Holden History and how it all started, up to 1948

The Holden tradition was started by an English immigrant James Alexander Holden, who started a leather goods business in Australia, 1857. Later the business expanded into the production of coaches and then truck bodies, by Henry James Holden the son of James Holden, after his death in 1887. The join with Frederick Hack in 1918 formed what was known as Holden Motor Body Builders. The company was building bodies for Chevrolet, Ford, Buick, Essex and Hupmobile by 1920 and was building more than 500 bodies a month by 1922.

In 1924, when production was over 20,000 units a year, Henry Holden made the biggest deal yet. The Holden Motor Body Builders would be contracted to build entire car bodies for all General Motors chassis imported into the country. The deal was ensuring at least 10,000 units per year. Two years on and Henry Holden passed away, leaving the company in the hands of his son Edward Holden. The company was producing 36,000 units per year.

General Motors set up headquarters in Melbourne, Victoria and installed assembly plants in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. By 1927 over 100,000 units per year were being sold.

But the future of the company wasn’t looking too good when the depression hit Australia in the early 1930s. With the company having to deal with huge losses every day, and the future of General Motors looking bleaker, a deal had to be made. In 1932 the GM director, Graeme Howard visited to see stockpiles of unsold cars, which would probably never be sold. GM had no other assets to keep itself afloat, whereas the Holden assets included buildings, land and production equipment.

Graeme. Howard and the now Sir Edward Holden agreed that the merge of both companies would enable them to pool resources and survive the low car sales. Vehicle prices dropped and by 1934 sales slowly but steadily increased and when the second World War came about, the economic recovery was complete. The new company, GMH, concentrated on building armaments engines and ships at Fishermen’s Bend, Melbourne. When the end of the war came about General Motors Holden had already been considering plans for the first all Australian car. The car would go under the name of it’s founder, Holden.

Designers had to design a car which could be used in Australian environments. It had to have enough power and be able to handle the harsh road and bush conditions. “Project 320” was underway, with some assistance of United States engineers and BHP steel.

Production was complete. Australia’s first locally produced car was known as the 48-215, but we all know it as the FX Holden. Prototypes were released in 1946, but there were still problems with it. The car went under the biggest stress test to help further develop the design, which was almost going to be thrown out. Finally testing finished and the prototype became a production car. The first 48-215 rolled off the line on the 29th of November 1948. The release of Australia’s first car was made by the then Prime Minister JB Chifley. The car was a perfect success and the production created many jobs for Australian people.