Albury Motors - Model Evolution Since 1951

Albury Motors - Model Evolution Since 1951

Founded in 1951, Albury Motors, which is based in Albury, New South Wales, initially made various mass-market cars, but only came of age in 1965, when its entire range of cars and engines were fully developed in-house for the first time. For the first 48 years of its existence, it was 100% locally owned and operated, and the company’s adaptability ensured it stayed that way until 1999, until Harris Cars Ltd. purchased a 50% stake in the company, leading to the formation of Harris-Albury Motor Manufacturing Incorporated (HAMMI), a collaboration which is still ongoing to this day.

In this thread, I will take a different approach from my other company thread (the one about Harris Cars Ltd.) by focusing on the evolution of each model line, from the first generation to the most recent. I will start with the Crusader, the halo car for Albury Motors since 1985, before moving on to other models.

Originally, the Albury Crusader had a rather delicate appearance and was available only in four solid colors: Kosciuszko White, Bathurst Blue, Onyx Black, or, as shown here, Albury Red.

The Crusader was a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive two-seat sports car with an aluminum body. Its 5.7-litre overhead-valve V8 developed 260 bhp at 4900 rpm on regular unleaded fuel. Double-wishbone suspension at each corner and a 5-speed manual gearbox made it a driver’s delight. A premium interior and cassette player ensured it was comfortable enough for long trips. Albury Motors originally did not want to export the Crusader, but chose to do so after realizing that it would be difficult to recoup their investment on domestic sales alone.

However, by the early 1990s, what had been seen as fresh a few years earlier now seemed trite, so in 1992, the Crusader was redesigned with a smoother, more aerodynamic body and multilink rear suspension.

The Crusader II now had a front fascia reminiscent of that of a Ferrari 512TR, pop-up headlights and all, but looked none the worse for that. Unsurprisingly, export sales to the Northern Hemisphere increased as a result, particularly since the development team had benchmarked a wide range of sports cars from other companies in an attempt to find ways to improve them. The plan paid off in the end; domestic sales also increased considerably after the redesign.

Although it was heavier, the Crusader now had a slightly stiffer chassis, but more importantly, it had more power than its predecessor. The Albury V8, which dated back to 1965, had been taken to the limit of development with a more aggressive cam profile, high-flow catalytic converters, and for the first time ever, 95 RON premium unleaded, allowing for a higher compression ratio. A CD player was optional for the first time and became standard in 1995; nevertheless, the car was still affordable, which was a boon for buyers.

In addition, six more colors were available compared to the previous model, for a total of ten, while two existing colors now had metallic finishes. They are all shown below, from top to bottom, in the following order: Albury Red, Bathurst Blue Metallic, Lightning Yellow, Melbourne Maroon Metallic, Nebular Violet Pearlescent, Aquatic Blue Pearlescent, Daintree Green Metallic, Kosciuszko White, Sydney Silver Metallic, Onyx Black Metallic.

Pre-production examples had taillight clusters similar to those of its predecessor; these were replaced by a rear end reminiscent of a Corvette C4 in the definitive production version. During its eight-year lifespan, the Crusader II received few mechanical updates, except for the addition of a six-speed manual gearbox in 1995.

That same year, the Track Edition (limited to 100 units annually) was introduced. This version had active cooling, a lightweight interior, forged magnesium wheels, an enlarged rear wing and retuned suspension incorporating semi-active dampers and sway bars. This hardcore, track-focused trim was offered until 1998, by which time a replacement had been in development for several years.

2000 saw yet another redesign with an even more curvaceous body and exposed headlights; it was the first one for the Crusader since the Harris takeover. Switching to an all-aluminum chassis made the car lighter, and combined with a new 410-bhp all-alloy MOHV V8 mated to a close-ratio six-speed manual, performance was considerably improved over its predecessor. This latest redesign effectively made it Australia’s answer to the Ferrari 550 Maranello (which was clearly reflected in the styling), but the Crusader, despite being less powerful, was lighter, cheaper and more reliable - in fact, Albury’s advertising slogan called it “The Homegrown Attainable Supercar”.

A 50/50 weight distribution gave it razor-sharp handling, and the combination of ample power and reduced weight gave it incredible straight-line pace - 0-60 in 4.7 seconds and a top speed of over 186 mph (300 km/h). This unmatched blend of reliable, low-cost performance and superb dynamics made it a popular basis for GT racing conversions in top-tier production-based series.

For this generation, four new colors were added, bringing the total to 13, although two of them replaced the two least popular of the existing colors. Again, they are shown from top to bottom: Venomous Violet Pearlescent (replaced Nebular Violet Pearlescent), Brisbane Blue (replaced Aquatic Blue Pearlescent), Quicklime Pearlescent, and Firestorm Orange Pearlescent. A 14th color, Centenary Gold, was only offered on the 100 Centenary Edition examples built during the 2001 model year to commemorate 100 years since Federation and the 50th anniversary of the founding of Albury Motors. In its final year, a 20th Anniversary edition, available only in Calder White Pearlescent or Blue Steel Metallic (neither of which are shown here, although the latter became an option on later Crusaders) was also offered.

