In many respects, Australians is very much like Americans. They speak the same language (sort of), they pay for things in dollars, and their cities look a lot like US cities. The Australian auto industry has long been dominated by Ford and General Motors, except Down Under all GM products are called Holdens. They have a reputation for being adventurous outdoorsman who laugh at hostile territory like the barren and sun baked Outback. You might thing the Aussies would be huge fans of American style pickup trucks, but you would be wrong.
On a recent journey to Australia, I was struck by how small the cars and trucks they drive are compared to what is considered normal in the US. Various Holden and Ford models are everywhere, of course, but there are surprising numbers of Mazda 1 and Mazda 2 cars and even a few Chinese offerings. The biggest difference between here and there — other than the fact that they put the steering wheel on the wrong side — is that the trucks Aussies use in their daily life are much lower and smaller than their American cousins.
Most of the trucks come from the factory with no conventional load bed. Instead, they are fitted with aluminum trays behind the cab. All manner of toolboxes and carrying devices that are easily accessible from the curb are attached to those trays, depending on the needs of the owner. It’s true that Australians don’t have to worry much about snow and ice, but the tradespeople seem to be quite content to have the tools of commerce stored in the load bed where they are easy to access without having to resort to a “man step.”
One thing Australia has that America does not, but should, is modern vehicles that pay homage to the El Caminos and Rancheros of yesteryear. Why these types of sophisticated haulers are no longer sold in the US is a great mystery. They were hugely popular once. Restored examples always get plenty of approving glances at car shows. It seems the American public would embrace these kinds of vehicles once again, especially the models that feature big V-8’s with a throaty exhaust and a manual transmission. Some of them are direct cousins of the chassis that gave us the most recent Pontiac GTO.
Wagons are are more popular in Australia than they are here at home. Aussies also have a fondness for the Harley VRod more than traditional Harleys.
The Honda Odyssey shown above is about 20% smaller than its American cousin and still uses hinged rear doors just like the original Odyssey from 20 years ago. It’s proof that Australian cars are familiar but not quite the same as US cars. Of course, gas prices are higher in Oz, more on the order of $4.00 a gallon. That’s bound to make small efficient cars more popular. Nevertheless, I only saw one Toyota Camry Hybrid while I was there.
Australia — it’s just like home only different. Oh, and one more thing. A fully loaded Holden Commodore sells for about $80,000 Australian dollars. It’s true the Aussie dollar is only worth 70 cents or so at the moment, but that still big cash for what is basically a Chevrolet. If you go, be sure to bring plenty of money. Living in Australia is like living in Hawaii — expensive!
Photos by the author.