Welcome to gminsidenews.com
Can we continue to use your data to tailor ads for you?

Our partners will collect data and use cookies for ad personalization and measurement.

Learn more about how we use cookies

Sign-up now! It's free and easy. Registration ►
/ Forum / Press Room / GM Holden News Holden No. 2 Rediscovered in Suburban Garage!

Holden No. 2 Rediscovered in Suburban Garage!

08:52 PM 05-21-2011
A find of national significance and a rare glimpse of history emerges.

Source: Melbourne Sunday Age, 22 May 2011.

Image: Melbourne Age 22 May 2011 - Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

BEHIND a small white garage door at the end of a neat, geranium-lined concrete driveway in inner Melbourne sits a grey, nondescript sedan.

Bought for a song from the estate of a former Holden worker, the first clue that it was the missing link in the evolution of the modern Australian automobile was a number ''2'' stamped on a plate under the bonnet.

Aficionados thought the GM Prototype Holden No. 2, one of three shipped from the US in 1946 to develop the first Australian family sedan, was lost forever. But it was one of several old Holdens bought by Damon Donnelly's father, Peter, for about $15,000 two years ago in a job lot from a deceased estate.

Damon Donnolly discovered this rare 1946 Holden prototype among his late father's collection.

''We didn't know what it was,'' Damon Donnelly says. ''She's pretty rough. I don't know if she's been indoors all the time, but there's only a bit of surface rust, so she's in good condition.''

Another clue to this car's significance was that the rear vision mirror is up near the roofline - in the later production car it's halfway down the split windscreen. Also, registration papers show ''Chevrolet'' scratched out, and replaced with ''Holden''.

Then there are those squared-off front guards, which lack the graceful curve of what was to become the 48-215 or, more affectionately, the FX.

Click for more photos
Holden's Missing Link
The identification tag on the rare Holden 1946 GM prototype.

..Underneath, the differential in between the rear wheels still has its set of adjustment bolts so engineers could adjust the gearing. Like Prototype No. 3, No. 2 was thought to have been long lost to the scrapyard.

Prototype No. 1, rebuilt after it was damaged by fire, is packed away in plastic at Canberra's National Museum of Australia, but will go on show in a couple of weeks. According to senior curator Daniel Oakman, so strong is the car's appeal that it is the most sought-after exhibit not on show, alongside Phar Lap's heart.

Unlike its now pristine sibling, No. 2 is no beauty. The paint is patchy and dull, and the hand-welded seams - folded over so the surfaces could be ground flush - jag across panels.

The Holden rarity is now on sale for $1.2 million. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer
The doors and bonnet are an ill fit, and the roof is pock-marked where it curves, revealing the laborious process in which its shape was beaten from a flat sheet of metal.

If the car is officially recognised as one of the original prototypes, it will be ''extremely significant'', Mr Oakman said.

According to Mr Donnelly, records that came with the car show the prototypes arrived in Sydney in December, 1946, and were driven to Melbourne's Fishermans Bend on New Year's Day, 1947, where the original New South Wales registration plates were changed to Victorian ones - JP-480, JP-481 and JP-482.
The Age: Special FX Masterpiece

The Melbourne Age Video Online

At a glance
First 48-215 or FX Holden
Definitive model for millions of cars
Australian production with American styling

Australian National Museum Collection: Holden No. 1

Sole survivor a national symbol - Australian National Museum, Canberra

The early model Holden car is one of the most recognisable cultural artefacts of 1950s Australia.

This particular car is the only survivor of three test sedans which became the definitive model for millions of Holden cars.

The Holden was a vivid manifestation of Australian dreams of prosperity, made more intense by years of wartime austerity.

More than just a car, the early Holdens were complex symbols of freedom and independence, as well as suburban conformity.

Holden No 1: JP480 in the National Museum in Canberra.

Holden Prototype Car No. 1, made in 1946. Photo: Dragi Markovic.

