Return of the Statesman

Following the death of the HZ Kingswood in 1980, Holden’s beloved chassis soldiered on as the WB in luxury sedan and commercial form only. By 1985, they were gone too, leaving a long-wheelbase-sized hole in Holden’s range.

Although seen as a return to form for Holden, the VQ Statesman and Caprice luxury twins, released in March 1990, were heavily criticised for sharing too many parts with the VN Commodore. As spectacular and un-Opel-like as the unique hidden C-pillar appeared, the front quarters, bonnet, headlights, boot lid and tail-lights were all Commodore – a trap Ford avoided when designing the NA Fairlane and DA LTD, which used only the windscreen and front doors from the EA Falcon.

While the 14-speaker stereo cassette system in the Caprice was pretty speccy, it was the long-awaited introduction of Independent Rear Suspension, a first for an Aussie luxury car, that upset Ford’s apple cart. The VQ and VQII previewed several other mechanical upgrades that would see their way into the 1990 VN Commodore update and 1991 VP range, including Holden’s first local ABS braking system.

A lot of industries have a history of odd decisions, and the car-making industry is no exception.

In fact, local car makers have been responsible for some absolute howlers over the years. Does anybody remember when Ford decided that, despite years of tradition and marketing, Australians no longer wanted a V8 engine?

You only need to look at today's V8 sales figures of the time to know that the call was the wrong one.

Meanwhile, Holden kept building its own V8, picking up former Ford V8 owners. The call also allowed Holden to market itself as the company to look to for performance models.

In Holden's case, the decision in the 1970s to downsize the Commodore still haunts it, and so must its decision in the early 1980s to drop its long-wheelbase car, the Statesman.

That decision handed a profitable chunk of the market to Ford, which sold its Fairlane/LTD long-wheelbase car to Holden customers, many of them former Statesman buyers.

Holden's problem was that the downsized Commodore sold from 1978 to 1987 just wasn't viable as a long-wheelbase car.

Things changed for Holden when the VN Commodore landed in showrooms in 1988, complete with its new V6 engine, an electronically fuel-injected version of the old faithful 5-litre V8, and a full-width, full-length body shell ripe for stretching into a Statesman/Caprice model.

And they might be getting on a bit now in terms of their design, but those first reborn Statesmans are good second-hand buys simply because they're big, strong cars that can carry five adults in comfort.

HSCCA Member Martin Barlow owns C*2 Bob Hawke's Prime Ministerial Limo and maintains this list of  spreadsheet VQ Caprice register owners handout b(1) (15 KB)