The Holden Efijy concept was a Corvette-based homage to the classic FJ
The 48-215, of "Holden" was Australia's first-ever home-grown car
1963's Ute was based on the new EH model, and featured 2.4- and 2.9-litre engines mated to three-speed transmissions
Holden used Peter Brock to market the four-door Monaro GTS, which used a 5.7-litre V8
The WB of 1980 saw a split between Holden's passenger car and commercial vehicle ranges
The Vauxhall Senator base of the VN Commodore was clear to see
The HSV GTS 300 featured a 400bhp 5.7-litre V8
1969's Hurricane concept showcased many new technologies including a crude nav system operated by magnetic strips in the road
The Holden Commodore SS Group A used a 4.9-litre V8 and was built to homologate for touring car racing
Holden is also credited with coining to term 'Ute', short for Utility
Peter Brock was synonymous with racing Holdens for nearly 40 years
The Holden FJ - shown here as a ute - has become one of Australia's most iconic models
Holden Astra models were originally badge-engineered Nissan Pulsars, but were later rebadged Opels
The Monaro is one of Holden's most revered nameplates. This third-gen model returned in 2001 after a 24 year hiatus
The original Holden Cruze was a rebadged Suzuki Ignis, but later models were based on the more familiar Chevrolet model
The Holden Jack8 was a high-powered concept based on the Jackaroo - an Australian-market Isuzu Trooper
Holden, alongside Ford, are the stalwarts of the Australian Touring Car and V8 Supercar championships
The Torana Torana GTR-X concept was close to production, but bosses were unable to determine a large enough market
Despite the European interest in passenger car-like utes, unashamedly commercial models still sell in large numbers
The Zeta platform which underpins the Caprice is shared with the Camaro
The Commodore has, since 1978, been a central part of Holden's range
The Commodore range spawned estate and ute models as well as the saloon
Hot versions of the ute, called Maloo, are particularly tail-happy with a big V8 up front and little weight over the rear wheels
The UK market has recently seen a small number of Holden imports, such as this latest model - to be badged Vauxhall VXR8
The VXR8 is also sold in estate form in the UK
In its native market, the Holden Special Vehicles-developed model carries the HSV GTS badge
This week, General Motors announced it was to end production of Holden vehicles in Australia by 2017. As the firm closes its plants, it will see an end to a 109-year history of car and component production.
The future of Holden is currently unknown: it will support a sales and parts business, but GM has not yet confirmed if Holdens will continue to be built elsewhere, or will simply become rebadged versions of GM’s other products.
What is known, is that Holden has a huge heritage, and is credited with creating Australia’s first car. But its history stretches back further. It was originally founded in 1856 as a saddle manufacturer but branched into the car industry as founder James Holden’s grandson Edward joined the firm.
Edward brought to the organisation his interest in cars, and the firm began production of motorcycle sidecar bodies and later, car bodies. By the 1920s Holden Motor Body Builders was supplying 12,000 bodies a year to Ford and GM. But the Great Depression saw the market collapse: in 1930 it built 34,000 units, a year later it made just 1651.
In 1931, HMBB was bought by GM which merged it with GM Australia. It was this new firm, General Motors-Holden that built Australia’s first car in 1948.
It might have been originally conceived as a Chevrolet for the American market – and rejected on the basis it was too small – but Holden made the 48-215 its own.
It wasn’t a knocked-down kit: Holden established its own foundry and forge, and the range grew to include sedan, business sedan and panel van models. In its pickup guise, it coined the ‘ute’ tag. The 48-215 was marketed simply as ‘Holden’, and more than 120,000 were sold in five years.
Holden’s second model, the FJ, launched in 1953. It was essentially a facelift of the 48-215, featuring bolder styling and its 2.2-litre straight-six saw power boosted from 60 to 65bhp. Almost 170,000 were sold in three years, and it remains one of Australia’s most iconic models and in 2005, inspired the Efijy, a Corvette-based concept.
The launch of the FE in 1956, and a revised version called the FC two years later, spearheaded Holden’s growth overseas. But despite sales in Southeast Asia and large parts of Africa, the firm’s focus was on its domestic market where it enjoyed a 50 per cent market share.
In 1960 was the launch of its third all-new model, the FB, just months ahead of the unveiling of the Ford Falcon. Against the Ford, the Holden looked dated, even if it was considered to be the superior car. In 1962 Holden responded with the launch of the EK, starting a programme of almost annual revisions lasting until 1968.
During the manufacturer of the FB-based models, Holden began assembling Vauxhall Vivas, proving demand was there for its own mid-sized saloon, the Torana. In later incarnations, it captured the car buyers' attention in various saloon car championships, and in 1974 it received a 5.0-litre V8 – all in a package only 350mm longer than a contemporary Viva.
In 1968 Holden ended production of Chevrolets and Pontiacs, and announced its next new model: the HK. It introduced a number of new names for its variants, including Monaro – a name given to its sporting muscle cars. Holden’s sales were on the up. In 1969 the firm built its two millionth car, an upscale HK Brougham, just 10 years after producing its ten millionth car.
A later incarnation of the HK, the HT, was the recipient of the first Australian designed mass-produced V8.
By the launch of the HQ in the early 1970s, Holden was designing and producing all of its cars domestically, although by the end of the decade some models were designed overseas. The HQ was an instant success, selling 485,600 in three years.
It also spawned a Mazda-badged model, the Roadpacer AP, which featured a rotary engine. Sales were slow due to a huge price tag, considerable thirst and poor performance, but it remains the only production GM model to be fitted with a rotary engine.
In 1975 the Vauxhall Kadett-based Gemini was launched, and in 1978 the Commodore was introduced. It was loosely based on the Vauxhall Carlton, but after initial sales success, started to fall behind the larger and more spacious Ford Falcon.
The 1980s saw Holden take a range of models from Isuzu in order to shore up its presence in a challenging domestic market. The situation worsened with the launch of superior products from Ford and the rise of Japanese manufacturers in the market. Much was made of the launch of the latest Commodore, the VK, but it was little more than a restyling exercise. The adoption of a Nissan engine was controversial, but necessary due to the complexity in converting Holden’s own six-cylinder to run on unleaded – now a legal requirement.
The increasing cost of the powertrain due to unfavourable exchange rates compounded Holden’s financial woes and triggered a restructure and a separation of its car and engine businesses. The next decade saw more models imported to supplement the brand’s range.
Throughout the 1990s, Holden’s own model range centred on the Commodore which received various revisions. The VT Commodore of 1997 was a huge success, becoming the biggest-selling Commodore to date and reaping the rewards of buyers' dislike of the latest Ford Falcon’s styling. The Commodore was related to the Vauxhall Omega, and marked the return of the Monaro nameplate – a model which was officially imported to the UK by Vauxhall.
The following decade saw Holden overtaken by Toyota as Australia’s number one car maker. Losses continued to mount, and GM sought Chapter 11 reorganisation which saw Holden’s significant stake in Daewoo relinquished. Nevertheless, a large number of rebadged Daewoos were sold as Holdens.
With a small number of locally built models and a declining market share, the writing was on the wall for Holden. Workers agreed to pay cuts and future pay freezes, and bosses were understood to be in funding negotiations with the government.
With the announcement of Holden’s production ceasing, a rich and varied heritage comes to an end. It may not be the last we see of the iconic lion badge, but it is unlikely another Holden will be built in the country that gave birth to it.