60th Anniversary Holdens

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

Holden is marking its 60th anniversary with a  range of Special Edition models including a limited edition version of the SS-V sports sedan sporting 10-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels. Other special features include a high-mounted rear spoiler, and 60th anniversary badging and floormats. The car also has rear parking sensors and chrome surrounds on the exterior door handles.

At the other end of the Commodore line, a 60th anniversary version of the Omega gets 18-inch alloy wheels, Onyx leather seat inserts, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The dressed-up base model Commodore also gets a decorative micro silver moulding on the instrument panel, a grille insert, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth mobile phone connection and a 60th anniversary rear badge.

Holden has also announced an anniversary edition Captiva SUV which gets a rear-view camera to make reversing safer. The wagon also gets 18-inch sports-styled alloy wheels, a seven-inch driver information display and in-dash DVD player, and a leather-wrapped gear lever.

The changes to the anniversary model Captiva are more extensive than on the Commodore and amount to a facelift. They include a new front fascia, front passenger under-seat storage tray, electrochromatic mirror, silver painted skid plate and foglight inserts, and silver painted roof rails and door handles. There are also new black bezel headlights, new design taillights and, of course, a 60th anniversary rear badge. Holden will sell the special edition Captivas in both petrol and diesel versions.

The three anniversary models go on sale in Australia in May. Details of when they’ll be available here have yet to be announced.

The specials commemorate the start of production of the General Motors subsidiary’s first car, the 48-215 in 1948. The four-door, six-seater (on bench seats, front and rear and no seatbelts) 48-215 was lightweight and durable, with a torquey 2.15-litre grey-painted engine that entered legend as the “Grey Engine”. The motor gave the car a top speed of more than 80mph (130kph and good for its day). The car could cruise comfortably at 65mph (105kph), take steep hills in top-gear and typically return 30mpg (9.4 litres/100km).  Aerobilt monocoque body construction, at the time a relatively new engineering principle, combined body and chassis into one all-steel unit.  The starting price was the equivalent to $Au1466, and Holden built and sold 120,402 of its first indigenous car.

Commonly known as the FX, the first Holden four-door evolved into the iconic FJ in 1953. It was the first Holden to be exported – to New Zealand – and a car that became part of Australian legend, appearing in several hit songs, including The Newcastle Song. The FJ used the same basic body as the FX, but had a much more elaborate chromed grille. It was a massive success, and made Holden Australia’s most popular car. As well as the new grille, it had new hubcaps and a torpedo-style taillight. Engine, power output and gearing remained unchanged. There were now three model levels: Standard, Business and the Special sedan – and a panel van joined a utility in the FJ commercial model sub-line.

 The FJ’s virtues included energetic performance, rugged dependability, low maintenance, and “unbeatable value”, the car selling for: $Au2046.  Holden sold 169,969 FJs. The Holden name has been associated with transportation in Australia since the gold boom of the early 1850s, when it first appeared above James Alexander Holden’s leather and saddlery business in Adelaide, South Australia.

By 1885, the Holden and Frost company was repairing and building horse-drawn carriages and coaches. In 1914, it produced its first custom-made car body and by 1924, renamed Holden’s Motor Body Builders, it operated one of the world’s most advanced production lines and was the exclusive body supplier to General Motors in Australia. In 1931, the companies merged to become General Motors-Holden’s Limited. During World War II, GM-H was a major industrial force in Australia’s defence effort, producing more than 30,000 vehicle bodies for the Australian and US forces and manufacturing field guns, aircraft, and aero and marine engines.

Holden exported its 250,000th vehicle in 1972 and in 1977 celebrated 25 straight years of overall market leadership. The Commodore arrived as the VB in 1978, and Holden announced plans for a new factory to build the GM Family II four-cylinder engine. By 1982, Holden had exported 250,000 of them.   

The millionth Family II engine was exported in 1988. Since 1948, GM Holden has sold almost eight million vehicles, sending more than 792,000 around the world in five decades and more than four million export engines in 26 years.