The Holden Car
The Holden 48-215 was not only the first mass produced car made in Australia but also the one on which the company's success was built. The beginnings of this iconic Australian car can be traced back to 1926 when the American company of General Motors established a car assembly plant in Australia. The car chassis were imported but the bodies were made by the Adelaide firm Holden Motor Body Builders Ltd. In 1931 the two companies merged to form General Motors-Holden's Limited, and assembled and built the bodies of Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, Pontiacs and Vauxhalls in Australia.
However all these cars were designed overseas and none were made specifically for Australian conditions. Imports were cut during the Second World and by 1944 there was a shortage of motor cars for industrial and military use. Believing that Australia should be independent of imports in future national emergencies, the government requested the Australian motor industry examine the potential for manufacturing a complete motor vehicle in Australia.
General Motors-Holden conducted a very thorough survey, and specifications for the car were drawn up and sent to head office in Detroit. There designers created three experimental models and in late 1946 the prototypes were sent to Australia where they were rigorously tested on local roads and in local conditions.
This drive for local manufacture meant that the bodywork, engine, transmission and many other parts were to be made in Australia and General Motors-Holden had to set in place the necessary infrastructure. The company erected and equipped a new plant, hired and trained staff and commissioned more than 300 suppliers for raw materials and parts.
Finally in 1948, the commercial manufacture of the Holden began with the first Holden 48-215 (popularly known as the FX) shown to the public on the 29th November 1948. The initial design was so successful that it remained essentially the same for years. A significantly upgraded model, the FJ, was introduced in October 1953, and by 1954, General Motors-Holden was producing 255 a day. By 1957 a completely new model, the FE, was well established and Holdens accounted for four out of every ten cars sold in Australia.
This domination of the locally built family car market reflected in the slogan "Australia's Own Car"continued until the 1960s and the release of serious competitors from rival United States based manufacturers Ford (with the Falcon) and Chrysler (with the Valiant).
Geoff Barker, April 2008
Winser, Keith, 'Story of Australian Motoring; the Complete History of Motoring, from the First Horseless Carriages to our Cars of Today', Fortnightly Motor Manual, Melbourne, 1955?
Goode, John, 'Smoke, Smell and Clatter; the Revolutionary Story of Motoring in Australia', Landsdowne Press, Melbourne, 1969
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