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Day of the Clones PtII (2005-)

words - Joe Kenwright
In Part I, Joe Kenwright covered the clones from Audi, Bentley, Chrysler, Daihatsu, Fiat, Ford and Honda. In the second of this two part series, the rest are rounded up including the multi-level ranges shared between Holden and Toyota

After Holden and Toyota set up a joint venture to market shared models to meet government minimum volume targets, the chances of finding the same used car under the Holden and Toyota names are much higher. Joe Kenwright follows up with the second part of his series on those cars marketed under different names from their original manufacturers.

Holden had two attempts at model sharing to meet minimum local volume requirements. Its first was an alliance with Nissan which ultimately led to Holden supplying panels and four cylinder engines for Australian Nissan models while Nissan supplied its Skyline engine for mainstream Commodores.

Holden then formed an even closer alliance with Toyota. During this period, Holden used various GM international model names on shared vehicles that bore no relation to other GM models wearing the same badge.

During this period, Nissan marketed Australian Ford models and Toyota marketed a rebadged Holden Commodore. For many Australians, seeing their favourite Australian family car marketed under a Japanese badge was too much. When there was talk of Holden assembly line workers treating the Toyota-badged models differently as well as model and showroom cultures that were a world apart, it was a marriage that could only end in tears.

A reader famously wrote into Wheels magazine asking if the magazine and its readers were aware that Japan was going back to its old copycat origins as he had just seen a new Toyota in his local dealership that looked like a Commodore! It was beyond the comprehension of many buyers that anyone would do this intentionally.

It was therefore quite common for buyers to buy unwanted new clones at a hefty discount then swap the badges back. This explains why Nissan-badged XF Falcon utes and Toyota Lexcen-badged Commodores are barely visible on today's roads. Because the clone body parts were made in much lower volumes, some parts including lights and grilles have disappeared from stock and owners have been forced to repair crash damage with parts from the original. This is not a problem providing they are of the same original factory quality as most changes were cosmetic only.

If you own a model that has been cloned, it is also worth checking out the price of a spare part from each manufacturer's spare parts outlets. Spare parts pricing policies vary hugely between makers and the difference in price for an identical part fitted to both clones could surprise you.

Hidden in the used car ads could be a bargain example of the following:

Holden Drover/Suzuki Sierra
The tie-up between GM and Suzuki allowed Holden to stock fully imported examples of the Suzuki's basic 4WD as a Holden Drover in ute, hardtop and softop variations. It's a relationship that continues with today's Cruze AWD wagon which is a variation of a Suzuki model.

Holden Barina/Suzuki Swift/Opel Corsa
Holden's hugely successful light car entry has never been what it appears. The "beep, beep" Barina started life as a Holden-badged imported Suzuki Swift in 1985 then switched to a Holden-badged version of the European Opel Corsa from 1994. It is the only European-sourced Holden model that does not wear its European model name. The Barina name and image is too good to mess with regardless of the actual car beneath the badge!!

Holden Gemini/Opel Kadett/Isuzu Gemini
Holden's star small car entrant in 1975 was a joint Japanese-Australian version of the Opel Kadett, a world T-car model that also replaced the four cylinder Vauxhall Viva/Holden Torana in the UK. By 1985, Isuzu had developed its own Gemini independent of the European Kadett range which left Holden without a five door hatch entry in the booming Australian hatchback market.

Today's imported European Astra is a direct descendant of the popular first Gemini which might explain their shared best-seller status.

Holden Astra/Nissan Pulsar 1984-87
Holden first applied the popular GM overseas Astra model name to the locally-built Nissan Pulsar hatch to supplement its Isuzu-sourced Gemini sedan. This cheap and disposable small hatch had no real Holden input. For the train spotters, this same Pulsar body was also marketed as the ARNA in Europe after it was fitted with the Alfasud engine. Fortunately, Australia was spared this version when the Holden and Nissan versions of this Pulsar series were already two too many.

Holden Astra/Nissan Pulsar 1987-89
Joint Australian Holden and Nissan input led to a unique local Pulsar series that has proved to be one of the toughest and longest-lasting of any small car sold in Australia. Based on Nissan's next generation Pulsar, Holden stamped much stronger structural panels and supplied its export Family II engine to Nissan for use in both models. There was enough of each company's input in the joint range and differentiation for Holden and Nissan variations to sell well. The Astra name was dropped after the re-badged Toyota Corolla replaced it in 1989. The Astra name reappeared in 1996, this time applied to the correct GM European import that had evolved from the original Gemini/Kadett series.

