The Holden Camira was a mid-size car produced and sold for seven years from 1982 to 1989. GM-Holden produced it using the J-platform—General Motor’s shared-model platform that produced 16 car marques in all its 24 years of production run. Camira shared this platform with various brands/models, including Buick Skyhawk, Pontiac Sunfire, and Toyota Cavalier.
After over 150,000 Camiras were produced, its sales started to wane in 1989. It was shortly discontinued and replaced by the Holden Apollo, which was introduced as a compact—but later mid-size—offering in the same lineup as Camira. Shown below is the short timeline of Holden Camira.
JB Series: 1982–1984
Before Camira, Holden had been offering Holden Torana (an aboriginal word that means “to fly”) for 13 years. In 1982, the JB series of Camira (an aboriginal word that means “wind”) came into the market as a four-door sedan, followed by a five-door station wagon in the following year. Both left-hand and right-hand variants were produced to also cater to the neighboring Southeast Asian markets.
Only one engine was available, with three gearbox variations. The JB Camira was offered in the following specs and trim variants:
- SL, entry-level – 1.6L 4-cylinder carbureted naturally-aspirated, transversely-mounted engine rated at 64 kW with standard 4-speed MT; optional 3-speed AT; basic model with no air-conditioning or power steering features
- SJ, sporty – 1.6L 4-cylinder carbureted naturally-aspirated, transversely-mounted engine rated at 64 kW with 5-speed MT; optional 3-speed AT; basic model with no air-conditioning, no power steering, but with slight cosmetic distinction from the SL trim level; three colors were available (blue, red, and orange)
- SLX, intermediate – 1.6L 4-cylinder carbureted naturally-aspirated, transversely-mounted engine rated at 64 kW with standard 4-speed MT; optional 3-speed AT; all SL trims plus several cosmetic enhancements, including cloth trim and extra chrome.
- SLE, premium/top of the line - 1.6L 4-cylinder carbureted naturally-aspirated, transversely-mounted engine rated at 64 kW with 5-speed MT; optional 3-speed AT; all the basic trims plus full instrumentation and VH Commodore/SLE-styled alloy wheels.
The Holden Camira was recognized by the Wheels magazine as the “Car of the Year” for 1982, albeit the automotive media considered it as underpowered. It was also associated with a range of problems, including smoking engines, inadequate door drainage, low-quality paint, inefficient fan-cooling system, among many other quality issues.
JD and JJ Series: 1984–1987
The upgrades on the Holden Camira were introduced in 1984 in its JD series, involving both mechanical enhancement and cosmetic facelift. Here were the modifications that came with the release of JD Camira in 1984:
- 1.8L multi-point fuel-injected engine (for the SLX and SLE variants only) with 5-speed MT; power rated at 85 kW
- The conventional grille was replaced with an aerodynamic nose
From the four specs and trim level variants available in the JB series, only the SL, SLX, and SLE were continued, with the introduction of the Executive and the Formula packs. The Executive pack was an option for the SLX, while the Formula pack was offered as an option for all variants. The Formula package included pin-striping and side skirting.
In 1986, the JD Camira had to be modified again to comply with new emission regulations that required the use of unleaded petrol for all cars produced in Australia. This forced Holden to drop the 1.6L engine in their SL variant and rework on the 1.8L engine in the other variants, reverting from the multi-point injection to single-point. These modifications on the powertrain created various mechanical issues for the Camira.
Parallel to the JD series, the JJ series ran in New Zealand in the same period. The model marketed as JJ Camira was actually another J-platform car—the Isuzu Aska from Japan—but rebadged as JJ Camira.
JE Series: 1987–1989
In 1987, the Holden released the final series of Camira, reengineered with 2.0L multi-point fuel-injected engine rated at 85 kW power. Minor facelift included a thin grille, revised hood, larger wheels, and updated wheel trims.
The JE Camira was available in the usual SL, SLX, Executive, and SLE specs and trim levels, but with the following new variants added:
- Vacationer – a special-edition variant based on the Executive option; it included SLX trims, SLE roof racks for the station wagon, and a metallic blue painting with red/white decals
- SLi 2000 – this was the sports trim package based on the SLX sedan variant; it included side skirting, orange/silver pin-striping, and a small rear spoiler; it was only available in red
- Formula – like in the JD series, this pack was offered again for all the sedan models in this series; it included headrest inserts, and any-colour skirting and pin-striping
Some of the problems that plagued the final series of Holden Camira were rusting, firewall cracking issues for MT versions, malfunctions in the lockup torque converter switch for AT versions, engine stalling, and many more.
The production of Holden Camira finally came to a stop in 1989 with the arrival of Holden Apollo—one of the three cars that would be produced by a model-sharing scheme between Holden and Toyota under the Australian government’s Button Car Plan.
In New Zealand, the Holden Camira was replaced by the Opel Vectra in 1989, which later was rebadged as Holden Vectra in 1994.