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.
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: