Holden History


Holden occupies a special place in Australia's history as the manufacturer of the first all-Australian car. The Holden name, however, is older than the motor car itself and has been associated with transportation in Australia since the gold boom days of the early 1850s, when it first appeared above J.A. Holden's leather and saddlery business in Adelaide, South Australia. By 1885, the Holden & 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.

Australia's first large-scale automotive manufacturing facility was formed in 1931 when the companies merged to become General Motors-Holden's Limited. Many other Australian companies owe their development to the pioneering spirit displayed by GM-H in those formative years. During World War II, GM-H was a major industrial force in Australia's defence effort. Between 1939 and 1945 it produced more than 30,000 vehicle bodies for the Australian and US forces and manufactured a wide range of equipment, including field guns, aircraft, aero and marine engines.

In 1948 GM-H completed the challenge of building the nation's first successfully mass-produced car. Australians took the six cylinder Holden 48-215, later nicknamed the FX, immediately to their hearts, and with the release of the evolutionary FJ model in 1953, the love affair deepened. Holden rode high on the sales charts though the 50s, 60s and 70s, producing a succession of landmark models. It exported its 250,000th vehicle in 1972 and in 1977 celebrated 25 straight years of overall market leadership.

The launch of the VB Commodore in 1978 signalled a major change of direction. Plans for a new Family II four-cylinder engine plant were announced the same year, and in 1982 engine exports reached 250,000 units. In 1985, General Motors-Holdens Limited reorganised into two GM subsidiary companies – Holden's Motor Company and Holden's Engine Company (HEC). 1987 saw the creation of United Australian Automotive Industries, controlling company for a Holden-Toyota joint venture, the GM arm of which was called General Motors Holden's Automotive (GMHA).

The millionth Family II engine was exported in 1988 and Holden continued to demonstrate leadership with the introduction of an exciting range of models incorporating significant design, engineering and safety innovations. The joint venture was dissolved in 1995 and HEC was re-integrated into Holden's manufacturing operations. Holden was established as the GM Product Engineering Centre for the Asia Pacific region in 1996 and GMHA was renamed Holden Ltd in 1998.

Holden closed the millennium by winning total market leadership for the first time in 18 years. In 2002 it set an all-time sales record for an Australian carmaker. The opening in 2003 of a $400 million Global V6 engine plant in Port Melbourne represented GM's largest single investment in Australia in more than 20 years.

Holden Today

Today Holden employs more than 9500 people Australia-wide and has produced more than six million vehicles and four million engines. Holden is evolving from a domestic manufacturer into an internationally competitive global company, exporting its vehicles, engines and automotive expertise to a diverse worldwide market. The company's major operating facilities are located at Fishermans Bend (technical centre, administration and engine manufacturing plants, Dandenong (spare parts operation) and Lang Lang (automotive proving ground) in Victoria; as well as Elizabeth (vehicle manufacturing plant) in South Australia.

As the designer and manufacturer of Commodore, the nation's top-selling car since 1996, and the provider of a comprehensive, highly competitive model range that includes Australia's first all wheel drive vehicle, Holden offers products that satisfy the most demanding expectations. The Holden passenger model range is made up of Caprice, Statesman, Monaro, Adventra, Calais, Berlina and Commodore, Vectra, Zafira, Astra, Barina and Cruze. The light commercial vehicle range is comprised of Holden Ute, Crewman, Crewman Cross 6, Crewman Cross 8, One Tonner, One Tonner Cross 6, Rodeo and Combo. Although Holdens of the future will change in profile, be powered by different engines and introduce ever more innovative features, the process of change generated through such initiatives will be forever linked to the company's heritage by the lion emblem displayed proudly on its products.

General Motors Corporation
General Motors Corporation, the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, has been the global industry sales leader since 1931. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 24,000 people globally. It has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in 200 countries.

In 2004, GM sold nearly 9 million cars and trucks globally, up four per cent and the second-highest total in the company's history. GM's global headquarters are at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit. The GM Group of global partners includes Fiat Auto SpA of Italy, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd, Isuzu Motors Ltd, and Suzuki Motor Corp. of Japan, which are involved in various product, powertrain and purchasing collaborations. In addition, GM is the largest shareholder in GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. of South Korea. GM also has technology collaborations with BMW AG of Germany and Toyota Motor Corp. of Japan, and vehicle manufacturing ventures with several automakers around the world, including Toyota, Suzuki, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. of China, AVTOVAZ of Russia and Renault SA of France. GM's automotive brands are Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Holden, HUMMER, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Vauxhall. In some countries, the GM Group distribution network also markets vehicles manufactured by GM Daewoo, Isuzu, Fuji (Subaru) and Suzuki.

