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October 1998

Golden Holdens : VB Commodore (1978-1980)

VB Commodore
Oldie - 70s VB.jpg (15699 bytes)By coincidence, it was just as Motown band The Commodores began serenading Australians with their hit Three Times A Lady that Holden redefined the local passenger car market with the entry of its entirely new Commodore nameplate.

The all-new VB model signified a major change in direction. The popularity of smaller Japanese imports and the fuel crises of the 1970s influenced Holdenís decision to market a car that was significantly smaller and lighter than its predecessors.

The VB Commodore benefited from an investment of more than $110 million in development and combined modern German body design with an Australian engine and local mechanical components.

The newcomer drew rave reviews from the motoring press, endorsing claims that the VB Commodore was the finest car ever to be manufactured in Australia.

"Okay world, hereís Holdenís new Commodore and itís the beginning of a shining new era in Australian cars," trumpeted an early article in Wheels magazine. "The Commodore is a car we can be proud of, a car to compare with any (and we mean any) from Europe. Meet a new and very different Holden "itís the Generalís finest hour."

Such public votes of confidence were reinforced when the VB Commodore was awarded the coveted Wheels ĎCar of the Yearí award in 1978.

Significant aspects of Commodoreís design included MacPherson strut front suspension modified to cope with harsh Australian road conditions, the use of rack and pinion steering, a four-speed manual gearbox as standard and generous equipment levels, beginning with the base model.

Powered by a 2.85 litre six-cylinder engine, the cheapest variant offered front power-assisted brakes, carpets, front bucket seats, clock, radio and heated rear screen. The more highly specified VB Commodore SL added a 3.3 litre six-cylinder powerplant, T-bar automatic transmission, cloth seat trim, height adjustable driverís seat, rear centre armrest, retractable rear seat belts, intermittent windscreen wipers and left hand remote-operated mirror.

The top-of-the-line SL/E became Holdenís showpiece model and created a new benchmark for locally-produced luxury sedans. In 1979, Wheels magazine compared it favourably with a mid-size Mercedes Benz.

Priced at only $10,513, the VB SL/E featured a powerful 4.2 litre V8 teamed with T-bar automatic transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, power steering, 15x6 alloy wheels, integrated air conditioning, AM/FM radio cassette player and a full range of convenience items including headlight wipers and washers.

Wagon versions of the base VB Commodore and VB Commodore SL were introduced in 1979 and featured a large cargo area and easy access one-piece lift-up tailgate.

VB Commodore Fact-File
Total number built: 95,906

Base price at introduction
$6,513 (base six-cylinder sedan)
$7,813 (SL six-cylinder sedan)
$10,513 (SL/E six-cylinder sedan)

Commodore sedan and station wagon,
Commodore SL sedan and station wagon,
Commodore SL/E sedan.

2.85 litre six-cylinder, 3.3 litre six-cylinder,
4.2 litre V8 and 5 litre V8.

Four-speed manual, three-speed Trimatic automatic,
three- speed Turbohydramatic 350/400 automatic.

Dimensions (basic sedan)
Length - 4705mm
Width - 1722mm
Wheelbase - 2668mm

Popular songs of the `70s
Eagle Rock (Daddy Cool), I Feel The Earth Move (Carol King),
Father and Son (Cat Stevens),
Rainy Days and Mondays (Carpenters),
Itís Only Rock and Roll (The Rolling Stones),
I Shot The Sheriff (Eric Clapton),
Howzat (Sherbet), Fernando (Abba),
Donít Go Breaking My Heart (Elton John and Kiki Dee),
Three Times A Lady (Commodores).

Popular films of the `70s
The Exorcist (Linda Blair),
The Great Gatsby (Robert Redford, Mia Farrow),
The Sting (Robert Redford, Paul Newman),
Jaws (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw),
One Flew Over The Cuckooís Nest (Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher),
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire),
Saturday Night Fever (John Travolta).