Holden cars over the past 72 years have left an indelible impression on Australian life. Big and tough cars on dirt roads; Peter Brock in Commodore 05 flying across Skyline at Bathurst; torquey six-pot engines and rear-wheel-drive; the famous Aussie ute; surfie vans with makeshift beds in the back; custom paint jobs and wild Holden street machines; some of the world’s most outrageously enjoyable (and noisy) V8 sports models; even a whole TV sitcom based around the Kingswood model… all are vivid images down under.
The following for Holden, and the way its hero models clung to big-power V8s and rear-wheel-drive, was not confined to Australia. The fastest Commodores had fans all round the world. In the UK they were rebranded as the Vauxhall VXR and most recently included the monstrous 536bhp Maloo ute that royally entertained us at the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard a few years ago.
The first “proudly Australian” Holden might have been in 1948 but Holden goes back much further than that. The company was founded in South Australia as a saddle-maker in 1856. GM bought it in 1931 and began assembling cars by putting Holden bodies on Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile and Vauxhall mechanicals.
The first all-Australian car, the Holden 48-215 (subsequently known as the FX), was unveiled by Australian prime minister Ben Chifley on 29th November, 1948. Ninety two per cent of it was Australian made and it cost £742, or two years’ average wages. Despite a looming recession, Holden held 52,000 unfulfilled back orders by March 1950, two and half times the annual production rate.