Alice Keath, Slava Grigoryan and Leonard Grigoryan, produced by ABC Classic, 2021
ALICE KEATH: Objects and stories from Australian life.
MULTIPLE VOICES: This is us.
LEONARD GRIGORYAN: Holden sedan prototype.
ALICE KEATH: This object is one that most Australians know well and it was chosen from the collection at the National Museum of Australia by Slava and Leonard Grigoryan.
HISTORICAL ADVERTISEMENT: Australia, what’s your favourite sport? Football! Snack? Pies! Animal? Kangaroos! And what’s you’re favourite car Australia? Holden!
SLAVA GRIGORYAN: Lenny and I really aren’t into cars, at all. But I think that just the idea of what this car represented to Australians and families.
HISTORICAL ADVERTISEMENT: It’s a special feeling when you own a car that stands apart wherever it goes. Sense of style, security, success. It’s a way of life and I like it.
And the rolling wheels are Holden.
ALICE KEATH: Have you ever driven a Holden?
SLAVA GRIGORYAN: Well, actually, the first Grigoryan family car in the early 1980s, prior to Lenny’s arrival, was an old Holden Kingswood.
HISTORICAL ADVERTISEMENT: Holden, the car that takes it easy anywhere you take it. Kingswood.
SLAVA GRIGORYAN: I think we actually had 2 or 3.
ALICE KEATH: 2 or 3?
SLAVA GRIGORYAN: But they didn’t survive, they were already quite old.
LEONARD GRIGORYAN: I think they were all stolen.
SLAVA GRIGORYAN: They were. Two of them were stolen.
ALICE KEATH: Oh, not by the Grigoryan family, from you?
SLAVA GRIGORYAN: Oh, no no. Two of them were stolen from us and one died.
ALICE KEATH: So how does this object, this car, at the National Museum of Australia compare to the ones that you owned growing up?
SLAVA GRIGORYAN: Nothing like those. It’s a very, very beautiful ...
ALICE KEATH: Pristine.
SLAVA GRIGORYAN: Pristine prototype.
HISTORICAL ADVERTISEMENT: This is the new Holden. Powered to perform in great new style.
ALICE KEATH: It’s so shiny it almost looks as though it’s glowing a deep, rich, reflective teal. With sparkling silver grill, red lions on the hub caps and round, affable looking headlights.
HISTORICAL ADVERTISEMENT: A car for pleasure and business in the big city.
ALICE KEATH: It’s the first of 3 prototype sedans built by hand in 1946 by a team of Australian and American engineers, in Detroit.
HISTORICAL ADVERTISEMENT: Specifications went to the American research laboratories and the world’s leading automobile scientists set about producing the car to meet Australia’s needs.
ALICE KEATH: It was brought to Australia in secret, under cover of darkness, to Fishermen’s Bend in Melbourne where the first Australia made vehicles came off the line in 1948, after rigorous testing.
HISTORICAL ADVERTISEMENT: Over winding mountain tracks, to prove manoeuvrability and handling quality. Through heavy dust on rough bush tracks. In driving rain over slippery roads. Over potholes that would test any car’s springs. Through mud and water on unmade roads.
ALICE KEATH: It’s been lovingly restored, with hand-welded seems and exacting attention to detail. It’s not just beautiful to look at it either, it still works, you can smell and hear the motor running. When it’s not being stored in its plastic, pressurised bubble. It’s so valuable that it’s only ever allowed out on very special occasions, when conditions are perfect.
SLAVA GRIGORYAN: This model essentially kicked off the motor industry in Australia. It was affordable, it was going to change everyone’s lives. The sense of anything is now possible, that’s what we wanted to capture. It’s called ‘Song for the Road’.
HISTORICAL ADVERTISEMENT: We’ve certainly come a long way from the horse and buggy days.
[‘Song for the Road’ played by Leonard and Slava Grigoryan]
ALICE KEATH: ‘Song for the Road’ written and performed by the Grigoryan Brothers. I’m Alice Keath and This is us: A musical reflection of Australia was commissioned by the National Museum of Australia to mark their 20th anniversary. Head to the ABC Classic website to view the objects, find out more and buy the Grigoryan Brothers album featuring all of the music in the project.
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This is an edited transcript typed from an audio recording.
The National Museum of Australia cannot guarantee its complete accuracy.
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Date published: 09 March 2021