1978 Year In Review

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Holden VB Commodore
The VB Commodore spelt the end of the trusty Kingswood. In a twist of fate, it is the outgoing HZ model that today is very collectable.

Mini Minor
Production of the Mini in Australia would wind up in 1980, but would continue in the UK.

The Last Waltz
Fans of The Band would celebrate Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz", the digitally remastered version remains a favourite to this day.

The VB Commodore

1978 marked the beginning of the end for the perennial "Kingswood", with the introduction of the VB Commodore. Although smaller than the HZ, the new car handled better and appeared far more modern. There was certainly no doubting Holden's desire to have the new car percieved as 'European', with an optional 'European Pack' available.

The VB was a major change of direction for GMH , but it quickly became Australia's top-selling car and its media awards included the coveted Wheels magazine's "Car of the Year". Launched after Holden had spent more than $110 million on development, the Commodore combined a German body design with an Australian engine and local mechanical components. Importantly, it was significantly smaller than previous Holdens and showed GMHA following the trend toward smaller cars sparked by the fuel crises of the 1970s.

The GM Corporation had started work on the Commodore way back in 1971. It was the second vehicle in the GM world car program (the first being the Gemini) and variations were sold in Continental Europe, England and South Africa. In its Australian form - with locally developed drivetrain, steering, suspension, body strengthening and dust sealing - it became the 18th new family-sized Holden. The Commodore was generally judged to have brought a new level of sophistication to the market with efficient space packaging, high levels of comfort, generous equipment levels and excellent handling - due to the latest development of Holden's highly successful Radial Tuned Suspension.

In addition to the base Commodore, there were SL and upmarket SL/E derivatives. These were sold alongside a wide array of locally produced Holdens including seven Gemini models, six Sunbirds, three Toranas, five HZ Holdens (which would remain in production for another 2 years), two Statesman variants and six car-based light commercial vehicles. Even when the Commodore was established as a sales success, the HZ Holden range of sedans, wagons, utilities, vans, trucks and Statesman saloons continued to sell well. A Commodore wagon appeared eight months after the sedan.

The Aston-Martin V8 Vantage

The format of Aston Martin's fastest road cars - big engine up front, bulky coachbuilt body and driven rear wheels - had not changed for many years and this factor most of all, by 1978, had become the major point of criticism of Aston. Nevertheless, with the Vantage, Aston Martin managed to build what it claimed was the world's fastest-accelerating production car. "Vantage" - a word sounding like a cross between Vintage and Advantage told it all. The old-established Aston Martin model name for a highly-tuned version of their basic product. Considering the heritage that lay behind it, the Vantage version was something of a bargain.

The Vantage owed a lot to Mike Loasby, who had returned to the Aston Martin fold as the chief engineer following the company's salvation led by George Minden and Peter Sprague on June 27, 1975. Loasby had spent some years with Leyland and was glad to return where individuality reigned supreme. In the Aston Martin Lagonda and the Vantage, Loasby's individuality emerged in the metal. During 1976 he raced his own Aston V8 and some of the experience he gained was built into the Vantage. The result was a masculine modern sports car with real hairs on its chest, which simply outperformed such foreign exotica as Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and - from a standing start - even the Porsche Turbo!

The initial targets for the Vantage were 40 percent more engine power and 10 percent more torque than standard. To avoid "odious comparisons" the power output figure of Aston's standard V8 was never released, but great attention to the Vantage unit's breathing must have boosted it to perhaps 320 kW. Four 48 mm Webers replaced the standard unit's 42 mm throats, and revised camshafts lifted larger inlet valves aspirated through reshaped inlet manifolds. They were fed by a revised airbox sitting atop the Webers, and so the 100 mm x 85 mm (5341 cm3) quad-cam engine was just asking for harder plugs than standard - which it received.

