Posts Tagged ‘Warren Weldon’

(S Hood)

Prime Minister Robert Menzies and Laurie Hartnett in the back of a Vauxhall sports-roadster having opened General Motors Holdens new factory at Pagewood, in Sydney’s southern suburbs 1940…

I know its not a motor racing shot so it would normally be outside primotipo’s focus but the photos were too good to waste, and I will get there, a racing element is here to be found in a little bit.

(S Hood)

 

GMH Pagewood on the day of the plant’s opening (S Hood)

The merger of Holden Motor Bodies Ltd with General Motors (Australia) Pty Ltd as a result of the stress caused to the former during the great depression forged the basis of one of Australia’s great manufacturers and an iconic marque, the merged entity was named General Motors-Holden’s Ltd.

A great Touring Car Racing brand as well- there is the racing link I guess.

The new company opened its first factory at Fishermans Bend, in Melbourne’s inner west in 1936 and at Pagewood in 1940.

After World War 2 the business made coachwork for Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Vauxhall.

By the mid-forties the automotive industry had the government onside to encourage the development of Australia’s own car.

Holden, led by Hartnett got the upper hand on Ford in a pitch by keeping their demands for taxpayer support to a lower level than FoMoCo.

 

The first Holden was built to a reject 1949 model design based on 1946 Chevrolet mechanicals. The car was to sit between the bigger American’s and smaller British machines which dominated in Oz at the time. The engine was also Chev based. This photo is the 1945 clay model of the Holden 48-215, named the ‘Anzac Holden’ by its clay modeller, Frank Herschey

(SLSA)

 

Ben Chifley at the Holden launch, Fishermans Bend, 29 November 1948 (NMA)

In 1944 the feds invited GMH to build a family car suited to our unique, extreme climatic conditions.

American and Australian engineers hand built three Holden test cars at GM’s experimental workshop in Detroit- the first, chassis ‘19525’ was completed on 30 August 1946. After months of durability tests the cars were secretly shipped back to Fishermans Bend.

 

The very first Holden prototype ‘car number 19525 from Project 2000, which then became Project 320 and the initial prototype of the future 48-215 in the United States showing the cars temporary name ‘GMH’ above the ‘Holdens’ badge on the bonnet’. Rego Michigan BK-46-48 (SLSA)

 

Further testing took place locally and then GMH engineers and technicians built two further prototypes in Australia, the first of these was completed on 22 August 1947- these became the definitive model and shape we all know and love.

For the record, the first production Holden was completed on 1 October 1948, largely built off-line, it was a ‘Gawler Cream’ 48-215, body #6, VIN ‘8-1001-M’ and fitted with engine # ‘1001’.

 

 

In 1948 in a ceremonial scene akin to the opening image, then Prime Minister Ben Chifley pulled the covers off Holden #1, the ’48-215′ or Holden FX at Fishermans Bend on 29 November 1948, with mass production starting at the heady rate of ten cars a day!

Soon production boomed of course, and the rest, as they say is history- including the closure of the final Holden production line at Elizabeth, South Australia on Friday 20 October 2017.

The Australian motor industry as manufacturers of mass-market cars no longer exists. We now have a tiny number of niche companies- god bless Michael Borland and Spectrum Racing Cars down Mordialloc way in outer Melbourne for example.

 

Fishermans Bend 1948 (SLV)

 

48-215 first brochure

 

States Motors team, South Australia with one of their first two Holdens in December 1948 (D Loffler)

The ’48-215′ was economical, sturdy, stylish, light and with its modern’ish cast iron, OHV, 2171 cc/132.5 cid, in-line six cylinder engine gave better performance than similarly priced, or in some cases, more expensive cars.

In standard form the undersquare engine (bore 3 inches, stroke 3 1/8 inches) gave 60 bhp @ 3800 rpm and 100 foot/pounds of torque at a very relaxed 2000 rpm on a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The motor was fed by a single downdraft Stromberg BXOV-1 carburettor with spark provided by a Delco-Remy distributor. Gearbox was 3 speed- the shift was column mounted, the four-wheel drum brakes had a kerb weight of 2230 pounds to stop.

Amenable to tuning, enthusiasts were soon fitting twin-SU’s or Strombergs or Amals, extractors and giving the heads the usual port ‘n polish treatment to extract additional neddies which were easily found.

The post war explosion of the Australian economy with full employment, industry protected by high tariff walls and the ready availability of consumer credit made it possible for a family man or salesman to have not just day to day transport but also a car for club motorsport.

In many ways the work-horses of Australian motor-racing were MG’s of all sorts, both pre and post-war but especially T Types and the 48-215 or more colloquially the FX, and FJ ‘Humpy’ Holdens in the fifties and into the sixties- so many folks cut their racing teeth in these machines.

 

Redex Round Australia Trial Holden FJ competitor- in South Australia but otherwise intrigued to know the details (Adelaide Advertiser)

 

Len Lukey’s Ford Customline from Syd Anderson’s 48 Series (with non-standard grille) and Bob Holden, Peugeot during the 1957 Caversham AGP weekend (K Devine)

 

Touring car racing started in Australia at the sports inception, daily drivers in the earliest days were the cars which competed in trials and the timed speed events- hillclimbs and sprints within trials. The first Australian Touring Car Championship (Australian Stock Car Championship) was held during the Australian Grand Prix weekend at Lobethal, South Australia in January 1939.

