At the end of World War II, Australia had a problem—an acute shortage of cars and a newly civilianized army with money to burn. Loaded with government handouts, General Motors-Holden came up with a four-door, six-cylinder, six-seater that would become an Australian legend on wheels.
Launched in 1948, the 48-215, more generally known as the FX, was Australia’s Morris Minor. Tubby, conventional, and as big as a Buick, it had a sweet, torquey engine, steel monocoque body, hydraulic brakes, and a three-speed column shift. Light and functional, the FX so impressed Lord Nuffield (of Morris fame) with its uncomplicated efficiency that he had one shipped to England for his engineers to pull apart. The Australians did not care about the FX’s humble underpinnings and bought 120,000 with grateful enthusiasm.
The “Humpy Holden” was a warmed-over prewar design for a small Chevrolet sedan that General Motors US had created in 1938. A Detroit-Adelaide collaboration, the FX eventually emerged as a plain shape that would not date. Australians still speak of the FX in hallowed tones, remembering it as one of the decade’s most reliable cars.
High ground clearance was especially designed for bad roads.
Taxi drivers complained of body flexing – doors could spring open on corners.
Body was dustproof, which helped in the hot Australian climate.
Postwar fuel shortages meant that the Holden was parsimonious.
The dash echoes the Australian culture for utilitarianism, with center speedo, two occasional gauges, three-speed column change, and only five ancillary switches. The umbrella handbrake and chrome horn ring were hangovers from Detroit design influences.
Speedo calibrated to 100 mph (161 km/h) was a tad optimistic.
REAR FENDER STYLING
The Holden’s rear fender line was cut into the rear doors but was much milder than Detroit’s styling men would have liked. Rear fender spats were attached to make the car look lower and sleeker. Endlessly practical, the FX had a cavernous luggage compartment.
Simple and unadorned, the FX had no indicators or sidelights, just a six-volt electrical system with a single taillight.
Power came from a sturdy 2170cc cast-iron straight-six, with an integral block and crankcase, push-rod overhead valves, and a single-barrel downdraught Stromberg carburetor.
Recumbent lion hood mascot lent the FX an illusion of pedigree. In reality, Holden had no bloodline at all, but that didn’t matter since it went on to become the standard transportation of the Australian middle classes.
The engine developed a modest 60 bhp.
The Holden was too powerful for its suspension and many ended up on their roofs.
General Motors-Holden started life as a saddlery and leather goods manufacturer, later diversifying into car body builders.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Holden 48-215 FX (1948–53)
BODY STYLE Six-seater, four-door family sedan.
CONSTRUCTION All-steel Aerobilt monocoque body.
ENGINE Six-cylinder cast-iron 2170cc.
POWER OUTPUT 60 bhp at 4500 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Three-speed manual.
SUSPENSION Front: coil and wishbone; Rear: leaf spring live axle.
BRAKES Four-wheel hydraulic drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 73 mph (117 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 27.7 sec
A.F.C. 30 mpg (11 km/l)