The Holden Gemini is a compact car that was built and sold by General Motors-Holden's from 1975 to 1986. It was derived from the Japanese Isuzu Gemini, one of the many cars based on the GM T-car platform.
The original Holden Gemini model, the TX series, was introduced in March 1975. It was available as a four-door sedan in S and SL specification levels, and as a two-door SL coupe. The TX Gemini was built at Holden's factory at Acacia Ridge, Queensland and contained a high percentage of Australian content.
All TX models shared the same 1.6 litre SOHC Isuzu engine (coded the G161Z). The engine was chain-driven and incorporated a cross-flow design alloy head. A two-barrel "Nikki" Stromberg carburettor was used on Australian models. Early TX models used a cast-iron free flow exhaust manifold, with two outlets into a "Y" pipe was used (this item is commonly used by modifiers for later models). From November 1976 this was changed to a single outlet exhaust header to comply with EPA regulations.
Wheel size was 13" x 4.5", rear brakes were duo-servo units, similar in design to those used in the six-cylinder Torana. Early models used the MSE-type four-speed manual transmission; reverse was positioned to the "left and back". November 1975 saw the introduction of the MSG-type four-speed, reverse on this transmission was to the 'right and back' position. The TX SL sedan was voted Wheels Car of the Year car of the year for 1975, and was the most popular four-cylinder car on the Australian market.
The first generation Gemini coupe's body was built by Opel's engineers in Germany and powered by a 70 hp (52 kW) engine 1G13C 1300 SOHC made by Isuzu Japan and Holden Australia, the said engine's power was not introduced to the market, it was only used in rally and other racing events etc.
The TC Gemini was sold between March 1977 and April 1978. This model received a minor facelift from the TX, appearance was enhanced by a bolder vertical front grille, and at the rear a silver garnish panel (as opposed to the TX's black). A new Smiths brand heater, demister and ventilation system was used, the two small vents at each end of the dash were removed on this model, except on vehicles fitted with air conditioning.
A "Fashion Pack" interior was now available on both sedan and coupe models, this option was also upgraded to add steel belted radials and a front stabilising bar. Door side impact beams were introduced to improve safety and SL coupes now had a heated rear windscreen.
In April 1977, a limited edition "Sandpiper" model was also offered in both sedan and coupe body shapes. They were identified by a black grille with stainless steel top edge, gold pin stripes, chequered cloth seat inserts and door trims, wood-grain dash sections, radio/cassette player, a four spoke steering wheel and the A9R ('Fashion Pack') suspension package. Externally they were easily identified by the word "Sandpiper: and a bird decal, this was on the side rear quarters of the coupe, and on the rear doors of the sedans.
The TD series was introduced in April 1978, the most major change over the TC being the introduction of "Radial Tuned Suspension" (RTS) and the option of a five-speed manual transmission. The differential was replaced with a small Salisbury unit as used in the UC Torana, it used tapered Timken wheel bearings as found on all larger Holdens since mid-1971. In April 1979, the rear brakes were changed to Commodore leading-trailing rear drum assemblies.
Exterior appearance was changed with the introduction of a new grille, rectangular headlights (round on base models), wheels were now 13" x 5", rear number plate was relocated in place of the rear garnish panel. A panel van and three-door wagon were also added to the range, the rear bodywork pressings being from the British Vauxhall Chevette/Bedford Chevanne range.
The SL/E version used many interior options from the TC "Sandpiper" series, such as the radio/cassette, four-spoke steering wheel, timber dash inserts, velour seat trim, loop pile carpet and timber (Hardboard) door trim inserts.
Externally, appearance was further enhanced to include stainless steel headlight and grille surrounds, thick stainless steel door window frame mouldings and GM-H designed alloy wheels similar to Sunbird SL/E. Coupes and sedans had colour-coded side mirrors similar to those of Sunbird SL/E and HZ Sandman, door-trims were extended to cover the top of the doors.
SL/E models were replaced by the SL/X in early 1979, it had a slightly lower equipment level but a more competitive price. There was also a limited Edition "Gypsy" package was optional on panel vans, which included extra instrumentation and identifying decals.
