A History of Holden

There has only ever been one main-stream mass-produced car designed and built entirely in Australia.

Holden started back in 1856, when James Alexander Holden started a saddlery business in Adelaide, South Australia.

The firm evolved over the years, progressing from repairing car upholstery to the full-scale production of vehicle body shells.

Holden produced coachwork for quite a few chassis, until in 1924 the company became the exclusive supplier of American car manufacturer General Motors in Australia.

Throughout the 1920s Holden also supplied tramcars for Melbourne.

One of the early cars from Holden was this stunning Moonlight Speedster, based on a 1932 Chevrolet chassis.

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In 1931, the two companies merged to become General Motors-Holden's Limited (GM-H).

In 1936, Holden opened a new HQ and assembly plant at Fishermans Bend in Port Melbourne.

During the war years, Holden's car production was diverted to the construction of vehicle bodies, weapons, aircraft and engines.

After the war, Holden returned to producing vehicle bodies for several car brands including Buick, Chevrolet and Vauxhall.

In 1948, the company finally achieved its long-term goal of manufacturing the first all-Australian motor vehicle, as on November 29, Prime Minister Ben Chifley unveiled the first Holden 48-215, which became affectionately known as the "FX".

The FX was a robust and economical family sedan, designed for the Australian environment. It immediately became a success despite being priced at at $733 (including tax), which represented a staggering 94 weeks wages for the average worker at the time.

Over 18,000 people paid a deposit before the FX was even released! Holden could not satisfy demand quickly enough.

In 1953 an update was released with upgrades to engine power and a chrome face-lift. The FJ is arguably the most iconic vehicle ever built in Australia, and is still immensely popular today in both standard and hot-rodded forms.

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During the 1950s, Holden dominated the Australian car market with steady production of the utility and sedan models.

By 1958 sales accounted for over 40 per cent of total car sales in Australia.

Holden also started exporting vehicles to New Zealand, starting with the utility.

In 1960, Holden introduced its third major new model, the FB, inspired by 1950s Chevrolets, but still using all Australian design and components.

The FB was the first model for which left hand export versions were produced.

By the early 1960s, Holden was exporting cars to Africa, the Middle East, South-East Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Caribbean.

In 1961 the FB received a facelift, and the EK was born (My first car!)

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By 1962, Holden had sold a million vehicles. An additional million were sold over the next six years.

1962 also brought in the EJ, another major body and styling upgrade, inheriting most of the EK mechanicals.

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In 1964, Holden employee numbers peaked at 23,914 across seven facilities in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

1964 also saw the release of the EH, another iconic model, which also featured a new engine - the 149 "Red" motor, which served Holden very well for a number of years, slowly growing in capacity and increased power options.

Major competitors, including the Ford Falcon and Japanese cars, arrived in Australia, but Holden's six- and later on eight-cylinder cars remained top sellers.

1965 brought a major restyle with the HD - a larger, more comfortable and more modern looking car.

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In 1966, Holden became the first local manufacturer to fit seat belts on all models.

The HD was quickly facelifted to become the HR, which proved to be one of the best and most popular Holdens ever.

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The next series of Holdens broke the pattern of two facelifts before a major upgrade, starting in 1968 with the HK - again a larger more comfortable car than its predecessor. V8's became optional, Australian designed and built units of 253 and 308 cubic inches.

2-Door Coupes also became available - the legendary Monaro was born!

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In 1969 a minor facelift was produced, the HT.

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And the third facelift in 1970 was the HG - a pretty solid effort by now.

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1972 was time for another upgrade - the HQ. For the first time buyers could choose an American V8 - luckily it was a ripper - the 350 Chevrolet! 253 and 308 Aussie V8's were also available still.

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A facelift was produced in 1974 - the HJ. For some reason it never got the love that the HQ did.

The HJ is the car closest to the camera.

Interestingly, in 1975 Holden sold cars to Mazda, who implanted a 13B Rotary and called the car a Roadpacer. It was very well optioned, but by all accounts awful to drive.

1977 brought the third and final upgrade for the series - the HZ.

The HZ was notable for the introduction of what Holden termed "Radial Tuned Suspension" (RTS) on all models. RTS made significant changes to the suspension of the car, greatly improving the handling finesse, while at the same time not compromising ride quality.

Holdens could go round corners now!

Sadly though, the HZ was the end of the line for a very popular brand as the Kingswood was now dead and gone.

In 1978 the Commodore was released, eventually becoming the most popular Holden of all time.

Five generations of Commodore came to be from 1978 until Holden ceased operations in 2018.

Generation One cars were the VB, VC, VH, VK and VL, and were considerably smaller than the models preceding them.

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These first generation models remain popular, and have a bit of a reputation with the police as they perform pretty well, especially for circle work and the like.

Second Generation Commodores were getting bigger, and models designated VN, VP, VR and VS were produced.

I don't appear to have a single photograph of a second-gen car. Make of that what you will. Here's a picture from Wikipedia.

In 1986 Holden showed us the sacrilege that they were prepared to push on us, by introducing a model with a Nissan engine.

In 1990 the last Australian CEO left, and GM take a firmer hand and leadership, signifying the beginning of the end.

In 1991, Japanese car-maker Toyota beats Holden and Ford to market leadership for the first time in Australia.

1997 brought us the third generation cars - the VT, VX, VY and VZ, which concluded in 2007. Nope, don't have any of those, either! Thanks Wikipedia!

The fourth generation cars were released starting 2006 - the VE and VF. Market share drops to 21.2%.

Praise be to Wikipedia again!

Production ceased in Australia in October 2017.

The fifth (and final) Commodore was released in 2018, and designated the ZB. This was no Holden, this was a rebadged Opel.

The Australian Public has taken exception to Holden pulling production out of Australia, and has voted with its' feet.

Sales have continued to fall, and personally I don't have a problem with that.

I was a big Holden fan my early years. Not so much now. Which is why I don't have many pictures of the later models - sorry!

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