And yet, after 15 years of endless development, the best was still to come; two more generations of the Crusader would be introduced within the next 15 years. But one thing was certain: in order to live up to the legacy of their predecessors, they would have to not just be good, but great…

By 2006, the Crusader was due for another redesign, and the styling team clearly delivered with a totally new in-house design that looked and felt distinctly Australian and owed nothing to contemporary front-engined Ferraris except for its shape. The engine was enlarged to 6.2 litres and, in addition to direct injection, received variable valve timing for the first time, explaining not only the increased power output (457.16 bhp at 6600 rpm, with a 7000 rpm redline) but also the improved economy (11.55 L/100 km - 0.92 less than its immediate predecessor) despite the extra weight compared to the Crusader III; the inclusion of sat-nav as standard equipment was partly to blame, although it also had all-LED lighting front and rear - a company first. Every color which was offered on the previous Crusader was retained, but for this generation, nine new colors were introduced. They are, from top to bottom, Adelaide Blue Pearlescent, Sandown Green Metallic (deeper than Daintree Green Metallic and more bluish) Devonport Grey Metallic, Calder White Pearlescent, Barbagallo Black (solid), Barossa Burgundy Pearlescent (even darker than Melbourne Maroon Metallic), Townsville Purple Metallic, Protonic Green (solid) and Hidden Valley Orange Pearlescent.

In fact, most of the 22 color names were taken directly from current, former, or (then-)future V8 Supercar venues, although a 23rd color, Diamond Blue (a very pale blue) was exclusive to the 60 Diamond Anniversary edition examples produced in 2011 - the 60th anniversary of the company’s founding. (The Silver Anniversary examples produced the previous year were basically the same car, but exclusively in Sydney Silver.) Regardless of color, though, it was still more affordable than rivals, even though the extra kit made it slightly more expensive than its predecessor.

Weight distribution almost matched its illustrious predecessor (51.7/48.3) but on the other hand, its superior aerodynamics provided a greater top speed and more downforce, even with a fully flat floor. Best of all, though, the combination of superb dynamics and great comfort at a relatively modest price made it a strong seller worldwide. However, there was still room for improvement…

The current Crusader, introduced in 2013, has a more obviously cab-backward shape, but its engine has been enlarged to 6.4 litres and develops 500 metric horsepower. Interior and infotainment quality was improved even further, and carbon-ceramic brakes were made standard for the first time. Centenary Gold and Diamond Blue, both previously exclusive to limited-edition variants, were now added to the standard color palette, bringing the total to 24.

Refinements to the transaxle (a configuration used throughout the Crusader’s entire production run) gave it a rear-biased weight distribution, thus improving acceleration and handling. Further aerodynamic improvements yielded positive downforce at both ends of the car, as well as a top speed of over 200 mph for the first time.

All these improvements yielded an improvement of more than a second compared to the previous Crusader, but there was, and still is, even more potential to be extracted from an already successful platform. Just how much was made abundantly clear when the Track Edition was reintroduced in 2016 with a reworked engine (requiring 98RON unleaded), revised aero with a fixed rear wing, carbon-fiber wheels, a stripped-back interior and an electronically controlled LSD. 500 examples will be produced worldwide until 2017. The appeal of the Crusader was, and still is, its blend of reliability and pace - although they had raced in GT categories worldwide (including Le Mans) since 2000, this was the first time that the brand had an official factory presence, and on their Le Mans debut they had a trouble-free race, although their two entries finished just outside the podium. Even so, the team remains optimistic about the future.

However, without the success of other models in Albury’s range, not only would the Crusader would never have come to fruition, but the company, like every other Australian manufacturer, would have been forced to move all manufacturing offshore long ago, or at least in the next few years. We have Brian Spencer, the head of Albury’s Performance Series since 1985, to thank for this long-term sustained success; Spencer himself is best known for signing off on the Crusader III by evaluating it against other manufacturers’ supercars, and approving it after declaring the Crusader equal or superior to all of them in multiple criteria, much to Ian Harris’ surprise and amazement.

In Spencer’s own words: “Early in the (southern) summer of ‘99, I took the Crusader III to a comparison test involving a Diablo SV, 360 Modena, 996 GT3, Esprit V8, Cerbera 4.5, NSX 3.2, and Harris’ own SVM MkIV. There was little chance of Harris-Albury cannibalizing its own cars’ sales since our cars were aimed at different types of customers. When I put my foot down in the Crusader, I was taken aback at how quickly it blasted past the other cars on the road, except for the much more powerful Diablo, and it was the same story at Philip Island, where we did timed laps; the Albury was the most fun to drive, and one of the fastest around the track as well. That’s when we knew we had a winner on our hands.”

And from that moment on, Spencer has continued to ensure that Albury will remain Australia’s #1 representative in the performance car landscape, particularly after other manufacturers moved their production facilities offshore.


Path of a Warrior: Descendant of the Centurion

Albury Motors only began manufacturing truly original cars and engines in 1951, but it had built other brands’ cars under license since 1947 (as Albury Motor Manufacturing), as well as developing variants of their engines, in an attempt to make them more suitable for the Australian market. Licence production ended altogether in 1965 when the company’s management decided to emphasize local content.

The Warrior, the third original two-door design manufactured by Albury Motors, was born out of a need to complement the two-door Centurion, which had been in production since 1965. However, when the time came to introduce the Warrior, it was decided that although the chassis would be made of AHS steel, some panels would be made of aluminum to save weight. Using a shortened Centurion V platform improved economies of scale, but for it to be successful, a large amount of export sales would be needed. In the event, in the last quarter of 2002, the Warrior was officially greenlit - and the company now had something to bridge the gap between the four-door Centurion and two-seat Crusader.

