1984 Year In Review

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Holden Jackaroo
In 1984 The General sourced both its 4 Wheel Drive offerings from Isuzu.

Jeep CJ7 Renegade
With the Japanese 4x4's offering unprecedented luxury, only Land Rover and Jeep demonstrated that old school four wheel drives could still be fun.

Subaru 4WD Sportswagon
The Sportswagon helped Subaru become the 2nd best selling 4 Wheel Drive in Australia, something few had predicted.

1984 A Boom Time For 4 Wheel Drives

By 1984 Australia's four wheel drive market was enjoying an unprecedented boom time. The resurgence of the "leisure vehicle" was put down to several factors; many people sought a weekend release from the pressures of the city, while others needed a vehicle capable of transporting the then very popular wind surfers to and from the coast.

Since the introduction of the Range Rover, which led the way in combining brilliant off road capability, luxury and comfort, 4 wheel drives had become more and more sophisticated, offering a wider range of options, power packages and versatility.

Toyota Leads The 4X4 Pack

For 1984, Toyota lead the four wheel drive market by a substantial margin, with Subaru suprising many to take out second place. Toyota's model line up was impressive, from the basic 2.0 litre petrol engined cab/chassis half tonne utes through to the fully-equipped high roof Safari long wheelbase station wagon.

In between there was a range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, utilities, extended and twin cab models, short wheelbase Landcruisers and of course the Landcruiser station wagon. There were even some special "limited edition" models, such as the superbly equipped Forerunner, a five seater wagon based on the Hi Lux utility with a choice of petrol or diesel engine with five-speed manual transmission.

Subaru Take 2nd Place In The 4X4 Sales Charts

Subaru was the surprise package, few ever expecting it to rank in the 4 wheel drive sales charts. There were three seperate four wheel drive models on offer, the Touring Wagon, Station Wagon and Brumby utility. The Touring wagon was a luxuriously equipped "stepped" roof wagon that featured power windows and the like, and was fitted with a unique three-speed auto transmission with simple push button selection of four wheel drive that could even be engaged while on the move.

Standard specifications included a simple push button radio, digital electronic instrumentation, power steering and a trip computer. The four wheel drive system even offered a dual range selection, and you could option a four-speed dual range manual transmission.

The Station Wagon was a little less sophisticated, but was no less versatile, and was available in manual transmission only with a choice of single or dual-range four wheel drive.

But the big winner was the Brumby utility, a half tonne ute combining sedan practacility with utility toughness. Like the Station Wagon, the Brumby came with a 4 speed manual transmission and the option of single or dual range four wheel drive. A feature of the Brumby was its height adjustable suspension for maximum payload capacity and better ground clearance for those that took the little ute off road.

Nissans Comprehensive 4 Wheel Drive Lineup

Nissan had long established itself as a major player in the 4 wheel drive sector, and while their offerings were more basic than the Toyota Landcruisers, they were undeniably strong and reliable work vehicles. Nissan offered a comprehensive line-up, with a full selection of three-quarter and one-tonne utes, king cab and dual cab models and of course the short and long wheelbase MQ Patrols and station wagons.

Nissans trump card was the the seven seater turbocharged diesel station wagon. The turbo diesel was an excellent performer combining the benefits of low speed power and torque of the diesel while also ensuring good acceleration, reserve power for overtaking and a good open road running speed. From the light trucks (720 Series) through to the top of the range seven seater wagons, the Nissan product was always tough and reliable.

Leyland Is No Longer "The" 4 Wheel Drive

Leyland had enjoyed a solid run in Australia, the venerable Land Rover still considered by many afficianados as the only real four wheel drive. But for many others, the lure of the Japanese 4 Wheel Drive invasion, vehicles that afforded better performance, reliability and comfort, was simply too great to ignore. The Land Rover - and of course the Range Rover - were still very much forces to be reckoned with, and the aging outer skin of the Land Rover disguised well some engineering changes that actually put the vehicle, technically at least, way ahead of its competitors.

From the straight up and down high and low ratio, two and four wheel drive base models, there was also the option of the big and gutsy 3.7 litre Isuzu diesel and models which combined a selection of engines with the sophisticated running gear of the Range Rover with its constant four wheel drive and front and rear diff locks. The luxury Range Rover of course had its own following, and that had grown somewhat with the introduction of an optional automatic transmission, as well as both 2 and four door configurations.

