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Holden Camira

JB Camira

Holden logo1 Aug 1982

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

Few models were as maligned as the unfortunate Camira.

Yet initially the first front-wheel drive Holden, created as part of General Motors’ J-car “World Car” program of the early '80s, caused a minor sensation, topping the sales charts, winning awards (including Wheels Car of the Year), and setting new standards in packaging efficiency and dynamic abilities against tired old rear-wheel drive heaps like the Datsun Bluebird and Toyota Corona.

At the time few cars handled as well as the JB. Its engine was an export bonanza while Opel and Vauxhall in Europe picked up the Aussie-designed wagon.

And people responded to it as a proper replacement for the long-gone Torana and Sunbird, especially after the lacklustre Commodore Four.

Three Camira sedan models were released – a base SL, well specified SL/X and luxury SL/E.

The spacious wagon arrived in April ’83, followed by the stripes-and-spoilers SJ, with its laughable “Your Mother Will Hate It” ad line.

But two factors weighed against the JB: Holden’s fateful decision to use the 64kW/125Nm 1.6-litre OHC “Camtech” four-cylinder Family II engine in all models against larger 2.0-litre rivals and inconsistent quality control.

The former was the result of the ’79 fuel crisis. Still, the 1.6 Camtech was a lively unit and a sweet steerer when mated to the four or five-speed manual gearbox, but it struggled with the three-speed auto and wagon variants.

Plus many conservative Holden owners didn’t seek the specialised servicing an alloy-engined front-drive European-based sedan required, leading to overheating, electrical mishaps and other reliability woes.

Adding insult to injury was the Camira’s cannibalisation of VH Commodore sales.

By 1984 the JB was already considered a lemon and sales duly soured. The re-engineered JD couldn’t come quick enough. 85,725 JBs were built.

Holden models