In 1972 Gough Whitlam was prime minister, Peter Brock had conquered the Hardie-Ferodo 500 (500 miles) at Bathurst for the first time, and you could have driven a Holden Monaro GTS out of a new car dealership for just under $7,500.

Just over half a century later, that same Monaro has changed hands for $346,185 at auction. 

Nostalgia definitely sells.

The two-door, bright orange (the colour was officially known as “The Lone O’Ranger”) was the top-priced lot when items from the National Holden Motor Museum in Echuca went under the hammer recently.

It was not the only Holden to crack six figures: a 1968 Holden HK GTS 327 Monaro sold for $274,750, while an HJ Statesman Caprice made $162,102 before bidding finally stopped.

Yet these are not even close to the highest prices paid for Australian-made motoring memories. 

In 2021, this Yellow Glo Ford GTHO Phase III Falcon became the most expensive road-registerable Australian car ever sold after fetching $1.3 million at auction.(Supplied: Lloyds Auctioneers and Valuers)

A “Yellow Glo” Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III holds the record for an Australian-made car sold at auction after crossing the bidding finish line at $1.3 million in September 2021.

Another 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO is now on offer, with an online sales website advertising it for the bargain basement sum of $1.1 million.

A Ford Falcon XY GT is another classic car loved by collectors.(Supplied: Gippsland Vehicle Collection)

Production stops, passion grows

When Holden went the way of other Australian manufacturing institutions and ceased producing cars in 2017, it really was the end of an era. 

Three years later, in 2020, it stopped being a new car brand. 

But its popularity among collectors and those with fond memories of Specials, Toranas, Kingswoods and Commodores has not diminished.

When Tony and Dina Galea closed their National Holden Motor Museum in Echuca earlier this year, it wasn’t due to a lack of passion for the Aussie car brand.

Tony Galea and his brother Mark, former owners of the National Holden Motor Museum in Echuca.       (Supplied: Tony Galea)

“Before we announced [the closure] we were still busy. We were taking in about 30,000 people a year,” Mr Galea said.

“Once we announced that we were closing, it just went off for four months, it was unbelievable. It was actually too much. 

“We didn’t own the building so [the closure] was always going to happen. 

“A lot of stuff is going to other museums, so it’ll improve their displays, and the memory will continue. 

“Even the name ‘National Holden Motor Museum’ has been bought so that’s going to another museum at a different location.”

The so-called “barn find” may be one of the few ways to acquire a classic two-door Falcon like this one without paying big bucks.(Supplied: Gippsland Vehicle Collection)

Muscle car buyers have deep pockets

Auctioneer Ashley Burns, from Burns & Co who handled the sales, said there was enormous interest once the closure of the museum was announced.

“We had 1,400 registered bidders and more than 460,000 online viewers. With the closing of the museum it created momentum in the market that is not the normal environment,” he explained. 

“That said, there were some gorgeous cars.”

Auctioneer Ashley Burns says some “gorgeous” cars were on offer.( Supplied: Burns & Co)

Mr Burns said the nature of the typical Holden muscle car buyer meant the gems of automobile history were somewhat recession-proof.

“The sweet spot is 1965 to 1980 with a Holden badge. There are exceptions but Holdens can make twice as much as the equivalent Ford,” he said.

“The buyers are not worried about the home loan interest rate. They are typically aged 45 to 65, self-employed, and are buying them for their personal collections.

“Past age 65 they tend to become potential vendors as they’ve had their fun and are less interested in the upkeep.”

The 350 cubic inch (5.7-litre) heart of the Holden Monaro GTS 350.(Supplied: Burns & Co)

‘Once a collector, always a collector’ 

Mr Galea said he was not especially surprised by the price paid for the orange Monaro.

“That HQ Monaro was an unbelievable car. It was flawless,” Mr Galea said.

“It’s actually one of two built for Bob Jane to race. This was the spare car which never got to race, so it has a lot of history.

The “flawless” HQ Monaro was made for Bob Jane to race at Mount Panorama in Bathurst.(Supplied)

“Cars like the HK Monaro, are also very sought after, and some of the older stuff like the FX Holden Ute, which was the first Holden Ute, went for about $50,000.

“The prices were quite good considering the doom and gloom in Victoria at the moment with the cost of living.

“But I think, once you’re a collector, you’re always a collector. And if you’re chasing that bit of memorabilia you haven’t got, you’ve got to put your hand up for it or you will miss out, perhaps forever.”

