Welcome to Just Commodores, a site specifically designed for all people who share the same passion as yourself.

New Posts Contact us

Just Commodores Forum Community

It takes just a moment to join our fantastic community

Register

Very First Australian Build Holden Up For Sale

Reaper

Tells it like it is.
Joined
Aug 15, 2004
Messages
6,458
Reaction score
8,776
Points
113
Location
SE Suburbs, Melbourne
Members Ride
RG Z71 Colorado, 120 Prado , VDJ200 Landcruiser
One would expect a classic car auction in Australia – particularly one scheduled to coincide with what is supposed to be Australia’s premier collector car weekend – to feature more than a couple of Holdens or other exclusive-to-Oz cars. Then again, of the two Holdens crossing the block at the Theodore Bruce auction later this month in Melbourne, one lays claim to being the first and oldest surviving Australian-built example of the brand and the first car that Australians could rightfully pronounce their own.


Holden didn’t just appear from thin air with the introduction of its first model, the 48-215, in 1948. Rather, the company, which itself dates back to the 1850s, began building car bodies for a number of companies during World War I, and merged with General Motors in 1931. Toward the end of World War II, the Australian government realized the country needed an automotive industry of its own and declared that if no auto company then operating in the country could provide an Australian-built car, then the Australian government would do so itself. As Ken Gross told the tale in Special Interest Autos #49, February 1979, Holden’s managing director at the time, Laurence Hartnett, took that proclamation as a challenge.


“Building a complete car wasn’t a problem for GM-H,” Hartnett told Gross. “After the many types of war materials we’d produced, automotive technology was comparatively simple. Besides, even before the war, we’d made most of the components ourselves.” In addition, Holden had a new factory at Fisherman’s Bend near Melbourne and a friend in the government willing to prod the project along – future Prime Minister Ben Chifley. All Hartnett needed was a car to build, which he found gathering dust in Detroit.


Built before the war, prototype 195-Y-15 had come out of GM’s Light Car Project, which GM had all but forgotten over the prior eight years. Hartnett seemed to appreciate its unit-body design and small six-cylinder engine, and discovered that it met all of his requirements for an Australian car, so he had three running and driving cars based on the Light Car built in Detroit. At the same time, he assembled a team of engineers and shipped the three prototypes and the engineers to Australia to finalize the car’s design and to adapt it to Australian roads.


Once back at Fisherman’s Bend in late 1946, Harnett and his team began testing and refining the three prototypes. The next year, they built two more prototypes, commonly referred to as Number Four and Number Five, neither of which bore any Holden badging because the brand name for GM’s Australian car wouldn’t be decided upon until shortly before the introduction of the 48-215 in November 1948. The latter has since been destroyed – as have two of the first three prototypes – leaving Number One, with the registration plate ZW-234 (now owned by the National Museum of Australia), and Number Four, with the registration plate of KJ-400. Powered by a 132.5-cu.in. overhead-valve six-cylinder engine, KJ-400 weighed about 2,250 pounds and rode a 103-inch wheelbase.

KJ-400 reportedly posed for the first press photos and later underwent a restoration by one of the engineers involved in building it, at which time it apparently gained its Holden badging. Don Loffler’s book, Still Holden Together, noted that Holden sold KJ-400 to an employee in 1951 and that the car was eventually traded in on a new vehicle in the late 1950s at a dealership in Melbourne. For years it was mistakenly considered to be Number One, Loffler wrote, and not until the late 1990s was the record set straight.


Current owner Peter Briggs bought KJ-400 in 1980 and offered it for sale a couple of years ago during a downsizing. At the time, the Australian reported that he believed it worth as much as AUS$2 million. The Theodore Bruce auction, to take place October 26 in conjunction with the Motorclassica show in Melbourne, has not released a pre-auction estimate for the car.

First Australian-built Holden heads to auction | Hemmings Daily

 

Reaper

Tells it like it is.
Joined
Aug 15, 2004
Messages
6,458
Reaction score
8,776
Points
113
Location
SE Suburbs, Melbourne
Members Ride
RG Z71 Colorado, 120 Prado , VDJ200 Landcruiser
Lol - something that old i'd be surprised if there wasn't. Not sure it's going to effect anybody here :)
 

Hangman

Aspiring Sociopath
Joined
Jan 13, 2010
Messages
1,276
Reaction score
13
Points
38
Location
Newcastle, home of Toranafest
Members Ride
WK Land Yacht

Kiddo

You're serious bro?!
Joined
May 21, 2011
Messages
1,681
Reaction score
5
Points
0
Location
Melbourne
Members Ride
Mitsubishi Colt
Some rich kid'll probably slap a red P on it and mang it down the street
 

Sandman

Challenge Accepted
Joined
Apr 8, 2013
Messages
1,423
Reaction score
575
Points
113
Age
26
Location
Melbourne
Members Ride
HQ VC VZ
Interesting that they say most of them have been destroyed, as there was also a blue one which I thought was number three that Phil Munday restored a few years back. I Might have to do some digging.
 
Top