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Holden v Ford is dead, but not at the Bathurst 1000: Why the Commodore v Mustang V8 Supercars race is the last hold-out of Australia's car culture heartland in the wake of Falcon, AMG, Nissan and Volvo | Opinion

V8 Supercars is now the only place you can see the rivalry of Holden and Ford still alive today.

Holden v Ford – it was the bedrock that formed the foundation of Australian car culture for decades.

Or at least it was, until both brands stopped manufacturing cars here and then Holden rapidly descended into oblivion. Now Holden is officially no more, and the showroom rivalry that spilled out into schoolyard, workplace and pub debates for generations is all-but-gone.

But there is one last bastion of this once-iconic showdown – the Bathurst 1000. Next weekend Holden Commodores and Ford Mustangs will go head-to-head at Mt Panorama for glory in Australia’s biggest car race.

While the ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ concept of motor racing faded many years ago, there was still something important to both brands about winning the Bathurst 1000. It was more than just bragging rights, it was a marker of success – winning at Bathurst meant the company was in good spirits, regardless of what happened in the showroom.

Judging by the vast sums of money changing hands for the final HSV, Holden and Ford models this year – such as the two HSV Maloo GTSR W1 that each sold for more than $1 million – it seems Australia is not ready to let go of the rivalry just yet.

But where do we go from here? What happens to our car culture moving forward into this previously unknown landscape? And, does the future of the Bathurst 1000 hold when in 2023, the Commodore is due to be finally parked for good and replaced by the Chevrolet Camaro?

These are questions that get to the very core of the Australian car lover. Even if you’re not into V8 Supercar racing, every true petrolhead at least has a respect for the race. So, what happens on the track will influence what happens in the broader car-loving community.

The reason is simple – Bathurst helped shape the direction of the Australian car industry. It’s the reason Ford built a Falcon GT and then the GT-HO, and it played a major role in the creation of the Holden Monaro, Torana and V8-powered Commodore. There’d almost certainly be no HSVs for collectors to spend millions on without Peter Brock and his HDT Commodore business that was created to help fund his Bathurst quest.

In 1971, Moffat won his second Bathurst 500/1000 with the GT-HO Phase Three. In 1971, Moffat won his second Bathurst 500/1000 with the GT-HO Phase Three.

The fact that General Motors Specialty Vehicles (GMSV) has chosen to remain involved in the sport with the Camaro – even though it’s likely to be spending a fraction of the money that Holden invested, if any – is a sign of the importance of the Bathurst 1000. GMSV may not be selling the Camaro here, but by sticking it on the racing grid it sends a signal to this country’s petrolheads that it means business in Australia.

But you can’t stop the march of time, and as more and more children grow up in a time without the ‘Holden v Ford’ rivalry, what happens at Bathurst must evolve. Certainly, the planned introduction of the Mustang and Camaro from 2023 should provide a fresh start, but Supercars’ organisers must find a way to keep the sport growing.

The Camaro will replaced the Commodore in 2023. The Camaro will replaced the Commodore in 2023.

One of the best ways to do that would be to attract more brands to the category, especially now it has opened the door to coupes. All year there has been whispers of a European manufacturer that reportedly shows interest, and attracting a brand like BMW would be nice, but the most obvious candidates remain the Japanese duo of Toyota and Nissan.

The Supra has reached a time in its life when it will need a new marketing push to maintain interest levels, while the arrival of the new Z in ‘22 coupled with Nissan’s local racing heritage makes for a good fit. 

Should the Supra join the Supercars' grid? Should the Supra join the Supercars' grid?

It would also help broaden the audience for V8 Supercars, from the current ‘Holden v Ford’ crowd to the ‘JDM’ fans that have grown up on a diet of Playstation’s Gran Turismo games and Fast and Furious movies.

Will either of those brands sign up in any capacity – be it with a factory-supported team or simply allowing the use of the Supra and Z by Supercars – could be a defining moment not only for the sport but the future of car culture in Australia.

The Bathurst 1000 has always been a reflection of the cars we either drive or aspire to drive, and as the demands of Australian motoring enthusiasts change it seems like the time has come for the race to make that change too.