Holden - paying tribute to an Aussie classic

From Nine To Noon, 11:20 am on 11 October 2016

For over 150 years the Holden brand has helped shape Australian culture. First making saddles, then munitions and finally as Australia's most beloved carmaker – Holden rivalled Ford at every turn.

In New Zealand, the Holden name has been embedded in our culture for over half a decade.

But when Holden stops building cars in Australia next year, will it be the end of the road for the motoring brand?

Holden will stop vehicle assembly in Adelaide and engine production in Melbourne in 2017.

Will Hagon an Australian motoring journalist, broadcaster and author, says although the manufacture will no longer be in Australia, the design and engineering functions will live on.

"That will be the end of the Australian motor industry as we've known it for nearly 120 years, of dreamers, designers, engineers and passionate car people making vehicles for track as well as road, that suited this big, tough land," Hagon says.

James Alexander Holden landed in Adelaide in 1852 and Holden Motor Body Works became a thriving operation putting bodies on cars made overseas – long before Australia had a car manufacturing industry of its own.

“They were so successful doing that in the 1920s and 30s that they had the same sort of market share as Holden had when it dominated and had about half the [Australian] market.”

General Motors were interested and bought the company in 1931 – one of the US company’s first overseas purchases. 

In the post-war period, when the Australian government wanted to encourage car manufacturing, Holden came up with a style of car that set the standard in Australia for years.

Holden A9X

Holden A9X Photo: Wikicommons

“The engineers here came up with a formula, a size of car and engine and an easy drivability that set the formula for the market that everyone else had to chase for the next three or four decades.”

Bu eventually Australian car manufacturing became less and less viable. With the market splitting from two dominant brands to many more, and production volume reduced, Holden called it a day.

Hagon says of the many iconic Holdens made over the years, the one he owned in the 1970s holds special memories for him.

“I was absolutely overwhelmed by the AX9. This car, it was an absolute rocketship. I don’t know what speed I did in it back in those days of unlimited speed in Australia but it was right off the speedo at one stage.

“But if you wound the window down to wind it back up you had to slow to below 70kph because the door had flexed and it was no longer in alignment.”

He said although only basically equipped, the car was exceptional value for money and as a performer was “outstanding.”

Ford also stopped manufacturing in Australia last Friday.

Will Hagon, with his son Toby, has written Holden: Our Car from 1856 - 2017.