Holden Gemini TG
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
Out of the Ordinary
If nothing else the Gemini had resilience. By the time of the TG’s release it had been around for 8 years. Launched in 1975
, by 1977
it was selling 18,000 and ADAPS figures for 1982
indicate there were some 27,501 registrations. The reason was pretty obvious to anyone who drove one – it was good.
At the time GMH advertised their cars as 'Out of the Ordinary'. To some extent this was true, being just about the only small car to still run a front engine-rear drive configuration, excluding of course the Corolla and Stanza (but these would switch to FWD
soon after – as regrettably did the Gemini
with the release of the RB model
). Better still, compared with the small car rear-wheel-drive configuration competition the Gemini was by far the cheapest at $6720. At the time the Charade cost $6895 and the Corolla was over $7000.
But regardless of how out-of-the-ordinary the Gemini was, with eight years and five models released, GMH
had to take the scalpal to the Gemini to give it a freshen up. However, picking a TF from the previous TG can prove difficult, as most improvements were simply by way of upgrades, such as standardising all models with the more up-market SL/X seats, and each model (except the base model) receiving the previous models higher spec wheel trims.
The driving position was traditional and spacious, with the bucket seat adjustment now allowing an additional 20mm of rearward movement. There was better ventilation and heating, an improved wiper design, simplified column controls, full length door trims and revisions to the steering column for better positioning. Rear seat head and leg room was a little less spacious, but still good for a small sedan. One problem the Gemini did have was caused by the traditional styling, and this was the small rear door opening, which made for difficult entry/egress for taller people. It was also very easy to get your foot caught between the seat cushion and the bucket seat backrest.
Tweaking the Engine
Engine wise the TG remained identical to the TF, and was also available with a diesel
engine option. The ADR 27A pollution regulations had an adverse effect on the Gemini’s fuel economy. GMH worked hard at tweeking the engine, such that the TG was capable of 9.0 litres per 100 km in the city cycle, and 6.5 litres per 100 km highway cycle – impressive even today. To achieve the gains, GMH first played with the TE
by modifying the alloy cylinder head
. The inlet ports were smoothed off and the inlet valve head diameter was reduced by 2mm. This resulted in higher gas speeds at lower engine revs, and assisted in obtaining better mixing of the air fuel charge. On the TF, the new feature was the air injection. The combination probably read better than it worked - sometimes. While it was fairly economical the TG suffered from a very weak power band, the automatic version naturally even worse.
The 1584cc 'oversquare' motor still ran a very low 8.3:1 compression, and put out 50 kW at 5400 rpm and 110 Nm of torque at 3200 rpm. By contrast, the Camira engine with only 14cc more capacity puts out 14 kW more power and 15 Nms more torque. On the road, performance between the two GMH products told the story, with the poky heavier Camira
running nearly a second quicker through the quarter. On the road the TF Gemini was noisy at idle, but smooth once under way. But it would get loud again, when you opened the throttle wide. Owners have told us that often this was exacerbated because people would forget to check the summer/winter setting on the snout of the air-cleaner. It also made the Gemini a little less reliable in cold weather. Compared to the TD the TG’s ride was much improved, primarily thanks to the RTS suspension.
The Geimini ZZ/Z
The ZZ/Z sold for $8452 when released. The conventional drivetrain layout was popular, but in a small car there were some pros and cons. Being a basic "three-box" affair made it very practical, offering a spacious boot that was totally isolated from the interior. The relatively long-booted silhouette also meant more weight on the back wheels and less on the front compared to the FWD
cars. This was a definite plus in an era before power steering, as it meant less steering load with slight understeer, compared to the competition's sportier, but heavier oversteer.
The ZZ/Z had firm suspension, making it a lot of fun to throw around. The lack of power also helped as you never have to worry about getting out of shape and then delicately feeding back the power - there is none. Basically, you lined up the car, letting the rack and pinion steering, the double wishbone front end with improved impact harshness, and the improved rear end with the new alloy torque tube, revised shockers and 2mm thicker sway bar - all do their stuff, in concert with the steel belted radials. Fast sweepers would quickly become a breeze. So predictable and well balanced was the car that many believed it to be the safest small car then on the market.
Appearance wise the Z/ZZ looked sporty enough, with its spoilers, stripes and alloy wheels
. The TG's instrument panel was improved too, no longer looking quite so Nippon in design. The new design also allowed for more interior space - and on a small car that was a good thing. The brakes
on the TG were vastly improved too, so that the ZZ/Z offered true sports car stopping power. 31 metres may not sound all that impressive today, but compare it to the 1983 competition - the Toyota Camry
came in at 36 metres, Ford's Falcon with a full 4 wheel disc setup took 35.
Perhap's GMH's brochure best described the ZZ/Z; "It doesn't take much to see that Gemini ZZ/Z is a very different kind of four-cylinder car. One look is enough. From its dazzling silver finish to its unique interior trim, ZZ/Z oozes excitement. Outside, it's the sporty-look Gemini for people who love to own a car that reflects their individuality, with features that include a rear deck spoiler front air dam fender wind splits and silver bumpers. Inside, there's style to spare. And of course its got all the attributes that make Gemini such an exciting four-cylinder car. Like a gutsy 1.6 litre overhead cam petrol engine that features a Secondary Air Injection System for smooth performance and great fuel economy.
And Holden's renowned Radial Tuned Suspension
, providing unequalled ride and handling. And Holden's renowned Radial Tuned Suspension
, providing unequalled ride and handling. Rack and pinion steering
for positive control. 5-speed floor shift manual transmission
. Plus a full complement of SL/X features. Gemini ZZ/Z...what a car. Luxury, comfort, an outstanding equipment list. On the road performance that is the envy of Gemini's competitors. And an exciting sporty look that will really get heads turning."
Unfortunately, though, the TG was to be the last of the "T" series Gemini's, the last rear-wheel drive Gemini and an era was fast coming to a close. Today, Gemini's are becoming popular with the younger market as they lend themselves to modification. Naturally only the rear-wheel-drive Gemini's are sought after, the later model RB is not on their shopping list.