Holden Nova/Toyota Corolla 1989-97
Toyota's best and last locally produced Corolla, a model that is still hugely popular as a used car, was subtly restyled so it could be badged as a Holden Nova. Holden had learnt from its first Astra/Pulsar series and retuned the suspension to give the Nova version a more distinctive sporty feel in line with other Holden models otherwise it was pure Toyota.

Holden Camira/Isuzu Aska/Opel Ascona/Vauxhall Cavalier
Although the Holden Camira version of GM's J-car was only ever sold here, the others were frequently brought into Australia as private imports. The Isuzu Aska version was sold in New Zealand, the Opel version throughout Africa and the Vauxhall versions from the UK. The Holden Camira was a unique local amalgamation of German Opel and Japanese Isuzu versions featuring German-designed mechanicals and Japanese styling tweaks. Because Holden exported Family II engines, most examples are easily kept on the road in Australia although only a few body parts for the European models are interchangeable with the local Camira. The British Vauxhall Cavalier wagon featured rear panels imported from Australia.

All European J-cars were later united under the Vectra name which came to Australia as an import from 1997 to replace the Holden-badged Toyota Camry. Certain four cylinder Vectra models were built here for a short period but all the current series is imported.

Holden Apollo/Toyota Camry 1989-97
After finally sorting its own Camira, Holden replaced it with the Apollo-badged version of the locally built Toyota Camry with only superficial changes. For the Holden Apollo version of the 1993 Toyota Camry wide body, the changes were more extensive. The Apollo was replaced by GM's own Vectra in 1997.

Holden Calibra 1995-98

Holden's version was sold as a Vauxhall and Opel elsewhere and combined cosmetic features of both versions at various times. Although some did come here as Opel private imports, it is more likely that owners have swapped the badges.

Holden Frontera 1999-2004
Overlooked import marketed under various brand names around the world including Vauxhall that combined an Isuzu 4wd driveline with J-car Family II and later V6 engines.

Holden Jackaroo, Shuttle van, Rodeo commercials
All of these are imported Isuzu models badged as Holdens in Australia.

Holden Suburban 1998-2001
None other than a Chevrolet with its bow tie swapped for a giant Holden lion badge.

Most early Kias were Korean versions of the older Mazda 121, 323 or 626.

Lexus ES300/IS200
The ES300 is closely related to the parallel Toyota Camry model and the IS200 is the local Lexus-badged version of a model sold as a Toyota in Japan.

The MG-badged versions of the Rover 75 with grilles that look less like an MG grille than the Rover grille. Such badge engineering failed to save the company first time around and not surprisingly has failed again.

For shared models see previous Ford section. The Mazda MX-5 is also badged as a Eunos in certain markets.

A range of earlier Mitsubishis were sold under the Chrysler badge in Australia. See previous Chrysler section. Early Protons and Hyundais were based on previous Mitsubishi models.

Pre-1980s Nissans were sold under the Datsun name. Look for shared passenger car models under the Ford and Holden sections.

Nissan Ute DX/ST/Ford XF Falcon ute 1988-92
A half-hearted attempt was made to market Ford's popular XF Falcon ute under the Nissan name but any Nissan ID was quickly and easily removed by owners in most cases.

For shared Honda and Rover models, see previous Honda section.

Although it does not affect Australian buyers, the Subaru Impreza is sold as the Saab 9-2 in other markets.

These Spanish-built models were based on the equivalent Volkswagen model, mainly the Golf for the Australian range.

Close relationship between Ssangyong and Mercedes-Benz means shared engines and forthcoming luxury sedan based on previous E-class.

For shared Holden and Suzuki models, see Holden section.

For Holden-badged versions of local Toyota models see Holden section. The Toyota Echo is badged as the Yaris in other markets.

Toyota Lexcen 1989-96/Holden Commodore VN/VP/VS
Toyota showrooms carried several levels, but not the V8, of the Holden Commodore badged as a Lexcen. Named after Australia's famous America's Cup yachting identity, Lexcen proved to be a neat Aussie link with the Commodore name although buyers sometimes confused it with Lexus which was no bad thing.

Lexcen styling tweaks in some cases improved Commodore appearance but the Commodore was so far removed from the Toyota philosophy that it highlighted everything that was wrong with model sharing. There was a bigger investment in a shared VT Lexcen which was given a stronger Toyota identity but it never saw the light of the day as the marriage hit the rocks.

The Bora is a rebadged Jetta, a nameplate that will make its Australian debut early in 2006. Shared VW and Audi models are covered in the Audi section. VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne share cabin architecture and structure.

Part I: Audi, Bentley, Chrysler, Daihatsu, Fiat, Ford and Honda




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Published : Sunday, 1 May 2005

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