Mitsubishi Get A Foothold

Mitsubishi were a relative late comer to the Australian four wheel drive market, but they were able to make some major in-roads very quickly thanks to the all conquering Pajero. In 1984 Mitsubishi launched the four door Pajero wagon, a full seven seater that went head-to-head with the six cylinder wagons from Toyota and Nissan. With automatic free wheeling hubs, the same engine availability as the short wheelbase models and greater load and carrying capacity, the new long wheelbase model proved very popular despite its top heavy appearance.

Mitsubishi's unique leaf spring plus torsion bar suspension set-up allowed their four wheel drives to benefit from a relatively low ride height, especially with their Express utilities. The utes offered a choice of either a 2.0 litre petrol or 2.3 litre diesel, while the Pajeros came weith either the big 2.6 litre petrol engine or turbocharged 2.4 litre OHC diesel. The L300 Express 4WD van was fitted with the 1.8 litre petrol engine.

Tough, Rugged, No Nonense - Jeep

While the Japanese 4X4's were evolving into luxury people movers, the good folk at Jeep, like those at Leyland, decided to stick with the no-nonense utalitarian approach. By 1984 Jeep had come to grips with the Australian market, and although not a big seller their vehicles were tailored to appeal to the youth market. There were seven Jeep's in the range: Three Cherokee wagons, the Limited, DL and Sportsman: CJ7 Renegade; CJ8 Overlander and the J10 and J20 trucks.

The Limited was exactly that - built to order it offered the absolute in luxury four wheel driving. Powered by a big 5.9 litre V8 with automatic transmission and cruise control, it was a high performance off-road tourer. The remaining Cherokee models offered the option of either the 4.2 litre six cylinder engine or the V8, and either could be mated to Jeep's five-speed manual or 3 speed automatic transmission. Only the Sportsman did not come with a V8 option.

The smaller CJ models were also comprehensively equipped with the CJ7 Renegade coming with both fibreglass hardtop and convertible soft top included in the price. Powered by either a four cylinder 2.5 litre engine or 4.2 litre six, the Renegade offered a choice of manual or automatic transmission. Power steering, power disc brakes, free wheeling hubs and a rear diff lock were all standard fare on the six cylinder models.

The CJ8 Overlander was a luxury version of the Renegade, and was developed specifically for the Australian market. The Overlander featured an impressive line-up of standard features including the 4.2 litre six (with either manual or auto trans), AM/FM push button radio, highback seats, power front discs, power steering, fron brush bar with driving lights, wide spoked wheels, swing-away spare tyre carrier and a side opening rear door. The interior was fully carpeted, and included a padded roll-over bar.

Rounding out the range were the two trucks, the J10 and J20. Both were tough rugged work machines: the J10 offered a choice of six cylinder petrol or diesel engine, while the J20 came with either the petrol six or V8.

Ford's Durable Bronco and F100

In 1984 Ford procured its 4 wheel drive offerings from the States, and both quickly developed a stellar reputation. The Bronco was a two-door, five seater available with manual or automatic transmission, and fitted with a 4.1 litre six cylinder engine. The F100 shared a similar drive train, and both transmissions were mated to a high and low ratio transfer case.

On the outside, the Bronco was a big, wide vehicle in the best traditions of American four wheel drives. But it was the extra width of the Bronco that proved to be the achillies heel when off road, many road testers at the time frustrated that they would need to continually seek out alternate routes while they watched the smaller four wheel drives scamper through the Aussie bush. The F100 was the tough workhorse, and quickly became popular with tradesmen, caravanners and boating enthusiasts.

The Jackaroo and Rodeo

Like Ford, the General's 4 wheel drive offerings in 1984 were limited to two models, the Isuzu sourced Jackaroo and the Rodeo. The Rodeo was strictly a tradesmans vehicle, available in one tonne formats as either a utility or a cab/chassis. Powered by a 2.0 litre four cylinder engine with five-speed manual transmission and two speed transfer case. Like the Mitsubishi one tonner, the Rodeo was "low slung" thanks to its independent front end.

The Jackaroo was the at the opposite end, it offering a luxury 4X4 experience. The engine choices were limited to the somewhat underpowered 2.0 litre petrol engine, and the 2.2 litre turbo diesel. Both engines were mated to a 5 speed manual transmission. While the petrol engine was quiet and smooth, the turbo diesel was the pick of the engines, despite being noisy in comparison.

The Smaller Japanese, Suzuki Sierra and Daihatsu Rocky

Many believed the Suzuki LJ80 to be somewhat of a toy, despite it proving to be a very capable off road appliance. The 1984 Sierra was vastly superior in many ways, and was available in three basic versions - the short wheelbase hardtop, short wheelbase soft-top and long wheelbase soft-top. There were also a number of variations in-between. Well priced, lightweight (read economical) and with plenty of off road ability for the all but super serious 4 wheel drive enthusiast, the Suzuki Sierra would develop a good reputation with young people who wanted somthing a little different, and a vehicle capable of taking them off the bitumen from time to time. All Suzuki's were fitted with a 4 speed manual transmission that had full high and low ratio so that it could get the power down from the easy-revving 1.0 litre four cylinder OHC engine.

