Australia is an island country that is somewhat isolated from the rest of the world. That reasonably explains the early beginning of the domestic automotive industry in Australia.
It began with Charles Highland introducing a motorized tricycle in 1894. After two years, in 1896, the first four-wheeler vehicle was released in Australia.
Since its inception, the Australian automotive industry has witnessed a lot of ups and downs. Despite that, some of its home-grown brands are world-class and might interest you.
If you are a person who wants to get acquainted with the car industry in Australia, then continue reading this article, in which we explore some of the most famous Australian car brands of all time.
Australian Car Brands
The Australian car industry can be observed and celebrated through its indigenous car manufacturing brands. Some of the major car manufacturing brands in Australia are:
- Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV)
- Holden Special Vehicles
- General Motors- Holden
- Nota Sports and Racing
- British Motor Corporation
- DRB Sports Cars
These car manufacturing brands are discussed at length below:
1. Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV)
The first in our list of Australian car brands are Ford Performance Vehicles, often shorthanded as FPV. It is a division of Ford Australia. This company, based in Melbourne, was founded in the year 2002. You might have heard the names of Ford SVO Australia and Ford Tickford Experience. They are the predecessors of this company.
Though the company started as a joint venture of Prodrive and Ford Australia, it soon expanded to begin the manufacture of high-performing vehicles under Ford Territory and some special vehicles.
However, after nearly 12 years of relentless efforts toward building a great car manufacturing brand, Ford planned to shut down Ford Australia’s manufacturing. This company also shut down in 2014 as a result of it.
During its lifetime, the company’s cars’ nameplates were named after the series that FPV launched. So, some of the familiar nameplates of the FPV cars that you might witness are F6-E, F6 Tornado, F6-X, Force 8, GT, GS, etc.
Some of the Ford-Falcon-based model series released by this company are BA, MkII Update, BF, FG, etc. They also released remarkable special edition vehicles like Pursuit, GTF- 351, GTR- spec, etc. Its F6X model series was based on Ford-Territory.
The other cars from FPV, which might interest you, are its concept cars like Galaxie 540, Territory P-SUV, and GT ‘Black Edition.
These cars have been equipped with powerful engines with different variants. Notable ones among them are the Modular Boss V8 engine, which has the capacity of 5.4 liters; Coyote ‘Miami’ V8, having a 5-liter ability; and ‘Barra’ I6, with the power of 4 liters.
2. Holden Special Vehicles
The second car manufacturing brand on our list of Australian car brands is Holden Special Vehicles. Holden Special Vehicles, often dubbed HSV, is a division of the parent company Holden, which is now called GM-Holden. This division was founded in 1987 and is headquartered in Clayton, Victoria.
The company is officially called the ‘performance vehicle division’ of GM-Holden. As such, as you might have guessed, HSV is indulged in producing high-performance vehicles.
The company builds cars by modifying basic Holden car designs like Commodore, having a standard wheelbase; Caprice, with a long base; and the commercial car model Ute, for domestic and overseas use.
Although the cars built by this company are sold under the brand name HSV, they have different nameplates. Some of the significant name plates used by HSV have been Avalanche, ClubSport, Coupe, Grange, GTS, Maloo, Senator, SV88, and W427.
Holden Special Vehicles released various cars under different series. HSV’s VL series was released in 1988. Some notable car models from that series that might interest you are Holden Commodore, SV88, SV F20, etc.
The unique vehicles like Challenger, ClubSport, Maloo, Statesman, SV, etc., belonged to its VN, VG, and VQ series. Nitron, Formula, and HSV+6 are other iconic vehicles built by HSV under its VP series.
Another Australian automobile manufacturing company, which has made it to our list, is Elfin. If you are a sports car enthusiast, then chances are that you might have come across the fantastic sports cars manufactured by this Australian company.
Elfin, officially the Elfin Sports Cars Pty. Ltd., is headquartered in Melbourne city of Australia. Its foundation was laid by a champion race driver, Garrie Cooper, in 1959. The company has remained a leading sports car manufacturing brand in Australia.
The company’s ownership has shifted to many people throughout its existence. After its founder’s death, the company was bought by some other racing car enthusiasts. Its latest engagements were with GM-Holden in 2004 and Walkinshaw Performance in 2010.
However, manufacturing stalled in the year 2012. But the vehicles produced by the company are still in vogue.
If you wish to witness some of the iconic cars developed by this company, you can visit Elfin Heritage Centre in Melbourne, which displays 12 such vehicles.
Elfin has indulged in producing excellent sports cars, which have won many racing events. These have been the choice of Formula One drivers.
Elfin has produced a lot of remarkable vehicles throughout its existence. Some of the most notable cars during the Garrie Cooper era are Streamliner, Formula Junior & Catalina, Clubman, Mallala, Type 500, Type 400, 600 FF, Type 360, MR6, MS7, etc. Some great cars built in the era are Crusader, FA891, Type 3 Clubman, etc.
If you are interested in a contemporary model from Elfin, you can search for recent vehicles like MS8 Streamliner and MS8 Clubman, equipped with powerful turbocharged engines.
