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Test drive: Holden's First Car

Tony Davis
14 March 2008
www.drive.com.au

It's sixty years since the first Holden rolled off the production line. Tony Davis test drives the car that launched the Australian motor industry.

As road tests go, it wasn't ideal. I was restricted to closed roads around factory buildings with the nervous "owner" sitting next to me watching every move.

It was more a case of exploring his limits rather than the vehicle's - "slow down" and "stop here, someone's walking out!" were favourite expressions - but it was still a magical experience.

Why? Because it involved what is possibly the most valuable Australian motor vehicle in existence, the car that Holden calls Old Number One.

It's the very machine a starched-looking Ben Chifley stood beside in November 1948, clutching his hat and declaring in one of those curiously English-sounding, squeaky black-and-white Australian voices: "Good luck to the Holden car and good luck to all that ride therein."

It was the very Gawler cream-coloured sedan that launched a successful Australian motor industry. Nobody else had wholly manufactured a unique car here as anything other than a short prelude to bankruptcy.

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My VE Commodore Omega Review

Isszy
13 March 2008
www.gminsidenews.com

The car in question is a 2007 Commodore Omega from Thrifty car rentals. It has just over 15,000km on the clock. It is part of our family until my wife's car comes back from the panel beaters.

My first impression of the car was clouded by the fact that they delivered it 2 hours late and so I was late for work.

Anyway, the car seemed noisy compared with my Berlina, and the handling seemed really sloppy. A quick stop at a servo showed that the right rear had about 12psi in it, so I pumped them all up to 38psi and the handling and ride improved dramatically.

The rear window is really small, and most of the view in the rear view mirror seems to be pillar. It did not take long to get used to though.

I know this is the base model, but the plastics seemed dull and hard, and look like they would attract dust. Now after a few days I am getting used to it, but I like the VY interior much better. The run to work (about 15km in suburban traffic) was uneventful, and I could have been driving just about anything.

To add some spice, I took a lunch break the next day up Mountain Highway from The Basin to Olinda. This is a nice windy mountain road about 10km long, where I spent many a night driving to put my kids to sleep when they were babies – they liked the car and usually went to sleep when all else failed.

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You've come a long way baby! 1948 Holden 48-215 (FX) and 2008 VE Commodore Omega
 

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Re: 60th Anniversary Review: 1948 Holden 48-215 vs 2008 Holden Commodore Omega

Very British looking. Probably had a small 4 in it. Good looking, but WOW...they have made major improvements!! Send them here!!
 

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Re: 60th Anniversary Review: 1948 Holden 48-215 vs 2008 Holden Commodore Omega

Very British looking. Probably had a small 4 in it. Good looking, but WOW...they have made major improvements!! Send them here!!
No it had a small six in in. Australian's have never really been big on small fours, even now the best selling car is the commodore with either a 3.6 v6 of 6.0 v8
 

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In 1948 the junior GM cars were in the last year of the pre-war bodystyles, while Cadillac and the senior Buicks already swiched to the new body style. Studebaker, Hudson, Kaiser-Fraiser, Tucker (heh), they were all new by 1948.

This was, what I presume to be, a clean slate Holden design. Why debut looking old?
 

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The first Holden is actually based on a pre war deseign for a small chevy.

Holden did have a clean slate design but this was cheaper.

Must some of you have a go at anything Holden?
sheeesh.
 

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The thing to remember about the 48/215 is that it was designed to be affordable transport for the masses so it utilised a borrowed Chev design and was built to be a low cost car for Australian families.

The FJ update which followed featured a revised grille (similar to the one used on the Efijy concept which was meant to be a 21st interpretation of the FJ, you can see what I mean in my avatar) to take some of the utilitarian look out of the car, and each model that followed was more up to date.

A lot of cars released in the late 1940s were simply a continuation of pre war designs which simply underwent final validation before being put into production.

Its a car thats held in high esteem here in Australia and is quite possibly kick started the idea of building cars that were designed and engineered here, as opposed to just assembled here.
 

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Appropriately it looks like an earlier Chevy with a Buick grille.

Happy 60th Holden!
 

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The thing to remember about the 48/215 is that it was designed to be affordable transport for the masses so it utilised a borrowed Chev design and was built to be a low cost car for Australian families.
The FJ update which followed featured a revised grille (similar to the one used on the Efijy concept which was meant to be a 21st interpretation of the FJ, you can see what I mean in my avatar) to take some of the utilitarian look out of the car, and each model that followed was more up to date.

A lot of cars released in the late 1940s were simply a continuation of pre war designs which simply underwent final validation before being put into production.

Its a car thats held in high esteem here in Australia and is quite possibly kick started the idea of building cars that were designed and engineered here, as opposed to just assembled here.


My mother's 48-215 was a rusted-out rocket that went like the clappers!!!!