From America to Australia
Prototype No. 1 was built by hand in 1946 by American and Australian engineers at the General Motors workshop in Detroit.

After months of durability and performance tests in America, three prototypes were shipped to Australia.

Legend has it that the cars were driven under cover of darkness to the Fishermen's Bend factory in Melbourne.

Registered as JP-480, Prototype No.1 was tested on a circuit east of Melbourne specifically designed to replicate Australian driving conditions.

Jack Rawnsley, one of the Australian engineers who travelled to America to construct the Holden prototypes in 1946, with the Holden Prototype No. 1 when it arrived at the National Museum in 2004. Photo: George Serras.

The Holden name
Technicians continued to make minor technical modifications to the car, while General Motors-Holden's executives searched for a name for the new car.

After much deliberation, they decided on the 'Holden', in honour of Sir Edward Holden, the company's first chairman.

Other names considered were GeM, Austral, Melba, Woomerah, Boomerang, and Emu. The car narrowly avoided the name 'Canbra', a phonetic spelling of Canberra.

Holden history
The first Holden rolled off the assembly line at Fishermen's Bend on 29 November 1948.

Many saw the event as evidence of national maturity, proof that Australia had escaped its pastoral beginnings and embraced the modern industrial age.

The Holden 48-215, commonly known as the FX, was a robust and economical family sedan, designed for the Australian environment.

Detail, Holden Prototype Car No. 1. Photo: Dragi Markovic.

Australian production
Combining local production with American styling and technical simplicity, the car captivated many Australians.

Public reaction to the prospect of an Australian-built car had been extraordinary, with around 18,000 people signing up for a Holden without knowing a single detail about the car.

Holdens soon dominated the roads. By 1958 sales accounted for over 40 per cent of total car sales in Australia.

A million had been sold by 1962 and, despite market competition from the Ford Falcon, another million were sold over the next six years.

Prototype No. 1 history
Following the public release of the sedans, General Motors-Holden's fitted Prototype No. 1 with a new engine and sold it to Holden foreman Arthur Ling.

The car was later traded to a Holden dealership in Morwell, Victoria, where it remained for 40 years, falling steadily into disrepair.

In 1999, Melbourne-based Holden enthusiasts Gavin and Graham Strongman purchased the car. They spent 12 months meticulously restoring the vehicle to its final pre-production form, which incorporated many of the progressive changes implemented by General Motors-Holden during the testing phase.

Once restored, the prototype was purchased by Ian Metherall, who sold the car to the National Museum in 2004.

The purchase was made with the assistance of the National Cultural Heritage Account.

This is an edited extract of an essay by Daniel Oakman which appeared in the Captivating and Curious publication.
09:10 PM 05-21-2011
Kinda cool to find this kind of a historic vehicle after so many years.
09:13 PM 05-21-2011
That needs to be bought by Holden or some Museum if this guy is going to let it go. Its priceless
09:58 PM 05-21-2011
Woo... Boomerang and Emu?

Now that would have been a legacy. :D
10:07 PM 05-21-2011
What would have been worse was calling it Canbra. Fortunately the name they chose and the logo are now deeply entrenched in the Australian psyche: putting the Lion and Globe on the car is all that is necessary to identify any new Holden.

Kindest thing GM ever did was cut Holden loose from the divisional fold, but keep it a close part of the family. Fortunately with Mark Reuss and people like Alan Batey who are ex-Holden MDs in the GM halls of power we have people with a good understanding of Holden and it's position in Australia, and how important it can be to GM. They would value it's free-agent positioning.
10:12 PM 05-21-2011
Originally Posted by BBDOS CV8
What would have been worse was calling it Canbra.
That definitely has a lingerie vibe.

