Holden Snapshots, Images from the Golden Years

Holden Snapshots

Images From The Golden Years

Holden Snapshots
Images from the Golden Years

Don Loffler


General Motors Holden’s decision to undertake the complete manufacture of its cars in Australia was a vote of confidence that Australia could build complex products equal to the best in the world. Soon after that historic announcement the first Holden rolled off the assembly line at the Woodville plant in South Australia and was officially launched on 2 December 1948.

With the help of hundreds of photographs, Don Loffler brings to life the whole history of the planning, modelling, production, advertising and selling of each new model. Starting with the 48/215 Series, produced from 1948 to 1953, right through to the HR Series which went into production some twenty years later. Not only that, he has also provided us with the human side of it; stories of the workers, dealers and most importantly its final customers.

In Holden Snapshots, Loffler’s sixth book, he has been able to tell this story in a very engaging way. It includes official Holden Company photographs, family pictures and slides as well as reproductions of advertising material which makes interesting reading. This factual material will go a long way in preserving the car’s impact and enjoyment it had on its individual owners in particular and on Australia’s social and economic history in general.

Holden was important to South Australia. Thousands of South Australians found work at Holden plants at Woodville, Birkenhead and later Elizabeth. When in 1953 production at Woodville was increased to more than 200 cars a day it employed 5200 workers. There were also production centres in the other States amounting to a total of 10,300 workers Australia wide.

During these years Holden advertised widely in newspapers, magazines and billboards but never made exaggerated claims. Instead it highlighted its importance to Australians and their way of life as well as its economic contribution. In May 1953 it proudly stated that it was the only company producing an Australian car. Its workforce was more than happy with conditions and pay and many remained with the company for more than 25 years.

Jack Hanneman worked at Woodville from 1926 to 1971 while Pellegrino D’Antonio worked at the Elizabeth plant from 1959 until his retirement in 2000. Planning engineer Frank Couch worked for GMH for 46 years, first at Woodville, then at Fishermans Bend and finally Elizabeth from where he retired in 1972. The record for long service is probably held by Ernest Smith who started in Adelaide in 1916 and finished in 1966.

Many employees would buy a Holden, some would buy a new one every year or each time a new model rolled off the line. D’Antonio owned several models at different times. Among them were the EH, FJ, FB, HR and Jackaroo. Others would not part with their first one. Kevin Meade bought his 48/215 FX in 1952. It was still used by the family in 2007.

A special feature in Holden Snapshots is the potted histories of the owners’ adventures with their prized possessions. Important for them were such things as where had they taken it, how old was it, what had it been used for, what distances had it travelled, how many miles to the gallon, what troubles had they encountered, outback travel, emergency repairs made, motoring clubs or restorations. Many a friendship resulted from meetings between different owners or chance-meetings in faraway places.

From Wilpena Pound to Darwin and anywhere in between the new Holdens could be seen. In February 1949 the first Holden arrived at Darwin loaded with seven passengers and their luggage. Arthur Burton of Iron Knob created a sensation when he bought his Holden in September 1949. The sight of each new Holden created an instant demand for more and in the early years there were long waiting lists.

Soon Holdens could be seen in the most unlikely places. They were spotted on sealed and unsealed roads, dirt tracks, or off the roads. They went where modern shiny 4WD owners would think twice about going. Honeymooners Max and Laura Rasmus from Angaston took their FJ to Cairns in 1958. That very same car was used when their daughter married in 1986. Jack Hanneman took his FJ Special to Mount Kosciusko in 1956.

Not only did they go anywhere, they were also used for anything and everything. Holden Snapshots contains some spectacular pictures of the Canadian Hell Drivers performing their first daring stunts in Australia in January 1962 using EK Special Sedans. That same year a similar car was photographed in a wild life park in Kenya. In the Northern Territory a FE panel van was used by the Mobile Dental Unit from the Commonwealth Department of Health. It probably would have seen more dust, dirt and dirt tracks than patients.

The release of a new model brought together not only old and new owners but also whole communities, especially those in the country. Holden car dealers were a special breed. As early as 1948 George Budarick ran the Mannum dealership and showrooms. Less Prosser who had the dealership at Nildottie won an award for being the most successful dealer in Australia. When Holden accessories became available in the 1950s the role of the dealer became even more important. The external Sun Visor became one of the most sought after items.

Within a short time Holdens were exported to many different countries. The first export to New Zealand occurred in 1954 and when car number 1,000,001, an EJ Special Station Sedan, came off the line in 1962 it also went to New Zealand where it became car number 20,818 to be imported from Australia. To celebrate this achievement the Company presented ten EJs to its employees and another seven to charitable institutions. Other EJs found their way to Nigeria and Fiji. The 100,000th exported Holden went to Thailand in 1967 which had acquired its first one in 1956.

Dealers were also important for repairs but many repairs could easily, and often very cheaply, be made at home or on the road by its owners. Noel Thompson, while driving through Horrocks Pass in 1949, noticed that his radiator was leaking. No RAA yet, no road service or tools either. Chewing Gum did the trick!

From images made available by the readers of his previous books and the material located by his own research, Loffler has created a stunningly beautiful book detailing the history of Australia’s own car, the Holden. Even in the days before TV advertising the most likely explanation for neighbours not being home or their garden overgrown would have been that they had bought a Holden. This is a truly informative and enjoyable book to read and own. Its hundreds of images provide a rich kaleidoscope of these Golden Years and all the different models and many of its proud owners. It will make every Holden owner and many others eagerly looking forward to Don’s next book.

Review by Nic Klaassen

Holden Snapshots by Don Loffler,
Jacketed HB, 276 pp, with hundreds of colour and B/W photographs,
index and source list is available at $49.95, from
Wakefield Press
Telephone 08 8352 4455


If you would like to find out more,
please go to HOME PAGE for more information.
Thank you for visiting Flinders Ranges Research,
We hope you enjoy your stay and find the information useful.
This site has been designed and is maintained by FRR.