Available exclusively with the Albury New Universal V8, the Warrior was offered in GT or GTS trim; the latter’s engine was in a higher state of tune, and it was further distinguished with an aero kit. Moreover, the shaker hood, along with some optional equipment, was standard on this trim level. With a shorter wheelbase even than the Crusader III and a well-sorted suspension, the Warrior had extraordinary agility for a muscle car, and was very quick in a straight line to boot. Head-turning styling, with a roofline reminiscent of early Centurion coupes, made it less of a hard sell than it should have been, particularly in export markets.

Midway through 2007, the Warrior was updated for the 2008 model year with direct-injected engines (a 6.0-litre unit in the GT and a 6.2 in the GTS). This brought more power and, more importantly, better efficiency.

Sales were brisk even through the recession, but towards the end of its life, new safety regulations forced a total redesign of the entire Warrior line and a repositioning as an all-alloy grand tourer built on an extended Crusader platform. Thus, despite these weight-saving measures, its successor was inevitably heavier, but it also gained even more power to compensate, courtesy of enlarged engines. Most notably of all, it had a more mature, almost European appearance, but it still looked and felt distinctly Australian, ensuring its continuing popularity among enthusiasts.

High fuel consumption and poor visibility were no impediment to commercial success, given that the recession had now receded firmly in buyers’ rear-view mirrors. The current car is still in production today, and given that it still has plenty of life left in it, there is clearly scope for further development. Its selection as the brand’s representative in the GT4 category from 2016 onwards (whereas the two-seat Crusader competes in the GT3 categories, such as GTE Pro) is expected to boost sales considerably. But whether or not the Warrior will be replaced by the time the current model line comes to an end in 2020 is now uncertain given environmental concerns, although Brian Spencer will clearly be disappointed if production ends before then.

He confessed: “The Warrior was originally meant to be the spiritual successor to the Starhawk, and despite increases in size and weight, this is still the case. It’s a 2+2, though, so it’s more likely to be seen as a bridge between the Centurion and Crusader.”

Ian Harris, the current CEO of Harris Cars Ltd. added: “Our Chieftain is in the same category as the Albury Warrior, but our priorities are different; they focus on evolution, but we prefer revolution, so there is no danger of either manufacturer cannibalizing each other’s sales.”


The Story of the CST-16: From Ugly Duckling to Surprise Superstar

Before moving on to cars with four or more doors, let’s take a look at the CST-16, the most unlikely car to wear the Albury badge.

The CST-16 was never meant to exist; it originated from a plan by Harris Cars to build an entry-level mid-engined sports car powered by a 1-liter turbo four. However, the project was abandoned before the engine had even left the drawing board due to a percieved lack of demand. It was eventually resurrected as the RMA III, but the car guys at Harris-Albury Motor Manufacturing found the original design to be too good to waste. Thus, the previous project (designated CMS-16) was taken over by Albury Motors, whose design team was given the task of restyling the front end, although the rear remained as-is due to time constraints and also to reflect its origins as a Harris design. They also decided to use a highly tuned version of Albury’s own straight-four, and give the resulting car its own one-make race series, to complement their other spec series involving the larger Crusader (which had been ongoing since 1995 and remains popular today). Moreover, export sales were a key priority, as was so often the case with Albury products, but as a final gesture to enthusiasts, the engine variant would also be sold as a standalone package for other specialist manufacturers to use. The most unlikely car in Albury’s history was about to emerge… but it had to be available in two variants, a base model and an even lighter Cup version. What would separate the two?

The base model was meant to bridge the gap between the uncompromising Lotus Exige and the more livable Porsche Cayman; to that end, although it had a lightweight interior, it also came equipped with satnav, semi-active dampers and sway bars, aircon, electric power steering (and a well-sorted one at that!) and a full suite of driving aids (all of which could be disengaged with the push of a button). While it was an immensely capable machine, some critics complained that all that tech simply added dead weight. Something had to be done…

Just three months after launch, a Cup version - inspired by the CMS-16 Cup racers - was introduced. The power steering and satnav were omitted from the interior, which had been pared back even further. Also, the cooling flaps were deleted, while conventional monotube dampers and passive sway bars replaced the semi-active items on the base car.

A new, larger and manually adjustable rear spoiler was installed. The rear fascia gained a large ventilation grille, which actually resulted in a better-looking car - the absence of this feature in the base model was criticized for making the tail end look plain and out of step with the aggressive nose treatment. Also, the diffuser was made out of exposed carbon fiber for even less weight.

The engine had a more aggressive cam profile, while straight-through exhausts saved still more weight. As such, it now sounded even more like a buzzsaw than it once did.

The resulting car had lost nearly every trace of everyday usability, but also weighed less than a metric ton, allowing it to more easily exploit what little power it had. Not surprisingly, the Cup version made a considerable contribution to CMS-16 sales until production ended in 2013, when new safety and emissions legislation made it impossible. The only mechanical change was the addition of launch control for both trims to the options list in 2011. Due to their low cost, excellent economy, scintillating performance, laser-precise handling and unbreakable mechanicals, the CMS-16 remains popular for trackdays and races around the world - although if it weren’t for Ian Harris (CEO of Harris Cars Ltd, which owned a 50% stake in Albury Motors at the time) and his plan to create an even more affordable mid-engined sports car than the company’s own RMA III, the CMS-16 - one of the most surprising and successful cars to wear the Albury badge - would not have reached fruition.

Most significantly of all, the CST-16 showed that sustainable, affordable performance was here to stay, even if all civility had been sacrificed in the process. Unsurprisingly, even now it remains a tough act to follow, not just for Harris-Albury but also other manufacturers worldwide, and remains one of Brian Spencer’s better ideas.