Highway to a happier time

Ness Noble understands the appeal of an old Holden. She has two.

Gippsland Vehicle Collection president Ness Noble with “Lurch”, a Holden 50-2106 FX utility.  (Supplied: Ness Noble)

“Lurch” is a Holden FX Ute, also known as a 50-2106, while “Clunky” is a Holden FC Ute. 

But the Gippsland Vehicle Collection president said neither was likely to be available for sale any time soon.

While Ms Noble insisted they were great cars, she conceded nostalgia was a significant part of the appeal.

“It’s probably half and half,” Ms Noble said. “Lurch has been in the family for a while and I hope it never goes out of the family. But it’s also fun to drive when I get a chance to drive it. 

“As soon as you hop in the car and drive out the driveway you step back in time.”

“That’s not always good if you are parked on the side of the road because your fuel filter is blocked. 

“But other times there’s just the pride of sitting in something you absolutely love and get to drive around.”

Gippsland Vehicle Collection vice president Chris Henry with his Holden Kingswood HK.(Supplied: Chris Henry)

Australia’s most wanted

Many Australian-made and assembled cars have become collectable over time. These are some of the most desirable according to Chris Henry, vice president of the Gippsland Vehicle Collection:

Holden Torana SLR

Holden Torana SS and SL/R5000. Bathurst-winning Holden models fetch huge dollars.

Holden elected to run the smaller, lighter Torana at the Bathurst 1000 during the 70s against the larger Falcons. The GTR XU-1, SLR and A9X models built to compete at Mt Panorama have sold for up to $800,000 at auction. 

Holden Monaro

A Holden Monaro GTS. 1970s Australian muscle cars often sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars when auctioned off. (Supplied: Gippsland Vehicle Collection)

Usually, but not always, the two-door sports version of the Holden Kingswood and, later, Commodore. The first and second generation Monaros (built between 1968 and 1977) can fetch prices of between $50,000 and $500,000 depending upon the model and option list. 

Holden Sandman

The Holden Sandman was Australia’s most popular panel van.(Supplied: Gippsland Vehicle Collection)

Australia’s “big three” in the 1970s each produced a panel van. The Holden Sandman proved more popular than the Ford Sundowner and the Chrysler Valiant Drifter. 

Holden FJ

The FJ Holden is an Australian motoring icon.(Supplied: Gippsland Vehicle Collection)

To varying degrees, all early Holdens are collectable but the FJ, EK and EH Specials are particularly popular. FJs were especially desirable in crafting personalised “customs”.

Ford Falcon GTHO

Only 300 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III sports sedans were built. (Supplied: Gippsland Vehicle Collection)

As hallowed as the Holden name is in the nation’s automotive folklore, Australia’s collectable kings are racetrack specials built by archrival Ford to win the Bathurst 1000. Famously they were the fastest four-door cars in the world when built. The 1971 Falcon GT-HO (High Output) Phase III cars are among the most desirable, often selling for more than $1 million. 

Ford Falcon Hardtop

A Ford Falcon XA Hardtop. Two-door Falcons are among the most collectable Australian-made Fords.   (Supplied: Gippsland Vehicle Collection)

The 1972 Ford Falcon XA was the first Falcon to be designed and built in Australia. The two-door “Hardtop” versions competed at Bathurst and featured in the Mad Max films. 

Valiant Charger

The ‘Hey Charger!’ advertising campaign helped make the Chrysler Valiant Charger a 1970s icon.(Supplied: Gippsland Vehicle Collection)

The two-door version of the Chrysler Valiant, the Charger was so popular in the early 1970s that, at times, it even outsold the four-door Valiant sedan. 

Volkswagen Kombi

Volkswagen Kombis were made in Melbourne after German production ended. (Supplied: Gippsland Vehicle Collection)

The hippy-era icon, the VW Kombi Transporter, was assembled in Melbourne from 1954 until 1976. Not quite as popular in recent years.  

Leyland Mini Clubman GT

The Mini Clubman was made in Australia until 1978.(Supplied: Gippsland Vehicle Collection)

Minis were built in Australia from 1966 until 1978. The Clubman GT was an Australian special.

HSV Maloo

The HSV Maloo is a modern Holden classic.(Supplied: HSV)

The final Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon high performance models continue to increase in value. Rarer HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) and FPV (Ford Performance Vehicles) models sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, with a Holden Maloo GTSR W1 model selling for $1.05 million. 

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