Holden vs Ford – the racing rivalry that just won’t die
This is a rivalry unlike any other
Manchester City vs Manchester United. Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers. Holden vs Ford.
All epic sporting rivalries. But one of these is not like the others.
If you’ve never understood why grown adults get so impassioned and emotional about football clubs and sporting teams, you might struggle to comprehend just why one of Australia’s greatest feuds of all time is between different car manufacturers. But it’s one that has stood the test of time, borne out of over a century of domestic car building as well as fifty years plus of racing competition – and like a favourite football club, it’s a deeply personal affinity that goes back generations in families. Basically, if your parents drive Holdens, good luck trying to park your new Ford on the front driveway.
And that passion is more than matched on the racetrack, with the one constant being in my opinion the pound-for-pound greatest race in the world; the Bathurst 1000.
Initially, Holden were on their own as kings of the hill after commencing car building in 1908, but since Ford started their own operation in 1925, the battleground was limited initially to the dealerships and driveways of Australia. But winning on Sunday sells on Monday, so since the 1000 was born in 1963 (and won by a Ford Cortina, no less), the war has raged on at the toughest mountain in world motorsport. And much like in terms of domestic sales, Holden has held the advantage but Ford has pushed and kept the red side honest the whole way; the current score stands at 31-20 to Team Red on the mountain.
Out of these epic battles, legends are forged on either side; Brock, Moffat, Skaife, Johnson, Richards, Perkins and more, all household names. Just like on the streets, loyalty is prided above all else. Seriously, I know people who still haven’t forgiven Craig Lowndes, a six-time Bathurst winner and protege of Peter Brock, for turning his back on the Holden factory team in 2001. 15 years of water under the bridge and a move back to Team Red in 2010 has counted for nought; the code of honour is strong out here.
Unfortunately, it’s a rivalry in danger of being lost in the ever-shifting and ever-more-violent tides of the automotive industry, with both marques ceasing domestic production in the space of two years. The iconic Falcon saloon is gone with it, whilst Holden’s next Commodore model will effectively be a rebadged Opel Insignia. The current situation in Aussie motoring is not dissimilar to what the British automotive industry went through in the late-1970s into the 1980s, with far more affordable, reliable and desirable imported options from Japan (as well as Europe) leaving their domestic rivals from British Leyland in the dust to flounder with nothing but patriotism and tradition. And given how car-buying preferences in Australia are moving in a similar way, more of the same hasn’t been enough there either.
Before we get too doom-and-gloom, this is a blood feud that has lasted through tough times before with one side on the ropes struggling back from the canvas. And the increasing presence of overseas marques on the road and racetrack is nothing new either; the one thing that has united Holden and Ford fans in the past at Bathurst has been to reject an interloper running roughshod against the hometown talent, such as Nissan in the early-1990s.
And crucially, both will retain a big presence in Australia – and the Bathurst 1000 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
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