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Cruising down memory lane in FX Holden

Ray Cole with his 1952 FX Holden. Ray, like many other Holden lovers is saddened by the demise of General Motors Australian car manufacturing plant.
Ray Cole with his 1952 FX Holden. Ray, like many other Holden lovers, is saddened by the demise of General Motors Australian car manufacturing plant.

The recent announcement by General Motors that Holden cars will no longer be manufactured in Australia has cut deep with many of the faithful.

For some, like 85-year-old Ray Cole of Childers, Holden cars were part and parcel of his life for decades.

His love of the brand, coupled with his passion for restoration and all things historic, led him to the ownership of an original FX Holden, the model first produced in Australia by General Motors in 1948.

Known as the Holden 48-215, the car was assembled at General Motors Victorian plant at Fishermen’s Bend between November 1948 and October 1953.

According to the car’s identification plates, Ray’s car was produced in 1952. The FX tag was applied to the vehicle to identify models with an improved suspension system.

As the owner of a local butcher shop in Childers Ray was privy to plenty of news, (some may call it gossip!). One day in the late 1970’s Ray learned that a Mr Holmes from Biggenden had an FX Holden that he may be interested in selling.

Video: Wayne Heidrich

FX had become a roost for chickens

“Mr Holmes had purchased the vehicle intending to restore it. However, when I went to see it the car had become a bit of a roost for his chickens and not too much had been done by way of restoration!

“I purchased the car and some parts for $500 and brought it back to Childers to work on. Local mechanic Alan White took care of the mechanical side for me and a few other contacts eventually ensured that a project that was taking me a long time to complete, was finally done.

“The front grille was fashioned from the best parts of three chrome grilles. The red upholstery for the bench seats really set off the interior of the car and complements the external colour which I had painted in a traditional black which was the most popular colour of the car when launched.

The “waterfall grille”, a beautiful chromed focal point of the FX Holden.
The “waterfall grille”, a beautiful chromed focal point of the FX Holden.

“The car had no seatbelts and the bench seat in front of the vehicle were popular with young couples. Often you couldn’t fit a cigarette paper between the driver and his girlfriend. Bucket seats changed all that,” laughed Ray.

Ray said that owning the car provided immense pleasure to him personally but also to countless others including young ladies from around the district who used the car for weddings and especially for school formals.

“I would estimate that I spent, my labour not included, between $8000 and $10,000 in restoring the vehicle.

Disappointing to see the demise of Holden

“It’s remarkable to see the difference in handling between that early Holden and the modern vehicles. It does feel a little unsafe especially when turning. However, if you keep to a sensible speed there’s no problems.

“Three on the tree”! The manual column shift which provided three forward gears and one reverse gear. The configuration would have today’s younger drivers scratching their heads.
“Three on the tree”! The manual column shift which provided three forward gears and one reverse gear. The configuration would have today’s younger drivers scratching their heads.

“It’s really disappointing to see the end of an industry that produced an iconic vehicle so popular with the average Australian family.

“I think there was a great deal of pride in having an Australian car making industry which produced vehicles over a long period of time, and which added so much to everyone’s lives growing up in that era,” said Ray.

The Holden 48-215 was officially launched on November 29, 1948 by then Prime Minister Ben Chifley in the Fishermen’s Bend Social Hall in front of 400 guests. Silver curtains parted revealing a cream Holden in a black velvet setting while an orchestra played Brahms’ Waltz in A-flat.

Before it was superseded by the FJ Holden in 1953, General Motors had built more than 120,000 of the FX models.

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