The U.S. Project Cadet which was set up under MacPherson [he of “MacPherson Strut” fame] in 1945 as means of designing a small Chevrolet again for the post-War market. This project was cancelled a year or so later, and in reality there was no cross-relationship between “Cadet” and the “Australian Car Programme”, code AMX, as it was called by General Motors Overseas Operations. Having said that, the lessons learned with the pre-War 195-Y-13/15/17 were used by MacPherson’s team, as well as the Australian car. An observant reader would have noticed in 1948 that G.M.O.O.’s magazine, General Motors World March-April 1948 referred to the A.C.P., and therefore would have been aware that there was something afoot going on. However, the British weekly motoring magazine, The Autocar December 3 1948 issue, carried the first British detailed reference to “Australia’s New Car- the 2.17-litre HOLDEN”. This was a two-page article with photogrpahs of the 48-215 just launched, the only rego that we know of being KY-442 on test in Victoria. The official announcement had been made about the new car in Melbourne on Monday, November 29 1948, though the magazine commented that reports had been received since 1945 of the origin and progress of a scheme to build an all-Australian car, and news of the project had been recorded from time to time in The Autocar. The article gave detailed specifications of the new car, and indicated that the electrical equipment was by General Motors divisions: Delco-Remy and A.C. Incidentally, the list price in Sterling of the first 48-215s was stated to be £540. It was also revealed that a member of staff of the magazine was shown photographs of the three prototypes in DETROIT in the summer of 1946. The capital expenditure of £2 million or so on plant included British machines and tools costing £100,000. The The Autocar December 31 1948 issue carried a photograph of Prime Minister Ben Chiffley standing next to a brand-new car, and quoted GM-Holden’s Managing Director, Harold Bettle, as confirming that the few parts imported included starter motors and generators from Canada [McKinnon Industries Limited, St. Catherine’s, Ontario], and electrical instruments from Britain, save for the batteries which were Australian-made. The British content was therefore General Motors Limited, Delco-Remy & Hyatt Division, London, starter motors and generators, plus instruments, oil pumps, fuel pumps, and possibly A.C., spark plugs, from GM Limited’s AC Sphinx Division in Dunstable, Bedfordshire. It was as a consequence of this British parts input that one of the very first 48-215 cars was shipped to Britain for trials purposes, and probably registered in Bedfordshire. This became the first Holden ever to be exported to the U.K.
The next reference to the Holden was in The Motor January 5 1949, which carried photographs of JP-480 on test, plus the Woodville assembly line, and the Holden engine on test. It was confirmed that the fuel pump was an A.C. Mechanical type, and electrical system, 6-volt Delco.
The Motor June 15 1949 carried a three-page article “AN AUSTRALIAN CAR OF AMERICAN DESIGN-THE 2.2-litre HOLDEN”. Reference was made to the “small model which Chevrolet were reported to have developed has never yet been put into production, but the Central Engineering Department of the General Motors Corporation has recently produced a brand-new design, the Holden, for manufacture in Australia”. This reference was not to the pre-War 195-Y- series, but the abortive post-War Project Cadet. It was also suggested that the Holden was a car designed for production in quantity, and a car which might sell in many countries other than its native Australia. In Britain, the 2,170 c.c. engine would be Rated under the defunct tax regime as 22HP. The specification table showed that the spark plugs were A.C.44, 14 m.m. type. The A.C. camshaft-driven mechanical fuel pump was also a vacuum pump for operating the windscreen wipers. There was also a superb cut-away drawing of the new Holden, typical of British magazines of the time.
The Autocar August 26 1949 carried a brief test of a black 48-215, rego ZG-302. The Australian representative of the magazine had been given an opportunity of testing a car during a trip of 150 miles from Sydney.
The Motor June 14 1950 carried a detailed test report of car rego AV-908, the write-up being by Roy Bulcock, Motoring Editor of the Brisbane Sunday Mail. The specification list showed that the plugs were still 14 m.m. AC 44 types, and the fuel pump, AC mechanical type.
The Autocar October 5 1951 published the very first Road Test in the U.K. of a Holden, rego JBM 484, registered in Bedfordshire County Council. The car tested was supplied through GM-Holden’s and in co-operation with the GM organisation in the U.K. In fact, the car was yet another “trials car” which was used by AC-Delco Division of GM Limited in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, hence the rego! It seems that the car performed better than a Chevrolet with Powerglide auto transmission tested by the magazine a short while beforehand! This was in their issue of August 31, 1951 incidentally.
The Motor March 11 1953 published a series of photographs of the production lines, and mentioned that a Holden with all-Australian crew finished in 64th position in that year’s Monte Carlo Rally. I believe that the rally cars were in fact prepared in the U.K., but I cannot remember if they were registered in the U.K. or carried Australian regos. Holden were indicating that they were anticipating exporting to New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the Philippines. It seems that in 1953, there were various rumours that Holden were to export cars to the U.K. as well. The problem with this was that this would have been seen as GM competing with its own Vauxhall range, and then, as now, the British buyer is very loyal to the name and will not accept an “Opel” badged car even though the “Vauxhall” is in fact an Opel through-and-through, with different badging all round!
The Autocar November 27 1953 published a photograph of the new FJ [Special], 1954, Model, which comprised three saloons and an estate car. The company planned to export to Asian markets the piece said.
The Motor July 25 1956 and The Autocar July 27 1956, carried photographs of the new Holden FE. The latter magazine commented that Holden production had increased from 39,587 cars in 1954 to 46,941 in 1955, nearly half the total of British cars, C.K.D. units and chassis imported into Australia during 1955!
The Autocar August 9 1957 carried another detailed Road Test of a Holden, this time an FE model saloon, rego SNM 668, again registered in Bedfordshire. This car was apparently run by AC-Delco Division of GM Limited, and was one of three cars only known to be in the country at that time. The engineering department used the car for test purposes, and had a number of small items of test equipment fitted. This car may have been driven by my friend, Bert Bowden, who recalls testing Holdens from the Dunstable HQ factory.
The Autocar May 9 1958 published photographs of the new FC models: Special, standard and Ute.
The Autocar December 5 1958 carried an article on “TEN YEARS OF HOLDENS”, and included a photograph of an FC, the first Holden to be exported to Nairobi, Kenya. There was also a photograph of a prototype taken in 1946 in the U.S. presumably one taken by the magazine’s reporter in Detroit. What is so significant about this article is that it mentions a brief history of the birth of the 48-215 from 1940, and that the 195-Y- prototypes cost US$750,000 in total, and that Russell S. Begg was given the task of converting the 195-Y-15 into the prototype Australian car. It was stated that “just before Pearl Harbour [therefore pre-December 1941], there had been a “schism” in G.M. Engineering on the comparative economic advantages of producing either a 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder car. I do not agree with the suggestion that it must have been in 1941, unless it was in respect of Projects 195-Y-15 versus –17, which were in discussion between Detroit and Holden’s in the Autumn of 1940, and therefore the reference was to discussions which spilled over into 1941 about a possible Australian car.
The Motor November 25 1959 carried out a detailed Road test of a Holden FC Special Sedan, rego YOH 690, registered in Birmingham this time. The price at the time was A£1,173, equivalent to S£938. There were various photographs of the exterior and interior of the black car, and drawings of internal dimensions and the dashboard. It was not clear as to whose car it was, but it might have been owned by Smith’s Industries.