Off the top of my head I can come up with:

    IN: Daewoo, Isuzu, Nissan, Opel, Suzuki, Toyota, Vauxhall.
    OUT: Buick, Chevrolet, Daewoo, Isuzu, Mazda, Pontiac, Toyota, Vauxhall.

    1. The VQ is closer to the Taurus-Sable in terms of apparent cheapness-of-build.
      As to slabbiness, I think there’s little difference. There’s a flattish door panel topped with a curved section meeting the side-glass. I see it on all the cars being compared.

  3. Interesting article. I spotted straight away that the WH Statesman was a reheated Opel Omega / Senator from the same period, the flush glazing and fit of the front wing panels being the biggest tells. I know little about the Statesman (and indeed Holdens in general) but the Vauxhall version of the Senator was a superb device. I miss that and the Carlton even now.

    1. Yes, Opel did a good job with those cars. I saw a good few Omegas Bs in Germany but no A-series. A glance at the small ads produces few results too. There can’t be many left.

  4. This is my car – ironically, I also have an Omega MV6 which is currently parked in the same place…

    1. Hi Gavin: how do you rate the Omega? Is it true the heater matrix is a problem? Car magazine rated the Omega for its ride quality. I like its old-school engineering and scale. It’s obviously big but not unmanageably so. Are they worth a punt?

    1. The London taxi you might have seen in the same place is also down to me

  5. Had the Omega since 2003 and it’s done 50k miles without anything serious going wrong – no problem with the matrix so far. The aircon compressor had to be replaced last year (probably not used enough). Unlike the Holden, it’s not that fast but still good for long runs. The MV6 suspension and wheels are firm but handling is good too. I know some parts are getting hard to find. Some photos from April are in the Omega Owners Forum gallery if you want a look (plenty of other tech/buying info too).

  6. I can’t seem to break this old Holden stalking habit…

    This beauty has turned up in my locale – has Gavin increased his collection?

    Apologies for the Land-Windermere photos – taken in heavy rain with a cheap camera.

    Its a 2010 Commodore VE SV6, meaning it has the ‘Performance Look’ interior and a 3.6 litre SIDI LLT High Feature V6 with 280bhp. It seems like a nice spec – as much power as most people would need without going for the L98 V8 madness.

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