Ford vs Holden: the film, the history, the rivalry

General Motors might not be actively marketing the Holden brand these days, but the uniquely Australian Ford Vs Holden rivalry is still alive and shows no sign of quietly going away. While 2022 will see Holdens contesting the Supercars Championship for the final time in the foreseeable future, the passion will be as great as ever.

As Australians, we are brought up on a rivalry diet of AFL or NRL, Labor or Liberal, Coles or Woolies, and of course, Ford or Holden. These rivalries and the banter they generate with family and friends are a part of us, to the point you have to pick a side even if you don’t care about either.

Walk down any street and you will mostly see a lot of Fords and Holdens, because so many people love them. Just think about how ubiquitous the Falcon, the Focus and the Territory are within the car industry in Australia. Even consider the fact that Broadmeadows Assembly produced 4,356,628 Falcon and Territory models alone in its 57 year history.

On the other side of the coin, Holden has been a household name in Australia for decades because of the evergreen popularity of the Commodore, the Monaro and the Colorado models. In fact, in every year from 1996 to 2010, the Holden Commodore was the highest selling car model in Australia. For some perspective, a total of 7,687,675 Holdens were made on Australian soil after production began in 1948.

Production in Australia may have now ceased, but we know so many people will preserve their Fords and Holdens for a long time, and the spirit of the great rivalry will live on forever.

In this article, we will give you details about the upcoming Ford vs Holden documentary film, before discussing some of the history of the rivalry. It is a competition, even a long-term feud, that fans will always remember and looks likely to continue. Check out the home page banner below on this facebook page titled ‘Holden Vs Ford Ain’t Dead’!

ford vs holden rivalry australian cars

A Ford vs Holden movie

Hot on the trail of the surprise international box office winner, ‘Ford Vs Ferrari’ starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, Aussie film makers are now producing the story of Australia’s great motorsport rivalry. The Ford Vs Ferrari crowd-pleasing film brought motorsport history to a broad younger audience with great reviews and an absolutely glowing A+ CinemaScore that delivered a stellar seven-week run in the US and Australian box office top 10.

ford vs holden rivalry documentary

Closer to home, we always knew the Ford vs Holden rivalry was a big deal, and now the upcoming documentary will give an opportunity for motorsport and film fans to appreciate that fact with classic moments lost in memory coming back to the big screen.

The film is currently scheduled for a mid-year release, under the working title “Ford vs Holden”. Let’s be honest, most of us hope it keeps that title. The documentary will be feature-length, and is being produced for Universal Picture Content Group by WildBear entertainment, known for their popular show Aussie Mega Mechanics and 2020 documentary about Peter Brock, Brock: Over the Top.

The Queensland state government has provided financing for the film, and the state’s premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is excited Queensland can help with bringing the rivalry to a global audience, stating “the rivalry between the Ford and Holden brands is one familiar to Australians across all walks of life”.

The details we know so far about the film are very exciting. There will be new interviews with industry leaders, and plenty of archival footage to help provide us that wonderful sense of nostalgia. It will document both the on track and showroom side of the rivalry and features a ton of those who played leading roles in that classic theater of sport, including exclusive interviews with Bathurst 1000 legend Dick Johnson and his long-term team mate John Bowe. We certainly can’t wait for that!

ford vs holden rivalry in 2022

It will be narrated by Shane Jacobson, which just feels exactly right. An iconic Aussie actor, as well as a noted motor-head who has even competed in rally cars, it is hard to think of a person more suited to the role.

The film will be produced by Veronica Fury – a veteran of over 50 television and feature documentaries – who believes the film will be “thought-provoking and captivating” for audiences. In addition, Fury stated that “WildBear is so excited to continue working with Screen Queensland and Universal Pictures Content Group to tell the story of the rivalry between these two powerhouse brands and the impact they have had on Australian culture”.

The history of the Ford vs Holden rivalry

Ford vs Holden is an enduring rivalry that arguably goes back over a century.

Holden started as a saddlery business all the way back in 1856, and expanded its business to vehicle upholstery in 1908. Ironically, the first Ford to reach Australian shores – the Ford Model T – was first produced in the United States in 1908. This model is still widely considered the most important car ever designed, as it introduced mass production, and moved the industry beyond horse and buggy technology.

Between 1948 and 1953, Holden produced the Holden 48-215, which Warren Brown of Top Gear Australia described as “the first car that absolutely suited Australian conditions”. These cars were tested in Australian conditions for two years for weaknesses. None were found.

white ford model t car

The 1960s were then dominated by Ford Falcons and Holden FBs, and whichever one your family owned was an integral part of your identity. So the rivalry is uniquely Australian, with its roots in growing industry and production. Over the years, the rivalry went from who had the best looking car in the front drive, to which was the fastest on a race track. With the advent of televisions in every living room and televised sport, a new arena was being created for a gladiatorial clash with Ford and Holden racers becoming household names.

