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.
The 1950s 'Australian Dream' saw the FJ Holden as a 'must have' item in suburban driveways. With an accelerating birth rate and the beginning of new suburbs, the FJ Holden (like the 48-215) became the first car many families had ever owned. The FJ model also gave consumers a wide-ranging choice, as opposed to other brands on the market (like the Austin, Morris, Hillman Minx and Standard Vanguard), with the option of the Standard, Special, business sedan, utility or panel van. The Holden FJ Special, in particular, brought about a new feeling of glamour and prestige that distinguished owners from their Standard counterparts.
The FJ was the first Holden to be exported. The first batch comprised 30 cars which were sent to New Zealand in 1954, and a total of 321 had been exported by the end of that year. By the late 1950s, General Motors-Holden (GM-H) exported cars to more than 15 countries, including Greece, South Africa, Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jamaica, Tahiti and Hong Kong. Today, Holden exports left and right hand drive vehicles to every continent except Antarctica, with its largest vehicle export market being the Middle East. In 2005 alone, Holden exported 60,518 cars, 8,146 more than the previous year.
The FJ was also the first Holden to use the GM-H secret code of model identification. This 'secret' code related letters of the alphabet to numbers in reverse order. Based on this concept, FJ stood for 1952 (the year the car was initially intended to come onto the market) with the subsequent models FE and FC, standing for 1956 and 1958 respectively. (See Wright, 1998)
The production of the 48-215 and FJ, which proved popular with both city and country folk, made the Holden brand a symbol for Australia's national pride. The efforts towards building a wholly Australian made car were unprecedented. The FJ was reasonably priced (from £870 Standard, £895 business and £915 Special) and sold well. At this time, car ownership was still beyond many people's reach, but the introduction of the FJ helped to overcome this.
The FJ Holden has become a celebrated piece of 'Australiana'. Apart from the numerous car clubs devoted to the FJ throughout Australia, it has also been the subject of both a full-length feature film ('The FJ Holden', 1977) and a series of sculptural works by the Australian artist Margaret Dodd (also in the Museum's collection).
This particular FJ Holden is also important in that it is complete with the original owner's manual, driving instructions and warranty card, booklet entitled 'Holden Sedan Facts' and promotional material which is contemporary to the vehicle.
Melanie Pitkin, Assistant Curator
Birney, S., "Australia's Own - The History of Holden" (Sydney, 1988)
Davis, P., "Holden 50th Anniversary - Father Figure", Weekend Australian (November 14-15, 1998)
Davis, T, Kennedy, E & Kennedy, A., "The Holden Heritage" (Blakehurst, 1998)
Gregory, M., "Holden before the Holden", Restored Cars, No. 47 (December, 1981) pp.12ff
Wright, J., "Heart of the Lion - The 50 Year History of Australia's Holden" (Sydney, 1998)