The "Cairns" would have presented a bit of a problem for those of us in NA as well as it's know as a bit of a tongue twister.
10:48 PM 05-21-2011
He wants 1.2 million for it - I think that is a lot too much. It is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it and I think around 500,00 to 750,000 would be about right. I do hope it ends up in a museum especially the Fox Car Collection if it is a private one as their vehicles are shown and used occasionally. I remember seeing their car transporter with three 300SL's on the back (two Gullwings and a convertible). This is a link to that collection http://www.foxcollection.org.au/the_cars.html .they are in Melbourne.
11:01 PM 05-21-2011
Lets hope Holden can get their hands on this to preserve a key piece of not only GM Holden memorabilia, but also a piece of Australian Automotive history.
12:51 AM 05-22-2011
What a find! I'm so excited by this, I'm tempted to go to my olden Holden books, but an assignment beckons.... :(

Look closely at the front lip of the bonnet where the h o l d e n badging is.
See the 3 pock marks? I think you'll find that JP-481 was originally badged G M H prior to the (fortuitous) selection of Holden for the name.

For those interested I recommend the books by Don Loffler & Norm Darwin. I also have the Sir Laurence Harnett autobiography though I find it a little self-serving.
10:24 AM 05-22-2011
I love these kinds of stories!! It warms my old Car loving heart!
04:38 PM 05-22-2011
Originally Posted by holdenboy
Lets hope Holden can get their hands on this to preserve a key piece of not only GM Holden memorabilia, but also a piece of Australian Automotive history.
While it would be great if Holden purchased this car, I'm sure whoever buys it will make sure to preserve it... especially at that price tag.
06:40 PM 05-22-2011
Dr Terry
I wouldn't be getting too excited about this car just yet.

It first surfaced early last year & there were kerfuffles on several Holden forums discussing various aspects of this car. One minute the car was on display, then it was quickly put in storage & many so-called experts were not allowed to view the car. The owner then deleted his many photos & comments from these forums.

Some people allege that the car is a later body with some prototype panels fitted. He does have a lot of early factory paperwork which belong to the no. 2 prototype though.

I have never seen the car, I'm only relating what I've heard.

Dr Terry
09:44 PM 05-22-2011
Sure it was this car, Dr T? I remember a kerfuffle in Humpy circles, but I thought that was to do with a purported Australian-made (no 6?) first-off-the-line?

I mean, if this isn't legit, it's a bona-fide effort to defraud with a fake ID plate and number plates. If someone was going to shell out a cool $mill for it, they'd want provenance demonstrated. That's jail time, attempting to pass off a car worth maybe $10,000 at the outside as something a hundred times as valuable.

If the JP481 plates aren't original, it would be fairly easy to determine through Vicroads if they'd been re-issued and to whom. With the panels and structure on the car it should be easy to determine. There's known differences even in the first year of manufacture, which would be post- prototype stage. The turret and guard pressings on my Ute are bronzed together - I wonder how they're attached on this? Same with the engines - allegedly the early castings were from Canada and are different.

It's always possible that the plates and ID tags have been removed from one body and attached to another, but if the prototype front sheetmetal survived, why not the shell?

In my Don Loffler book it states proto no. 3 was known to have been written off, but the whereabouts of No 2 were unknown.
10:55 PM 05-22-2011
Dr Terry
Originally Posted by BBDOS CV8
Same with the engines - allegedly the early castings were from Canada and are different.
This is probably the biggest Holden myth of all time: the infamous Canadian block!!

AFAIK, with the exception of the US prototypes, all Holden Grey motors were cast at Fishermans Bend.

Sure the early blocks, up to around 1951, had thicker bore walls, which were much sought after for touring car racing back then, but these & all the later engine blocks were all cast in Australia by GMH. Many researchers over many years have sought out the elusive Canadian Holden blocks to no avail.

Dr Terry
11:53 PM 05-22-2011
Originally Posted by BBDOS CV8
Sure it was this car, Dr T?
It was this car, I recognise it from one of the forums Dr Terry is more than likely refering too.