BAGHDAD HOLDEN

An Australian mechanic working in Iraq meets a fellow Aussie who’s up on blocks and down on his luck:

A few days ago I was out road testing a Chevy-badged Holden Commodore when out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a wrecked car in one of the back streets of the Green Zone in Baghdad. Something about it was vaguely familiar …

To my complete amazement it turned out to be a badly beat up HR Holden, one of the last things you could ever expect to see in Iraq. Going by the orange painted front guards and rear quarter panels, the old HR had been in use as a taxi cab. The car was left-hand drive and on close inspection it seemed that the conversion had been done in a professional manner.

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It’s hard to tell what finally killed the car, but a missing cylinder head coupled with a lack of spare parts probably spelled the end of its time on Iraqi roads. The Iraqis are masters are keeping old cars mobile after living with years of sanctions and parts shortages, but this old soldier was obviously beyond even their means.

One of my Iraqi employees was familiar with the HR, and said that there were quite a few on the roads back in the ‘60s. He thought that Holden was an English brand, and had no idea how these cars ended up in the Middle East.

Coincidentally, the parents of our mate in Iraq owned an HR—notorious for its “kidney slicer” headlight surrounds—when he was young. As for the Commodore, it’s apparently one of three imported from Dubai for use by US army officers. All three bear the Capone-style marks of a mortar attack:

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UPDATE. Holden expert Neil Lyons writes: “It was the 1965-66 HD Holden that had the ‘kidney slicer’ headlight surrounds, not the 66-67 HR Holden. The ‘kidney slicer’ was the main feature they tried to remove with the HR make-over.”

Posted by Tim B. on 12/18/2004 at 05:28 AM
    1. wow. just wow.

      Posted by Mr. Bingley on 12/18 at 06:47 AM • permalink

 

    1. Wow is right!

      But those look like bullet holes, tim.  Mortars spray shrapnel, which don’t leave such neat holes.

      But still wow…..given that it looks like the windshield might have been shot out.

      Posted by The_Real_JeffS on 12/18 at 07:05 AM • permalink

 

    1. The first time I was in Barbados, circa 1980, there were Toranas running all over the place.

      Posted by superboot on 12/18 at 08:03 AM • permalink

 

    1. From JustCommodores.com, this extract from the history of GMH exports, starting with the year the HR was born:
      Full text here
      1966
      o The addition of Taiwan and Libya increased export markets to 63.
      o GMH began a new stage of its export program by sending torque converter
      automatic transmission components to Vauxhall in the UK and Opel in
      Germany.

      o 15,114 Holden units exported.

      o “In addition, sets of components for 1,680 vehicles were shipped to South
      Africa and substantial quantities of automotive parts and accessories were
      sold throughout the GMH export world. “ (GMH Annual Report 1966)
      1967

      o The 100,000th export Holden (Australian content more than 95 per cent), was
      produced at Holden’s Pagewood NSW plant.

      o Exports of the Holden Torana began.

      o CKD Holden packs were assembled at plants in New Zealand, South Africa,
      Indonesia, Trinidad, the Philippines and Pakistan.

      o 11,187 Holden units exported.
      1968

      o In the 20th year of Holden vehicle production, an all-new HK range which
      included Monaro and Brougham models increased export opportunities and
      14,364 units were shipped abroad.

      o Exports of nodular iron castings to Vauxhall in the UK commenced.
      1969

      o The first Australian-built V8 engines were shipped to assembly plants in
      South Africa, New Zealand and Malaysia.

      o Completely built up V8 models were among total exports of 13,447 units.

      Posted by superboot on 12/18 at 08:19 AM • permalink

 

    1. I agree with the Real Jeffs. Having observed both types of projectiles personally while on vacation in Vietnam some years ago….I’d say they were AK-47 rounds.

      Posted by Wallace-Midland Texas on 12/18 at 03:23 PM • permalink

 

    1. for what its worth, I dunno guys – that looks like a pretty tight group for an AK-47. also, notice how some holes are bigger than others (the small holes near the strip are way too small to be a 7.62)

      Posted by FusterCluck on 12/18 at 03:27 PM • permalink

 

    1. What was it Clive James said about cars in Oz? “The first Volkswagens were greeted like liberators.”

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 12/18 at 05:10 PM • permalink

 

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