GENERAL MOTORS AKA ‘THE GENERAL’ IS ABOUT TO TAKE ITS LAST ROAD TRIP WITH PRODUCTION TO CEASE SOON. FITTINGLY IT WILL END WITH A COMMODORE.
General Motors-Holden (GMH) has indicated that it will cease trading its vehicle designs and production on 20 October 2017. Production of the Holden Commodore’s sedans, wagons and utes is to be GMH’s mainstay this year.
Motoring enthusiasts and lovers of good design will pine at the thought of another vehicle manufacturer biting the dust. However, the Royal Australian Mint (RAMINT)’s recent initiative to produce a set of 11 minted coins in memory of the Holden car takes the sting out of the tail.
In addition, the National Museum of Australia (NMA) at Acton Peninsula in Canberra has a worthy display of Holden car history which was visited on New Year’s Day in honour of the Australian automobile legend.
On the ground floor of the NMA is an early Holden car (a Holden prototype) which stands as part of the Museum’s display on Australian vehicle heritage. This Holden car display is a popular item for tourists to be photographed standing next to. It’s also one which many drivers linger over to marvel at how far Australian motor design has travelled in the last 70 years.
While admiring the great design of the early Holden car, visitors were keen to read out some of the text provided in the displays giving everyone a history of the inception of the Australian car. Several phrases written on the various placards stick in the mind:
In 1936 General Motors (GM) established a facility for its Australian “…subsidiary General Motors-Holden’s (GMH) at Fishermans Bend, a few kilometres south-west of Melbourne’s city centre.”
“From the late 1930s the Australian Governments were captivated by the idea of a wholly Australian-made car…In 1944 the federal Government invited General Motors (GM) to build a car for Australian conditions.
“American and Australian engineers hand-built three test Holden sedans…In 1946 the cars were secretly shipped to the Fishermans Bend plant….General Motors-Holden’s engineers and technicians built another two prototypes. These became the definitive models for thousands of Holden vehicles.”
“In 1948 the Prime Minister Ben Chifley travelled to Fishermans Bend to launch the Holden…As Australia’s standard of living rose…thousands of Holdens were soon rolling off the production line.”
The GMH workforce grew “…from about 10,000 in 1950 to 18,500 in 1961.”
According to the exhibition display, all the while, General Motors need new expertise. “Designing, testing, building and selling the Holden was a complex, labour-intensive endeavour….In the mid-1960s it (GMH) created a new engine foundry and assembly plant, and a technical centre employing over 900 designers, engineers, draftsmen, modellers and technicians.”
Driving lessons in my Mother’s Holden LJ Torana highlighted just how sturdy the car was made for ‘Australian conditions’. In saddling up, this Australian driver managed to break one car key in the lock, one indicator stick and one side mirror while learning to drive. The car was fixed once more (with a smile from the owner…) and this learner driver passed her driving test at 17 years of age.
The Holden Torana was eventually traded in for a Honda Civic (to keep up with the bridge-playing Army wives, according to Mother) but it will never be forgotten. It was the first car to transport this learner driver on the road. We remain a fan of the Holden car…
Text by Fiona Rothchilds and the National Museum of Australia.
Photographs by Fiona Rothchilds 2017.
Display exhibits by National Museum of Australia unless indicated to be at RAMINT.
Uploaded 01 January 2017.
Updated 16 January 2017.