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Australian Automobiles in 1950-60s

Ford Zephyr Six car
Holden FX Ute

1950’s post WWII Australia saw households wanting to own a car more than it had ever seen before. At the beginning of the 50’s 1 in 10 homes had a car. During the early years of the decade, the cars that were on the streets were mainly small 4 cylinder cars that had been shipped from America, Germany and primarily Great Britain. These included the Volkswagen Beatle (that had survived Hitler’s Germany), Morris Minor, Ford Prefect, Triumph Mayflower and the Austin A40. For people with more money, there were several 6 cylinder cars available including Ford Zephyr, Vauxhall Victor, Rolls Royce, Jaguar and Rover.  The US continued to dominate production after the war and shipped cars such as Pontiac, Chevrolet, and Dodge manufactured cars to Australia.

At the beginning of the 1950’s Holden’s FX was in full production with even greater demand, over a 100 cars a day were being produced at this time. These cars were more rugged then the small 4 cylinders, with the FX coupe utility (ute) also being produced and was the choice for Australian rural areas. With this car, registrations reached over 205 thousands nearly 70% - which was more than the total in 1949. This surge in car sales after the war was in large part due to the great technological advancements that were made in mass vehicle production.  By 1952 the Holden FX sales reached 32,000 and $11 million was invested in expansions, which then led to the need for a new design of cars.

European Car Migration

European migrants moving to Australia after the war led to the shipping of cars into Australia which in turn saw dealerships popping up in major cities. These car manufacturers included Volkswagen, Renault, Peugeot and Citroen. Volkswagen set up an assembly plant in Australia.  Seeing the need for a fresh new car, the Holden Business Sedan was released in 1953, closely followed by the FJ Holden. With the release of these new cars that year saw GM-H make its biggest profit since that start of the company. This was a huge boost for not only the future of Australian made cars but also workers, with 1,700 new jobs being created. By the middle of the 50’s Holden had expanded extensively and was shipping cars to New Zealand, with 1 in 3 vehicles on Australia roads being a Holden.

100 Years of Holden

In the 100th year since James Holden set up the original saddlery business that led to the future company GM-H, 1956 just as the new invention of the tubeless tyre has been invented, Holden released a brand new car. The Holden FE cost 4 million dollars to develop and was the first completely new car since the original FX was released. Also this year Holden began shipping further than New Zealand to countries including Malaysia and Thailand. During this time, American car manufacturers had Australian car body builders making chassis for their vehicles including Chrysler. There were 3 major manufacturing companies situated within Australia, these included Ford and of course Australia’s own Holden.

By the end of the 50’s Holden has exported nearly 15,000 cars and began to build Utes in countries such as Indonesia. With technology only getting more advanced Holden began offering transmitter radios as an extra option within their vehicles. Ford were producing huge American muscle cars which became popularly known as ‘Yank Tanks’, the smaller 4 cylinder European cars that had been imported to suit migrants were beginning to disappear from Australian roads. This was largely due to the use of vehicles in rural farming areas, and workers utilising the power of these larger vehicles to help with efficiency on farms and travelling into cities. Cars were becoming faster and more modernised, and with the space race starting, things were just taking off in the car industry.