Daewoo a dog’s breakfast

Toto the dog’s appearance in “The Wizard of Oz” wasn’t her first film – the Cairn Terrier had already appeared in half a dozen movies by 1939, as “Terry”. Her name was changed to Toto because of the success of the Oz movie. She died 6 years later, and was buried on her owner’s LA ranch.. only to have her grave destroyed during the construction of a freeway in the late 50s.

However in 1994, it was a win for dogs over cars, with South Korean brand Daewoo using a cattle dog in their advertising campaign, as they set up in Australia. Cane the dog appeared in cheeky newspaper and TV spots for a few years, until Daewoo ads became more upmarket.

Daewoo ad 1997

A drop in sales before the brand’s shutdown has been blamed on campaigns without Cane.

Cattledog eva holderegger walser

Wikimedia photo: Eva Holderegger Walser

I wasn’t thinking of Cane when I bought a grey 1994 Daewoo 1.5i off eBay in 2009 – I was marvelling at the price of this 15-year-old car with under 100,000 kilometres. It was up for auction by a Gold Coast dealer, starting at $950, including the roadworthy and remaining registration. So I put in the first bid (sight unseen), and the auction finished without any competition. I’d been looking for a cheap runaround car that carried more people than my Smart car, and even my local mechanic was surprised at the clean condition and price of it.

daewoo back corner

A similar Daewoo 1.5i

It wasn’t exciting to drive, its seats were flat and it had a strange smell from the air vents (dead gecko, maybe?) but it did the job. The 1.5i was Daewoo’s version of the 1980s GM-Opel Kadett, so it was already an ‘old’ car when new in Australia. A look at the dashboard plastics would easily confirm this. After only a year or so, an updated model (now known as a Cielo) was released around the world, including in Australia. By the late 90s Daewoo was a popular brand, selling over 20,000 cars a year in Australia.

daewoo int

Strange seat fabric design

However the Asian Economic Crisis was the end of the “original” Daewoo. The struggling company was taken over by GM and Holden in 2002, and then – with falling sales – shut down as a car brand here in 2004. It went on to supply a conga line of forgettable Holden cars like the Viva, Epica and Malibu.. as well as replace the Barina and supply the quality-plagued Captiva.

With constant complaints from the kids about trips in the “smelly” car with no air conditioning, when the registration came due, I chose not to renew it. In selling it, a couple of things would need to be done for the roadworthy (a new windscreen among them) so I put it back on eBay as an unregistered car. A buyer agreed to the $750 asking price, and lived half an hour away. He drove down to inspect it and pay me, then followed me as I drove it to his place, and drove me home again.

daewoo front

A similar Daewoo 1.5i

So in the end, with rego included in the initial sale to me, this Daewoo hadn’t really cost me anything to own. It was in and out of my life in a matter of months. And in terms of discovering new country in memorable cars – as Dorothy said to Toto in “The Wizard of Oz”, we weren’t in Kansas anymore.


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