The inexorable and later rapid rise of tourers over pure racing cars in Australia was largely due in the 1950’s to grids chockers with Holden’s- spectators turned out in large numbers to a growing number of race-tracks to watch blokes compete in cars outwardly similar to those in which many of the punters arrived at the race meeting.

In fact by the end of the fifties the quickest of the Holdens were quite sophisticated racers incorporating Phil Irving designed Repco ‘Hi-Power’ cylinder heads, two or three carburettors with one or two cars fitted with Merv Waggott’s twin-cam heads to create an ‘ultimate spec’ Holden.

MG TC and sometimes Jaguar four speed boxes replaced the Holden ‘three on the tree’ column shift gearbox, four wheel discs replaced the standard drums, the cars were extensively lightened and all of the rest…

 

Ron Harrop’s ‘Howler’ at Calder in the early seventies- Holden FJ with highly developed Holden ‘Red motor’ successor to the ‘Grey’. Harrop became a touring car circuit ace and a Holden engineer par-excellence (unattributed)

 

Warren Weldon from Bo Seton, Holden FX by two: Catalina Park early sixties (B Wells)

 

Great names who raced ‘Humpy Holdens’ included Jack Myers, the ‘Holden King of the mid-fifties’, John French, Leo and Pete Geoghegan, Max Stahl, Spencer Martin, Des West, Norm Beechey, Brian Muir, Warren Weldon, Bo Seton, John Goss and many, many others.

Into the dawn of the sixties CAMS adoption of Appendix J put paid to the wild modifications which had started to proliferate- it became the category to which the Australian Touring Car Championship was run. Group E ‘Series Production’ racing provided the basis for further growth in tourers by spawning endurance classics such as the Phillip Island and later Bathurst 500, relative to racing cars which became progressively starved of sponsorship funds and less and less relevant to the ‘football, meat-pies and touring cars lovin’ Australian public.

Be in no doubt my friends, Holden Motor Bodies Ltd in 1919 begat General Motors Holdens Ltd which gave birth to the ’48-215′, the intrinsic qualities of the design created a worthy competition car in modified form, the ready availability of which gave rise to the accelerated (pun intended) growth of touring car racing in Australia.

 

Melbourne Museum, Swanston Street. Royal Australian Navy Hawker Sea Fury (VW626) with Holden 48-215 in the foregrund during the ‘Jubilee of Flight’ exhibition in July 1953 (Museums Victoria)

After-thought: Sir Laurence Hartnett…

Laurie Hartnett strode the Australian manufacturing landscape like a colossus throughout his career but his pugnacious attitude to his American masters as to the design elements of an All Australian Holden led to his removal as Chief Executive of GMH Ltd in December 1946.

He was offered a role with the GM Corporation in the US but did not want to leave Australia- he never got to give birth to Australia’s own car- his own Hartnett was a notable achievement all the same. I’m not going to get lost in this tangent but click here to read in brief about a quite remarkable man.

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hartnett-sir-laurence-john-12602

Etcetera…

Repco Hi-Power Head..

https://primotipo.com/2015/06/26/repco-record-car-and-repco-hi-power-head/

Holden ‘Grey’ as Racingcar and Sportscar Engine…

Whilst the focus of this article is the 48-215 and FJ as competition cars themselves the Holden Grey was adopted by many racers as replacement engines for their single-seater or sportscar originals or as the very basis of a special.

The Bristol to Holden conversions of Cooper T20 and T 23’s are examples of the former and the Lou Molina and Sil Massola ‘Molina Monza’ an example of the latter.

Click here; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/10/stirling-moss-cumberland-park-speedway-sydney-cooper-t20-wm-holden-1956/

and here; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/13/shifting-gear-design-innovation-and-the-australian-car-exhibition-national-gallery-of-victoria-by-stephen-dalton-mark-bisset/

Des West’s 48-215 Racing Specifications..

http://www.thegreymotor.com/2014/11/des-west-fx-27-grey-survivor.html

Des West’s second 48-215 racer pictured at home, Wingham, NSW having set the fastest Holden record time at Lowood in 1964 (G Woodward)

Rally and Race..

June 1953 Monte Carlo Rally, Davison, Gaze and Jones DNF. Gatsonides/Worledge won in a Ford Zephyr (unattributed)

 

1953 Monte Carlo Rally- Messrs Gaze, Davison and Jones- Aces All

 

John French at Gnoo Blas, Orange circa 1960 (R Kaleda)

 

 

 

 

 

Chifley, Fishermans Bend, 29 November 1948 (SLSA)

 

Hottie and the new 48-215. Whereizzit tho? Being lazy buggers I’m thinkin the Holden PR mob would not have travelled far to do the photo shoot so my vote is Ringwood Lake on Melbourne’s eastern outskirts?

Credits…

Sam Hood, Museums Victoria, State Library of South Australia, Ray Kaleda, Garry Woodward, General Motors Holden. australiaforeveryone.com.au, Museums Victoria, Bruce Wells

Tailpiece: ‘Told you it would be pretty painless’ Bob Menzies and Laurence Hartnett, GMH Pagewood 1940…

(S Hood)

Finito…