Introduced in 1978, the Commodore name has graced 14 model series and four generations of large rear-wheel drive vehicles for Australian and overseas buyers.
About 2.4 million Commodores have been produced since 1978 when the first VB series sedans rolled off the line, taking over from the Kingswood as Holden's leading family car range.
The all new VE Commodore comes 50 years almost to the day since another popular model, the FE Holden, was delivered to Australian motorists to replace the iconic FJ Holden.
The 2006 model coincided with the 40th anniversary of the 1966 HR Holden, the 30th anniversary of the HX Holden and the 20th anniversary of the 1986 VL Commodore, which marked the start of Holden's turnaround in the late 1980s.
It is also 75 years since Holden became part of the world's largest automotive company, General Motors, and 150 years since the original Holden saddlery business, which grew to be today's GM Holden, was opened in Adelaide.
GM Holden Chairman and Managing Director, Denny Mooney*, said Holden's heritage was a major driver of Holden employees' passion for developing new cars such as VE Commodore.
"Most companies in Australia would give anything for the sort of history and heritage we can celebrate each year," Mr Mooney said.
"People know when they come to work each day at Holden that they are responsible for a company which has a special place in Australian history.
"It's incredible timing to be able to celebrate the arrival of VE at the same time as major milestones for our company and some of our special historic cars.
"It is vital to understand our history to recognise what an important car the VE Commodore is to everyone at Holden. It's certainly the most Australian Commodore we have ever built."
General Motors started work on the Commodore in 1971 as the second GM 'world car' program. Variations were sold in England, other parts of Europe and South Africa with the Australian version receiving locally developed drivetrains, steering, suspension, body strengthening and dust sealing.
The Commodore was generally judged to have brought a new level of sophistication to the market with efficient space packaging, high levels of comfort, generous equipment levels and excellent handling due to the development of Holden's successful Radial Tuned Suspension.
Commodore subsequently collected more than 60 major motoring awards and won the prestigious Wheels Car of the Year award a record four times - VB (1978), VN (1988), VR (1993) and VT (1997).
Advances in safety technology such as driver, passenger and side impact airbags, computer optimised restraint systems and ABS brakes as standard fitment were all introduced on Commodore as 'firsts' for an Australian manufactured car.
Commodore's duties for Holden extended far beyond the showroom floor, as it has been the spearhead of its motorsport participation for almost 30 years.
During that time, Commodore has won an unrivalled 18 Bathurst victories and eight V8 touring car and supercar championships.
*Denny Mooney has since been replaced by Mark Reuss as GM Chairman & General Manager
Model by model
Release: October 1978
Base model price at release: $6,513
Produced: 95,906. Seven years and $110 million in the making, the first Commodore represented a considerable change of direction for Holden.
Developed from a GM 'world car' platform as economic rationalisation kicked in and oil price shocks began, the Commodore was appreciably smaller than previous family Holdens. This was a result of its European design heritage and a need, as Holden planners saw it, to move with the times and deliver a fuel-efficient, advanced and better-packaged car - still large enough to carry five adults in comfort - that would trump the rival Falcon and hold its own against increasing import competition.
The VB Commodore's generous standard equipment specification and handling capabilities brought a new level of sophistication to the market, earning it top selling status and the 1978 Wheels Car of the Year award.
Under the skin the VB Commodore differed markedly from its Opel badged German cousins. It combined the best available world car technology with Australian developed powertrain, suspension set-up and steering system, body strengthening and dust sealing - all the better to cope with a driving environment murderous enough to have destroyed European built prototypes. (Proof, if any was needed, that Holden engineers knew their territory came less than 12 months later when untried Commodores finished 1-2-3 in the 19,000 km Repco Round Australia Trial.)
Commodore sedans and wagons (these launched mid-1979) were offered in base model and SL designations, and top of the range was the remarkably well-equipped SL/E sedan. Engines included a 2.85 litre six-cylinder, 3.3 litre six, and 4.2 and 5.0-litre V8s, matched to four-speed manual and three-speed automatic transmissions.
The VB Commodore ushered in across the range standard features like steel belted radial ply tyres, front disc brakes, carpets, front bucket seats, clock, radio, remote control driver's mirror and heated rear screen.
While the SL added extras such as ribbed corduroy trim, T-bar auto, height adjustable driver's seat, rear centre armrest and intermittent wipers, the standard-bearer V8 SL/E weighed in with automatic air conditioning, 15" alloy wheels with 60 series tyres, four wheel disc brakes, full instrumentation, burl walnut finish, Blaupunkt radio/cassette audio system with electric antenna, remote boot release and must-have headlamp washer/wipers.
