Holden Gemini TX-TG - Buyer's Guide

By: Unique Cars magazine

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The Holden Gemini took small car design to new levels and it looked smart and also handled

 

Holden Gemini TX-TG

With due respect to all who love or loved their four-cylinder Toranas, the Vauxhall-inspired HB-TA cars were pretty dull and lifeless devices.

By 1975 and with Japanese brands taking huge chunks out of the local car market, there were no prizes for predicting that GM-H would source its next compact model from Japan. Well, Europe via Japan actually.

Isuzu borrowed its basic design for the Gemini from GM’s Opel Kadett. However we would avoid that car’s undernourished 1.2-litre engine and go straight to the optional 1.6 litre.

It still wasn’t overly powerful for an engine of its size, with a single overhead-camshaft and 61kW. Transmission choices were four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. There was also a 1.9-litre fuel injected option available to some overseas markets that we weren’t allowed to access. Didn’t matter.

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The TX Gemini sold here from 1975-77 took small-car design to new levels. It looked smart and while it was plain inside it was roomy and also handled. Response from the market was instantaneous with the Gemini hounding the similarly-priced Corolla SL and Ford Escort for sales superiority.

The Gemini sedan weighed just 935kg, came with responsive rack and pinion steering, front disc brakes and all-coil suspension. With the right tyres, springs and shock absorbers they could be turned with minimal outlay into an entertaining road or competition car.

Hundreds of Geminis did race in the hugely popular Queensland Gemini Series. This began as a one-make race supporting the Australian Grand Prix in 1975 and became a regular feature of the motor sporting calendar from 1980 until the present day.

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Minimal change accompanied the March 1977 release of a TC version. Then a few months later there emerged a two-tone, limited production Sandpiper with automatic transmission and alloy wheels as standard inclusions.

The Gemini range remained as sedan and coupe until the arrival of TD models in mid-1978. Nothing even then changed in terms of styling or performance but the range did expand to include a panel van and station wagon (two door) plus an SL/E version of the sedan.

It lasted only until early 1979 when an emission-controlled version of the 1.6 engine was introduced and the model re-designated SL/X.

Engine output continued to fall, with buyers of the TE version that arrived in October 1979 expected to make do with 50kW. Worse was to come in 1981 with the appearance of a 40kW Gemini diesel.

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MARKET REVIEW

Gone are the days (for most people anyway) when a Gemini was the logical choice for anyone hunting down a cheap and cheerful first car.

Geminis, with the odd exception, are still not expensive but don’t rely on them remaining that way forever. Two-door Coupes are the least common mainstream models and can in some cases already achieve $20,000.

Others with the potential to grow in value include the scarce Gypsy panel van and the heavily-embellished Z/ZZ and CDT sedans. If you’re hanging onto one of those, be prepared to attract plenty of interest from Gemini enthusiasts.

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The easiest and generally cheapest Gemini to own is a TE or TF and $5000 will buy a decent car. Earlier models can cost double the price of a TE.

Vans and wagons remain practical for daily and even business use. They cost slightly more than sedans but if they earn their keep the initial cost can be easily justified.

VALUE RANGE: Holden Gemini (TC-TD Sedan)

FAIR: $2700
GOOD: $6000
EXCELLENT: $9500
(Note: concours cars will demand more)

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

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BODY & CHASSIS

Rust and poorly repaired crash damage are the factors that will separate an immediately usable Gemini from a ‘project’. Some cars will be carrying the legacy of rough repairs performed in years gone by. Before checking in more detail, get the car off the ground and look at the chassis rails behind the front wheels. Rust in this area may spell the end for a cheap car. Next look at the reinforcements between the bulkhead and inner guard, low down on the front mudguards, inner and outer sills, van and wagon tailgates and C Pillars on sedans and coupes. Early headlights are difficult to find, so are good bumpers. We did see a pair needing some work at a specialist wrecker for $100 each.

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ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

These engines seem to have a boundless capacity for high revs and hard-work. Even if one fails, replacements are easy to find and prices for stock engines range from $1200-2000. Obviously you can spend considerably more extracting extra power. With the right advice regarding components and set-up turbocharging is also viable. Changing engine mounts before one breaks is sensible and new mounts cost less than $50 each. Upgrading from four to five-speed manual transmission is easy and worthwhile if the car is to be used for long-distance running.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Plenty of smart people have fiddled over many years with Gemini suspension and braking systems so tapping into the knowledge network is sensible. Parts including springs and shocks, suspension joints and good-quality bushings are available and parts for when a full rebuild is due will cost $700-1200. Once completed and unless you’re using your Gemini as a commuter car, the new components are likely to last 10-15 years. Disc front/drum rear brakes are adequate, parts to upgrade not expensive. Squealing discs that take a lot of pressure before the car stops might have their problems remedied via a quick skim however a new pair of rotors costs less than $200.

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INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

If you can find a Gemini with a crack-free dash then buy it and worry about the rest later. Australian sun did bad things to European-spec plastics and finding a car without a cracked and crumbling interior is good news. Seats were flimsy and thinly padded so perhaps budget for a retrim and some new foam padding. New vinyl headlining for sedans costs less than $150, material to suit the coupe just $40 more. Also sighted some replacement door trims for under $100 each but check quality.

Holden Gemini TX-TG 1975-1985

Number built: 226,319
Body: steel, integrated body/chassis, two-door coupe, station wagon, panel van, four-door sedan
Engine: 1584cc four-cylinder with overhead camshaft and single downdraft carburettor
Power & Torque: 64kW @ 5000rpm, 135Nm @ 4000rpm
Performance: 0-100km/h 13.2 seconds, 0-400 metres 18.6 seconds (TX sedan)
Transmission: four-speed manual, three-speed automatic
Suspension: independent with wishbones, coil springs telescopic shock absorbers & anti-roll bar (f) live axle with coil springs, locating links and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
Brakes: disc (f)
drum (r) power assisted
Tyres: V78L/13 radial

 

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