Part of the reason I fell in love with cars was because of Australia's take on engineering the perfect automobile for our roads.
The design directive was clear: big, fast and roomy. The Commodore and Falcon met that design brief with huge interiors, big engines and a stack of 'Aussieness' thrown into the mix, while Toyota stuck to its Japanese design and engineering platform.
When Holden announced it would host a massive party and cruise for fans of the brand, I couldn't resist. I put my hand up to drive an SS-V Redline from Port Melbourne, where it all started, through to Elizabeth, where local Commodore production will soon end.
Our 4:30AM start in Melbourne saw us cross a state and collect several other Commodores in the convoy before rolling into Adelaide late on Saturday afternoon.
The buzz within the group slowly built as we drove the final leg to Elizabeth, where a congregation of over 1000 locally-built Holdens gathered ahead of the 9:00AM flag drop.
The atmosphere was absolutely electric. In addition to the cars participating in the cruise, thousands of spectators had gathered to peruse the vehicles on display.
We were lucky enough to ride at the front of the group as part of the Holden Collection — a mix of company-owned vehicles and special editions, including the first-ever locally-produced Holden, the 48-215, or FX.
As 9:00AM approached, the boss of Holden, Mark Bernhard jumped into the 48-215 and Bev Brock (the partner of late Peter Brock) dropped the flag to officially kick the cruise off.
Rolling out of the car park into a crowd of supporters was incredible. Almost the entire cruise (at a distance of over 10km) was lined with onlookers, cheering vehicles as they drove by.
It was a surprisingly emotional drive, with the residential streets of Elizabeth filled with barbeques on lawns, deck chairs and marquees — everybody was really getting behind the event.
The cruise drove past Holden's assembly plant and terminated at Elizabeth Oval, where the crowd expanded even further.
Holden estimates almost 30,000 people attended the main event, with a 100-strong car show and shine, a sound stage, and a display of Holden's current and future models. It helped that the weather was fantastic, too.
We were blown away by the reception and really didn't expect this many people. It was great to see cars that had travelled from all over Australia to take part in the cruise, only highlighting the enthusiasm behind the brand.
Holden also auctioned off three limited-edition Commodores, with over $700,000 raised for The Smith Family education program.
A Commodore Motorsport (build #5) went for $93,000, a Commodore Magnum (build number #111) went for $84,000, while a Commodore Director (build number #5) went for $130,000.
Holden also donated $65,000 to The Lighthouse Foundation, contributing an additional $500,000 to The Smith Family (in addition to auction proceeds).
While Holden's decision to end local manufacturing has been a long time in the making and consumer sentiment behind retention of the Commodore nameplate hasn't been great, the brand's celebration should be commended.