One final bizarre footnote was that pre-2010 examples were (and incredibly, due to the new P-plate laws not being retroactive, still are) eligible for purchase by P-platers due to their low power output, normal aspiration, and four-cylinder engine. This seemed a good idea until a few younger, less skilled buyers underestimated its incredible performance and were involved in crashes, one of which was fatal. Thus, from 2010 onwards, the CST-16 could only be purchased by drivers with an open license due to changes in P-plate laws nationwide (the car’s power-to-weight ratio was now greater than the threshold value specified in the new regs), but it was most likely all for the best since it took plenty of skill to exploit its entire performance envelope, and even then it was only ever going to be practical on a race circuit such as Winton Raceway.

Brian Spencer’s admission summed it up succinctly: “I have no regrets about turning an underpowered and unwanted weakling into a track-ready monster, even if it really was out of step with our company’s image, but what is certain is that it proved our company’s ability to build something other than the front-engined V8s we’re best known for.”


The Crusader is an interesting car to compare to the Horizon. No doubt the Crusader is the more appealing option for most sane folk, and rightfully so. It’s an all-around better car in nearly every aspect. Really all that the Horizon has going for it in comparison is a soft top and a more hardcore driving experience that appeals to the enthusiast niche. That being said, the Crusader II is released in 1992, and Teller has plans for '92.

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Flight of the Starhawk: Albury’s Forgotten Hero and its Road to Redemption

The Albury Starhawk was the little brother of the Centurion, available exclusively as a two-door coupe. While it was available with six-cylinder engines (and these variants were indeed good volume sellers throughout the car’s lifespan), the V8 versions grabbed the headlines, since they were blessed with all the power and handling of their larger brethren, but had lighter bodies and were cheaper to boot. Unsurprisingly, these cars replaced the Centurion as the vehicle used by Albury Motor Racing (AMR) in 1970 for national-level competition, and remained in service in that role until 1979.

Unusually for an Australian-made car, the Starhawk, like the larger Centurion, used all-independent double-wishbone suspension at each corner. This configuration was adopted in 1965 after the company’s management realized they were losing ground to domestic and imported rivals dynamically. The decision to use this setup paid off; any loss of rough-surface capability was negated by greater comfort for the occupants and unmatched handling.

The entry-level V8 version had a 5.0, but the 5.7 proved to be more popular initially due to its greater output. However, after 1974, only the 5.7 was offered (apart from a far less powerful straight-six), and even so, it had to be watered down due to the oil crisis with the addition of catalytic converters and regular unleaded fuel. Nevertheless, due to the Starhawk’s light weight, performance did not deteriorate as much as was initially feared. Even so, some of the car’s USP had been eroded, and production ended in 1980 due to low demand. Thereafter it was mostly forgotten by most foreign enthusiasts, overshadowed as it was by the enduring Centurion range. Two decades later, however, it was finally recognized as one of the most important cars in Albury’s history, when a pre-cat Albury Red 5.7 was added to the company’s museum collection. Used values of surviving V8 variants have been increasing ever since. More significantly, the Starhawk inspired the more recent Warrior, which remains in production today, while some examples have been used for historic racing alongside the larger Centurion.

According to Brian Spencer, the reappraisal of the Starhawk from the late 90s onward prompted him to develop the Warrior as a spiritual successor. Judging by that car’s popularity, this seems like one of his better decisions. Even better still, with the Warrior’s move upmarket, the Starhawk would be resurrected in 2013, this time as a full model range to compete with the BMW 1- and 2-series and available in multiple body styles.

Although V6 engines were available, the headline-grabber was the 6.4-liter V8 in Standard trim, exclusive to the Coupe (at least initially). Brian Spencer stated at launch that the Starhawk “will be aimed at a younger, less affluent customer” than the Centurion, Warrior or Crusader, given its smaller size and lower base price. Indeed, this combination was so tempting that the first year’s allotment of 6.4 Coupes sold out within weeks. With the demise of the CST-16, the reborn Starhawk now serves as the entry point to RWD Albury ownership, and should continue to do so until 2020 at the earliest.

Ian Harris continued: “The resurrection of the Starhawk was a wake-up call for us. When it came out, we had to fast-track development of an R variant of the Sparrow, but that car was an AWD turbo hot hatch and so played to a different set of values. Quite frankly, I was impressed by what Mr. Spencer had done with the Starhawk.”

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Albury Crossovers: Going Off the Beaten Track

Although Albury Motors has had at least one crossover since 2008, these cars were in fact locally-assembled versions of other manufacturers soft-roaders, albeit heavily reworked for Australian conditions. However, in the uncertain post-GFC economic climate, this means of expanding the lineup soon became uneconomic, and so, in 2013, three new crossovers were launched, all based on existing passenger car platforms. Specifically, in order to reduce production costs, every Albury model with a steel chassis used a version of the Albury Common Vehicle Platform (ACVP), in one of three sizes, with the crossovers having a slightly longer wheelbase than the passenger cars from which they were derived. All of these, however, had good interior and infotainment quality, with plenty of standard equipment.

The smallest crossover, the Otway, uses an extended version of the Starhawk platform, and is the only one not to be powered by a version of the New Universal V8; however, it is available with the Albury V6 in 3.6-litre guise, as shown here.

