Skip to content
  • Open today 9am–5pm
  • Free general admission

Australia’s own car

The first production model Holden rolled off the assembly line at Fisherman's Bend, Victoria, on 29 November 1948 and was viewed by many as proof that Australia had entered the modern industrial age.

Billboard poster featuring a cream-coloured FJ Holden car in the centre and sprays of wattle in the top left corner. The text reads 'The beautiful HOLDEN ... Australia's Own Car'.
'The beautiful Holden, Australia's Own Car' billboard poster, 1953–56, by Warner. This is an FJ Holden, a revamped version of the earlier 48-215 or FX model, and it is seen here with another Australian symbol, the golden wattle. National Museum of Australia. General Motors Holden Ltd

In 1944 the American parent company of General Motors-Holden approved the creation of an Australian-built car, in readiness for a transition from wartime to peacetime production.

Robust, economical and designed for Australian conditions, the Holden was marketed as 'Australia's Own Car'. By 1958, sales accounted for 43 per cent of total car sales in Australia. A million had been sold by 1960 and, despite growing market competition, another million would be sold over the next six years.

Icon of postwar Australia

An icon of Australian society for more than half a century, Holden cars tapped into national postwar aspirations, and represented the development of Australian industry and commerce.

Holden was a pioneer of the nation's automobile industry and contributed significantly to the increasing prosperity of Australians in the postwar years. A Holden was the first car owned by many Australians, and various models have been celebrated in popular culture, including music, art, film, television and even pinball machines.

Four door, blue-gunmetal grey sedan with chrome-plated radiator grille, bumper bars, and hub caps. The red entryway to the National Museum forms a backdrop.
Holden Prototype Car No. 1, made in 1946. National Museum of Australia
Cartoon featuring two men looking at a car that has a caricature of John Howard's face as its front shape. A sign above the car reads 'SECOND-TERM SPECIAL! 1951 'FU' HOLDEN "HOWARD"! FULLY-RECONDITIONED ROCK-SOLID G.S.T.!' - click to view larger image
'The FU Holden Howard' cartoon, 1998, by Heinrich Hinze (detail). National Museum of Australia

Traditional values in caricature

Playing on former Australian prime minister John Howard's wish to be associated with the more 'traditional' values of Australia's postwar era, this political cartoon from July 1998 portrays Howard as an outdated 1950s Holden, apparently about to be superseded by a new, improved 'Costello' model.

Peter Costello was the Federal treasurer at the time and seen as Howard's natural successor. History shows, however, that Howard went on to win the election in October that year, and another two elections in 2001 and 2004.

In our collection

1949 Model 48/215 Holden sedan1949 Model 48/215 Holden sedan. It is a medium-grey, four-door sedan with a chrome-plated radiator grille. Holden's red lion logo is impressed in the chrome-plated hub caps, which are fitted to white wheels. A small circular red reflector is fitted to both of the fenders at the back of the car and it has a lockable petrol cap. T...
Return to Top