The VB Commodore reigned as Australia's most popular car in 1979, selling alongside the HZ Holden range of sedans, wagons, utes, vans and one tonners.
Release: March 1980
Base model price at release: $7,903
The VC Commodore update refined the classy Commodore concept and maintained its sales leadership.
This model was distinguished externally from its predecessor largely by a new grille treatment with centre mounted Holden badging and a smart 'Shadowtone' dark-over-light paint finish option on the SL/E. The VC range (its base model now designated Commodore 'L') offered cruise control and electronic ignition for the first time and an upgraded suspension system further improved ride and handling.
The big news however, was under the bonnet. Upgraded 'Blue' six and eight cylinder engines with redesigned cylinder heads, camshafts, carburettors, inlet and exhaust manifolds delivered major improvements in power output, driveability and economy. The new powerplants were up to 25 percent more powerful and 15 percent more fuel efficient than before. A 1.9 litre four-cylinder model was also released.
The VC was the first Commodore to be modified by Peter Brock's newly established Holden Dealer Team (HDT) outfit. Based on the 5.0-litre SL/E, the 500 HDT Commodores produced featured front and rear spoilers, wheel arch flares, Irmscher alloy wheels, upgraded suspension and dampers. A series of engine tweaks maximised performance.
Available in red, black or white, the individually numbered HDT 'Brock' Commodores sported body striping and decals.
The VC production run included the four millionth Holden, which was driven off the line by former MD Sir Laurence Hartnett.
Released: September 1981
Base model price at release (6 cyl): $9,066
Total number produced: 141,018
The VH Commodore series was the third in four years and reflected a 'steady as she goes' policy of refinement rather than sweeping change. The original front end sheet metal made way for an Australian designed treatment, with subtle changes to the guards, bonnet, grille and headlights. Louvre style sedan tail lights, seven new exterior colours and fresh interior trims also set the VH apart.
Buyers had a choice of five engines and four transmissions, among them a five-speed manual and a locally built Trimatic auto for the 5.0-litre V8. Performance and economy improvements centred on the 1.9-litre four and 2.85 six cylinder engines.
This model also benefited from refinements that delivered a smoother, quieter ride and from the introduction of advanced electronics systems, highlighted by a seven-function digital trip computer on the SL/E model. On the comfort and convenience front, VH introduced central locking and all-new leather trim.
In early '82 the first Commodore SS made its debut with the VH series, which also saw the former Commodore L model designated SL, the former SL become the SL/X and the SL/E remain unchanged. The Commodore SS sports package formed the basis for HDT's Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 SS performance variants.
Released: February 1984
Base model price at release: $11,152
Total produced: 135,705
Cleverly designed, keenly priced and radically upgraded, the VK range introduced a raft of major changes. Its sleek and strikingly different look came courtesy of a new six-window profile, distinctive louvred grille, deep polycarbonate bumpers and wrap around side mouldings.
Performance was boosted with an enhanced version of the 3.3- litre six, now the base engine, which benefited from an elec-tronic spark timing engine management system.
Standard on the newly designated Calais flagship (the Berlina name also made its first appearance with VK) and optional on other models was a 3.3 litre electronic fuel injection (EFI) six, which raised power output without sacrificing fuel efficiency.
Lower priced than the VH models it superseded and much improved in terms of operating refinement, the value for money VK delivered upgraded sound, security and air conditioning systems and a cruise control option for the first time. The stylish Calais, set apart by silver side mouldings and bumpers, offered the first trip computer in a locally built car, central locking, power windows, digital/analogue electronic instrument displays, cruise control and velour or optional leather trim.
A new SL-based 'Executive' package, incorporating air conditioning, power steering and auto transmission, was aimed largely at fleet buyers. High performance HDT versions included the SS, SS Group 3 and the 'sporting evolution' SS Group A.
Released: March 1986
Base model price at release: $13,830
Total number produced: 151,801
More like an entirely new model than a makeover, the streamlined VL series really raised the bar in terms of performance and technology. Although an initially controversial choice, its sophisticated Nissan-sourced powertrain proved silk-smooth, sensationally powerful and remarkably fuel-saving. The completely new high-tech 3.0 litre engine, running on lower octane unleaded fuel, lifted SL base model power output by 33 per cent and improved fuel economy by 15 per cent. It could be matched to a five-speed manual or an equally efficient and economical four-speed electronic auto transmission.