The larger Nullarbor has the 3.6 as standard, but is also available with a 6.4-litre V8, albeit in its mildest state of tune. The 6.4 also has more standard equipment, including air suspension.

The Pilbara, the largest crossover in the Albury range, is a huge luxury SUV which some critics thought was an unnecessary addition to the lineup (chiefly due to its size, weight, and thirst), until they drove it and were forced to eat their words after being awestruck by its unusually good dynamics (which were a result of its use of the longest version of the ACVP). With the 6.4-litre V8 as standard equipment (and here available in two states of tune, either the standard 420 bhp or the gruntier 500 bhp) this thing can defy physics surprisingly easily, especially since its air suspension has plenty of sportiness engineered into it. Also, whereas the other two Albury crossovers have a third row of seats as an option (with two seats in the Otway and three seats in the Nullarbor), this feature was standard in the Pilbara, while the first row was a three-abreast bench seat by default. However, each row can instead house a pair of captain’s chairs, while omitting the third row became an option.

Even though all three crossovers used the control-arm front end of the passenger cars which begat them, they are still quite capable off-road, but equally good on tarmac as a result. Ian Harris summed up the trio thus: “Who would have thought that a family of car-based crossovers would succeed not only in Australia and New Zealand, but also everywhere else? Of course, as part of our agreement they had a different set of priorities from us, which prevents unnecessary internal competition.”

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Evolution of the Centurion, Part 1: The Rise of an Australian Legend

The Centurion is the most important car in Albury’s range, having been in continuous production since 1965. It was conceived as a replacement for the Centaur, which was introduced in 1951. However, Albury Motors, unlike other Australian manufacturers, decided to do things differently when they launched the Centurion: they used all-independent double-wishbone suspension on each corner. The resulting car had ride and handling on a par with, if not better, than the best imports. And yet, thanks to a wide range of overhead-valve engines, they were still tough enough for Australian conditions. For enthusiasts, a Performance Pack was optional on all trims; this included high-performance tires and sports suspension.

The base 3.0 had a 3-litre straight-six developing 89kw; as an entry-level mass-market family car it fared quite well in the marketplace. A 3.6-litre version of the same engine delivered 120kw but had greater fuel consumption, although the extra thrust was definitely more than enough to justify the extra cost.

The Centurion was available as a coupe, sedan or wagon (the latter of which is not shown here). However, only the coupe was campaigned by Albury Motor Racing between 1967-69 due to its lighter weight compared to the sedan. Even so, any engine could be installed in any body style, although the premium trim was not offered with the smaller six. A further innovation was the use of a five-speed manual gearbox on all trims, although a three-speed automatic was optional on all trims except for the 5.7.

Initially, two V8s (a 149kw 4.3 and a 181kw 5.0) were available. These variants boasted a premium interior with more standard equipment and were distinguished by two exhaust pipes per side instead of one, as well as wider tires and wheels. The latter were made of magnesium alloy, but on the straight-six models this fitment was optional, while on V8 models this kind of wheel was standard. In addition, six-cylinder Centurions lacked the shaker hood scoop found on the V8 versions.

From 1967, an even larger 225kw 5.7-litre V8 was offered in the Centurion. The car’s high power and light weight, combined with a well-sorted independent suspension setup, made it a contemporary racer’s dream. In fact, Centurions were even campaigned internationally (with some success) until the Starhawk took its place in AMR’s stable in 1970.

The Centurion would be updated over time, with increasing amounts of standard equipment and improved safety, until the oil crisis forced the use of detuned engines running on unleaded fuel and equipped with catalytic converters from the 1974 model year onwards, robbing it of much of its performance. Export sales, which had been strong up to this point, dried up as a result, but did not cease altogether; however, to stem the tide of imports, Albury Motors was forced to undertake a redesign of the whole model range. Given that the original Centurion was marketed using the slogan “Leading the Australian Revolution”, the development team at Albury Motors certainly had their work cut out for them…


Excellent story for an excellent car!

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Evolution of the Centurion, Part 2: Defying the Odds

When the Centurion was redesigned in 1975, few people expected it to succeed in the marketplace to the same extent as its predecessor; high-displacement V8s had fallen out of favor with most buyers, and the Centurion was an easy target. Yet Albury Motors persisted with the idea, especially since most American manufacturers had abandoned the sector due to low demand. The executives at Albury feared that exports would be impossible due to high fuel prices, but at the last minute, Patrick Maxwell, head of Albury Performance (which had been responsible for high-performance variants of its passenger cars) overruled them by ordering the resumption of export sales, and was eventually vindicated when the entire range became a best-seller in the Northern Hemisphere as well as in its native Australia.

Although the Centurion was no longer being used for racing (and never would be until 1980, when the Starhawk was discontinued), it still had a V8 as an optional engine, although the 4.3 had been dropped. Also, while it now had a boxier look, its sloping nose actually enhanced the car’s appearance by improving its aerodynamics.

The main difference between the original Centurion and its immediate successor was the use of vented disc brakes at each corner instead of solid discs, thus eliminating brake fade altogether. Also, the optional automatic transmission now had four forward speeds instead of three and was available with any engine. Centurions were still available in all three body styles, but this time the coupe was the least common; sedans were now the most popular body style, followed closely by wagons.

Despite a growing technical superiority over its rivals, the Centurion remained affordable, even though it had lost some of its sportiness due to the installation of a catalytic converter. As if to prove that muscle cars had not died out altogether, Albury claimed that the Centurion was “the last bastion of high-displacement, high-performance V8s, anywhere, anytime”, and they were right: from 1977, sales began to increase again, especially for the V8 models, since these were among the few old-school muscle cars available to performance-starved American buyers.

