Don’t scrap that old car just yet. Who knows, it could turn out to be the next classic car in Australia. Cars serve as icons of their period. They pull on our heartstrings, and many have stories to tell.
In 1933, for instance, Ford built the Coupe Utility as a response to a letter sent by a Gippsland farmer’s wife. She said that they could only afford one vehicle that could take them to church on Sundays and their pigs to the market on Mondays. Thus, the ute was born in 1934, which Henry Ford fondly nicknamed the ‘Aussie kangaroo chaser’.
But what makes a classic car? Is it its age? Is it the make, price, rarity, or popularity? Opinions vary, that’s for sure.
What is a classic car?
There’s no universal agreement about the exact definition of a classic automobile. Everyone agrees, though, that a vehicle can only be considered a classic if it is old. How old – is yet another area of divergence.
A Wikipedia source says that a classic has to be at least 20 years old, while another says the threshold is 25 years. Also, other car clubs and organisations all over the world make a distinction between classic, antique, and vintage vehicles.
The age threshold in Victoria and WA is 25 years, while in NSW and SA, it’s 30 years. For the rest of the states and territories, we assume the minimum age for a classic automobile to be within these figures, too.
Whether it’s 25 or 30, the cars below are all way too ‘old’ to be bothered by the minimum age requirement. They are classics not only in that respect but also because they symbolise their era.
Top 5 classic cars in Australia
Looking back at the icons that roamed the Oz and captured the hearts of its people, we’ve listed five of these classic cars.
1. Holden 48-215 – marketed as ‘Holden’ and unofficially nicknamed ‘Holden FX’
This mid-size sedan was the first Holden marque by General Motors Australia, produced from 1948 until 1953. While the 48-215 was based on a design penned by Chevrolet USA, it was a car made by Australia for Australia. Then Labour Prime Minister Ben Chifley called it ‘a beauty,’ which indeed it was!
Its launching marked the beginning of Holden’s love affair with the Aussies. This all-Australian model also fathered the Holden Coupe Ute, built in 1951. It became so successful that Holden ramped up ute-version production for all succeeding models, from the FJ Holden to the VF Commodore era in 2014.
2. Ford Model T – endearingly called Tin Lizzie, Leaping Lena, jitney or flivver
Ford Australia was founded in 1925 and headquartered in Geelong, Victoria. Its first products were Model T's. CKD kits were sent from Ford Canada but adapted for Aussie laws and driving conditions.
Before the close of the 20th century, the Model T won the most prestigious award of the last 100 years – the Car of the Century (COTC) award. This classic car bested the Volkswagen Beetle, Porsche 911, Citroën DS, and BMC Mini as the epoch’s most influential vehicle.
3. Ford Coupe Ute – aka the Kangaroo Chaser, as nicknamed by Henry Ford himself
As we have described above, the 1934 coupe utility was built in Geelong as Ford's response to farmers. This classic was one automobile that could be a workhorse if required but, at the same time, well-mannered enough that families could take it to church.
Lewis Bandt, Ford Australia's first designer, wedded the essential features of a truck to the more refined appearance and comforts of a passenger car. When the ute came out, which had an impressive payload of 545 kg, its sales could not be stopped. It inevitably spread like wildfire, and that was mainly because it responded to a need.
4. 1971-74 Holden HQ Monaro GTS 350
The HQ Monaro is arguably one of the most beautiful Holdens ever built, complete with blacked-out grille, side vents, colour options, and rally patches. And while the HQ platform fathered several models, such as the Kingswoods and Belmonts, the Monaro remains a most-coveted dream and prized classic car in Australia.
With the Monaro, Holden had revolutionised their design architecture and offered more mechanical configurations, leading to all-time increases in production. Possibly one thing that popularised the HQ line was the ease of repairing them to the day-one condition due to the availability of car parts from various local sources.
Beyond the Fords and Holdens
The earliest Fords and Holdens grew to become part of the Aussie tradition, so if we talk about classic cars in Australia, they’re bound to occupy the top positions. But for the final spot, we’re making a deliberate effort to name another brand.
We have considered VW’s iconic Beetle, Mercedes-Benz’s first Australian-made 220 S sedan, and many more. We found it fitting, however, to feature the earliest Toyota to set wheels on the Oz. It’s also our way of looking back how this Japanese brand gained a foothold in the country, being the last to shut down its manufacturing plants in 2017 and becoming the market leader from 1991 to this day.
5. Toyota Land Cruiser, J50 and J70
The first Land Cruisers that roamed the country were imported from Japan in 1958 for civil engineering works in the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project. Industrialist Sir Leslie Thiess first saw these hardy vehicles in a coal mine in Japan and thought they’d be perfect for the rugged work in the Snowy Mountains. He initially imported 13 units to Australia and went on using them for infrastructure purposes for the next 20 years.
It was in 1959 when the Land Cruisers became available to car buyers. It competed with the Land Rover and Jeep at the time. In 1963, Toyota established its first-ever Toyota manufacturing facility outside its home base in Melbourne.
The Land Cruiser is Toyota's longest-running series, which gave birth to other equally successful models, such as the Prado, 4Runner, and Fortuner. The early models, though, remain as some of the best classic cars in the Down Under. You may refer to our exhaustive articles on these models on the links provided and to our homepage for various useful tools, such as the Car Part finder.
By Jeannette Salanga (JMSL)