1 May 1985
Remember the RB Gemini? Few do. Only the name remained the same when this all-new, second generation model replaced the once popular decade-old T-car Gemini.
Once again co-developed with Isuzu motors in Japan as the “R-Car”, the RB was a General Motors “World Car” in as much as it was sold in many countries under different names.
Switching to front-wheel drive meant space and packaging progress from the cramped old rear-drive model, but curiously there was no five-door hatchback – vital for success in Australia’s small-car segment during the 1980s just a dumpy four-door sedan.
Holden didn’t even bother bringing in the slightly more interesting three-door hatchback variant offered abroad.
This, combined with utterly conventional engineering, mediocre ride and handling traits, lukewarm critical reaction and a lacklustre 52kW/117Nm 1.5-litre OHC four-cylinder engine, meant that few people noticed or cared.
GMH didn’t help the issue by offering four disparate sub-2.0-litre models at the time – the Barina 1.3, Astra 1.5 hatchback and Camira 1.6 and 1.8 models – that, bar the Camira, didn’t feel like a real Holden anyway.
Two models were offered – a base SL/X and well-equipped SL/E – in either three-speed auto or five-speed manual guises.
Sadly for the beleaguered Holden, buyers were making beelines towards the spectacularly successful 1985 Ford KC Laser “bubble-back” and front-wheel drive Toyota Corolla.
A minor specification and trim reshuffle in June ’86 was ignored, so Holden replaced the car only after two years with the Nissan-built LD Astra that it help co-engineer for local conditions.