General Motors Holden




The Holden tradition was started by an English immigrant James Alexander Holden, who started a leather goods business in Australia in 1857. Later the business expanded into the production of coaches and then truck bodies, by Henry James Holden the son of James Holden, after his death in 1887. The join with Frederick Hack in 1918 formed what was known as Holden Motor Body Builders. The company was building bodies for Chevrolet, Ford, Buick, Essex and Hupmobile by 1920 and was building more than 500 bodies a month by 1922.

In 1924, when production was over 20,000 units a year, Henry Holden made the biggest deal yet. The Holden Motor Body Builders would be contracted to build entire car bodies for all General Motors chassis imported into the country. The deal was ensuring at least 10,000 units per year. Two years on and Henry Holden passed away, leaving the company in the hands of his son Edward Holden. The company was producing 36,000 units per year.

General Motors set up headquarters in Melbourne, Victoria and installed assembly plants in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. By 1927 over 100,000 units per year were being sold.

But the future of the company wasn't looking too good when the depression hit Australia in the early 1930s. With the company having to deal with huge losses every day, and the future of General Motors looking bleaker, a deal had to be made. In 1932 the GM director, Graeme Howard visited to see stockpiles of unsold cars, which would probably never be sold. GM had no other assets to keep itself afloat, whereas the Holden assets included buildings, land and production equipment.

Graeme Howard and the now Sir Edward Holden, agreed that the merge of both companies would enable them to pool resources and survive the low car sales. Vehicle prices dropped and by 1934 sales slowly but steadily increased and when the second World War came about the economic recovery was complete. The new company, GMH, concentrated on building armaments engines and ships at Fishermen's Bend, Melbourne. When the end of the war came about General Motors Holden had already been considering plans for the first all Australian car. The car would go under the name of it's founder, Holden.

Designers had to design a car which could be used in Australian environments. It had to have enough power and be able to handle the harsh road and bush conditions. "Project 320" was underway, with some assistance of United States engineers and BHP steel.

Australia was a different place in 1948, the Second World War had ended in 1945 and was still fresh in everyones' memory. Australians of the time hungered for American style freedom and American styled cars, infact at the time America was very well loved and respected by the general population for the help they had given Australia during the war. It was in these years that only around 1 in 8 Australians owned an automotive but by the time Holdens' new construction had finished its  run this ratio was closer to 1 in 4.

This model was where it all began, often referred too as the FX Holden, it's real name is the 48/215, 48 being the year it started production and 215 being Standard Sedan (the numbering system remained with Holdens for many years to come with 215 always signifying the Standard type of each model). When produced the FX was the first mass produced six seater car produced in Australia and it had to compete with 4 cylinder British cars as well as many American vehicles. Much of Australian automotives of the time were either pre-war American or British and so an Australian car was very well received, especially by government and businesses who snapped them up like hot cakes to replace their pre-war American fleets.

The FX was given a 2.17 Litre 6 cylinder motor which was later referred to as a "Grey Motor" due to its colour. The motor was used with a 3 speed column shift gearbox and could achieve around 30 miles to the gallon and 80 miles per hour (with a hefty run up). The Grey Motor was used right up until the EH Holden was produced in August 1963 with the new "Red Motor".

The standard features of the FX Holden included a key-operated drivers door lock, flipper windows, no chrome mouldings, adjustable air scoop between the bonnet and windscreen, no heater, one sunvisor, one tail-light and no turn indicators (people of the time used an arm out the window to indicate which direction they wished to turn). Options included an 'Air Chief 5' radio, lefthand side sunvisor, a rear venetian blind, a locking petrol cap and a heavy duty oil bath air-cleaner. There was only 4 exterior colours available: Black, Convoy Grey, Gawler Cream and Seine Blue.

In 1951 the first Holden ute was produced and it was another hot cake, especially for farmers and workers.

Even though the 48/215 showed a lack of refinement it was still in such demand that General Motors Holden had to release a book of testimonials saying why the Holden was worth waiting for. It took a year for Holden to lift production to 1000 cars per month (it originally was 10 per day) but by 1953 when they released the first of the "Business Sedans" (bought by businesses like taxi companies) they had lifted production to around 200 cars a day

The first 48-215 rolled off the line on the 29th of November 1948. The release of Australia's first car was made by the then Prime Minister J.B. Chifley. The car was a perfect success and the production created many jobs for Australian people.

Following history:    

Unit no. 10.000 rolled off the line in February 1950

Unit no. 30.000 rolled off the line in February 1951

Unit no. 60.000 rolled off the line in April 1952

Unit no. 100.000 rolled off the line in May 1953


Holden 48-215 - facts:

Base price at introduction

$1,466/£ 733 (inc. sales tax)

Total number built



Sedan, Business sedan (introduced 1953) and Coupe Utility (introduced 1951 ) 


2.15 litre/132.5 OHV six-cylinder5kW/60bhp @ 3800rpm

Power Output

45kW/60bhp @ 3800rpm


Three-speed manual gearbox, synchromesh on 2nd and 3rd. Column mounted shift lever

Dimensions (sedan)

Length 4370mm; Wheelbase 2616mm; Width 1702mm

Fuel Tank

43 litres/9.5 gallons


The 48-215

FX Holden

She's a Beauty!







See the FX in action






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