30 Years of Holden VN Commodore

By: Unique Cars magazine

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Holden announced it was back in the big car game, and the gamble had to work


Happy Anniversary Holden VN Commodore - 30 years 

Is that the time already? A VN Commodore is now eligible for historic or club plates in most parts of the country! For Holden this was potentially a make or break model that, if they got it wrong, could effectively surrender complete market dominance to the Ford Falcon.

Glenn Torrens tells us: By early 1983, over four years after the launch of the Commodore and three years after the Kingswood had been killed, Holden was in a bit of strife… and it knew it. A big fuel crisis had, a decade before, spurred Holden into building a smaller family car for Australia… But larger cars were now cool again, leaving Holden’s family car in the shadow of the Ford Falcon with which it competed for the Aussie fleet and family car buyers’ bucks.

| Read next: History of the Holden VN-VS Commodore


As it had done for the VB Commodore, Holden could have co-developed the Opel Senator that was under development for a 1987 launch but it wanted to return to a bigger, Kingswood (and Ford Falcon) sized family car by the late 1980s. So Holden went alone with the development of the VN, taking just the side-body architecture of the Opel (the doors and flush-fitting window frames) and splicing it to a widened version of the VL floor and suspension to create a uniquely Australian car.

This provided the required interior size – three bums across the back seat. This virtually new body also allowed Holden to vastly improve the performance of the ventilation and air-conditioning systems for VN. The higher aero-styled body line also allowed a bigger boot.


Essential for the success of the VN was an improvement in quality. Three decades later, it’s easy to laugh but it really was a step forward at the time. The VN was intended to be built in just one assembly plant, rather than the four Aussie factories that the first-gen VB-VL Commodores were variously assembled in (with kit-packs to NZ) – enabling Holden to work on the assembly techniques and quality of VN.


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