The Ford Territory wouldn’t have been Australia’s only-ever indigenous SUV if Holden had its way.
Slated for a circa-2008 launch, and with styling by rising Holden designer Ondrej Koromhaz (who also helped create the Torana TT36 Concept among other VE models, as well as the last-generation Barina), the look was meant to be very BMW X5-esque.
Based on the Zeta platform but sat on a longer wheelbase than the standard VE’s 2915mm, it’s been revealed by one Holden insider that the Nullarbor was engineered with a 50mm-higher dashboard cowl – a hugely expensive modification that probably points to other SUV applications within the GM portfolio to help amortise the massive investment.
Interestingly, the Nullarbor’s boxy proportions and spacious cabin gave Holden the freedom to style the far-sleeker VE Sportwagon using the sedan’s wheelbase, rather than the WM Statesman/Caprice's 3009mm long-wheelbase (LWB) set-up - something GMH had done with all wagons since the HQ of 1971.
Predictably, the local Commodore-derived engine line-up centred around the 3.6-litre V6 petrol and American 6.0-litre-plus V8s, driving either the rear or all four wheels, while a V6 turbo-diesel (possibly from VM Motori) was also in the mix – something that the Territory would not able to match until 2011.
Of all the cancelled Holden projects, the Nullarbor may have had the most impact, given the SUV’s inexorable rise in popularity worldwide. Whether it could have helped ensure the company’s Australian manufacturing future is debatable, but it certainly had all the right stuff to break the brand’s over-reliance on the Commodore in the decade that followed, which in turn may have seen GMH live on beyond 2020.
It’s understood that there just weren’t enough funds to see the Nullarbor through to developmental completion, as GM was haemorrhaging money by the time the decision was made for Holden to instead rely on the smaller and cheaper Captiva from GM DAT (ex-Daewoo) in South Korea. Pity.
A spiritual successor to the Nullarbor wouldn’t be forthcoming until the American GMC-built Acadia launched in late 2018, but by then it was too late for embattled Holden.