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The Tragic Near Miss Models...

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21 hours ago, Datsuncog said:

Remember, we only got a Mk2 Cavalier estate because the Aussies developed that...

The MK3 Cavalier never came to Australia so we never had a chance to make an estate version, this was due to the MK2 Cavalier being a flop in the Australian market in the form of the Holden Camira.

My near miss model of choice is the Leyland P76. It should have been the car that cemented the future of Leyland in Australia, but in the usual BL fashion the design was compromised, it was poorly executed and the end result incredibly unreliable in service.

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1 hour ago, The Mighty Quinn said:

It was odd how the Cavalier estate flopped ....

Wasn't the bodyshell imported from Holden?

Apparently the Mk2 estate body panels were Australian. I didn't know that.

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On 1/23/2020 at 9:58 AM, MorrisItalSLX said:

The MK3 Cavalier never came to Australia so we never had a chance to make an estate version, this was due to the MK2 Cavalier being a flop in the Australian market in the form of the Holden Camira.

Yeah, my understanding wasn't so much that the Camira was a bad car in and of itself (after all, GM's 'J-Car' notched up plenty of sales worldwide), but that the build quality of Holden's first locally assembled FWD car was pretty piss-poor, with angry customers coming back again and again for warranty work - not unlike the same issues that had beset Leyland Australia really, and (let's be honest) many Fords weren't brilliantly screwed together either - Falcon EA, anyone?


But the JB series Camira seemed to burn through a lot of goodwill very quickly - the fuel crisis at the time made many Australians reconsider whether they really needed a big six-cylinder Falcon or Commodore, and the enthusiastic press response to the new FWD baby Holden sedan brought in to replace the old Torana (and voted 1982 Car of the Year by Wheels magazine, no less) must have encouraged many try their luck with a smaller, four-pot motor.

Before long, quite a few buyers were fairly vocal that they'd sooner pay the fuel penalty for a large, lazy cruiser with plenty of low-down torque than drive around in this cramped 1.6 litre screamer that overheated when the aircon was switched on, and bits fell off when driving along unpaved roads. Especially once the price of fuel dropped again.

It also gave Holden a massive headache when their market research showed that nearly every buyer of the Camira had done so in preference to their similar-looking, larger, and much more profitable VH Series Commodore (effectively a Vauxhall Carlton with the Senator front end grafted on).


Frustratingly for Holden, they were carrying the cost of building two separate car lines to garner almost exactly the same number of sales they could have managed with a single model - while generating less profit per unit, to boot.

In a final act of corporate self-sabotage, Holden stylists were given the unusual task of making the Camira look smaller and less attractive, while making the Commodore look bigger and more impressive. They succeeded admirably - on one project anyway.


As taglines go, this 1984 ad for the JD Series Camira kind says it all. The new Camira now came with a marginally less frantic 1.8 litre unit, plus a front end that looked like an alien come to probe your arse.  And it appeared three years before the facelifted Ford Sierra, note you well.

At the same time Holden modified their familiar Carlton/Rekord-based bodyshell for the Commo in-house, drawing heavily on the three-window European Senator to come up with the new Commodore VK - available with a somewhat meatier 3.3 straight six or 5.0 V8 donk.


By the time the Camira was pensioned off in 1989, Australia had adopted the Button Plan and so Holden were obliged to look east for its replacement, rather than to Europe... enter the rather familiar-looking "Holden Apollo".


Toyota had already developed a wagon version of their Camry, so that saved a lot of faffing at Holden's end - but this decision made on the other side of the world did perhaps keep the Mk3 Cavalier estate from becoming a fixture on Britain's suburban driveways in the early 1990s.


Mind you, the Mk3 Cavalier might never have made it to Australian shores - but it got pretty close, selling in New Zealand as the Opel Vectra, and later badged as the Holden Vectra.


The Aussie-built Camira had been just as much of a flop in NZ due to the same build quality concerns, so it was completely pulled and replaced with a badge-engineered Isuzu Aska - another J-car - but now with a choice of 1.8 or 2 litre engine. It also came with different front end styling again, which I believe were locally built using CKD kits shipped from Japan.


Confusingly though, despite the negative connotations, Holden NZ contined to call this new car the Camira (now referred to by dealers as the JJ Series) - while at the same time importing the similar-but-different-again Australian JD Series Camira in wagon format.

So yeah. The Camira could have been the car to make Australians realise that they didn't need to squeeze 5 litre engines into small Euroboxes in order for them to function as transport - but, for want of a horseshoe nail (or maybe just better glue), Holden stuffed it up. Definitely a tragic near-miss if ever there was one.

Full disclosure: I nearly bought a last of the line JE series Camira back in 2005, but ultimately decided I just couldn't live with that pursed, lemon-sucking front end (or indeed the red crushed velour interior) and went for a Toyota Corona instead...


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  • Why the hell was this FWD and not RWD?
  • What the hell were they thinking dumping a 115hp four-pot in it?
  • The V6 only had 160hp or so, why no special Cosworth-tuned lump?

I suspect the answer to those questions is, essentially, 'Mazda'.

And while I'm a big ol' fanboy of Volvo, I really find it hard to stomach its absolute stubbornness to put anything bigger than a 2.0 four-pot in any of its cars. The five-pot warble was almost a USP all by itself from the late 1990s through to the late 2000s. Now Volvo have lost that, while BMW have retained its six-pot character, Mercedes have been stubbornly putting a sort of V8 in its performance models until very recently.

I look at the new Volvo S60 T5 and think it's wasted opportunity. 

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Renault 14.  If the rep selling Finnigans Waxoyl had managed to convince our French cousins that some rustproofing would be a good idea, we would all be complaining about all the bloody Renault 14’s filling the classifieds right now



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On ‎1‎/‎22‎/‎2020 at 12:34 PM, Asimo said:

Renault Avantime.  

On that note, an obvious entry to this thread would be the Rancho, built by the same Messrs. Matra. Only briefly mentioned in this thread but about 25 years ahead of it's time. Despite being based on a Simca 1100 pickup, complete with the cab and front end, Matra were exquisitely creative with the details. Raised GRP rear section, split tailgate and rugged bolt on accessories traded purely on image over function.

It's such a shame that they no longer exist, but at least their swansong was the Avantime - what a car!

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Still think the C5 was a bloody good idea just utterly mismarketed and 20 years too early.

Launched as an alternative to the bike, with modern battery tech and with the cycle priority present in a lot of cities these days I reckon it would have had a shot at doing reasonably well.

As it was, touted as the car of tomorrow...just...no. 

Yes, I do own one and use it regularly...it is not however a car!


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