1983 Holden Camira SL/E 1.6 petrol from Australia and New Zealand


High tech, high flying and it's high time Holden did another one - themselves


This car was generally very reliable and user friendly, but due to my driving style at the time, it was blowing smoke and using over a litre of oil per tank of fuel at 110,000klm!

It required a set of (very hard to replace) engine heater hoses at 60,000klm, cooked by continuous high speed operation.

I went through a set of Toyo Trampio tyres in around 8,000klm, including rotation. This was again due to continuous high speed operation and hard cornering.

The synchro on 2nd & 3rd gears was also pretty well shot at 120,000. Again due to my efforts at extracting the most possible performance out of this amazing vehicle.

General Comments:

Back in 1983, the JB Camira SLE was just a little bit fancy! While competitors like Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota were still offering a sodden rear wheel drive experience in the mid size class, the new Camira was high tech, high flying and high time according to Wheels Magazine in 1982.

It came with a very 'european' front wheel drive transaxle, compound crank rear axle and an air of quality, breeding and aplomb that the others could only dream of in 1983 (and totally blitz as history will tell).

Whilst only endowed with a paltry 1.6 litre 'camtech 4', it provided willing and more than competitive performance compared to the two litre engines from the opposition of the time. I constantly revved mine to 7200 rpm (redline 6400). This endowed the Camira with true supercar (4 cylinder in 1983 wise) performance. 52kph in first, 95kph in second, 142kph in third showed a clean set of heels to any of the others at the time. This resulted in short engine life, but gave many people a surprise, with absolutely no modifications except the fitting of heavy gas shocks all round and Toyo tyres.

The interior was beautifully laid out, and in the SL/E the tweed cloth seats were both supportive and comfortable over the long haul. The stereo was loud and clear straight out of the box, and the 5 speed was typical slightly notchy, but overall positive.

This car was possibly one of the best high speed point to point vehicles on the road at the time. It could maintain very high road speeds over a very mixed selection of surfaces; always right on the money for balance and poise. With more power, it could have been a true classic, but alas, exploiting that wonderful chassis exposed a need for more grunt. If you drove it like it wanted to be driven, it was sublime, just not very long lasting.

I would have rebuilt it and created a turbo classic, but instead I decided to work the Datto 1600, but that's another story.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 7th March, 2011

1983 Holden Camira SL/X 1.8 petrol from North America


It has no flash, but heaps of substance - 25 years old, and still in daily use


Head gasket blew at 160000km.

Compliant mounting block for carburettor replaced at approx. 180000km.

1.6 litre Engine replaced with second-hand 1.8 litre unit from Leaded JD (model after) at 260000km after spark plug disintegrated and ceramic dust destroyed rings. Car still ran well, just smoked like a chimney, but was unroadworthy for pollution reasons.

Starter motor replaced at approx. 300000km.

Drivers seat replaced at approx. 300000km due to the adjuster breaking.

Alternator replaced at approx. 340000km.

Cylinder head replaced at approx. 350000km due to crack caused by inattention to hoses and loss of coolant... approximately 30000km after that event.

Front right wheel bearing replaced at 360000km due to noise and vibration issues.

Speedo cable replaced at approx. 320000km - damage was probably due to faulty re-fitting following engine replacement, but I'll never prove that of course.

Distributor replaced at approx. 360000km due to internal breakage.

Timing belts, hoses, surge tanks etc. as required - as with all cars, plastic cooling components and belts and hoses need to be thought of as consumable items.

General Comments:

This car is my daily commuter car. I average about 20000km per year, with reasonable fuel economy.

The paint is deteriorating, the interior looks like crap, in short it looks its age.

However, it is - overall - quite reliable provided attention is paid to the things that inevitably need doing on any 20+ year old car. Fluids, hoses, cooling system components... you can't afford to leave little things. The head was replaced precisely because it's still better to keep it running than to replace it with a fresh set of unknown problems in another car.

Parts are starting to get hard to find, but they're not overly expensive and the Family 2 engine is easy to work on. Mechanically, they're reasonably simple and straightforward - I changed the head myself, which is something I'd never contemplate with my wife's Mitsubishi.

It has the usual old-Holden problem with the keys - you can open it and start it with just about anything, so a steering lock is essential. Fortunately, with the price of scrap steel going down, nobody is likely want to steal it apart from joy-riders.

It's an ugly little car that runs well and isn't likely to be stolen from the car park at work.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 28th January, 2009