original 48-215, utalitarian but tough...
The Holden and
Frost Emblem was designed in 1928
by George Rayner Hoff
November 29, 1948
and the first Holden rolls off the
Fisherman's Bend line. A day that
would live in infamy for Aussie Holden
In 1856 James Alexander Holden established
a leather and saddlery business on the corner
of King William and Rundle Streets in Adelaide,
South Australia. in 1885 it combined with
the carriage builder Henry Adolf Frost to
became the famous "Holden and Frost".
In 1910 Holden & Frost began trimming
motor vehicles and in 1914 they built their
first one off car body for an imported Lancia
chassis. Larger contracts followed but ironically
the first major contract was for Dodge bodies
(a later competitor).
By 1917 the Australian government had placed
an import embargo on complete vehicles, the
First World War having almost entirely involved
Britain's industry, and German U Boat Captains
were doing their best to ensure that very
few cargo ships leaving North America reached
their intended destination.
These conditions, combined with the need to
save valuable cargo space, restricted imports
to chassis and forced local vehicle agents
to look to local firms to provide the bodies.
In 1919 Edward Wheeldon Holden registered
"Holden's Motor Body Builders" as a separate
company specialising in car bodies. At the
time they built bodies for Overland, Chevrolet,
Durant, Hupmobile and Dodge, and by 1923 they
were producing over 12,000 bodies per year.
In 1924 "Holden's Motor Body Builders" became
the sole Australian body builder for General
Motors vehicles and had an output of over
22,000 bodies (over 11,000 for GM) in 65 different
The famous "Lion and Stone" symbol
was designed in 1928 by George Rayner Hoff,
and represented the legend of man's invention
of the wheel. It was subsequently fitted to
all Holden bodies and, although undergoing
minor changes over the years, remains to this
During the 'Great Depression' in 1930, production
fell from 34,000 units per year to a mere
1651 and, in 1931, General Motors were able
to buy the entire Holden's Motor Body Builders
and merge it with their North American operation
to form General Motors - Holdens.
was not entirely motivated by taking advantage
of the company when it was at an all time
low but was mainly occasioned by the Australian
government freezing the currency so that money
couldn't leave the country during the depression.
The money to pay GM in the United States for
the previously imported chassis was trapped
in Australia and so was used to finance the
buy out which in part took the form of swapping
the ordinary shares held by 1550 Australian
shareholders in Holdens Motor Body Builders
for 561,000 6% 1 pound preference shares (ie:
6% of the value of their shares each year)
in the new company.
This made the paid up capital of the new company
561,000 pounds Australian capital (37% of
the total) and 965,800 pound U.S. capital
(63% of the total).
In addition there was
tension between the Australian operation and
the United States with management in the United
States complaining "Amazing people these Australians;
they just won't do as they're told" (Inness
Randolph head of General Motors Australia
to Larry Hartnett in 1929) and a merger/takeover
was also a way to solve this little problem.
In 1934 Larry Hartnett (later Sir Laurence
Hartnett) was sent to Australia by GM as Managing
Director of the Australian company with a
directive to either make it profitable or
close it down.
Fortunately Hartnett respected
the resourceful nature of the Australian operation
and stated "The economies achieved by Holden's
at Woodville put them, in many ways, years
ahead of the rest of the world in manufacturing
techniques. The resourcefulness and initiative
of the Australians in this industry is beyond
By 1935 the world economy had strengthened
and under the leadership of Larry Hartnett
GM-H lifted production to 23,129 bodies and
a profit of 650,000 pounds. The company also
introduced the "Sloper" to the world which
was the fore runner of the hatchback and led
the rest of the world in producing the first
all steel bodies.
In 1936 Larry Hartnett began planning the
complete production of a "wholly Australian
car", however another World War intervened,
with the (Menzies) government of the time
putting these plans on hold. After the war
the Government asked for proposals from any
local company for production of a complete
car - and General Motors Holdens were the
only company to reply.
On September 20, 1944 Sir Laurence Hartnett
and Mr Jack Horn of General Motors - Holdens
made a presentation entitled "Australia -
GM's Performance and Results - Manufacture
of Complete Motor-Cars in Australia" to the
Executive Post War Planning Committee of General
Motors in New York. This meeting gained approval
in principal for GM-H to commence the process
of designing and building an Australian car.
A major production which was rehearsed for
3 weeks in New York and involved 18 stenographers,
7 photographers and photographic reproduction
men, 2 statisticians plus experts from GM
finance, materials and manufacturing divisions
all with the aim of convincing the committee
of approving the project in principal, it
was finally approved in November 1944.
But it almost did not eventuate, with the
US deciding that it would not invest in Australia
(despite making hefty profits from its Australian
operation) and only when the Commonwealth
Bank came up with 2,500,000 pounds and the
Bank of Adelaide came up with the balance
of 500,000 pounds did the project finally
get off the ground.
Today, almost every generation X Australian
would have owned or driven a Holden at some
time and the company can rightfully claim
to be 'Australia's favorite Car'.