History of GM Holden in Australia

Very few things say Australia quite so proudly as a Holden vehicle. A product of Down Under, Holden was founded in 1856, originally as a saddler business. Its true founder, Henry James Holden, took charge of his father’s business, which involved producing gun cases, horse saddles, harnesses, crops, whips and travel goods.

With the Boer War picking pace in 1897, J.A. Holden & Son received a government contract for manufacture and supply. When Edward Holden, the grandson of James, joined the business and expressed a desire to shift to automotive production, the future of Holden was set. Bit by bit, from minor repairs to car upholstery and parts manufacture, Holden began to gain a foothold in the national car manufacturing industry. By 1919, Holden had a new name, Holden Motor Body Builders. From motorcycle sidecar bodies to car bodies and parts, HMBB began producing almost 12,000 units every year by 1923.

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The Australian government’s wartime trade restrictions in 1917 decreeing that only one finished car may be imported for every three chassis ensured local dominance.

Elsewhere, more than 9000 miles away in USA, General Motors had been formed by 1908. Classic models such as the Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Oaklans were soon to extend their sway over the country. GM’s extraordinary success was to have a notable impact on Holden’s future, as we see.

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By 1926, GM had established factories in Queensland, Newstead, New South Wales, Melbourne, Victoria and Marrickville among others.

For Holden however, things were not looking great. The Great Depression had struck, pushing the company to the brink of collapse. This is where GM came to its rescue, making Holden its subsidiary company, thus forming the new company that every Australian is now familiar with, GM Holden.

In 1938, GM Holden began having visions of an Australian mass-design car, made for Australian conditions. The first fully-manufactured GM Holden car, the 48-215 FX, was launched in 1948. The rest, as they say is history.

For years now, GM Holden has remained at the forefront of the Australian automotive industry. The Holden Commodore has been widely praised as the all-Australian car, versatile and classy. Holden’s famous ‘lion and stone’ symbol, which represents human’s invention of the wheel, is now its logo.

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