48-215 Holden (FX) (1948-53)

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Vehicle Overview

The Holden 48-215 or “FX” was the first car produced under the Holden name by General Motors-Holden in Australia. This midsize four-door sedan was based on a design that GM rejected for the American market as it was considered too small. Although smaller in size, the 48-215 design bears a strong resemblance to Chevrolets of the time that were produced in the United States.

When released in 1948, GM-H decided to simply name the model, as the “48-215”. Although commonly known as the FX Holden, it has never been officially referred to as this by GM-H. The FX moniker started in the company’s design office as a way to distinguish the later telescopic suspension models from the earlier lever-action ones. The name eventually became used to refer to all 48-215s.

Prior to the 1930s, the Australian automobile industry specialised in building and fitting car bodies on imported chassis. It was moving towards an entirely Australian-produced car by the mid-thirties, but its progression halted due to the Second World War.

After the war, development resumed and GM-H and Ford both proposed plans to the government for its then “all-Australian car” policy. The GM-H proposal was accepted because it required less state support.

Development began in 1944 in GM’s US Detroit workshops by a team of Australian and American engineers. GM needed to invest heavily in local production facilities, as the infrastructure to mass produce cars did not exist at the time in Australia. After lengthy testing and preparation of the production facilities, the first car was built on September 30, 1948.

Though the 48-215 was rudimentary by modern standards, it was very popular with the Australian public and advertised as “Australia’s own car.” Its demand outpaced production and there was initially a long waiting list to acquire one of the new Holdens.

The car featured a six-cylinder square engine that would come to be called the “grey engine” due to its dark grey paint. The six-cylinder engine was chosen as a reliable mid-way point between the under-powered four-cylinder engines found in British cars of the era and the uneconomical V8s of the American manufacturers.

The six-cylinder engine had a displacement of 2,160 cu and output of 60bhp which was considered good at the time. It gave a nice balance of performance as well as being economical. The engine would remain in production by GM-Holden for the next 15 years and continue to be used across seven different Holden models. The engine, paired with a three-speed manual transmission was capable of a top speed of roughly 80mph.

The 48-215 proved better adapted to Australian conditions than many of its contemporaries. Much of the car’s success probably lies in the fact that the Holden was designed for the tough conditions it would encounter. The suspension of the Holden was created to withstand the unpaved and potholed roads that were common outside of the major towns and cities.

The car was of a one-piece rigid design or “Aerobilt” as it was known, which was increasingly being favoured over the body-on-chassis designs. The car was also lightweight, as GM-Holden decided it was necessary to maintain good performance and economy. In order to keep the weight down, comfort and styling were kept to a minimum. The car had no carpeting, but was considered quiet by the standards of the times.

In a rush to bring the car to production, GM-H omitted a number of important safety features such as indicators and demisters and provided only one rear brake light. Two other models would be available to the public, which were the Holden utility model released in 1951 and a business sedan in 1953.

Between November 1948 and September 1953, GM-H had produced 120,000 units of the Holden 48-215 until it was replaced by the FJ model.