NOV 20th 2014

GRR Read Test: Wheels (Australia) December 2014

GRR Read Test

GRR’s Bob Murray slips on his Speedos, cracks open a cold one and whips out the holiday reading …

There’s nothing quite like a little local difficulty for stirring up the editorial imagination, as the new issue of Australia’s best motoring magazine proves.

Wheels-magazine-Ford-Falcon

Wheels December out today (20 November) turns the spotlight on what it dubs the ‘post Falcodore era’. That is, a time in 24 months or so when almost a century of car-building Down Under comes to an end and the two stalwarts of recent decades, the Ford Falcon and the Holden Commodore, are killed off. Both are as much part of popular culture here as they are mere cars.

There is, you will appreciate, uncertainty in the air for no one knows yet what will replace these big, booming, rear-drive V8 saloons. They are still an intrinsic part (and sound!) of Australian life, even though most people buy Mazda 3s now and the sales charts are dominated by Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai.

The new issue of Wheels weighs in with ‘Falcodore’ stories about cars that were, are, will be, could be and might have been. And just for good measure has a real Mad Max moment by taking the ultimate Falcon, the 471bhp GT-F, and trying to hit 300km/h on a public road.

Thankfully this was not in Sydney but 100 miles north of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory where instead of a speed limit the injunction is merely to ‘Drive to the conditions’. Now that’s sensible.

They didn’t quite hit their target (the Falcon managed 297km/h, or 185mph) but as a sendoff to the last of the Aussie musclecar breed it was surely a success, matched by an excellent story and lots of photographs of the inevitable blue sky, arrow-straight road, and distant horizon.

The cover, though, is reserved for revelations about what might have been – a handsome looking Ford XR8 coupe ‘that might have saved the Falcon’ says Wheels. There’s also a scoop about a big new Ford caught testing in Oz (‘Yep, it’s an import!’ says the mag resignedly.)  Piling on the misery in the story inside is the info that the bigger-than-Mondeo US model is front-drive, four-cylinder and probably won’t be sold in Australia anyway because it would be too expensive to make right-hand drive.

Wheels-magazine-Ford-XR8

What would Sir Brian Inglis have made of that? In a poignant juxtaposition, Wheels reports in this issue that the first Australian-born boss of Ford Australia has died aged 92. Sir Brian was the exec who got the Falcon into production in the first place – instead of the restyled Ford Zephyr that had been on the cards.

And what of Holden’s big car future?  The magazine says a deal has been done for an Aussie version of the next generation Opel/Vauxhall Insignia. Wheels insists Aussie designers are in Germany working on it already, that while it won’t offer hoon-friendly rear-drive it will have four-wheel drive available, and that it could have a V8 in it.

GRR wishes them luck with that. The Commodore first came about 34 years ago after Opel prototypes being tested Down Under broke in half on the rough roads!

For their final two years both Falcon and Commodore have been refreshed, and the stories about them are littered with references to swansongs, living on borrowed time, not appreciating what you have until it’s gone etc. It’s all a bit sad.

‘Course, like Australians are now doing, you could always buy one of the last true Aussie musclecars (like the Vauxhall VXR8 sold in the UK, see our story here) in the expectation that they will soon be collectable…

Australia’s big-car future? Well perhaps that’s more Asian shaped. Wheels is certainly taking no chances. Complete with the December issue is a 44-page paean to the latest family car to go on sale Down Under: big, rear-wheel drive, 315bhp saloon, ‘tuned by Australians for Australians’ and a ‘truly convincing luxury car’.

Wheels-magazine-Holden-Commodore

It is of course the Hyundai Genesis…

 GRR Read Test Verdict

Wheels December 2014

Four-stars

 Four stars

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