1979 Holden VB Commodore - Reader Ride

By: Earl Benson

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The much-loved Kingswood was a hard act to follow - the ground-breaking Commodore had big shoes to fill


Earl Benson's 1979 Holden VB Commodore

There aren’t too many Aussie car enthusiasts who wouldn’t stop, cast a glance and smile as their ears prick-up to the rumble of an early Holden Commodore V8. Depending on the model – Commodore and Commodore SL sedan and wagon plus the top-line Commodore SL/E sedan – Holden’s ground-breaking new range was available with 2.8 and 3.3-litre ‘red’ sixes, plus 4.2- and 5.0-litre V8s. Most V8s were fitted to the SL/E (it was the standard engine) and with performance being something of dirty word in the late 1970s, V8 Commodores were quite rare when new – and are even more so now!

"I was chasing one for a while – a couple of months," says the owner of this 4.2-litre V8 optioned base-model VB Commodore, Earl Benson from the NSW Hunter region town of Metford. "I particularly wanted a V8 manual, so I went looking."

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The search paid off, with this mostly original, three-owner 1979 VB Holden Commodore optioned with a 4.2-litre V8 and four-speed manual gearbox, and with a stack of paperwork (such as the owner’s manual, service history – even the instructions for the radio) dating back to the original buyer’s first days and kays.

"The first owner had it for 28 years in Victoria," Earl explains. "It spent most of its life around Wodonga. The second owner had it for six years, and the third just two years.

"I bought it on Anzac Day last year."

Iconic Holdens #6: VB Commodore

With its startling red paint almost strong enough to leave a bruise, Earl’s early Commodore is obviously in terrific condition, with only a black-painted grille and later-model 15-inch steel wheels altering it from showroom specification. The second owner had the Commodore’s exterior resprayed in the original colour around a decade ago (the engine bay paint remains original) with the fresh paint remaining lovely and lustrous – which is more than can be said for the factory finish!

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Bought with 160,000km on the clock, the car needed very little work when Earl bought it; he says he played with the M20-spec Aussie four-speed manual’s notoriously clunky gear-shift mechanism and checked out the front discs and rear drums (being a base model and 4.2, this one missed out on the rear discs fitted to most V8 Commodores) before committing it to a set of NSW H-plates and car-club cruising duty. He also replaced a few bits of shiny exterior trim that had gone missing over the years.

Prior to the 1984 VK series, Holden’s entry-level Commodore model was fitted with vinyl trim and very few frills, but the tan-coloured interior in Earl’s car is in excellent condition with just a bit of wear on the driver’s side carpet and a little flaking of the interior door handle chrome trim edges to remind us this is a terrific time-warp car rapidly approaching 40 years of age!

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First generation VB and VC series Commodores suffer from the vinyl lifting away from the centre console: it’s a difficult repair but thankfully, Earl’s is just about perfect. The seat facings, door cards, armrests and headlining are all just about perfect, too. One very handy feature of Earl’s car is the optional dealer-fit air-conditioning that makes this Commodore a comfy place to be when cruising in summer heat.

And that’s something Earl does quite often. He’s a member of the Maitland Classic Motorists’ Association, a club with more than 230 members that organises regular club cruises – including every

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These mid-week car club cruises usually include a lunch at a country pub in the Hunter Valley, or by the coast at the NSW tourist towns of Port Stephens or Terrigal. So it’s no surprise Earl has clicked-up more than 5000km since buying the car 18 months ago. "And that’s over and above any weekend shows that I go to," he says. "It’s great," says Earl. "We’re always going somewhere."


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