One car make that well and truly has its roots in Australia is Holden. This car is the quintessential Aussie vehicle, big, tough and rugged.
We have comprehensive Holden reviews on all the cars on the right hand side of this page. We’ll continue to review each Holden model as it is released. Meantime, please read on for some fascinating history of the company. The founder of the company, James Alexander Holden, came from England to Australia in 1852. A young man aged 17, he was willing and eager to use his skills as a leatherworker in a new land. He set up business as an upholsterer in Adelaide, making seats for carriages and harnesses for the horses that pulled them. On his retirement, James Holden reviewed the company passed the leatherworking business onto his son Henry. When the horseless carriage took the world by storm, Henry Holden and his business partner, Henry Frost, began building cars, putting their knowledge of carriages to good use. As World War I prevented completed cars from being imported, Holden and Frost had quite a good business building the completed cars up from the bare chassis.
The car dealer Sydney Cheney joined the Holden Australia team, putting his entrepreneurship to good use. After the war, the Holden Motor Body Builders company was bought by General Motors (who had offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane). Holden was building motor bodies for a huge range of cars which are the classics of today: Austin, Buick, Chevrolet, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Morris and Studebaker.
During the depression years, Holden, now run by a third member of the Holden dynasty, assembled cars for not only General Motors but also for their rival Chrysler. The great stock market crash in the 1930s nearly saw the end of Holden, but the outbreak of World War II, which meant that the Australian army needed huge amounts of hardware. Holden stayed in business, reviewing its core business and instead churning out guns, bombs, torpedoes, boats, aircraft and even tents.
Once the war was over, the Australian government of the day was on the lookout for an Australian-made car company to support. There were several reasons for this. First of all, the government was aware that when all the “Diggers” came home, they would need good jobs to support themselves and their families. Secondly, Australia had felt its isolation strongly during the war years, and the German U-boats had emphasised this. Home industries were seen as vital.
Holden Australia seemed like a suitable choice. The first Holden car was based on a design based on a General Motors prototype but adapted for Australian conditions. The very first real Aussie Holden went on sale in 1948. In spite of being basic even for the 1940s, the FX Holden did very well and received rave reviews.
First of all, Holden cars were big and robust, large enough to fit the large families of the Baby Boom years and tough enough with their steel frames to handle tough conditions. The early Holden cars combined the size and aggression of American cars with the frugality of British cars, managing to get 30 miles to the gallon without sacrificing performance. And owning a fair dinkum Aussie car appealed greatly to the patriotic feelings of the time.
The 1960s saw a lot of changes for Holden Australia. One was the increasing push for safety features in vehicles, which led to better design and the introduction of safety features like collapsible steering columns and seatbelts. By the end of the decade, Holden had sold two million vehicles, but was beginning to face competition from Ford, a rivalry that continues to this day.
The quintessential Holden, the Commodore, was released to the market in 1978. Many readers will quite probably have memories of these cars or even owned and reviewed them at one stage or another. The Holden Commodore continues to be well loved in Australian and beyond, being continually updated to meet the demands of 21st Century motoring so please read our Holden reviews for more information.
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