Heated rear windscreens were now standard on all but base model sedans, panel vans and wagons. Nylon plaid cloth inserts available on SL's and wagons, air conditioning was now available as an optional accessory.
The second generation, introduced in October 1979, received major design changes. The body was now more squared with a new front and rear end, styling was compared to the VB Commodore of the same era and carried through the styling of the Isuzu Gemini of the same era. By this time, the Opel Kadett had reverted to front wheel drive and the resemblance of the original Kadett C disappeared.
The TE was the most popular out of all the Geminis, selling over 70 000 units. Initially only available as a sedan, in February 1980 the Panel Van and Station Wagon were added to the line up, Coupe was no longer available. The luxury SL/E version was also removed from the line-up, replaced instead with an SL/X variant. In 1981 the TE was introduced to New Zealand, replacing the British-sourced Vauxhall Chevette range.
A limited edition "Gypsy" van was made available in February 1980 and was offered with a tachometer and console gauges. Individual plaid cloth seats were available (a different plaid to other earlier Geminis). The Gypsy featured blacked out grille treatment and door window surrounds, square headlights and full chrome bumpers, full length headlining and carpet (regular vans had vinyl flooring as standard. Gypsys are now a highly collectible Gemini model, with original examples estimated to be worth over A$10,000 to avid collectors.
Engine options stayed the same, in early 1981 the option of a 1.8 litre Isuzu diesel model was introduced, an M76 5 speed gearbox was standard for all diesel models. All diesel Geminis were only available as an SL/X five-speed manual. Rhone Green was a colour made available exclusively for the diesel but other colours in the range could be ordered also.
The facelifted TF series Gemini was released in March 1982. All models gained new grille treatments and the SL/X variant received flush headlamps. The interior received major revisions with a new dashboard (creating the impression of more space in the vehicle) and a relocated steering column that put the steering wheel in line with the driver, rather than angled towards the centre of the car. The styling is often compared to the then current VH Commodore range but in fact the styling was introduced on the Isuzu Gemini in 1981 and carried across to the Australian model.
The TG Series was released in March 1983. The SL and SL/X versions of TG had an appearance exactly like the TF SL/X, with the flush head lamps, plastic bumpers and tail lights very similar to that on a VH Commodore. However, the base model of the TG continued the TF theme, with many examples now confused for TF models. Base model vehicles had vinyl seats, no clock or cigarette lighter, and no console around the shifter.
1983 saw a performance model, named the ZZ/Z (triple zed). The ZZ/Z was always silver, with a body kit consisting of a front bar, wind spilters on top of the guards, a bobtail boot spoiler, alloy wheels and blue and black ZZ/Z decals. It is often perceived that the ZZ/Z came with the twin-cam engine that was used in the Isuzu Gemini ZZ/R of the same era, however, the ZZ/Z came with the standard running gear of other models. A five-speed manual gearbox was standard—automatic transmission was not an option.
In May 1985 the RB series Gemini was released. Based on the front-wheel drive GM R platform, it did not sell as well as previous rear-wheel drive Geminis, with production totalling just 16,263 units. The RB Gemini was offered only in four-door sedan form, with SL/X and SL/E trim levels, as well as a fleet-only SL. Unlike previous Gemini models which had been built at the Holden facility at Acacia Ridge, Queensland, the RB was produced at the Holden plant at Elizabeth, South Australia. The RB Gemini was discontinued in 1987, although production ended sometime during 1986 due to poorer sales than its predecessor. The Gemini was replaced by the Holden Astra—a rebadged Nissan Pulsar (N12).
The RB Gemini was notable for its 80-day, 200,000 kilometres (120,000 mi) endurance run from a commercial in 1985, tested by a group of Australian racers including the late Peter Brock.
The RB Gemini is also renowned for its distributor and electrical issues, often causing serious problems, considering very little spare parts are available for this model today.
In Australia, the 1982–1984 Holden Gemini was assessed in the "Used Car Safety Ratings" 2006 as providing "significantly worse than average" protection for its occupants in the event of a crash.