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85/795 Automobile, full size, FJ Holden Special, metal/rubber/glass, with owner's manual and brochures, made by General Motors-Holden Ltd, Bunnerong Road, Pagewood, New South Wales, Australia, 1955, used in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Click to enlarge.

1955 FJ Holden Special sedan

  • 1955
The FJ Holden is regarded as the epitome of 1950s motoring in Australia. Its design and manufacture evolved from the 48-215 (1948-1953), Australia's first mass-produced car which was designed specifically for the Australian market and conditions, distinguished only by a few styling and mechanical improvements. In comparison to the 48-215, however, the FJ became a best seller, thereby reflecting the move from immediate wartime memories to a new American-influenced, consumer-driven society.


Object No.


Object Statement

Automobile, full size, FJ Holden Special, metal/rubber/glass, with owner's manual and brochures, made by General Motors-Holden Ltd, Bunnerong Road, Pagewood, New South Wales, Australia, 1955, used in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Physical Description

1955 FJ225 Holden Special four door sedan featuring a pale grey exterior with chrome brightwork. The interior of the car comprises red leather upholstery for the seats, two-toned red and pale grey for the inner door trim, a red painted dashboard and red carpeted floor at the back. The ceiling is lined in olive green felt fabric and there are black rubber mats on the floor at the front. Featured on the chrome hubcaps is the Holden logo on a pale blue background with a thin red, circular border. There is a sun visor on the front split windscreen and a pair of faded red and green ribbons hanging from the radio antenna. The car is fitted with a radio and speaker, cigarette lighter, ash tray, glove compartment, speedometer, petrol gauge, heat indicator, oil warning lamp and generator warning lamp. Behind the bonnet on the plennum panel is a boomerang-shaped air vent operated by a lever under the dashboard and a streamlined chrome bonnet mascot. Accompanying the automobile is the owner's manual in a brown plastic pouch, a small book entitled 'HOLDEN / SEDAN / FACTS' and other related motoring documents.


Years of manufacture: 1953-1956
Number built: 169,969
Total length: 173.3 in (4401mm)
Total width: 66.9 in (1702mm)
Height at kerb weight: 62.3 in (1581mm)
Wheelbase: 103.0 in (2616mm)
Front track: 53.0 in (1346mm)
Rear track: 54.0 in (1372mm)
Kerb weight: 2250lb (1012kg)
Turning circle: 37ft (11.3m)
1st: 2.985:1 to top speed of 30mph (48 km/h)
2nd: 1.591:1 to top speed of 52mph (84 km/h)
3rd: 1.00:1 to top speed of 80.4mph (129 km/h)
Reverse: 2.985:1
Rear axle ratio: 3.894:1
Engine/transmission: Standard 6 cylinder and 3 speed manual
0-60mph (0-97 km/h): 19.0 seconds
Engine capacity: 2160cc 132.5 cubic inches (2.171 litres)
Engine type: Conventional, watercooled four stroke, reciprocating piston type with 6 cylinders
Engine power: 60bhp (45kw) at 3800rpm
Torque: 100lb-ft (135Nm) at 2000rpm
Compression ratio: 6.5:1
Exhaust: Single tail pipe, straight through resonance type muffler
Front suspension: Short and long arm independent type with coil springs
Rear suspension: Hotchkiss Drive with semi-elliptic spring



1650 mm


1800 mm


4370 mm



  • 1955


This FJ Holden Special was made in 1955. It would have been assembled at the GM-H factory on Bunnerong Road in Pagewood, New South Wales. The General Motors works factory was opened by Prime Minister Robert Menzies and GM-H Managing Director Laurie Hartnett in 1940. It announced its closure 40 years later, officially ceasing operation in 1982. The closure of the factory meant the elimination of more than 1,500 jobs.

The FJ Holden, which was modelled on the 48-215 (released in 1948), came into production in 1953, just 5 months after the production of the 100,000th 48-215. Although it was produced for only 3 years, more than 200 were built per week, giving a total production number of 169,969. The FJ Holden was marketed as five models: the Standard (basic model), Special (extra trim features), business sedan, utility and panel van.

The mechanical design of the FJ was left largely to the Americans, while the Australian team completed the body and structural design. This process involved a team of Australian engineers and draughtsmen travelling to the United States for the initial drafting and construction of the three prototypes, before 22 US engineering personnel returned to Australia (including the chief engineer Russell Begg) to assist with the mechanics.



The 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.


Credit Line

Purchased 1985

Acquisition Date

3 June 1985

Cite this Object


1955 FJ Holden Special sedan 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 October 2021, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=1955 FJ Holden Special sedan |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=24 October 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}