FJ Holden
FJ Holden
Another FJ bites the dust on a speedway.

FJ Holden — pictures tell a different story

It’s the 70th anniversary of Australia’s iconic FJ Holden.

The year 1953, the year the FJ was launched, was a big one for automotive milestones and memorable new cars.

Factory fitted air conditioning was available in some Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Chrysler and Packard models for the first time.

US car and truck production reached 7,860,084 — the second highest of the decade.

Only 1955 saw more vehicles built: 9,672,956.

Over in Europe, SEAT began production of its first car.

In the UK, it was the first full year of BMC, the result of a merger of former rivals Austin and Morris.

Meanwhile, Japan began making cars sourced from the UK and France.

In Australia, Ken Tubman won the first Redex round-Australia trial in a Peugeot 203.

The Age newspaper reported that the VW Beetle would be available in mid-November.

Another cause for a big celebration was Holden building its 100,000th 48-215 model.

It was a real milestone.

No car company had achieved that number with just one model before in this country.

It also delayed the release of the follow-up FJ, which was supposed to have appeared in 1952.

In fact, the styling had been approved in May, 1950.

FJ Holden 9
Sixty per cent of the used cars on this lot are FJ’s


But, because the 48-215 was selling so strongly, Holden executives decided to extend the model’s production run for as long as there were buyer waiting lists.

And so, the FJ’s launch was held over until October, 1953.

The FJ panel van appeared in December.

When the FJ was in its first stages of development in January 1950, the GM design team in Detroit had proposed some changes.

They experimented with large rear fins, a one-piece windscreen, new dashboard and a gaudy two tone interior.

They need not have bothered.

Holden’s bean counters figured that with the 48-215 selling so well, Holden did not need to spend any money-making changes to the body shape, windscreen or dashboard.

Most of the styling budget was spent instead on new seat upholstery patterns, small chromed rear fins and a bold new grille.

Not only that, there was the new Special model.

Mind you, there was not much that was special about it.

Just a few bits of extra chrome, front seat arm rests and two-tone paint to distinguish it from its Standard sibling.

However, it reflected Australia’s rising affluence and cars buyers’ ability to pay more for a car that boasted a few extra convenience items and bright trim.

For many it was their first family car, either new or second hand.

It bestowed a new found freedom of mobility and independence.

Go anywhere anytime, unencumbered by the timetables imposed by public transport.

This was more valued than up to date sheet metal.

Year by year the FJ became embedded in our culture.

By the mid-60s, a third-or fourth-hand FJ was the ideal cheap car for newly licensed baby boomer teenagers, hot-rodders, customisers and those wanting low-cost entry into motorsport — especially speedway.

Our dirt track ovals were the place where so many FJ’s (and 48-215s) made their final appearance, especially in regional and country areas.

When Richard Ferlazzo’s Efijy concept car was unveiled in 2005, the FJ’s humble shape reached a global audience and its position in the pantheon of iconic Australian cars was assured.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos


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