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ABOUT THE VB COMMODORE
October 1978 saw the release of one of the most important cars in GM-H’s history- VB Commodore. This Commodore was Holden’s second so-called world car, the first being TX Gemini. It was again based on an Opel designed platform, taking components from the Rekord -E and Senator-A. However, the VB did have Australian made Holden powerplants and drive trains. Commodore was effectively an Opel Rekord rear of the firewall with the Senator’s front end adapted. This allowed the use of GM-H’s full 6-cylinder and V8 engine line-up.
The front suspension design utilised MacPherson struts. The rear suspension gained an S-link live axle, with two upper and two lower trailing arms, plus a Pan hard rod for lateral location. Chassis and suspension were up rated to cope with harsh Australian road conditions. The biggest deviation from the original chassis design was rack-and-pinion steering (Australian TRW), allowing better clearance, especially for V8 engines. RTS technology used throughout the suspension gave the Commodore improved levels of ride and handling.
Initially produced only as a 4-door sedan, it was available in three trim levels: Commodore, Commodore SL and top-of-theline Commodore SL/ E. Two wagon models joined the line-up in July 1979. The new wagons featured a large cargo volume and one-piece lift-up tailgate, supported by two gas struts. The sheetmetal unique to the wagon body style was imported from Germany, swallowing up export credits earned by GM-H. The base model Commodore was very well equipped by 1970’s standards with a 2.85-litre (173 ci) 6-cylinder engine, 4-speed floor shift manual transmission, power boosted front disc brakes, carpets, front bucket seats, clock, AM radio, heated rear screen, remote right-hand exterior mirror, etc., all standard. The 3.3-litre (202 ci) 6-cylinder, 4.2-litre (253 ci) V8 and T -bar Tri Matic auto were optional. The SL variant had the 3.3-litre 6-cylinder and Tri -Matic as standard. The 4.2-litre (253 ci) and 5.0-litre V8 engines were optional. The Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission was the automatic used behind the 5.0-litre V8. Cloth seat trim, height adjustable driver’s seat, rear seat centre armrest, retractable rear seatbelts, intermittent wiper control and left-hand remote exterior mirror completed the SL package.
SL/E had the 4.2-litre V8 and Tri -Matic as standard, the 5.0- litre V8/TH400 combination was optional. The 3.3-litre 6-cylinder was made available for SL/E in mid-1979, as an economical alternative, due to customer demand. 4-wheel disc brakes, power steering, 15″ alloy wheels with 60-series steel belted radials, fully integrated air conditioning, AM/FM radio/cassette, full instrumentation and even headlight wipers and washers were all standard on the SL/E.
No bench seat or column shift was available for any VB model and there were no performance models, although various Sports Option Packs were offered. Other option packages were also available across the range: European Pack, Prestige Pack, City Pack, etc., each with appropriate engine, transmission, brake and other equipment combinations. GM-H spent $110 million developing the new Commodore, despite utilising the basic Opel design.
The VB was very well accepted in the marketplace, quickly rising to the top of the sales charts, becoming Wheels magazine’s Car of the Year for 1978. It wasn’t campaigned in the 1979 Bathurst 1000 classic. However, it did achieve huge motor sport recognition, with an all conquering 1-2-3 result in the 1979 Repco Round Australia Reliability Trial.