GM parts and accessories are sold under the GM, GM Goodwrench and ACDelco brands through GM Service and Parts Operations. GM engines and transmissions are marketed through GM Powertrain. GM operates one of the world's leading financial services companies, GMAC Financial Services, which offers automotive and commercial financing along with an array of mortgage and insurance products. GM's OnStar is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services.

In 2004, for the fourth consecutive year, GM set industry sales records in the United States, its largest market, for total trucks, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. In China, GM's second-largest market in 2004, GM's sales increased 27 per cent and set a company record.

Holden in Motorsports

Almost as soon as the first 48-215 Holdens began appearing on Australian roads, men began racing them. Post-war legends like **** Shaw, Jack Meyers and Ray Long wheeled their ‘Humpies' around circuits long gone from active service: Mount Druitt, Caversham, Fishermans Bend, Templestowe, Gnoo Blas and the like. The crowds flocked to see them take on the foreign Peugeots, Customlines, Zephyrs, Fiats and Morrises. A rivalry and a tradition of sedan racing in Australia was born.

Soon enough, the 48-215 was joined on the circuits by the FJ, then in the mid-50s by the FE. They were raced by the likes of Stan Jones, Leo Geoghegan, John French and many, many, others. The attractions of the Holdens as racing vehicles were many and familiar. They were relatively simple, strong and offered a good return in terms of horsepower for your dollar. Famous tuning names like Repco, Waggott and Perfectune developed around the Holden.

And with no unified national rules for sedan racing in the 1950s, the sky was the limit. At one stage Leo Geoghegan's Humpy boasted streamlining and underbody fairing, which pre-dated ground-effects technology by 20 years.

It wasn't only on tar where the Holdens made their mark. In 1953, Jones and fellow racing legends Lex Davison and Tony Gaze drove a 48-215 to 64th place overall in the Monte Carlo Rally.

The 50s was also the era of the Redex, Ampol and Mobilgas round-Australia trials, and Holden scored its share of success despite some strong international opposition, particularly from Volkswagen. It was also an era where home-built ‘specials' littered Australian racing and many of them used Holden power and components.

The end of the decade saw the introduction of Appendix J regulations to cover sedan racing nationwide and the establishment of a single-race Australian Touring Car Championship.

In 1960 an endurance race for production cars called the Armstrong 500 was held at Phillip Island and by 1963 the race had transferred to Bathurst. This was the decade in which the popularity of tin tops gradually usurped the position of open-wheel race cars as the country's pre-eminent form of motor sport.

Holden played a crucial role in that development. This was the era of the EH 179, the HD X2 and the great Monaro, with drivers like Norm Beechey, Brian Muir and Spencer Martin. It was also the era of the Supercar, with Ford and Holden going head to head with GT Falcon versus Monaro GTS. The privateer Monaro of Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland scored Holden's first victory on the mountain in 1968. McPhee drove the entire race (with the exception of one lap, to satisfy regulations) and was content to play a waiting game and allow the others to destroy themselves. And destroy themselves they did. The unexpected victory was to be the start of a love affair between Holden and the Great Race at Mount Panorama that continues to this day.


1856 Begins as J.A Holden & Co, saddlery business, Adelaide, South Australia

1913 Produces complete motorcycle sidecar bodies

1914 Produces its first complete custom-made car body

1917 Commences large-scale production of car bodies

1918 Holden & Frost sets up Holden's Motor Body Builders (HMBB)

1924 Opens Woodville, South Australia - most modern production line in Australia
Woodville sole local body supplier for GM vehicles

1925 Produces first closed bodied type cars
Becomes biggest bodybuilding operation outside North America, Continental Europe

1926 General Motors Australia (GMA) is formed

1928 'Lion-and-stone' emblem first used

1931 Merge of GMA and HMBB to General Motors-Holden's

1934 Produces first coupe-utility

1936 New headquarters, Fishermens Bend, Melbourne

1942 First Australian company to mass-produce internal combustion engines including Gypsy Major aeroplane, Gray Marine, and a 4-cylinder radial torpedo

1945 Responds to Australian Federal Government invitation to produce an Australian car

1948 Launch of Australia's first locally manufactured car by Prime Minister Ben Chifley

1953 May. Produces its 100,000th Holden, a 48-215(FX)

1956 January. Produces its 250,000th Holden, an FJ

1957 Produces first Holden station wagon, based on FE sedan
Produces its 1 millionth car body
Operations begin at Lang Lang Proving Ground

1958 October. Produces its 500,000th Holden, an FC

1962 Produces 1 millionth Holden, an EJ

1966 Australian safety first. Fits seat belts on all models

1967 Launches first small Holden, the Torana
Exports its 100,000th Holden

1968 Introduces HK range including Australia's first sports coupe, HK Monaro
Introduces energy-absorbing steering column to Australia