The competitively priced VL Commodore also looked the goods, benefiting from comprehensive front end sheet metal changes, highlighted by a compact grille and slim 'homofocal' headlamps that on Calais were given an individual, semi concealed treatment. In profile, the longer VL nose was balanced at the rear by an integral boot lid lip.
Upgraded interiors had an all new dash fascia and instrument panel layout with binnacle mounted touch controls.
Mid-1986 saw the introduction of a 150kW turbocharged version of the 3.0 six - an engine with more power on tap than Holden's standard 5.0-litre V8.
The VL series also introduced Holden's first 'unleaded' V8 engine, a limited edition Calais wagon and two SS Group A entries - an HDT model and one of the most famous Commodore sporting evolutions, the outrageously styled 'plastic fantastic' 180kW SS Group A, first of a new dynasty to be created by the newly formed Holden Special Vehicles (HSV).
Released: August 1988
Base model price at release: $20,014
Total number produced: 215,180
In 1978 Holden had introduced a Commodore that was perceptibly smaller than its rival in response to economic woes and fuel crises. By the early 1980s, however, these concerns had largely passed and it was obvious to Holden planners that Australian family car buyers would prefer their next generation Commodore to be bigger all round.
Using the Omega model platform developed by German GM affiliate Opel, Holden designers and engineers came up with a unique vehicle, wide bodied and radically redesigned for Australia, that made the landmark VN Commodore model a winner from day one.
It introduced a totally new 'aero look' body, featuring a raked windscreen and large areas of flush-fitting glass. The standard powerplant - a torquey, Buick-sourced 3.8 litre V6 with a locally developed engine management system - was as powerful as the old carburettored V8. The VN also introduced a refined 165kW fuel injected V8, the most powerful mass produced Aussie engine so far, which was standard on the SS and optional across the range. Buyers could choose an Australian made five-speed manual transmission or US sourced four-speed overdrive automatic.
Four wheel disc brakes and power steering were standard on all models. While the rear track was widened by 50mm, suspension and steering systems carried over from the VL.
VN's roomy, new interior included a one piece dash fascia, wide centre console and binnacle mounted 'fingertip' controls on either side of the instrument panel.
The VN wagon sat on a 91mm longer wheelbase and could accommodate seven with the addition of an optional rear seating. (The stretched wagon platform also heralded the extremely successful return, two years later, of Holden's luxury long-wheelbase Statesman and Caprice models and the legendary Ute.)
Released: September, 1991
Base model price at release: $23,992
Total number produced: 111,949
While design changes to the VP Commodore were low key, this series was characterised by significant engineering refinements and equipment upgrades that improved ride quality, refinement, comfort and safety.
For the first time, independent rear suspension (IRS) was offered - standard on Calais and SS models, optional on Berlina and Executive - and anti-lock braking (ABS) was made available.
All models came equipped with remote control central locking, power mirrors, a sophisticated anti theft system and bonnet gas struts. Berlina picked up such items as a tachometer and cruise control, while the Calais had a body computer which controlled a range of functions including Variotronic speed-sensitive power steering and automatic headlights-off.
Externally, the VP received new front guards to accommodate larger turn indicators, as well as new bumpers, a new grille treatment, new boot panel garnish and a striped tail lamp finish.
A HSV enhanced 180kW V8 engine became optional across the range in early 1992. Further models included the limited edition Calais International, Berlina LX sedans and wagons and Vacationer sedans and wagons. The VP range also saw the introduction of the Series II concept and a three-year roadside service package, with Calais models.
Released: July 1993
Base model price at release: $25,302
Total number produced: 165,262
Strikingly different in appearance from its predecessors and with a strong emphasis on occupant safety, the multi award winning, techn-ologically sophisticated
VR Commodore was the first Australian manufactured car to offer a driver's airbag.
Changes to more than 80 percent of its exterior included new sheet metal front and rear and flared, rounded wheel arches. The range was characterised by a new 'twin port' grille - echoing that of the famous FJ - above a large central air intake
The safety orientated Commodore Acclaim made its debut with VR and was an immediate hit. It combined more safety features than any car in the family price bracket, including a unique, Holden designed driver airbag, anti-lock brakes, independent rear suspension and other across the range items such as seatbelt webbing clamps and sedan centre rear lap/sash seat belt.
Inside, there was a completely new 'soft form' dash fascia, a new steering wheel and adjustable steering column.
Complementing these changes, the re-engineered automatic transmission had its computing power doubled and revised shift changes improved throttle response and fuel efficiency.
While the VS wore the dynamic new look Holden Lion symbol on its bonnet and interior treatments were more luxurious, design changes were relatively few.
