The Holden Name

Steeped in history, the name ‘Holden’ is without doubt the most iconic on the Australian automotive landscape. It began way back in 1856 when James Alexander Holden set up a saddlery and leather business in Adelaide, South Australia. With the advent of the motor car, Holden’s moved with the times and by 1914 had produced its first custom-made car body. ‘Body by Holden’ was to have enormous influence and significance in the coming years. Holden’s Motor Body Builders Limited was formed in 1917 and merged with General Motors Australia in 1931 to become General Motors-Holden’s Ltd.

The major driving force behind the Holden car was Laurence Hartnett, who saw the project through to the penultimate moment. Sadly, Hartnett would not be present to witness the first car drive off the assembly line in Melbourne in October 1948 having resigned over irreconcilable ‘differences’.

Affectionately known as ‘Australia’s Own’ car, several names were proposed in the lead up to production. The name ‘Holden’ was chosen to honour the Holden family who had great significance in the creation of the first all-Australian car. It is hard to imagine the Australian car industry without Holden, but the new GM-H car very nearly wore another name like ‘GMH’or ‘Canbra’.

“She’s a beauty!” declared Ben Chifley, Prime Minister of Australia, after he unveiled the Holden on November 29, 1948. The legend – both in the name and the car – was born.

It took less than three years for the Holden to become the nation’s top selling car in 1951. And it stayed that way year after year after year. The name was on everyone’s lips. Interest in the car was amazing, coming from all corners. Each new model was welcomed in an almost royal manner. Australians just couldn’t get enough of the Holden.

Over time, additional models were added with new names appearing on the car. Special, Premier, and Kingswood were just a few. The Holden car had grown into a vast range by the end of the 1960s, where it was possible to build over two million Holdens with no two exactly alike. 

By the mid 1970s, there was a Holden to suit every budget and taste. Small, medium and regular full-size Holdens dominated the roads. But by the end of the decade, the traditional Holden’s days were numbered. The automotive landscape was changing in many ways, and the company determined that the six-seater/six-cylinder Holden was not to be a part of the future. It is fitting that the HZ series was the last in a long line of Holden cars.