Today, Holden employees gathered to mark the end of an era as the last Aussie-built Holden V8 engine came off the production line at Fishermens Bend, Victoria.
Introduced in 1969, the Holden 'bent eight' was the first and only Australian-designed and built V8 engine to be produced in volume. More than 541,000 Holden V8s were produced over a 30-year period. These versatile and muscular performers were successively re-engineered to embrace such advances as unleaded fuel and multi-point fuel injection and powered every mainstream model from the HT Holden to the top-selling VT Commodore.
With the launch this month of the VT Series II Commodore and the all-new WH Statesman and Caprice, Holden introduced an entirely new Generation III (GEN III) 5.7 litre alloy V8, developed in the U.S. by General Motors Powertrain Group at a project cost of $1 billion. The refined GEN III V8 offers significant increases in power and torque, improved fuel economy and even greater reliability and durability than its famous predecessor.
Holden has stockpiled supplies of its locally-produced 5.0 litre V8, which will remain the top-end performance option for buyers of the VS Holden Ute until the model is superseded.
Joining Holden employees at a special ceremony to salute the last Aussie V8 today were the Holden Racing Team's Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife, veteran Holden racing driver Larry Perkins and 84 year-old Fred James, a retired Holden engineer who was involved with the Holden V8 project from its inception in 1964.
Fred James said there was a strong national push for an Australian-designed engine. "We knew General Motors would be watching our every move, consequently our engine had to be better than anything else currently in production. I think we did a pretty good job of achieving our objectives," he said. "For sheer longevity, I think the only other engine to compare would be the Chevrolet V8."
Addressing the gathering, Holden Chairman and Managing Director, Peter Hanenberger, said the event represented yet another milestone in the Holden story.
"It is a story that tells of leadership, commitment and a great sense of heritage. It is a story of family, made up of people with diverse skills and innovative ideas combining to produce world class products for the global market place," he said.
"Not many engines survive as long as 30 years, but the Holden V8 remained competitive for its entire time, outliving its Australian-made rivals by more than a decade...Holden's achievement of all this is a credit to the dedicated efforts of all involved," Peter Hanenberger said.
The home grownV8 was first exhibited in the futuristic Holden Hurricane concept car and 1969 HT model buyers could choose between 253 cubic inch (4.2 litre) and 308 cubic inch (5.0 litre) versions, which were promoted for their caravan-towing torque. The Holden V8 won instant praise for its low weight, compact size and smooth performance.
A police pursuit car favourite and motor sport natural, the Holden V8 was blooded at Bathurst in 1974 and tasted victory for the first time in 1975 when Brock/Sampson took the chequered flag in a Torana L34. The Holden V8 is also used in open wheeler racing and over the years has found its way into boats, trucks and 4x4 vehicles, to name just a few applications.
When a combination of circumstances brought the big engine's future into doubt early in 1984, V8 fans nationwide - motivated by the media-driven campaign "V8s 'til '98" - reacted swiftly. An estimated 15,000 letters poured into Holden head office, urging the then Managing Director, Chuck Chapman, to save the V8. They got their wish.
A re-engineered 'unleaded' Holden V8 was introduced in 1986. Approval to build a fuel-injected concept engine had been given in 1985 and the first limited production of this significantly upgraded version powered the VL Group A Commodore in 1989. Much more powerful and fuel efficient than its carburettor-fed predecessor, the fuel-injected V8 went into volume production with the release of the VN Commodore range in 1989.
For the past ten years, popular demand for the durable eight-cylinder engine, constantly refined to produce escalating levels of power and torque, has remained constant at an average of 9,000 units annually.