It’s a sorry day in Australia today, and not just for the recent bushfire devastation. GM has delivered the final coup de grace to its Holden brand, announcing that it’ll be “retired” from 2021. A brand once optimistically branded as “Australia’s Own” that commanded well over 50% of all Australian car sales will soon be no more.
It’s the end of an extraordinary saga of mostly post-war success: in 1931 GM bought a former saddler and coachbuilder called JA Holden and turned it to making fully built cars from many sources — Chrysler, Willys, Hillman, Humber and Morris among them.
After the war, it turned initially to making only GM group cars (Vauxhalls as well as Chevrolets and Pontiacs), but the combined demands of independent-minded ex-servicemen and a government desperate to expand its car industry led to the launch of the first Holden-branded car (and van and pick-up truck) in 1948.
The car, retrospectively called the FX and rightly believed by eager buyers to be packed with unique Australian durability engineering to help it survive bush roads and bush drivers (although it was actually based on a discarded proposal for a small Chevy) was succeeded by a long line of tough, uncomplicated models that always echoed the GM styling mores of the time, gradually accompanied in the showrooms by Holden-badged Japanese and Korean models.