Currently reading: From the archive: on this day in 1949
Holden 48-215 "admirably suited" to Australia, new UN driving rules, and eating your car

Australia vastly expanded its industries in World War Two as it fought off Japan. As a result, its economy boomed, indeed to the extent that it had to enact a huge immigration drive from Europe.

From this scene emerged the idea of Australia’s own car, and GM beat Ford with its proposal, wanting less government aid and being established there already, having bought big native coachbuilder Holden in 1931.

Prototypes of a medium saloon were created in Detroit and sent to Melbourne, along with a GM engineering team, after which a testing scheme was run to ensure suitability for this harsh territory.

What emerged in 1948 was the 48-215, a car of 92% local content.

It stood out through exceptional roominess (for a car sized akin to British GM’s Vauxhall Velox) and frugality, its 60bhp 2.2-litre inline six averaging an excellent 32mpg.

Holden 48-215 interior sketch

We gushed: “On good roads or rough corrugated surfaces, up hill and down dale, the performance is striking, and the ride, both in the front and back, is comfortable. One of the most impressive qualities is the ease with which high speed is reached and [held].

“The Holden corners well, can be accurately placed on bends and holds the road at speed. [The car feels] admirably suited to Australian conditions.”

No surprise that it was a mega hit, even more so after spawning a ‘ute’ in 1951, and swiftly Holden was dominating its home market.

New UN road rules suit cash-strapped Britain

Old car with 'GB' identification plate driving into rocky tunnel

The UN had been formed after World War Two with the aim of, well, uniting the world’s nations, and in its fourth year of work, it turned its attention to the roads.

All 59 member nations were invited to join a delegation in Geneva, along with most outsiders. Happily for cash-strapped Britain, most of the proposed rules were in line with our existing conventions.

Back to top

Coming into force in March 1952, the Convention on Road Traffic defined new rules for vehicle specifications, (dimensions, lighting, weights and more); rules of the road; signs and signals; and overseas travel (permits  and national identification plaques).

Why Hawaiian islanders ate their cars

Hawaiian farmers picking pineapples

Hawaii produced 90% of the world’s pineapples in the 1940s, despite its soil lacking bioavailable iron, without which they would grow poorly and go a sickly yellow.

The islanders’ novel solution was to spray the fruits with iron sulphate – which they obtained from dissolving old car parts in acid. (No, it’s not April...) One plantation used three cars per day, apparently.

Sounds unhealthy – not that Brits cared, with food rationing still being in force. Pineapples are thus sprayed so today – but thankfully Ford has been removed from the equation!

Add a comment…