Like Suzuki with their evolution from LJ80 to Sierra, so too did Daihatsu evolve the F20 to the Rocky. It was none too late either, as the F20 was certainly not an attractive vehicle, and had been losing ground to the better looking Sierra for 18 months. The Rocky changed all that though, combining rugged construction with advanced styling and high tech engineering. Upgraded engine options combined with proven transmission and drive train components to ensure that, under the aerodynamic bodyshell, traditional Daihatsu off-road dependability was retained.

The top-of-the-line EX long wheel base variant also offered a new three way electroinically adjustable suspension management system. The resin-top LWB Rocky also featured standard power steering, a sunroof and panorama windows in the rear - a far cry from the F20! There were plenty of other Rocky variants on offer too, models including a soft top short wheelbase, two hard top short wheelbase models, and two long wheelbase resin top models. The range ad the further option of proven Daihatsu 2.8 litre diesel or 2.0 litre petrol engines.

Both engines proved very capable, and were mated to Daihatsu's proven five speed manual transmission which featured a two stage transfer case allowing the Rocky driver access to four wheel drive while on the move. The front suspension used leaf springs with gas pressure shock absorbers giving plenty of traction over the roughest surfaces. A Panhard rod and rigid anti-roll bar helped ensure a degree of comfort while on the black top, while the rear suspension featured leaf springs, gas pressure shock absorbers and a rigid rear axle.

End Of An Era At Petone

New Zealand's first car assembly plant closed in 1984, due primarily to changes in Government export regulations. The old factory at Petone, near Wellington, had been operated by General Motors since 1926. The first GM car to be built at Petone was the 1926 Chevrolet sedan. A few months later came Pontiac and Buick cars with more than 1000 vehicles assembled in the first year. Oldsmobiles were also built there and, in 1931, the first Vauxhalls went down the line. Holden's joined the production line in 1957, and the last of the US cars were built in the early 1960s. The writing was on the wall for Petone in 1967 when a bigger, more efficient assembly plant was erected at Trentham. In the early 1980s Petone had been used to assemble Bedford trucks and Holden one-tonne utes.

But its main use had been for production of AC spark plugs, AC oil filters and axle components. The spark plugs and oil filters were for local and Australian consumption and the axles were solely for exports to GM-H in Australia. The Government's elimination of export performance tax incentives to its main export market, Australia, and the imposition of dumping duties on a number of exported items across the Tasman were major factors that forced GM to drop these products. Its spark plugs and oil filters were produced by another company on its behalf. And production of axle components designed for us in rear-wheel drive vehicles also ceased in 1984 because of the reduced demand for these vehicles.

Formula One Championship:

Niki Lauda (Austria) / McLaren-Porsche

1984 Bathurst Winner:

Peter Brock & Larry Perkins / VK Commodore

NRL Grand Final:

Cantebury (6) def. Parramatta (4)

VFL/AFL Grand Final:

Essendon (14.21.105) def. Hawthorn (12.9.81)

Melbourne Cup:

Black Knight (P. Cook)

Wimbledon Women:

Martina Navratilova d. C. Evert Lloyd (7-6 6-2)

Wimbledon Men:

John McEnroe d. J. Connors (6-1 6-1 6-2)

The Movies:

  • Amadeus
  • The Killing Fields
  • A Passage to India
  • The Pope of Greenwich Village

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture - Amadeus
  • Best Actor - F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus)
  • Best Actress - Sally Field (Places In The Heart)

Gold Logie:

Bert Newton (The Don Lane Show and New Faces, Nine)

The Charts:

  1. Ghostbusters - Ray Parker Jnr.
  2. Dancing In The Dark - Bruce Springsteen
  3. I Just Called To Say I Love You - Stevie Wonder
  4. Like A Virgin - Madonna
  5. Careless Whisper - George Michael
  6. It's Just Not Cricket - The Twelth Man
  7. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go - Wham!
  8. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper
  9. Hello - Lionel Richie
  10. Footloose - Kenny Loggins


  • Indira Gandhi (Indian Prime Minister)
  • Francois Truffaut (French Movie Director)
  • Truman Capote(One of America's most controversial and colorful authors)
  • Count Basie (Swinging Jazz band leader)
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