The 5.7 was the only version with an aero kit as standard, but it was more discreet than on the original Centurion. However, its engine was now the only one in the lineup with >200 bhp, and so it deserved its place as the flagship of the range.

By 1980, the Centurion resumed its role of being the vehicle campaigned by Albury Motor Racing, since the Starhawk had been axed due to falling demand. But despite the Centurion’s run of competition success, the honeymoon was over; road car sales had begun to decrease again as the public clamored for another redesign. This was partly motivated by the fact that rust protection was the Centurion’s only real weakness - one which would be permanently rectified by the development of corrosion-resistant steel. The next Centurion therefore didn’t just have to be good - it had to be great…


Evolution of the Centurion, Part 3: A Motoring Renaissance

Redesigning the Centurion was never an easy task, but it was never more difficult than with the Mk2 model introduced in 1975. However, the next redesign came just seven years later, and was equally important to Albury Motors, particularly since it was motivated by several factors. One of these was the development of corrosion-resistant steel, which would consign any rust problems to the history books for good if it were used. In addition, all engines would now use multi-point electronic fuel injection for the sake of improved economy - a company first. On top of that, Patrick Maxwell, then head of Albury Performance, issued one last requirement to the company before resigning in 1985 to make way for Brian Spencer: the fitment of a mechanical limited-slip differential on all Centurions, either as standard or as an option.

The resulting car was still quite angular, but clearly not as boxy as its predecessor, and also had more panache. The only downside was that just five colors were now available: Kosciuszko White, Bathurst Blue, Onyx Black, Albury Red and Sydney Silver Metallic, the latter being an extra-cost option (although it was not initially available on the Crusader with which it shared its 5.7-litre engine, and was not introduced to that car’s option list until 1988). At any rate, this was the best-looking Centurion since the original, and the flagship 5.7 even had a large rear wing for extra downforce, whereas the 5.0 simply had a small lip spoiler complementing its front airdam. In addition, 17-inch forged magnesium wheels were an option on the 5.7 in place of the standard 16-inch cast-alloy items used throughout the range.

Centurion wagons were nearly as popular as their sedan counterparts, especially since they were available with a V8 engine (the 5.0, not the 5.7) for the first time since 1974. The coupe was not far behind either, and was available with every engine except for the base 3-litre straight-six.

V8 Centurions had a pair of exhaust pipes on each side instead of just one for the straight-six models; apart from the bodykit, the only way to tell them apart was to listen to their exhaust notes under acceleration.

The 5.0 was quite popular among enthusiasts due to its understated looks (particularly in silver or black) and relatively low cost, but the 5.7 was the pick for those who wanted the most straight-line or cornering performance.

Initially, the 5.7 served as the main race vehicle for Albury Motor Racing, but the introduction of Group A in 1985 forced them to switch to the 5.0, whose engine was the largest eligible one under these new rules. To compensate for the loss of power caused by this change, the wild aero kit of the 5.7 became optional on the 5.0 that same year.

The Centurion III was most definitely a strong seller during its 10-year lifespan, particularly abroad, since the fuel crisis was well in everyone’s rear-view mirror. However, wagon sales began to decrease after 1990, and the rest of the range suffered as well. This was chiefly blamed on the advent of variable valve timing on engines with single or dual overhead cams, which their competitors were now using, so a redesign was once again fast-tracked, although given that the existing Albury Universal V8 was not yet obsolete, it would still be retained for the next Centurion, but more importantly, aerodynamics would also be improved. The Centurion MkIV, as it would be known, would therefore be evolutionary and revolutionary, but the true impact of the redesign was yet to be seen… although initially at least, there would be a few other holdovers from its predecessor. But would the Australian public, and particularly the enthusiast market, warm to it like they did to previous Centurions?


wow the variety of styling in the centurion from the 1st to the 2nd one

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Evolution of the Centurion, Part 4: Curves to Drive For

When the Centurion Mk.IV was introduced at the 1991 Frankfurt Motor Show as a 1992 model, it shared the limelight with the Crusader II. The public was taken aback at their curvaceous forms, which were a clean break from previous designs and had only been seen on the original Crusader and Viceroy III. However, while those cars served as limited-production, lower-volume flagships in the performance and luxury sectors respectively, the Centurion had the unenviable task of carrying the torch from its much-loved predecessor. To keep costs down, two of the existing engines (both V8s) were retained, albeit significantly updated in keeping with its plan to maintain a high degree of competitiveness through superior reliability. And in place of the previous slogan of “Drive the Motoring Renaissance Today”, came a new one: “A Legend Evolved”.

The Centurion Mk.IV was easily distinguished by its curvaceous, cab-forward shape. However, under the skin, it had multilink rear suspension for even better ride and handling than the previous Centurion. Considering that the 5.7 now had over 300 bhp, this was definitely a good thing. Moreover, equipment levels had also increased further, with the option of a CD player for the first time, while safety had been significantly improved with the addition of an airbag each on the driver’s and passenger’s sides.

