Prime Minister Ben Chifley launched the first Holden car in Melbourne on 29 November 1948. Originally to be called the Canbra, the name was changed to acknowledge the Holden family’s role in the Australian motor industry.
South Australian saddlery company Holden & Frost (founded 1856) had prospered by utilising low-cost production methods. A 1917 wartime imports ban prompted the firm to plan large-scale production of car bodies, and by 1926 Holden’s Motor Body Builders Ltd was producing more than half the national output. In 1931 the Great Depression reduced production to 1651 bodies – a 95% drop from the 1928 peak of 34 696. Holden’s largest customer, General Motors, took over the company to form General Motors–Holden’s, with Edward Holden as chairman. In 1944 approval for a post-war Australian car was granted by the United States parent company, General Motors. Bodies were produced at Woodville, South Australia and mechanical components at Fisherman’s Bend, Victoria. The new car was an immediate success.
A source of great national pride, the first Holden FJ is a 1950s icon. In 1959 Holden held 51% of a burgeoning Australian vehicle market. Modern Holdens are produced at Elizabeth, South Australia and Fishermen’s Bend. In December 2013, however, the imminent closure of General Motors-Holden’s manufacturing activities in Australia was announced.
Buttfield, N, So great a change: The story of the Holden family in Australia (Sydney: Ure Smith, 1979)
Darwin, N, The history of Holden since 1917 (Newstead, Vic: EL Ford, 1983)
Loffler, D, She’s a beauty: The story of the first Holdens (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1998)
Loffler, D, Still Holden together: Stories of the first Holden model, the 48-215 sedan and the 50-2106 utility, commonly known as the FX (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2010)