Statesman was an automotive marque created by General Motors-Holden's (GMH), the Australian subsidiary of General Motors in 1971. Statesman vehicles were sold through General Motors-Holden's dealerships, and were initially based on the mainstream Holden HQ models, but offered more luxury and considerably extended length. Production ceased in 1984.
Holden reintroduced the luxury range in 1990; however, they were not marketed as Statesmans, but instead as the Holden Statesman. The former flagship of the Statesman range, the Caprice, was also relaunched as the Holden Caprice, but the Statesman Custom, de Ville, and SL/E names were not revived.
The original HQ was released on July 22 1971 as a replacement for the Holden Brougham, although drawings exist of a HQ Brougham, albeit in short-wheelbase guise. The first Statesmans were based on these short-wheelbase HQ variants, and were offered in two specification modes, the Custom and the de Ville. Engines ranged from a Red six-cylinder, a V8, a V8 and a Chevrolet Small-Block V8. The latter choice was exported to New Zealand and South Africa as the Chevrolet 350. Compared to the short-wheelbase HQ models, the Statesman heralded a wheelbase extended by , totaling . The extra length was featured behind the rear doors to allow for additional rear seat legroom.
The Statesman was intended as a rival for Ford Australia’s successful ZA Fairlane, first introduced in 1966. This created a new category of Australian-made prestige cars. The Fairlane was derived from the Falcon, with an extended wheelbase and unique front- and rear-end styling to differentiate the car's appearance. At the time, this category of vehicle was very profitable, as the sales price was significantly higher than the base car from which the prestige model was derived, while the additional cost of production was moderate. GMH went to some length to set the new luxury Statesman marque apart from the Holden equivalent in their sales literature. for the new models, totally avoiding the presence of the name "Holden", even to the extent of using the term "General Motors" in lieu of "General Motors-Holden's". Advertisements in newspapers among other mediums followed the same format.
General Motors–Holden’s updated the range in 1974 with the HJ Statesman, the two models were the Statesman de Ville and the Statesman Caprice, and the six-cylinder option was deleted. The Caprice was the most luxurious car offered by General Motors in Australia at that point, with a push-button AM radio, pile carpet, leather seats, electric locking, power windows and no fewer than 13 interior lamps.
The Caprice was introduced in 1974, as the new top line model in the facelifted Statesman HJ series. It was a more luxurious version of the Statesman de Ville, with a distinctive radiator grille, Cadillac style front bumper overriders and a bonnet ornament borrowed from the Chevrolet Caprice. The interior was significantly more lavish.
Once again, the Caprice was General Motors − Holden’s response to a new Ford car. In 1973, Ford had upped the ante in the Australian prestige car stakes when they unveiled the LTD. This was a Fairlane which had the wheelbase extended again - to - making it the only Australian car which fitted into the US full size category. The LTD was a significant success for Ford, both in terms of sales and profits, as well as making a statement regarding their prowess as a manufacturer.
With the 1976 HX Statesman, a more formal grille was adopted. Emissions' regulations saw a re-tuned 5.0 litre V8.
In 1977, General Motors-Holden's introduced the HZ Statesman, which involved a minor cosmetic facelift. However, it had a significant engineering upgrade, along with the rest of the GMH range, involving the adoption of Radial Tuned Suspension, giving the Statesman better handling.
The previous Managing Director of GMH, George Roberts had insisted that the Statesman have a high standard of ride comfort (at the expense of ultimate roadholding). (Roberts previously had been the Chief Engineer of the GM Cadillac Division). Prior to HZ, the Statesman's Cadillac style of ride was not to everyone's taste.
The Statesman de Ville and Caprice were supplemented in 1979-1980 by an intermediate model - the SL/E, which was launched with a different "egg-crate" grille.
The final series to be marketed under the Statesman marque was the WB Statesman of 1980. As with previous Statesmans, GMH did not use the Holden name in the badging or the official sales literature. The WB had a six-light body, with a longer, squared-off roofline. The design was by GMH's Chief Stylist, Leo Pruneau. The styling of the WB Statesman was a compromise between achieving a fresh appearance and minimising the cost of redesign, by using panels from the antecedent HZ model.
Mid-term 'Series II' revisions came in 1983 before production ceased in 1984 when GMH announced they were vacating the luxury and commercial vehicle fields to build more variations of the lighter, smaller Holden Commodore. Well kept used models were changing hands in the mid-1980s for more than their final list price.
A full range of WB models including long wheelbase sedans and station wagons bearing the Kingswood and Premier names were planned, but only the Statesman and the commercial models (ute, panel van and cab-chassis "One Tonner") went into production. The stillborn sedan and wagon models would have shared the front end of the production WB panel van. The sedan used the HZ Statesman long wheel base body with different tail lights. The station wagon was to have used the same tail light assemblies as the ute and panel van.