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General Motors Holden

This is a collection of black-and-white and colour cinema and television advertisements produced for General Motors Holden from 1948 through to the mid 1970s.

The first cinema advertisement for a Holden car was made not long after the first model – the 48–215 or the 'FX’ – rolled off the assembly line at Fisherman’s Bend in November 1948. Since then, General Motors Holden, the Australian manufacturer of the Holden car and subsidiary of the American General Motors Corporation, has produced hundreds of advertisements. Viewed together, these present the changing image of the much-loved Holden – 'Australia’s Own Car’.

The selected advertisements are from 1955 to the mid 1970s, a period that saw postwar expansion, suburban sprawl, significant growth in the transport and automotive sectors and changing social trends and fashions. All these factors gave the Holden a potential ready-made market. When it first began advertising its Holden brand in the late 1940s, GMH marketed its sedans, utes and wagons on the basis of functionality, economy, national pride and suitability to Australian conditions. By the 1960s the Holden product, now firmly established in the psyche of the nation, was presented simply as a product of desire.

In the advertisements of the 1950s and early 1960s, Holdens occasionally ventured out of the suburbs and onto unsealed roads for family holidays and weekends away, but were mostly positioned as urban family cars. With the release of the FJ Holden in 1953 (the next model after the FX), the market for used Holdens was born. By the mid 1950s, Holdens were exported into Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern territories. With expansion overseas, the 'all-Australian car’ boosted national pride.

With the coming of television in 1956, Holden developed a more sophisticated advertising style using theme music and jingles that established the Holden as a symbol of mobility, independence and reliability. Lifestyle was pushed into the foreground and emphasis on the car’s technological and engineering aspects slowly faded.

By 1968, the Holden had been on the market for 20 years. Perhaps in recognition of this, the new 'HK’ model was tagged as 'the new generation’ of car, tapping into the culture of the 1960s. This took the car out of suburbia and firmly into the metropolis and shores of Australian beach culture. The 'new generation’ encompassed both young people with a taste for the good life and those whose leisure activities involved getting their hands and feet dirty.

By the 1970s, rising costs, declining profits and competition from the Japanese automotive industry and overseas car manufacturers meant Holden’s market share was no longer as healthy as in the 1950s. In this context, one of the most memorable advertising campaigns for Holden was created – centred on 'football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars’.

Although these days the Holden is no longer truly 'Australia’s Own Car’, these advertisements represent our enduring fondness for a national cultural icon. Holden cars 'star’ in the 1948 sponsored film Birth of a Car, about the production of the FX Holden; the Cinesound documentary Overland Adventure: The Story of the 1954 Redex Reliability Trial (1954); the television series Division 4 (1969-75), Matlock Police (1971-75) and Kingswood Country (1979-84); and the features Wake in Fright (1971), Oz – A Rock 'n’ Roll Road Movie (1976), Backroads (1977), The FJ Holden (1977), Newsfront (1978), Midnite Spares (1983) and Bondi Tsunami (2004), among many others.

Titles in this collection

Birth of a Car c1948

Birth of a Car, made in 1948, proudly details the planning, testing and production of the first locally-manufactured Holden model sedan.

General Motors Holden – A Great New Feeling 1969

This ad places the Kingswood sedan firmly in a youthful beach culture and recreational context.

General Motors Holden – Australia’s Ideal Family Car c1957

This goes to great lengths to reiterate the key features on which Holden built its reputation – economy, dependability, performance, styling and comfort.

General Motors Holden – Buy with Confidence 1968

All the elements in this advertisement combine to present the Holden dealer as a person you can trust when looking to buy a used car.

General Motors Holden – Export Holden c1962

By 1962, when this ad was made, GMH was shipping to 45 overseas territories in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

General Motors Holden – Export Holden Version 2 c1962

This presents Holden as an important export and ambassador for Australian industry.

General Motors Holden – FE Holden: The Average Man 1956

This is one of GMH’s early ventures into television advertising.

General Motors Holden – Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars c1976

This memorable advertising jingle from the 1970s was adapted from the American Chevrolet campaign, 'baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet’.

General Motors Holden – Happy in a Holden 1962

This ad uses a vox pop style interview to appear spontaneous and therefore genuine.

General Motors Holden – Holden’s Got More Horses 1966

By the 1960s, Holden had added theme music and jingles to the devices used to make their brand memorable.

General Motors Holden – Holden’s Number One c1966

By the mid-1960s, Holden’s consumer base was broadening to include an increasingly affluent younger demographic.

General Motors Holden – Holden Ute c1956

The utility was Holden’s first foray into model diversification after its standard sedan.

General Motors Holden – John Fisher, Another Holden Driver 1962

This 1962 Holden ad offers a good example of associating a product with a well-known personality, in this case Hawthorn AFL footballer John Fisher.

General Motors Holden – Make it Yours 1968

This ad harnesses the seductive and sophisticated mood of urban living, placing the HK Holden Premier at the centre of 1960s city life.

General Motors Holden – Monaro, Three New Models 1968

With this ad Holden shifted away from promoting reliability, functionality and economy to marketing the car as an object of desire.

General Motors Holden – Postgraduate Research Fellowship Plan c1962

This advertisement presents General Motors Holden as a company at the forefront of research and development in Australia.

General Motors Holden – Proved Dependability c1956

This ad introduces written testimonials from 'satisfied owners’ of Holden cars, 'taxi drivers, men in the outback, commercial travellers, family men’.

General Motors Holden – Range of Products c1958

This advertisement positions the GMH brand within the Australian landscape, broadening out from Holden cars.

General Motors Holden – Resale Value c1958

Resale value became an important factor for motorists to consider when purchasing their new Holden.

General Motors Holden – Saturday Kind of Car 1967

The 1960s Holden ads used catchy jingles and upbeat music, promoting the car as an object of desire.

General Motors Holden – The Time is Now 1966

This ad targets a female audience, emphasising the car’s comfort and style as well as power.

General Motors Holden – To Suit All Family Needs c1956

In this mid-1950s Holden car ad, the cloud background makes the family look like they’re floating through the sky rather than driving on the ground.

Holden Car Cinema Advertisement: A New Star, the New Holden FE 1956

Many of the FE’s aesthetic modifications reflected the fashions of the 1950s.

Holden Car Cinema Advertisement: On a Tour of Australia’s Banana Plantations c1955

This travelogue-style Holden advertisement was one of a series of 'on a tour’ films made for cinema audiences between 1953 and 1956.

Holden Car Cinema Advertisement: On a Tour of Tropical Australia c1954

The presence of Coral Sea islanders in a Holden advertisement is probably the last thing that audiences at the time would have expected.

HQ Kingswood Sedan: Holden, the Great Way to Move c1971

Released three years after the iconic Kingswood sedan, the 1971 HQ was Holden’s biggest selling model to date.