You may remember the Ford Sierra. It was the definitive ’80s Ford mid-size family model with rear-wheel drive. They sold it in America as the Merkur XR4Ti with a 2.3-liter turbo engine with modest success. But in South Africa, they had a different idea.
Ford SA produced a limited run of Sierra XR8 models featuring the 5.0-liter V8 engine straight out of the Mustang with 220 HP. In a light body with a manual transmission, the Sierra XR8 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. That made it perfect as the basis for a successful racing car.
The late ’90s brought a rise in power levels, as well as new technologies and materials. The result was a bump in performance and a new lease on life for Australian and American muscle cars. But one of the best Aussie performance machines from that period was the HSV GTS 300. Despite being limited to only 100 copies, the HSV GTS 300 was a big milestone in the Australian muscle car scene.
First, there was the engine, a Callaway-produced LS1 5.7-liter V8 with 400 HP. Packed in a sedan body with beefed-up suspension and brakes, the GTS 300 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds. All that made it one of the fastest sedans in the world.
The Falcon GT XR was the first Australian muscle car they introduced in 1967. That year, the Falcon was a new model, visually similar to the American version. On the Australian market, the Falcon was a popular family sedan they equipped with straight-six engines and one V8, the 289 V8 from Ford Mustang.
Even though most Falcons were modest six-cylinder sedans, Ford offered a special “Police Interceptor” version. It featured a 225 HP 289 V8 engine and four-speed transmission. Also, it had bigger brakes and a stiffer suspension. With this hardware the Falcon was capable, so Ford thought it would be great to enter the Falcon GT into the famous Australian Bathurst race. The new Falcon GT demolished the competition with a 1-2 win and a legend was born.
As you might know, like Americans, Australians adore big engines and rear-wheel-drive platforms. Australia’s Ford and Holden, a GM brand, deliver such vehicles. But Australians introduced a few body styles Americans have long forgotten.
They include light pickups they base on rear-wheel-drive sedans. If you remember the Chevrolet El Camino or Ford Ranchero, you will recognize the idea. In Australia, they call it the Ute. It is a popular vehicle for work and recreational purposes. However, the most interesting model Holden offers is the crazy SSV Ute. It comes with a GM 6.3-liter LS3 engine bringing 412 HP to the rear wheels. Think of it as an El Camino SS for the 21st century.
They never offered the gorgeous Isuzu 117 Coupe on the American market which is a shame. But even with its limited production, it became one of the early Japanese classics and an influential model. Back in the late ’60s, Isuzu offered passenger cars that were later abandoned in favor of trucks and pickups. The company needed a halo car to attract attention and present them in the best possible light.
So they used the existing passenger car rear-wheel-drive platform with 1.6 and later 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines. Then they went to Italy to find a fashionable suit. There, Isuzu contacted famous designer Giorgetto Giugiaro who provided them with an elegant, cool-looking coupe design.
This was the final piece of the puzzle. In 1968, the beautiful Isuzu 117 Coupe debuted. The car stayed in production until 1981 and they sold it in reasonably large numbers. Despite the fact it wasn’t particularly fast or agile, the 117 Coupe was a comfortable, fast GT perfect for relaxing cruising.
Most people know the Nissan Silvia for its widely popular S14 and S15 versions from the ’90s. They became the definitive drift cars, but the Silvia was one of Nissan’s most legendary sports cars dating back to the mid-60s. Debuting in 1964 at the Tokyo Motor Show, the Silvia CSP 311 was a big step forward for this still obscure manufacturer. The car had European looks and proportions. It was a luxurious sports coupe by the Japanese standards of the time with rear-wheel drive. It was powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 96 HP, giving it decent performance.
However, the first Silvia was an expensive car for the Japanese domestic market. They only sold 554, most of which stayed in Japan. Today, people regard it as one of the most influential early Japanese sports cars.
These were our 30 fantastic right-hand only drive cars. They’re so impressive, in fact, that you may want to move to Australia, South Africa, Japan or even the UK just to drive one.