Holden Heritage collection here to stay

By: Mark Higgins, Photography by: Holden

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Holden's history isn't lost, it's spread across many car museums

Holden fans and motoring enthusiasts can breathe a huge sigh of relief with the news that Holden’s 80-strong collection of heritage models and concept cars will remain on Australian soil, for display in museums around the country.

With the closure of Holden announced in February 2020 the collection’s future was subject of much conjecture, with one report on a Melbourne radio station claiming the collection had been crushed. Another stated it was to be sold while another speculated a number of models would depart Australia, having been souvenired by GM in Detroit.

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While all these reports proved false, they were made with some foundation given Holden had auctioned eight of its heritage collection cars in late 2019, including two examples of the final limited-edition models, the first VF II Commodore Motorsport Edition and first Calais V based VF II Director.

Also sold were the first of the highly-acclaimed VF Calais Series along with its predecessor, an SS version of the billion-dollar VE series.

| Read next: Holden VC Commodore SL/E - The 4 millionth Holden

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Holden Hurricane from 1969

Other significant Holdens to go under the hammer were the first CV8 Monaro, the winning 1995 Round Australia Rally Commodore of Ed Ordynski. An oddball in the collection was a 1990 Barina used in a world record economy run tilt, and finally a 1980 VC Commodore that was driven around Australia by the late motoring writer and one time Holden PR boss Evan Green.

At the time Holden stated the auction was necessary to ensure the safe storage and display of the rest of its fleet. "It has led to some difficult decisions, but when we have two examples of the same car, a first and last built for example, the decision is almost always the keep the last one built," Heritage curator Vic Garra said at the time.

| Read next: Origin of the Holden Commodore SS

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Epic production numbers for Holden, and the car survives

Discussing the future of the collection, renowned Holden historian, former Holden employee and author of many books about the brand, Norman Darwin said, "The feeling I got was there was never any intention to shift the heritage cars back to America. People like Richard Ferlazzo, Holden Design Director, would have fought tooth and nail for these cars to stay in Australia."

An internal Holden committee was established at the same time as the formation of the Holden Collection Advisory Committee (HCAC) at the behest of Holden and General Motors and led by the National Museum of Australia’s Dr Mathew Trinca as well as representatives of other museums and state trusts to locate suitable homes for its collection of vehicles and paraphernalia.

| Salute to the Holden ute: 1951 FX (48-216) to 2017 SS-V Redline

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Where it all started the 48/215

"Even though the cars will be spread around the country, GM will retain ownership of them," said Darwin.

When Unique Cars visited the collection earlier this year it was housed in the Holden Social Centre, opposite where, in 1948, Prime Minister Ben Chifley launched the very first Holden. It includes milestone examples like the one, two, three, four and five millionth cars made, along with many concept cars and artefacts. The collection has since been farmed out to a number of institutions.

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According to Darwin, the National Museum in Canberra, the Birdwood Museum in South Australia and Melbourne’s Science Works seem to have got the pick of the cars.

Currently the National Museum has three cars. Two 48/215s, including an original hand-made prototype plus an FJ that’s on permanent display. They are joined by the EJ Holden station wagon that featured on the ABC TV show Bush Mechanics.

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Neil Joyner from the Holden Museum in Trafalgar was over the moon with his allocation of collection cars saying, "I am absolutely thrilled to receive a number of amazing cars, including a concept Sandman ute, convertible VF Commodore, the first VF Redline and an HR Premier."

Tony Galea of the Holden Museum in Echuca, Victoria, was worried at what might have happened with the collection but is grateful the cars are staying here. "It was a bit of a worry for a while not knowing what was going to happen with the collection, but the outcome of them staying here is fantastic," he said. The museum Tony has run for 28 years, with business partner Mark Galea, has received a rare VB SL/E Commodore with the 310 pack, a left-hand drive SS Chev-based on the VF Commodore, the last VF ute to roll off the line along with the last Caprice built in 2017 and the last WB Caprice made in 1984.

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Holden wall of fame

Winton Raceway in Victoria is building a museum to showcase many significant Holdens including the convertible Monaro, while a number of smaller motor museums throughout Australia are also slated to benefit with an allocation of collection display vehicles, once the Covid restrictions ease off.

Denis French is a former National Museum staffer and owner of the stunning black Holden HR Premier X2 wagon featured on the cover of Unique Cars issue 442. "I think it’s just wonderful the collection is staying in Australia as it’s where it should stay," he said. "Australians deserve to see it.

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"Manufacturing was a huge part of Australia and the whole Holden story is a story on its own," added French. "It’s not just a car, it goes all the way back to the late 1800s with the saddlery business, Holden and Frost, army equipment, war equipment. The story needs to be told to future generations and it is great the cars are going to remain here," French added.

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