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Remembering Holden's 4x4 creations

By Matt Raudonikis, 07 Mar 2020 Opinion

Holden 4x4 history opinion

Matt wonders if Holden's future would have been different if took a different - more adventurous - route.

NO MATTER what marque you follow or support, the final death of the Holden brand was a massive blow to automotive enthusiasts in Australia. Holden was Australia’s car, and for generations it was the only game in town. Even the other local manufacturers of the time rarely came close to Holden’s popularity with the masses.

Holden didn’t change with the masses and the public weren’t buying what the Lion-brand was offering, so it’s been a fast ride to the scrap heap in recent years. Perhaps if Holden built a 4x4 vehicle designed, developed and manufactured here for Australians this would be different today.

If you disregard the Arthur Hayward-developed and -built Overlander Holdens of the late 1970s, Holden’s history of 4WD vehicles has been closely tied to another former GM affiliate, Isuzu. Unlike Holden, Isuzu continues to exist without GM.

The Isuzu-based Holden Rodeo stemmed from the Chevy LUV ute, which in turn was itself an Isuzu, and it maintained close ties to the Japanese brand up to the current generation Colorado. GM had more input into the current model than ever before, and later in 2020 we’ll see a new Isuzu D-MAX without the involvement of Holden or GM.

Other Isuzu-built four-wheel drives marketed here by Holden include the popular Jackaroo wagon (over two generations of models) and the not-so-popular Frontera, which was closely related to the Rodeo. The Isuzus were good vehicles with a reputation for reliability that modern Isuzus retain to this day, but there was never a 4x4 truly made for Australia.

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Back in its heyday, in an era when motor shows were still popular, Holden was also famed for its stunning show-special concept vehicles. The Holden concepts were always a highlight of any Sydney Motor Show and the unveilings were usually met with oohs and aahs by the onlookers. There was a couple of four-wheel drive vehicles among Holden’s concepts, but the one that always stands out in my mind was the Jack8 concept.

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I first saw the Jackaroo-based Jack8 at the Melbourne 4x4 Show when it used to be held in the convention centre, and I loved the look of it with its bright red paint, big tyres and open top. The fact it had a V8 under the bonnet also appealed to my simple tastes, and as I admired it I wondered what would this beast be like to drive?

Holden has kept many of its one-offs, show specials and concept vehicles, but I’ve never seen the Jack8 again. Who knows where it is now?

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