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
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