The 5.0 was no slouch either, despite being slower and having less standard equipment; however, it was more affordable and ran on regular fuel (the 5.7 required 95RON premium unleaded). Unsurprisingly, enthusiasts around the world welcomed the redesigned Centurion range with open arms. But the biggest changes at launch didn’t involve a V8 at all - and as time passed, the Centurion would stretch its technical superiority over domestic and imported rivals even further…

The entry-level 3.0 V6 variant (pictured above with the Performance Package) managed to blend comfort and efficiency with class-leading dynamics. However, the post-facelift version was a definite improvement, with further increases in efficiency and reliability, as well as more standard equipment. But it was clear that the Centurion had to evolve even further…

That evolution necessitated a facelift and new transmissions for the whole range (including a six-speed manual as standard, plus a viscous LSD by default with a mechanical one as an option!), and on all versions, semi-active dampers and sway bars, either as an option or as standard. But would the buyers continue to flock to Albury dealerships instead of deserting the brand? And would the next new Centurion also be even more of an improvement? It would not be long before these questions were answered…

The answer turned out to be yes, for the Series II Mk.IV Centurion, introduced in 1996, was one of the world’s best full-sized cars in terms of dynamics. With active cooling standard across the range, economy had improved slightly, and in addition to this, a CD player would also be standard equipment on all trims the following year, as would stability control. Thus, not only was the Centurion one of the most comfortable cars in its class, it was also one of the safest.

With these improvements, the Centurion became a best-seller throughout Australia, but more significantly it made a significant impact on international markets as well, which attracted the attention of a certain Ian Harris. The British enthusiast had taken over the reins of his father’s eponymous company upon his death, and commenced a technical partnership with Albury Motors in 1996 with the aim of improving efficiency, although it wasn’t all one-way traffic: some Albury engineers would transfer their expertise to Harris Cars Ltd. in an attempt to increase the reliability of its range. Eventually, in 1999, Harris purchased a 50% stake in Albury, thus forming Harris-Albury Motor Manufacturing International Inc. (HAMMII, shortened further to HAMM on the New York Stock Exchange). As part of the deal, Harris-Albury developed a new passenger car platform, to be shared between both manufacturers. The Centurion, which would now be built on these underpinnings, was about to get a new lease on life…


Evolution of the Centurion, Part 5: Into the Millennium and Beyond

The Mk.V Centurion was the first of two new Albury models launched at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show (as a 2000 model), the other one being the Crusader sports car. Both were 100% all-new, but this was more important for the Centurion, which, unlike the Crusader, was a volume seller. In contrast to the curvaceous shape of its predecessor, the new car adopted a sharper, more chiseled look - and customers all over the world flocked to it in droves. Under the skin was an AHS steel chassis which would eventually be used by Harris-Albury (Harris Cars bought a 50% stake in Albury Motors later that year) for both manufacturers’ passenger cars as well as their crossovers. Two V6 engines were available, but the V8s were, as usual, the headline-grabbers.

Originally, the V8 versions both had 6-litre engines available in two states of tune; the more powerful version required premium fuel (95 RON unleaded) but had semi-active dampers and sway bars as standard.

In addition, the V8 S came with more standard equipment than the base V8. Both these variants, however, had a mechanical LSD by default, and were available with two or four doors.

A facelift in 2005 introduced a satnav system, which was standard on all trims except the base V6, where it was optional. These Series II cars could also be distinguished from their predecessors by new integrated headlight clusters and a slightly larger front grille. Also, direct injection was standard on all engines, and the V8s had variable valve timing for the first time ever. These changes resulted in significantly improved performance and efficiency.

The V8 S also received a bump in engine capacity to 6.2 litres, achieved by a longer stroke compared to the 6.0. This updated variant was the fastest and most powerful Centurion ever at launch. Production of the Mk.V Centurion continued until 2012, making it the most numerous and longest-lived Centurion series ever. As a result, the car’s slogan of “Resetting the Australian Standard” could not have been more appropriate. However, by 2013, with the announcement of the Warrior being repositioned as an all-alloy, upmarket grand tourer based on the Crusader platform, and the introduction of the Starhawk as a smaller companion to the Centurion, a further redesign would have to be undertaken. Would Albury Motors deliver on its promises yet again, just as they had previously? The world - and Australia in particular - was about to find out…

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Evolution of the Centurion, Part 6: A Valedictory Finale?

The current Centurion Mk. 6, introduced in 2013, marked a significant departure for Albury Motors; it was the first Centurion variant ever to have alloy panels, thereby minimizing weight gain compared to its predecessor. Again, all engines were updated; although the V6 was only available as a 3.6, a 3.0 would be added in 2016 as an entry-level model. However, once again the V8s took center stage, and for the first time ever the Centurion had a 6.4-litre V8 as an option. This engine was available in two states of tune.

The base V8 developed over 400 bhp and ran on regular unleaded. This variant accounted for a quarter of all Centurion sales since the current car was introduced.

A new body, combined with a revised version of the long-serving RWD platform used by Harris-Albury since 2000, ensured it was not only one of the most stylish full-size cars on sale anywhere, but also one of the best to drive.

The Centurion was still available as a coupe, sedan and wagon, ensuring that there would be a Centurion for every conceivable buyer. The flagship V8 S, despite being thirstier than the standard V8, was also a strong seller; its engine was in a higher state of tune and ran on 95RON premium unleaded, allowing it to develop 500 metric horsepower.

With so much power on tap, the V8 Centurions were now faster than ever in a straight line, and yet handled very well for something weighing almost two metric tons. The abundance of standard equipment throughout the range (especially in upmarket trims) was icing on the cake. But will this template survive the redesign expected by 2020? Only time will tell.


As with my other company thread, I will retain this one, but will wait until the UE4 switch to show any new Harris-Albury models, even though I have already made a few existing ones beforehand.

