NotesThe first Holden (48-215) was released in 1948, but the Holden motoring company name has a history associated with road transport dating from 1856. At this time, James Alexander Holden was operating a saddlery and leathergoods business in Adelaide, South Australia. James was a British migrant (from Staffordshire, England) who arrived in Adelaide at the age of 20.
What began as a humble business underwent several stages of major expansion, beginning with Henry Adolph Frost's proposal for a merger with his carriage-building and trimming business in 1885 (hence the change in name to Holden & Frost, carriage builders and leathergoods manufacturers). Two years after this, however, James Alexander Holden died at the age of 52, leaving Henry Holden in charge.
During the Boer War, Holden & Frost proved very successful with a heavy demand for sufficient saddles and ancillary equipment for the mounted troops involved. Holden & Frost held a contract for the production of more than 10% of the 10,000 sets of equestrian equipment required (shared with other contractors in Sydney and Melbourne), completing the job over other companies in the fastest possible time. This resulted with a request for a further 1,000 sets to be produced and helped to consolidate Holden & Frost financially as a 'booming' business.
In 1905, Henry Holden's son, Edward, who just completed a degree in Science and Engineering from Adelaide University, entered the business with new and innovative ideas focussed on motor cars, rather than horse-drawn vehicles. At that time, the motor car was not yet generally accepted as a new form of transport by most people, so Henry and his partner were naturally reluctant to consider the motor car as the future of the Holden & Frost business. After several years, however, Edward managed to convince his father and in 1908 Henry sailed overseas to see for himself how the motor car industry was developing. During his absence, Edward set up a small workshop at the rear of the Grenfell Street premises and began doing work on motor cars, shortly before the demand for modifications to cars that required the fitting of Holden & Frost's carriage trimmings, led to a separate branch of the business 'Holdfast Trimmings'.
The success of this new found enterprise resulted with Henry trading in his own carriage for a motor car and taking steps towards the full-scale construction of motor bodies which commenced in 1914. The first step, in fact, had been to secure a contract to build Goulding side cars for American Harley Davidson motorcycles. While this proved to be successful, Henry ensured that horse saddlery was still a major focus of the business (especially during WWII).
S A (Bert) Cheney, owner of the Cheney Motor Company, contacted Edward Holden in 1917 to propose that they establish a full-scale body-building plant to construct bodies for Dodge Brothers chassis. Dodge cars, along with Buicks and Model T Fords, were the most popular motor vehicles of the time. The eventuation of this project meant that in 1919 two businesses were operating: Holden's Motor Body Builder's Limited (car body-building) and Holden & Frost (leathergoods). By 1925, however, the demand for leather goods and saddlery declined and the 'Trimmings' business was disposed of. Similarly, the onset of the Depression saw a decline in the purchase of motor cars, so to consolidate their activities Holden's Motor Body Builders Limited merged with General Motors Australia Pty Ltd to become General Motors-Holden Limited in March, 1931.
Until the end of WWII, General Motors-Holden continued its policy of manufacturing bodies for all motor cars, but after the war a new air of optimism and enterprise emerged. This lead to the company's decision to design and engineer a car built for Australian conditions. In 1944, a detailed study covering the possibilities and logistics of manufacture occurred (including the components which would go into the car; the steel available; the engine size and type; fuel economy and the post-war family budget) and by 1948, the new 48-215 (heavily influenced in the design by an unused prototype Chevrolet) was born.
This FJ Holden Special was purchased by the Museum in 1985. It was purchased new by the vendor from McLeod, Kelso & Lee Pty Ltd, authorised General Motors dealer of Newcastle, New South Wales. The delivery date on the Owner Service Policy document is noted as November 16, 1955. The car has only ever had one owner.