1969 Opens first Australian automotive safety design test centre at Lang Lang Proving Ground, Victoria
Exhibits first Australian-made V8 - the Holden Hurricane experimental car
Produces its 2 millionth Holden, an HT

1974 Produces its 3 millionth Holden, an HJ

1978 October. Launches its first Commodore, the VB

1981 Sir Laurence Hartnett drives 4 millionth Holden, a VC Commodore, off the line

1983 Builds its 200,000th engine, and exports its 250,000th by year's end

1990 Holden produces its fifth millionth vehicle, a VN Commodore

1991 VN Commodore retains title of Australia's most popular car

1992 Australian safety first. Introduces anti-lock brakes (ABS)

1993 Australian safety first. Introduces driver airbag system

1994 Unveils new corporate identity under single banner of 'Holden'
VR Commodore tops passenger car market

1995 Introduces new 3800 ECOTEC V6 engine

1997 Launches all new VT Commodore - wins Wheels Car of the Year

1998 Anniversary celebrations to commemorate 50 years since the launch of 'Australia's Own Car' - the 48-215

1999 Holden launches the all-new WH Statesman and Caprice luxury models
Holden exports its 3 millionth Family II engine and commences export of WH models to the Middle East

2000 The advanced ECOmmodore hybrid-electric concept car is unveiled
As Official Automotive Partner, Holden plays a major role in Sydney 2000 Olympics
The all-new VU Holden Ute is launched
Holden announces plans to establish a new V6 engine plant at Fishermans Bend (Vic)
Record production at Elizabeth (SA) and Fishermans Bend manufacturing plants
Holden Commodore is Australia's top-selling car for the fifth consecutive year

2001 The all-new XC Barina and Zafira compact wagon are launched
The 6 millionth Holden is produced at Elizabeth
Holden is awarded the Windscreens O'Brien safety award for its side impact research program
Holden is rated fourth (among Australia's top 100 companies) in Fairfax Good Reputation Index
The Monaro sports coupe is launched at the Sydney Motor Show
The XC Barina is named Wheels magazine Car of the Year
Holden and Kidsafe announce partnership to conduct first-ever national child restraint safety inspection program
Holden wins total market leadership for 2001 and Commodore is Australia's top-selling car for the sixth consecutive year

2002 Holden sets all-time sales record for an Australian carmaker, wins total market leadership for 2002
Commodore is Australia's top selling car for seventh consecutive year
Launch of new-design VY Commodore and Ute
All wheel drive production prototype, Cross8, unveiled at Melbourne Motor Show and crossover sports hatch SSX concept launched at Sydney Motor Show
Holden becomes strategic partner in General Motors Daewoo Auto & Technology Company, taking 42.1 per cent stake in the global company
Construction of high feature V6 engine plant building completed at Fishermans Bend - start of production planned for October 2003
Monaro wins the Australian Design Award in the Industrial Design Category and special accolade from Design Institute of Australian in its Industrial Design Selection
Holden commences child restraint research and test program with Monash University Accident Research Centre and runs first computer brain validation test for world-leading study
Holden's first major export program to US announced - 18,000 units per year for Monaro coupes prepared as the Pontiac GTO, Middle East export program for coupes also confirmed
Launch of all wheel drive Cruze
Announcement of $2 billion capital expenditure program from 2002 to 2006 - program expected to boost 2003 production by 21 per cent
All-new Combo compact van introduced
Holden rates fifth amongst Australia's Top 100 companies in Fairfax Reputation Index
Holden ranked No. 5 in Australia in the Reputation Quotient, a study of corporate reputations by Harris Interactive Australia
Holden named Australia's most trusted automotive manufacturer by Readers Digest
Holden Racing Team's Mark Skaife/Jim Richards V8 Supercar wins Bathurst 1000

2003 Plans announced to employ an extra 1000 people at Vehicle Manufacturing Operations in Elizabeth, SA, with commencement of a third shift
$200 million redevelopment of Holden's Fishermans Bend precinct announced
Launch of new generation Rodeo light commercial range in February
Holden continues emphasis on child safety, initiates free child seat inspection service
Launch of new generation ZC Vectra range
WK Caprice and Statesman introduced
Holden Innovation R&D centre opens
Turbocharged Astra SRi and Convertible introduced
Commodore SS Wagon introduced
Holden announces record 2002 revenues of almost $6 billion
Launch of 'reborn' Holden One Tonner cab chassis range in May
Third shift commences at Elizabeth Vehicle Operations in June
Launch of VY Series II Commodore, Berlina, Calais, Ute, One Tonner and Series III Monaro in August
Crewman four-door ute introduced
Adventra all wheel drive crossover wagon launched in September
October marks 50th anniversary of FJ Holden, 25th year of Commodore productionSource: Holden