It was the early "knee-action" shock absorbers built into the top wishbone/upper mounting point. It had a massive hand formed anti-roll bar that was affixed within the lower front wishbones. You could rag out a set of 5-90 x 15 Cross Ply tyres in a very short period of time.

It was rusted out across the front foot-well adjacent to the gearbox demountable hatch. The under door sills were full of bog.

The body twisted so badly when cornering hard that the front doors would fly open - "it almost rubbed the door handles on the bitumen!!!!!"

It was started by the famous 6 volt system, it was 'cammed", it was capable of being "double declutched at 40 mph into bottom gear", it was expertedly repainted a two-tone green by the previous owner with a course-haired broom, and the handbrake handle was the best place for mum to hang her handbag.

Parking on steep incline/declines meant driving the front wheel into the gutter or placing the 9" red brick behind a wheel!!!

And two hard applications on the brakes meant that you'd better have a lot of faith in the gearbox to slow you down!!

And above all, it was a much loved means of family transport. It's final goodbye was felt by all as you thought you'd parted with an integral member of the family. It is a fond memory1

Then I got the FJ ute!!

Mike
 

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My brother had a couple of humpies. They were good honest vehicles of the day but he always wanted dad's cars an Aniversary Customline and then a Chrysler royal (Australias followed the Canadian ones I believe. The "rust and slime" was an ex police veichle and went like a cut cat. It was police chalk blue with darker blue on the roof and the rear mudguard.
 

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I think the FX (yes yes it was originally called that) is one of the coolest holdens ever, the FJ often gets picked over it, but it just wasn't the first like the FX. I suppose the Effex doesn't sound as cool as Effijy... oh well. Oh and thanks Buick it was your finest work.......
 

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I think the FX (yes yes it was originally called that) is one of the coolest holdens ever, the FJ often gets picked over it, but it just wasn't the first like the FX.
Debut model was the 48/215 later followed by the FX which became Holden's first 'Series II' update I guess, then the FJ with its simplified toothy grille. From memory the earlier bladed grille comprised about 11 unique BAS segments which drove the parts guys bonkers

Like many others my first car was an old FJ, a paddock basher bought for $4. Humpys with their monocoque 'Aerobuilt' bodies were light and fast enough in their day, able to keep the big cars honest. In 1953 an Oz-entered FX surprised many by proving very competitive in the famed Monte Carlo Rally. There was a massive amount of aftermarket hot-up parts available for early Holdens and they could be modified to go crazy fast, for example (Ron) 'Harrops Howler' 6-cyl FJ drag car which for some time in the 70's was the quickest stock bodied 4 door in the world



The old style aftermarket gear for the original 132 & 138 cid OHV 'Grey' six even included two types of twin-cam crossflow head conversions - from either Merv Waggott or the less expensive Repco 'High Power'. The former of which IIRC doubled the stock hp, at least, with the Geogehan's Bathurst-winning 'aero' Waggott (below) towards 200 hp in the 1950s and timed mph of upper 130s?



My 2 pics of a great early model Holden. Its engine is enlarged to 2500cc and also sports the rare Waggott DOHC



 

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Hi Guys.

The 'when did the FX first get its name' debate could go on for weeks. There are many theories, a few with documentary evidence. But I'm not going there.

nota said "The old style aftermarket gear for the original 132 & 138 cid OHV 'Grey' six even included two types of twin-cam crossflow head conversions - from either Merv Waggott or the less expensive Repco 'High Power'."

The Phil Irving designed Repco 'Hi Power' head was not twin OHC. It was cross-flow, but still OHV & if memory serves me, used the same rocker gear as his Vincent HRD motorcycle head.

Dr Terry.
 

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Hi Guys.

The 'when did the FX first get its name' debate could go on for weeks. There are many theories, a few with documentary evidence. But I'm not going there.

nota said "The old style aftermarket gear for the original 132 & 138 cid OHV 'Grey' six even included two types of twin-cam crossflow head conversions - from either Merv Waggott or the less expensive Repco 'High Power'."

The Phil Irving designed Repco 'Hi Power' head was not twin OHC. It was cross-flow, but still OHV & if memory serves me, used the same rocker gear as his Vincent HRD motorcycle head.

Dr Terry.
Correct about the Repco Head.

And the 48/215 - the 215 represented the original 2150cc grey engine and that was the 138ci was after they put the 'bore bar" through later blocks - FB???

Mike
 

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Correct about the Repco Head.

And the 48/215 - the 215 represented the original 2150cc grey engine and that was the 138ci was after they put the 'bore bar" through later blocks - FB???

Mike
Hi Mike.

No, not to my understanding.

The 215 was GM model code for 4-door 'Standard' sedan. The FX Ute was a 50/2106 where 2106 was the GM model code for a ute. 2104 was a panel van, 225 Special sedan & so on.

The 132.5 ci Grey 6-cyl was actually 2171 cc & the 138 ci (FB to EJ) was 2262 cc.

Dr Terry
 
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