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9 December 2008
DON LOFFLER (Holden Author and Historian): The first stage in Holden history began in 1856 when James Holden set up a leather and saddlery goods business in Adelaide, South Australia.
That firm flourished and the firm of Holden & Frost continued then in to the new century when the motorcar was invented. In 1918 the company branched out into Holdens Motorbody Builders to build bodies for various makes of cars.
General Motors entered the scene in 1926 and took over Holdens Motorbody Builders to become General Motors Holdens in 1931. That company didn't do at all well initially and in desperation they had to engage a new managing director, Laurence Hartnett, in 1934 to try to rescue the company. He did that in a most remarkable fashion and in addition he had the dream of building an all-Australian car.
A group of Australian and American engineers worked on the Australian car project from 1945 to 1946 and the name Holden was decided on for the new car to honour the family who founded the company. The first Holden cars came off the line in November 1948 and the car was an instant success.
The public couldn't get enough of them, there were two year waiting lists for the car and that first model got the nickname of FX, it was really 48-215. This one behind me is an absolute rarity, it was never produced in the factory but made by a specialist body builder Stanley Cordell in Melbourne.
We think there were only 3 of them made and this is the only survivor. And you can see it in the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, South Australia.
The 48-215 or FX was revised mildly into the FJ model in 1953 and this model proved so popular and so much loved by the Australian public that it has become an Australian icon.
MAN 1: The first car I ever had was a Holden, it was a 1953 FJ.
MAN 2: These of course were an icon and the trendsetter if you like, for the Australian car back in the early fifties.
DON LOFFLER: The Holden proved so popular that after ten years in 1958 it had gained fifty percent of the Australian passenger car market, an amazing performance. Holden then went on to produce other iconic models, the first being the Monaro sports coupe in 1968.
That ran for ten years and made a real name for itself in the racing world.
COMMENTATOR: The Holdens are still out on their own, behind West and McPhee, Brian Muir and Paul Hawkins are running third and fourth then Geoghean and Gibson.
DON LOFFLER: These iconic models not only proved very profitable for the company but also of course for Australia because Australia exported Holdens. They actually began in 1954 with the FJ model and after that time thousands of Holdens were exported to the Asia Pacific region and the Middle East, and they've become a very important dollar earner for Australia not only for the company but for the Australian economy as such.
If we look into the mid 1970's we have the oil crisis affecting the western world to such an extent that people started to show a strong preference for smaller cars, and Holdens took the momentous step in the late 70's of scaling down their big family sedan into the smaller Commodore model.
Over the years Holden has produced some cult vehicles beginning with the Holden utility in 1950. Now, Holden utilities are very sophisticated vehicles, and much loved by people in the country and city alike.
In the 1970's came the Holden Sandman. That was a panel van with murals on the side. Very popular with teenagers and the surfing brigade.
The name Monaro carried so much nostalgia with it that in 2001 Holden reintroduced the sports coupe.
The Holden Commodore remains Australia's largest selling passenger vehicle and it's ensuring that the name Holden remains an important part of Australia's motoring heritage.
So since 1856 when James Holden opened his humble leather factory, Holden has become Australia's leading vehicle manufacturer and has played a major role in Australia's motoring history.