With a compression ratio of 9:1, the Vantage required 97-octane fuel. Other modifications from standard included a heftier front anti-roll bar, Koni shocks front and rear and a "demon tweak" on the De Dion rear end to promote a different roll-steer effect. Slotted front discs were derived directly from racing experience while chunky seven-inch wide cast aluminium 15-inch wheels carried podgy Pirelli CN12 255/60-15 tyres. The five-speed all-syncromesh ZF manual gearbox drove through a 3.54:1 final drive with an optional 3.77 available.

To prevent lift at speed, a fibreglass front air-dam esd hung beneath the nose, slotted for brake and radiator cooling, while the bonnet-top air intake was blanked off and a GRP tail spoiler was fitted to the boot lid. The radiator air intake of the standard shell was also blanked off, the blanking plates also housing a pair of dipping spotlights which effectively formed another pair of headlamps. The headlamps themselves are neatly faired-in behind perspex covers. The result was a handsome but decidedly brutish-looking machine which meant business.

Other Events Of 1978

In other motoring news, the Lotus Esprit S2 was released in England; After seeing his Puerto Rican manufacturing plans fall through, car-maker John DeLorean revealed his support from the Government of Northem Ireland; Chrysler announced the sale of its European operations to Peugeot. Allan Moffat was tipped to retire from motor racing; Harry J. Butler, the father of the disc brake, died; Production of the Leyland Mini wound up in Australia, but naturally enough continued in the UK. For those Holden fans that lamented the passing of the HZ (although production would continue until 1980), hope still shone eternal with the awesome Torana A9X winning that year at Mt. Panorama.

On the domestic front, for the first time ever, the Melbourne Cup was televised live on Channel 0/10, while over at Channel 7 "Against The Wind" would become the first major mini-series produced for Australian commercial television. By this time, some 64% of Melbourne households and 70% of Sydney households now had a colour TV sitting itn their loungeroom, making Australia the fastest country ever to take up the "new" technology (Note: NTSC colour transmissions were by now well established in North America). Motorists in the Western suburbs of Melbourne were happy to receive the news that the West Gate Bridge (spanning the mouth of the Yarra River) was completed and being prepared for public use.

In international news, Polish Pope John Paul II became the first non -Italian Catholic Pope in 450 years; lsaac Bashevis Singer won the Nobel Prize for Literature; The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Israel and Eygptian leaders Begin and Sadat following the signing of Camp David peace trealy.

Formula One Championship:

Mario Andretti (United States) / Lotus-Ford

1978 Bathurst Winner:

Peter Brock & Jim Richards / Torana A9X

NRL Grand Final:

Manly-Warringah (16) def. Cronulla-Sutherland (0)

VFL/AFL Grand Final:

Hawthorn (18.13.121) def. North Melbourne (15.13.103)

Melbourne Cup:

Arwon (H. White)

Wimbledon Women:

Martina Navratilova d. C. Evert (2-6 6-4 7-5)

Wimbledon Men:

Bjorn Borg d. J. Connors (6-2 6-2 6-3)

The Movies:

  • The Deer Hunter
  • The Goodbye Girl
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • The Last Waltz
  • Midnight Express
  • Heaven Can Wait
  • Coming Home

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture - The Deer Hunter
  • Best Actor - Jon Voight (Coming Home)
  • Best Actress - Jane Fonda (Coming Home)

Gold Logie:

Graham Kennedy (Blankety Blanks, 0-10)

The Charts:

  1. You're The One That I Want - Olivia Newton John & John Travolta
  2. Make Love To Me - Kelly Marie
  3. Black Is Black - La Belle Epoque
  4. Rivers Of Babylon - Boney M
  5. Do Ya Think I'm Sexy - Rod Stewart
  6. Three Times A Lady - The Commodores
  7. Y.M.C.A. - Village People
  8. Kiss You All Over - Exile
  9. Macho Man - Village People
  10. Stayin' Alive - Bee Gees


  • Keith Moon (The Who Bad Boy)
  • Hubert Humphrey (Screen legend)
  • Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan (Former Deputy Premier of USSR)
  • Norman Rockwell (Famous US painter)
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