It ain't Aussie … but it's going straight to the pool room

An act of generosity has triggered a salient change of heart from Holden’s biggest Kiwi fan.

THE colourful Taranaki character whose love for Australian-made Holdens is such he has opened a single-minded shrine to them says being gifted, by the brand, the first Commodore not to hail from across the Tasman has softened his heart.

Holden New Zealand today surprised Steve Fabish by presenting he and his wife, Joy, with a fantastic Valentines Day gift - a VXR Commodore liftback, the flagship of the new ZB line which comes on sale here next month.

The brand’s biggest fan says the generous action has struck so deeply at his heart that he has decided the car deserves a treat he has until now denied Holdens from countries other than Australia – display space in his museum.

The fresh-off-the-boat bright red model was handed over this morning at the Fabishs’ recently-opened Hillsborough Car Museum, just outside of New Plymouth, by the brand’s racing hero, Greg Murphy.

A pitch that left the couple dumbstruck and in tears has been accredited to Barry Engle, a high-up from General Motors in America, who is visiting this country, mainly to attend the ZB range’s launch to Holden dealers tomorrow.

Dedicated to celebrating the history of the vehicles in New Zealand, Hillsborough houses 33 Holdens, most owned by the couple but others on loan, built between 1949 to 2016: From FJ, EH,. Kingswood, Statesman and Monaro models through a host of Commodores, including Holden Special Vehicles.

Fabish made clear when this writer visited on November 14 that only Holdens made in Australia were eligible for display within the 1000 square metre building that he entirely self-funded.

That’s because these were, to his mind, the only ‘real’ Holdens.

 As much as he didn’t mind Holdens from South Korea, Europe and North America, “a Holden to me is definitely an Australian car, that's it,” he famously stated then.

“Anything that is made outside of Australia is not really a Holden,”

The ZB clearly does not meet that requirement – it hails from Opel, based in Germany; an arrangement that results from Holden having given up on designing and building cars across the Tasman. The Aussie-made era ended in October last year and the VF Commodore was the last of that breed.

So where will he park his new prize?

Fabish acknowledged today that the brand’s ‘unbelievable’ act of generosity had blown him away to the point where he felt compelled to rethink that hardline stance.

“There will always be a special place in my heart for Australian-manufactured Commodores” he told MotoringNZ.

“… but after seeing the new model in the flesh - as well as driving it up and down the driveway a few times - I have to confess I’m a convert. 

“This new model is incredibly impressive and it goes without saying I’m going to find a special place for it in the museum.”

The Fabishs’ time with the car this morning was brief; after their quick spin they were on a plane to Auckland to meet Engle, who as Executive Vice President and President, General Motors International, is the highest-ranked company man to visit New Zealand in at least the last decade.

In addition to presenting the car, four-time Bathurst winner Murphy – who opened the museum last year and is its patron – presented a letter from Engle, which read:

Dear Steve and Joy,

Happy Valentine’s Day. 

When I heard about how much you love Holden, I wanted you to know that Holden loves you too. Holden and Kiwis ‘go way back’ (as you like to say) and I think we’ve got an exciting future together.

Enjoy the drive, this brand-new Commodore is yours to keep. You’re the first New Zealanders to own one. I arrive in the country tomorrow and I’d love to hear what you think of your new Holden.

Best Wishes,
Barry Engle; Executive Vice President and President, GM International.

 A media release about the presentation suggested the VXR edition is worth $70,000, however Holden New Zealand says that is just an indicative and not the exact price. It plans to release full ZB pricing at midday tomorrow.