In 1963, before the Bathurst 1000 existed (if you can believe it), the big race known as the Armstrong 500, needed a new home after its Phillip Island circuit had become unusable. With original rules stipulating only standard road vehicles could be used on the unusual track, everyday Fords and Holdens were in formal competition with each other, which really kicked the rivalry into overdrive. Ford had their first win in 1962, still at the Phillip Island circuit, with the legendary Bob Jane and Harry Firth pairing. Then the excitement really ramped up with the move to the Mount Panorama Racing Circuit at Bathurst.  The challenging and dangerous environment that is unique to ‘Bathurst’ always produces the unexpected, sending engagement with fans to a ‘fanatical’ level with annual pilgrimages in their thousands to ‘The Great Race’.

Who won more at Bathurst?

I am sorry to say Ford fans, but this is a resounding victory to Holden. In the 10 year era of the Bathurst 500, Ford recorded seven victories to Holden’s three. As years went on, the car ‘factories’ could see the marketing appeal of selling family cars that you could ‘race on a Sunday, drive on a Monday’ and everyday top selling models like the Ford Falcon and Holden Torana, then Commodore, became all the rage and Australian Touring Cars was born.

ford vs holden at bathurst rivalry

With cars getting faster and more reliable each year, 1973 saw the conversion to 1000 kilometres. During the era of the Australian Touring Car Championship, leading into the Australian Supercar era which began in 1999, Holden won 15 Bathurst 1000s, to Ford’s eight. In this period, Holden factory supported Peter ‘Perfect’ Brock added to his Bathurst 500 victory in 1972 with another seven wins; putting 9 Bathurst Great Race wins as the target for those who followed.  The tragic death of Peter Brock, the ‘King of the Mountain’ was commemorated with the ‘Peter Brock Trophy’ being presented to the Bathurst winners since his passing.

The Supercar era has again been dominated by Holden, continuing the great rivalry, and witnessing the emergence of legendary racing drivers. The first seven Supercar 1000s were won by Holden on their way to 17, and only six for Ford, with a Bathurst grand total of 35 outright wins for Holden and 21 for Ford at the end of 2021.

When Craig Lowndes went red and blue

On January 4, 2001, Craig Lowndes made the extremely controversial switch from Holden to Ford, eventually winning the 2006 race, receiving the inaugural Peter Brock Trophy, and going on to win the race the next two years as well. Incredibly, he eventually switched back to Holden and won the 2010 edition with fellow legend Mark Skaife. He went on to win it twice with Steven Richards, first in 2015, then in 2018 when they broke the record for the fastest ever time at the Bathurst 1000: 6 hours and 1 second.

ford vs holden rivalry race car drivers celebrating

Highlighting the extent of the rivalry, Holden at one stage had threatened legal action against Lowndes, who they claimed was tied to a 10 year contract with the company, and had only completed six. At the time, Ford President Geoff Polites countered, saying “Lowndes’ contract had been breached by Holden on a number of occasions and we are carrying on with our plans”. There’s nothing quite like the spice of the Ford vs Holden rivalry!


Battles have been won and lost, but the war never ends

Ultimately, whilst all the great rivalries hold a bitterness – even a pantomime hatred from one side to the other sometimes – the Ford vs Holden rivalry was built on the strength of both parties. It just made going to Bathurst or any race track more fun and memorable.

Ford and Holden memes existed before anyone even knew what memes were. Classics like “Ford – Found on Rubbish Dump” or “Holden – Australia’s most widely used warning label”, have been bandied about many a dinner table over the years. But one suspects there is an underlying respect, even admiration for the brand they were brought up to hate. Even if no one will admit to it.

And how could they not respect each other? Holden won more at Bathurst, but Ford won more Australian Touring Car Championships. For every Moffat, Johnson and Ambrose, there’s a Brock, Skaife and Perkins. Both Ford and Holden became a part of our lives, whether on our TV screens or in our garages.

Sadly, an era will come to an end in Supercar racing at the conclusion of the 2022 Championship. But reflecting upon so many great memories, and the knowledge a film documenting the wonderful Ford and Holden rivalry is soon to be released, it reminds us of the greatness of rivalry in sport.

With over 10,000,000 Fords and Holdens proudly made in Australia, and with many of those cars still cherished by their current owners, it’ll take a long, long time for the passion to fade.

In fact, the Ford vs Holden rivalry may never die.

ford vs holden australian car rivalry

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