Liking the cars, I wouldn’t worry about UE4, Its not going to be for another 2/3 months I thought?

Having belatedly realized that the UE4 build is still a long way from being polished enough for me to switch to it full-time, here is another model line I made in the Kee engine version - the Viceroy. Since 1967, it has served as the brand’s luxury flagship. Apologies for the bump though.

Originally, the Viceroy was offered as a coupe or sedan, and unlike the Centurion, was available exclusively with the brand’s Universal Eight.

The second generation saw a switch to unleaded fuel and the axing of the coupe body style, yet sales remained strong, and received a boost when fuel injection became standard in 1982.

For its third generation, the Viceroy retained the fuel-injected V8, but gained more standard equipment and now had a much sleeker look.

Introduced in 1995, the Viceroy IV inherited the Mk II Crusader’s more powerful engine tune, and gained a new multilink rear suspension and a six-speed gearbox.

An update in 2000 saw the replacement of the long-serving Universal Eight with the new all-alloy New Universal V8. If ordered with the 6.2-liter version, as shown here, the Viceroy could now reach 60 mph in just over 5 seconds.

The Mk.V Viceroy introduced direct injection to the model line, as well as satellite navigation. In contrast to its predecessor, it had more aggressive styling, making it more easily recognizable than before.

The current Viceroy Mk. 6 is the first car from Albury Motors to have a HUD-based infotainment system as standard. Shown here is an example equipped with the Performance Pack, which includes the Hi-Comp V8, 20-inch wheels and enlarged brake rotors. The most noteworthy change is the use of aluminum body panels, which help save weight compared to the steel panels of its predecessor.

Each of these generations could be ordered with an automatic gearbox as a no-cost option, and with the exception of the Mk. II and Mk. III Viceroys, was available as a two-door coupe or four-door sedan. In addition, air suspension has been optional on the entire Viceroy line since 2000.

For 50 years, the Viceroy has carved out a niche for itself, and has held plenty of appeal to Albury’s wealthier customers. But how long will the current car last, given recent environmental concerns? We’ll have to wait and see.


##Albury A26 and Vanguard: Precursors to the Centurion and Viceroy

As the very first model from Albury Motors, the A26 was crucial to the company’s success in its early years. It was offered with a choice of either a 3.0L or 3.6L I6, and a wide variety of body styles, including a ute and a wagon; a 3.0 Sedan is shown here. The basic design was so inherently right that it stayed in production right up until the Centurion arrived in 1965.

As part of their plan to move upmarket, Albury introduced the Vanguard in 1955, powered by revised versions of the all-iron, overhead-valve, Albury Straight Six. Unlike the smaller A26, it was aimed at the executive market and came standard with a premium interior and radio, as well as power steering (which did not become available on the A26 until 1958, and even then, only as an extra-cost option). Initially, it was offered with the same engine sizes as the A26; however, the cheaper 3.0 was discontinued after 1958 due to lack of demand. A two-speed (later three speed) automatic was optional on both cars, and front disc brakes became optional throughout the range in 1961.

Both cars were unibody designs with a McPherson strut front end and semi-trailing arm rear suspension. This all-independent setup provided better comfort and handling compared to most rivals, which usually had a live-axle rear. The sales success of both models ensured that the next model to be launched - which turned out to be the Centurion - could be even more technically advanced for its time than the A26 and Vanguard were. The best was yet to come…

Today, these two models are fondly remembered as the cars that got Albury Motors up and running, ultimately ensuring that it could expand its presence enough to be a major player in a very different marketplace to what it is now.

Reborn Icon: The CMS-20T

The demise of the CMS-16 in 2012 left a hole in the Albury lineup, but it would be some time before this void was filled. Enthusiasts around the world still wanted a replacement, though, and finally, in November 2016, Albury Motors fulfilled their requests by confirming that a new mid-engined, rear-drive small sports car was in development. Midway through 2017, it emerged as the CMS-20T. This truly was a more than worthy successor to the CMS-16; it received glowing reviews from customers and the motoring press.

Powered by a transversely-mounted 2.0L turbocharged I4 developing 300 bhp, the CMS-20T could reach 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 170 mph, according to the manufacturer’s estimate. It still had an analog feel, though, thanks to its use of a six-speed manual gearbox and mechanical LSD, and a curb weight of 1.23 metric tons made it feel as quick through the corners as it did on the straights, especially with its track-honed suspension and brakes keeping all that power under control.

More importantly, though, it served as the platform-mate for the Harris RMA-4, which had been developed in parallel with the CMS-20T. However, the Albury had a more aggressive demeanor and also a far more overtly sporting feel, which were reflected in its higher pre-markup price ($19500 vs $17000 for the Harris). In fact, it was aimed at enthusiasts who preferred a more intense hit of adrenaline on a weekend blast down a B-road or a track day, while the Harris had a slightly greater focus on everyday usability. In the end, both companies benefited from this deal.

Pilbara II: A Centurion on Stilts

For 2017 the Pilbara got a redesign. Now built on the Centurion MKVII platform, this luxury SUV is available with an 8-speed automatic transmission as standard and can be ordered with one of two engines: a new turbocharged I6 with 280 or 360 bhp (the latter of which is shown here), or a reworked version of the 6.4L V8 found in the Centurion. Options include a third row of seats and air suspension incorporating adaptive dampers. In short, if you wanted a Centurion or Viceroy but also had to go off-road, the Pilbara makes a strong case for itself.