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Cars

Late Sixties & Early Seventies
Japanese Invasion

In many ways, the modern Japanese motor vehicle industry was the creation of the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). In the mid-fifties, it provided strong incentives to manufacturers to produce a "people's car". In the mid-sixties, in order to increase Japan's competitiveness in the world car market, MITI engineered a number of mergers of car manufacturers. Nissan acquired the Prince Motor Company and Toyota merged with Hino and Daihatsu. The results were spectacular - in 1962, Japan was the sixth largest vehicle manufacturer in the world and by 1967 it was the second largest. (Japan surpassed the US in 1980, to become the largest manufacturer.)

Japanese Invasion

In many ways, the modern Japanese motor vehicle industry was the creation of the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). In the mid-fifties, it provided strong incentives to manufacturers to produce a "people's car". In the mid-sixties, in order to increase Japan's competitiveness in the world car market, MITI engineered a number of mergers of car manufacturers. Nissan acquired the Prince Motor Company and Toyota merged with Hino and Daihatsu. The results were spectacular - in 1962, Japan was the sixth largest vehicle manufacturer in the world and by 1967 it was the second largest. (Japan surpassed the US in 1980, to become the largest manufacturer.)

Nissan

Nissan/Datsun cars had been imported into both Australia and America in small numbers since the 1930s but the company had not achieved significant volume sales - despite concerted attempts with the large, luxury Nissan Cedric (the failure of which many blamed on its ridiculous name). Following the acquisition of Prince, which brought it superior engineering skills, Nissan began to have success with Bluebirds manufactured in America as the 510 and assembled in Australia as the 1600 (neither country wanted another "Cedric").

As each new model of Bluebird became larger, Nissan saw a need for a smaller car which it filled with Sunny (called the 120Y in Australia and some other countries) in 1967.

Capitalizing on the engineering skills acquired from Prince (now Nissan's Skyline Division), Nissan introduced the sleek, powerful 240-Z in America in 1969 and in Australia in 1970. The car was an enormous success with demand outstripping supply and used vehicles selling for more than the list price of (almost unobtainable) new models.

Datsun 1600
Datsun 1600

Datsun 240Z
Datsun 240Z

Toyota

Toyota's Publica, introduced in 1961, was the most successful of the "people's cars" in Japan. Its successors were the Corolla and the larger Corona. Both the Corolla and Corona were successfully in overseas markets. More than 24 million Corollas have been sold. Assembly of Toyota Corolla's in Australia began in 1968.

Like Nissan, Toyota followed its success in small sedans with a sports coupe, the Celica. The first Celicas were anything but sporty in performance but what they lacked in this area, they made up in looks. 

Toyota Corolla
Toyota Corolla

Toyota Celica
Toyota Celica

Other Japanese Manufacturers

The export drive by Nissan and Toyota was soon followed by other Japanese car makers. Isuzu began exporting to the US in 1966, Subaru in 1969, Honda and Mazda in 1970 and Mitsubishi in 1971.

Counter-attack - General Motors Holden

In May 1967, GMH released its first small car, the Torana HB, based on the British Vauxhall Viva. 

In January 1968, it released an entirely new range of Holdens, the HK series, with 13 different models, including three versions of the Monaro coupe. There was a huge range of options, including five different engines up to a 5.3 litre V8.

The Monaro was a two-door coupe with the top-of-the-line GTS 327 model clearly designed to win the Bathurst production car race. (Monaros came first, second and third in the 1969 race.)

The original Torana HB was severely underpowered with an 1159cc motor. In 1969, it was replaced by the LC range with an optional s-x-cylinder engine. The more powerful engine, together with the lighter weight and superior handling and braking gave the car greatly improved performance. The GTR version became a popular police pursuit car and the GTR XU-1 (of which only 200 were made) was very successful in production car racing.

Holden Monaro HK
Holden Monaro HK

Holden Torana LC
Holden Torana LC

Counter-attack - Ford Australia

In 1966, Ford introduced the XR Falcon. These were still based on American Fords but had some Australian content. They were larger than the previous models and included an option V8 engine.

In 1967, a high-performance GT version of the XR Falcon was released. It quickly established its credibility by coming first and second in the 1968 Bathurst production car race and was an immediate success with production struggling to keep up with demand.

The first all-Australian Falcons were produced from 1972 in the XA. These were larger cars than the previous models and sleeker "coke bottle" styling.

In 1967, Ford England introduced the Cortina Mark 111. It was a larger car than its predecessor with distinctive "coke bottle" styling and good equipment levels. It became Britain's top selling car. In Australia, sold as the Cortina TC, it had good initial success but sales faded, perhaps because it was too similar to the Falcon.

In both England and Germany, Ford began producing the Escort, as a replacement for the Anglia, in 1968. The Escort continued to be produced in Europe until 1990 although it was replaced by the Laser in Asia and Australia in 1980. An Escort model was introduced into North America in 1981 and remained in production until 1990.

Ford Cortina TC
Ford Cortina TC

Ford Escort
Ford Escort

Counter-attach - Chrysler

Ford had introduced its first "muscle car" in 1967. and the Holden Monaro was introduced in 1968, but it was not until 1971 that Chrysler responded with its Charger. This was based on the Valiant but with a slightly shorter wheelbase and a sporty 2-door body.

Chrysler's answer to the Ford Cortina and Holden Torana was the Centura, based on the French Simca. Again, Chrysler was much slower off the mark - the Torana and TC Cortina were both introduced in 1967; the Centura was not released until 1970.

Chrysler Charger
Chrysler Charger

European Innovation

Range Rover

The original Land Rover had come into being in 1947 as a replacement for world War 11 Jeep's which proved useful as farm vehicles. Twenty years later, in the prosperous mid-sixties, it was found that two-thirds of Land Rovers were being used as recreational vehicles. Rover decided that the time had come  to build a vehicle which combined the comfort of its road cars with the off-road performance of its Land Rovers. The resulting Range Rover, launched in 1970, was a huge success everywhere in the world except in North America were it was unable to meet safety and emission regulations. (The Range Rover was eventually launched in North America in 1987.)

Range Rover
Range Rover

Renault

The Renault R16 was a brand new design constructed in a brand new factory. It incorporated may innovative features which have since become commonplace. The most obvious of these was the rear hatch but a moveable read seat, an aluminium diecast block, an alternator rather than a dynamo and a nylon cooling fan operated by a thermostat, were all innovative.

Renault R16
Renault R16

Alfa Romeo

In 1958, the Italian government persuaded Alfa Romeo to build a new factory near Naples to improve employment conditions in that region. Alfa developed the Alfasud, an innovative, compact car with outstanding handling and a lively boxer engine. The Alfasud remained in production until 1984 when it was replaced by the Alfa 33.

Alfasud
Alfasud




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