The history of automakers Holden and Ford goes back 100 years in Australia, and is part and parcel of local motorsports legend. Both on and off the track, Holden and Ford vehicles are consistently compared to one another. But where does this good-natured rivalry come from?
Holden and Ford dominated the Australian market for decades in the early days of motoring, making them natural competitors. Yet their racetrack rivalry began at the annual Bathurst 1000 endurance race, first known as the Armstrong 500, in 1960. The premier event was won by Harry Firth and Bob Jane in a Ford Cortina; and as the racing event gained popularity each year it was seen as a way to earn credibility in the Australian automotive marketplace. A popular phrase during this time was “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” and with Bathurst wins translating to an increase in showroom sales, both Ford and Holden were heavily invested in racking up the trophies. Chrysler also was a strong contender during this muscle car era of the 1960’s, but the real show was between Ford and Holden. Holden’s Monaro and Torana as well as the Ford Falcon GT were both top competitors on the track.
Holden finally won its first Bathurst title in 1968 with its new Monaro GTS 327, which was designed to rival Ford’s winning Falcon GT. Ford fought back the next year with an enhanced version of the Falcon, the Falcon GT-HO. Known as the “Super Falcon,” this enhanced model offered a massive 351 cubic inch power plant and plenty of power under the expert hands of driver Peter Brock. Holden was ready to fight in the 1969 race as well, however. They revamped their Monaro to a new GTS 350, driven by Colin Bond to victory once again. Brock and his Super Falcon won in 1970 and 1971 to make up for it. This round of racing at Bathurst is considered to be the glory days of the Holden-Ford rivalry, as both took their muscle car designs to new heights.
The Rivalry Today
The Bathurst 1000 is still an epicentre of the old rivalry, devoted as it is now to V8 supercars. You’ll still see serious fans of both brands showing their loyalty to Holden and Ford. When supercar racer Craig Lowndes switched from Holden to Ford and then back again, he even received death threats as a result. However, the focus is less on these two old rivals and more on the full range of international supercars, which bear little resemblance to any model you’d see in a showroom.
Today’s V8 supercars are constructed from different materials entirely, with fibreglass exteriors. No longer does a win at Bathurst automatically guarantee enhanced sales among Australian consumers, which is one reason why the rivalry doesn’t hold the same sway as it once did. There’s also a far wider range of international brands to choose from in Australia, which means that both Holden and Ford have much stiffer competition than one another.
There are still Australian motorists loyal to both Holden and Ford, and if you look at an Australian car news site like Motoring you’ll see no shortage of reviews of new models from both brands. They’re both still enduringly popular. Although the end of the golden age of muscle car racing has watered down their rivalry, these two iconic brands still hold a strong profile in the Australian psyche.
1972 Holden Monaro and 1964 Ford Mustang – Some rights reserved by dicktay2000 on flickr
1969 Holden HT Monaro GTS 350 coupe – Wikipedia Public Domain by OSX
The Ford Performance Racing Ford BA Falcon – Wikipedia Creative Commons By Benchill
Guest Author Bio
Rachel MacDonald is an Edinburgh-based freelance writer who has worked as a copywriter for businesses from Lima to San Francisco. She specializes in travel, design, and the arts.