A Series II upgrade in 1996 brought in a new five speed Getrag manual transmission for V6 models and later that year a Supercharged V6 was introduced as an option on the top range Calais.
Released: August 1997
Base model price at release: $28,900
Total Number produced: 303,895
The VT Commodore reinforced Holden's position as an automotive manufacturer of world standard. It was totally new from the ground up - the result of a $600 million investment and the largest and most advanced new vehicle engineering program Holden had ever undertaken.
This range was characterised by powerfully sculpted exterior styling, more spacious and luxuriously equipped interiors, class-leading vehicle dynamics and significant strides in safety performance. The design integrity of its substantially stronger body structure was reflected in appreciably higher levels of build quality and driving refinement, and many of
VT's high technology features were 'firsts' for an Australian car.
With its wider track and longer wheelbase, the VT was the largest Commodore so far and with export markets in mind, the first to be designed to suit left- and right-hand drive configurations. The level of standard equipment offered - it included a driver airbag, electric driver's seat adjustment, trip computer, advanced security and remote boot release - was higher than in any other car in its class.
Designed to help protect occupants from injury in the widest possible range of crash situations, the VT also offered higher levels of primary and secondary safety. Initiatives included computer designed, crash energy-absorbing body structures, computer optimised restraint systems, pyrotechnic seat belt buckle pre-tensioners and anti-submarining ramps. Side impact airbags were also made available later in this model's life.
The all new heavy duty braking system used four-wheel large diameter discs and high performance calipers and worked in tandem with an 'Australian first' traction control system. VT ride and handling attributes set a benchmark in 'driver's car' chassis dynamics and independent rear suspension was fitted across the range.
The accommodating interior offered a completely new instrument panel layout, new seating and richer soft trims.
Few changes were made to the recently upgraded 3.8 litre ECOTEC V6 powerplant, Super- charged V6 power output was raised to 171kW. Revisions to the standard 5.0 litre V8 also increased power output and a high performance 195kW V8 was also offered, before the VT Series II introduction of a 5.7 litre Gen III V8.
Calais came complete with dual zone climate control, a personal PowerKey system which 'remembers' individual settings at start-up and a twilight sentinel that automatically turns headlamps on and off.
Released: September 2000
Base model price at release: $28,900
Total number produced: 207,339
While retaining the key attributes that won the VT such emphatic market acceptance, the VX Commodore range offered a higher degree of refinement, achieved through a series of design, engineering, safety and feature upgrades.
Faced with the challenge of taking an extremely successful design and freshening it retaining its huge appeal, Holden designers introduced graphic cues, accented by new headlamps, grilles, bumpers and rear treatments, that made each model in the range more distinctive.
Safety advancements included an advanced structural design for improved protection in side impact crashes, across the range fitment of ABS anti-lock braking and the availability of traction control with manual transmissions.
Driveline improvements, recalibrated and more powerful electronics, suspension changes and noise isolation measures combined to deliver smoother, more responsive ECOTEC V6 and GEN III V8 performance, a three to four percent improvement in fuel economy and a quieter ride. To complement the improved ride quality, Holden engineers also focused on reducing cabin noise.
Steering wheel mounted audio system controls, CD player and retracting power antenna became standard fitment and Executive and Acclaim buyers could now choose the Supercharged V6 engine option.
The Series II VX introduced Control-Link IRS, which offered even greater stability, control and handling precision, and the Holden Assist in-car communications system was made optional on Calais.
Released: October, 2002
Price at release: $30,880
With the VY model, Holden continued to finesse the formula that made Commodore Australia's most popular car for five years straight.
Expanded to include a new SV8 sports sedan, the VY series set a strong new styling direction with harder edged, angular lines, a more aggressive 'face' and a sharper rear end which improved aerodynamic performance.
Inside, the look was also cutting edge, with a totally re-designed instrument panel, featuring a binnacle style instrument cluster and multi-function digital displays, a new centre console and steering wheel.
Emphasising Commodore's reputation as a driver's car, VY benefited from the most intensive vehicle engineering program undertaken by Holden since the development of the VT.
It offered a new measure of refinement and improved drive character via significant advances in chassis dynamics, build precision, powertrain and safety performance.lumn and an extended comfort and convenience features listing. VR's upgraded air conditioning system ran free of ozone-depleting chemicals and all models were equipped with a body computer and smart electronic security with remote key and central locking.
Engine modifications produced more power, refinement and fuel economy, while a wider front track and major revisions to suspension geometry further improved ride and handling characteristics.