4. General Motors- Holden
Holden is another famous Australian car manufacturing company that has managed to feature in our list of car indigenous Australian car manufacturing companies. Holden was the Australian subsidiary of the American automobile giant General Motors.
The company was founded in the year 1856 as J.A. Holden & Co. It was initially indulged in manufacturing, importing, and exporting cars but eventually ended up only importing cars.
This company, headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, ceased production in 2020. This company has seen many changes in its work since its inception. It started as a saddlery manufacturing company in South Australia and eventually took up automobile production.
Later, it came under the American company General Motors, which significantly boosted its prestige and functioning.
With the aid of its parent company General Motors, the company started exploring international markets in the 1950s. Though the production units of GM-Holden remained centered in Southern Australia, the company’s products traveled overseas.
Owing to their excellence and the consequent popularity, it is very likely that you might have seen this car racing the roads in your country.
The in-house developed models of Holden remained its primary products. If you wish to get your hands on any such one, you can choose from Holden Commodore, Holden Ute, and Caprice.
However, some other standard models developed by this company are manufactured with assistance from different brands like Opel, Suzuki, Vauxhall, Toyota, Chevrolet, etc.
5. Nota Sports and Racing
‘Nota Sports and Racing’ is another indigenous automotive company based in Australia. It is another racing car manufacturing giant, just like Elfin. The company was founded in 1952 by an aircraft engineer, Guy Buckingham.
He utilized his knowledge and expertise related to aircraft in building unconventional designs, i.e., triangulated space-frame cars.
Although the company was set up in 1952, it launched its first vehicle six years later in 1958. Their first series of cars were ‘Streamliners,’ later renamed ‘Mazengarbs,’ which were streamlined in aluminum.
In the late 1960s, the company took up the manufacture of Formula Juniors in different formats.
Though this was a sports car company, it would be interesting for you to know that the company made those in a wide variety of designs and styles. They built some specialist monopolists for climbing mountains and rugged terrain. They even created alloy-bodied and coupe designs like Nota Sapphire.
They even entered the manufacture of Formula Vee cars. Their initial vehicles were equipped with Leyland 1275 GT engines, which were running out of stock, so they switched these engines with FIAT engines, having a capacity of 2 liters. Currently, they are using machines with four cylinders, built on a rear-wheel drive model.
Some of the iconic models built by this company are Nota Major, Nota Fang, Nota FJ, i.e., Nota Formula Junior, Nota Sapphire, Nota Levanti, Nota Le Mans, etc. If you are looking for one of its successful contemporary models, you can check out Nota Sportsman, Nota Chimera, Nota F1, etc.
6. British Motor Corporation
The British Motor Corporation (Australia) is an Australian car company, a regional variant of the UK automotive company British Motor Corporation. Often shorthanded as the BMC (Australia), the company came into existence in 1954 because of the merger of Austin Motor Company (Australia) and Nuffield (Australia). This merger followed the union of their parent companies in the United Kingdom.
Following this merger, the headquarters were established at Victoria Park, which was the original facility for Nuffield.
The car models from Austin were brought there, and the subsequent manufacturing design was to follow them. This company was huge during the 1960s, having around seven thousand employees from over 35 countries.
Morris Major and Austin Lancer are some of the most historic and iconic products built by this company. The badge-engineering, in which BMC (Australia) indulged, resulted in products like Austin A95 Westminster and Morris Marshal.
Other notable products were its mini-series, Austin Freeway, Wolseley 24/80, Austin A60 Cambridge, BMC 1100, Morris Mini Moke, etc.
In 1969, the company saw another merger. BMC’s parent company had merged with Leyland Corporation and resulted in British Leyland. The subsequent merger in the Australian branches resulted in the formation of the British Leyland Motor Corporation of Australia.
The most remarkable car built by the company under this name was the Leyland P76. However, this Leyland company was shut down in 1983 and was succeeded by JRA Ltd.
7. DRB Sports Car
The last car manufacturing brand on our list of Australian car companies is DRB Sports Car. DRB Sports car, formerly known with names like DRB Enterprises and GT40 Australia, is headquartered in Queensland, Gold Coast, South Australia. The company specializes in the manufacture of high-performing sports cars.
The company started its production in 1971 in the form of kit cars. In case you didn’t know, a kit car is a kind of collection of different parts of the vehicle, which are to be assembled by the customer. Some examples of kit cars sold by DRB are Saber and Taipan.
However, since 1981, the company has been mainly involved in the manufacture of replicas of classic cars, like the Ford GT40, AC Cobra 427, and SVT Cobra based on the Mustang, which is sold as the DRB 540.
The DRB which has been most promising and would interest you is the DRB 540. Its rectangular zinc-based chassis, elegant and exotic body design combined with unique attachments make it worth your while. Some other prominent car models built by DRB are DRB Cobra or Boss Cobra and DRB 540.
In this article, you get information about some of the major players in the Australian automotive industry. We briefed you about the car industry in Australia through the most successful Australian car brands.
With time, the automobile industry in Australia has faced many highs and lows. During its glorious times in the 1970s, the sector ranked tenth most significant globally. However, its success and popularity declined in the subsequent decades.
Nevertheless, its heyday years yielded some of the best car manufacturing companies, and contemporary companies like Elfin continue to work towards excellence.