The Big Issue : Edition 548
THEBIGISSUE20OCT–2NOV2017 27 RIGHTPAGETOPTHEORIGINALHOLDEN,THE48-215,ROLLSOFFTHELINEATFISHERMEN’SBEND,MELBOURNE.LEFTPAGEBOTTOM1962SAWTHEMOREMODERN–ANDCOLOURFUL–EJHOLDENINTRODUCED.LEFTPAGETOPWHENTHENEW-BODYHKSERIESCAMEOUTIN1968,THETWO-DOORMONAROMADEITSDEBUT. SOME WITHIN HOLDEN like to cheekily refer to the brand as the oldest in transport. After all, it was 1856 when the Holden name was first used on a company producing saddles. In the early 1900s that company would go on to assemble cars for Chevrolet, Fiat, Chrysler and Rover. But it was in 1948 when Holden produced its first car – Australia’s own, the 48-215 – that the company kicked off what became one of the most successful Australian brands ever. Better known as the FX, the original humpy Holden was a must-have from outback stations to the growing cities. In the 1950s every second car sold was a Holden, such was the dominance of a brand built from national pride, local ingenuity and a drive to deliver cars built for Australian requirements. That is, ultimately, what Holden has done so well over the 69 years it has been producing cars here. Australians weren’t too fussed that the brand was owned by one of the world’s biggest car makers, General Motors. Or that later cars were imported. After all, the real Holdens were designed, tested, developed and manufactured in Australia for Australians – and, importantly, for Australian conditions. The result was popular models that became an integral part of the culture, from the Monaro and Sandman to the Kingswood and Commodore. But the dominance of Holden would never survive in a globalised world. In the 1960s, life got tougher with the arrival of the Ford Falcon. And more competition was brewing from brands such as Chrysler and Toyota, each of which began manufacturing here. Combined with occasionally challenging economic conditions – including the oil crisis of 1973 – Holden more than once almost folded. But by the 1990s it re-emerged as a powerhouse. In 2001 the Monaro returned and Holden tried its hand at everything from dual-cab utes to a wagon with SUV aspirations. In 2006 it revealed the most Australian Holden ever, the VE Commodore. The cleansheet design was created as a global car, to serve brands as diverse as Chevrolet, Pontiac, Saab and Cadillac. But the global part of the plan never eventuated, the $1.2 billion investment squandered by mismanagement, internal politics and the Global Financial Crisis. At home, too, the much-hyped Commodore was enduring a sales slide as buyers turned to imported cars and SUVs. And the stranglehold Australian cars once had on the local market was waning in the face of a strong Australian dollar and lower import tariffs, which made imports much cheaper. In 2013 Ford announced it would quit local production, sending a shockwave through the industry and workers. Within 12 months Holden and Toyota announced they were out, too. The industry began with Holden, and it will end with Holden; come 20 October, it will shut its last assembly line at Elizabeth in South Australia. It will be the end of an era for Australia. by Toby Hagon » Toby Hagon has been writing about cars for more than 20 years. Together with his dad, motor racing commentator Will Hagon, he has co-authored Holden: Our Car 1856–2017, published by Pan McMillan and out now.