Released: April 1995
Base model price at release: $26,780
Total number produced: 277,774
An advancement on the successful formula that won the VR number one sales status, the VS was powered by a smooth, refined 3800 ECOTEC V6 that delivered 13 per cent more power and improved fuel economy.
Continuing Holden's leadership in safety technology, it was the first locally built vehicle to offer 'dual' driver and front passenger airbags.
The comprehensively upgraded ECOTEC V6 benefited from low friction technology and included a new cylinder block design, lightweight, high compression pistons, lighter cylinder heads, new Bosch throttle body and sequential fuel injection.
The VY series introduced upgraded high feature Blaupunkt audio systems, automatic headlamps, road-speed sensitive intermittent wipers, headlamps off programmable time delay and passenger airbags across the range - and such options as Rear Park Assist on sedans and a six-stack in dash CD player (where not standard). VY Series II models add cruise control, passenger seat lumbar support, sunglasses holder and rear reading lamps across the range and introduce active front seat head restraints on Acclaim and Calais models, 'memory' seats and heated exterior mirrors on Calais.
Release: August 2004
Base model price at release: $35,410
Produced: 228,788 to June 2006
The significantly upgraded VZ range represented the final iteration of the vehicle platform introduced with VT Commodore. It was distinguished by sharper design themes and a 'twin spear' sculpted bonnet, beneath which was a completely new high feature Alloytec V6 engine, produced at Holden's $400 million Global V6 plant in Port Melbourne, Victoria.
Chassis dynamics were improved by brake, suspension and steering system upgrades across the range. All V8 models now had electronic throttle control and benefited from further evolutionary improvements to engine management, transmission and cooling systems. SS and SV8 models received a power boost to 250kW.
A new SV6 performance model replaced the Commodore S and sported new circular tail lamps, in common with SS and SV8. In early 2005, the SV8 took on all SV6 exterior styling features.
The lightweight, all aluminium 3.6 litre Alloytec operated with double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. It delivered more peak power and 90 per cent of peak torque between increased rev ranges, with fewer emissions.
Executive, Acclaim and Berlina were specified with the 175kW Alloytec engine. The high performance, 190kW Alloytec 190 engine specified on Calais and SV6 was linked to a premium five-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. SV6 offered the option of a new six speed manual. The Alloytec V6 introduced a new era in Holden chassis control systems and active safety technology, with Acclaim and Calais delivering features such as electronic stability program - a first for an Australian built car - electronic brake distribution, brake assist and corner brake control, all of which help drivers to maintain vehicle control in emergency situations.
Release: August 2006
Base model price at release: $34,490
The VE Commodore program has been the biggest investment by GM Holden in a new range to date. Over $1 billion was spent on the VE program, which was a new from the ground up vehicle that uses a new rear wheel drive platform called Zeta, its engineering, calibration, interior and body styles all being creations of GM Holden Australia.
The design team drew inspiration from the world's most expensive cars and aspirational brands, then set extremely high targets in creating a global version of the Commodore.
The VE range provides no fewer than two headlight styles, three front fascias, four rear lights, three rear fascias and two rear spoilers in its standard range.
The V Series treatments for SS and Calais add specific exterior treatments, and Holden accessories offer further options.
VE wheels and tyres are increased from a 15x6-inch package on the VZ series to 16x7-inch for VE Omega. Sizes increase to a standard 19x8-inch package on the SS V and a 20x8-inch package is available as an accessory.
While the V6 engine is produced locally, other engines and transmissions are imported.
From an early stage Holden set the bar high for VE, the result being a stunningly modern and smart vehicle.
VE models are larger than the VZ and wheels are placed at the corners for greater stability and stance. VE is stronger, safer and better equipped than the previous model. The VE Commodore/ WM Statesman and Caprice ranges comprise: Omega entry model ($34,390), Berlina V8 ($44,990), SV6 manual ($39,990), SV6 auto ($40,990), SS V manual ($51,990), SS V auto ($53,990), Calais V6 ($45,490), Calais V8 ($50,490), Calais V V6 ($53,490), Calias V V8 ($58,490), Statesman V6 ($58,990), Statesman V8 ($62,990), Caprice V6 ($65,990), Caprice V8 ($69,990).
In an unusual decision Holden chose to continue to manufacture the outgoing VZ Series Commodore alongside the new VE Commodore at its Elizabeth Plant.
The VE Commodore is better in every aspect over models that have gone before it and despite surging fuel prices, the VE Commodore remains Australia's favourite family car.