We started to say our final goodbyes to Holden, General Motors’ Australian-market brand, famed for its V8-powered sedans and utes. Though the brand’s decline and death has been drawn out, with local production ending a few years back already, the news is major. GM won’t be making any more mass-market right-hand-drive cars anymore. Not just for Australia. For anyone.
Since GM sold off its European business and the Opel and Vauxhall names to Peugeot Citroen back in 2017, GM’s only major right-hand-drive markets have been in South Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. All of these countries had their product lines fed from Vauxhall’s offerings in the UK, Australian-market cars badged as Holdens at home and as Chevys in South Africa, and a couple of products like pickups and SUVs built with wheels on the right for the Thai market. And now all of that is gone; along with Holden went the Thai business as well.
GM has said that it will continue supporting conversions of US-market pickups and Camaros for sale in Australia and New Zealand after Holden closes up shop, but that’s hardly the same as treating the global RHD market with the respect it deserves as roughly a quarter of vehicle sales worldwide. Especially after GM spent decades developing all kinds of interesting vehicles for the left side of the road.
There was the original Holden ute, of course, but there was also the Sandman panel van. There was the Cadillac-esque Statesman that still ripped quarter miles and the Torana coupe that Peter Brock drove to conquer Bathurst. And those were just the Holdens.
Up in the UK, Vauxhall (and it’s commercial vehicle sibling brand Bedford) were building some ringers of their own, like the Lotus Carlton super-sedan and the legendary Bedford M-series military truck. And that’s to say nothing about the weird mishmash of American, Korean, and Australian-pattern RHD cars and pickups GM sold as Chevys in South Africa and Southeast Asia for decades.
All of that is over, now, though. GM has decided that retraction from many of the global markets it once competed fiercely in is what makes the most business sense these days, and the right-hand-drive markets were clearly just another in a long line of cuts along with Western Europe and Russia, from which the automaker has also recently retreated. But this feels like a lot more. GM didn’t just build cars with steering wheels on the right. They long treated these markets as unique, and the products show it.
There were all interesting kinds of GM products with right-hand-drive built that it’s honestly not simple for me to pick a favorite. I may have to go for something predictable like the Lotus Carlton. Sure, there were LHD ones built for the continent, but it was an intensely British car, steeped in a car culture that could only have coalesced around the left side of the road. And I’ll miss it along with the rest of the GM cars that were built that way.
So what about you? Do you have a favorite RHD GM model? One you used to drive, or one you’ve always lied from afar? Maybe there’s one you just want to talk about? In any case, post ‘em down below, and don’t forget pictures!